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Third Sunday of Advent

December 16, 2018

My Dear Friends,

Today is Gaudete Sunday, a time of rejoicing for indeed, as we proclaim in the Introit from today’s liturgy, “the Lord is near!”  On this day, the children of Rome visit St. Peter Square with the baby Jesus from their family’s creche for a special blessing from the Pope.  Here at St. Paul, we continue that tradition as we reach the halfway point of our Advent journey!

When we think of preparing for Christmas, our thoughts often turn to cards, gifts, parties, and dinners.  Yet as Christians, we are called to prepare for the coming of Christ in a very different way.  As we heard in today’s readings, we are called to prepare for the coming of Christ through acts of justice, charity, and mercy.  We are called to prepare for the coming of Christ by reconciling ourselves to God and with one another.

This week, we will have the opportunity to do just that!  Let us open our hearts to God’s infinite mercy through the Sacrament of Reconciliation!  As a parish, we offer Confession Monday through Friday at 11:30 am and on Saturdays at 10:00 am and 4:00 pm.  In addition, this week, we will join with neighboring parishes to provide opportunities in the evening for those who are at school or work during the day:

· Monday, December 17, 7:00 pm at Most Holy Redeemer

· Tuesday, December 18, 7:00 pm at Saint Paul

· Wednesday, December 19,7:00 pm at Corpus Christi

· Thursday, December 20, 7:00 pm at Saint Timothy

Hopefully at least one of those times will be convenient for you and your family!

Last but not least, this Holy Season is often difficult for those who are grieving, struggling with the burdens of life, or are suffering from physical or mental health issues.  Think of those you know who may need some TLC...and invite them to join you for Christmas Mass.  Let them know you care.  In return, you will certainly be blessed!.

Growing together courageously in Christ!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

 

Second Sunday of Advent

December 9, 2018

My Dear Friends,

I pray that you have really enjoyed our first week of Advent.  Between the Family Advent Gathering, the African Mass, the Parish Mission with Deacon Bill Ditewig, the Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary, and the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, I’d say that we are off to a great start!

This second week of Advent, we continue with our novena in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe each night at 7:30pm in our beautiful Santo Niño Shrine.  This Wednesday, we celebrate her feast with a novena and candlelight procession beginning at 6:00pm.  At 7:00pm we will celebrate the Holy Mass and afterwards there will be a reception featuring a delicious Mexican dinner for all.  Please come and bring a friend!

What is so special about Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Patroness of the Americas?  It all began on December 9, 1531, when a dark-skinned young woman appeared to Juan Diego on Tepeyac Hill near Mexico City.  Juan Diego was a 57 year old widower and recent convert.  Speaking his language, she spoke in endearing terms and asked that a church be built there to honor her.  When Bishop Juan de Zumarraga asked for proof, she appeared a second time, telling Juan Diego to gather nearby roses to place in his tilma (cloak) and take to the bishop.  When Juan opened his tilma, the roses fell out and revealed the image shown here.  The pregnant woman was recognized as Mary, the church was built as requested, and people came to hear the story from St. Juan Diego.  Within a few years, millions of Mexicans converted to the faith.  To this day, it continues to be one of the largest Marian pilgrim sites in the world!

This Friday, you are invited to come at 7:30pm for our annual “Lessons and Carols” with our 10:45 choir.  It is an evening of inspirational music for the season.  This is the perfect event to invite your Catholic and non-Catholic friends to join you!

Next Sunday, we invite the children to come and bring their “baby Jesus’” from home for a special blessing at each Mass.  After the morning Masses, our Knights of Columbus are also offering their annual “Breakfast with Santa.”  Please come!

On an entirely different note, Nancy and Jim Kissane have recently announced their intention to retire at the close of the month.  They have been a tremendous blessing to me and the entire parish family.  Thankfully, Laurie Erickson has graciously accepted my offer to serve as Director of Ministries.  Please join me in extending our prayerful best wishes to Nancy, Jim, and Laurie as they begin their new chapters in their pilgrimages of life!

Let us continue to grow courageously in Christ!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

First Sunday of Advent

December 2, 2018

My Dear Friends,

It is hard to believe that Advent is here once again!  It is one of my favorite times of the year as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of the Lord in history, mystery, and glory.  The first few weeks of Advent, Mother Church asks us to think about the Lord’s coming in glory at the close of time ... whether it is the end of the world or the end of our life here on earth.  For us, death is not the end but simply a portal to eternal life.  Our hearts do not tremble with fear and dread but with joyful hope for the coming of our Lord.

Beginning on December 17th, our focus shifts to the celebration of the Lord’s coming in history ... the Nativity of Christ.  We journey with Mary in pregnant expectation for the birth of our Lord and Savior.

But throughout Advent, we are also mindful that Christ comes to us each day in mystery ... in a special and singular way through His Word and Sacrament, but also through the smiles, laughter, and warm embrace of family and friends.  As Catholics, we are ever mindful that Christ also comes to us through the poor, sick, elderly, marginalized, and oppressed.  The words of Jesus ring in our ears: “As often as you did it to one of these least, you did it to me.”

For many, Advent is a difficult time as they remember those who are no longer here to celebrate the holidays.  For some, the joy and prosperity of others only remind them of what they do not have.  It is tough to be suffering physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually during the holidays.  Let us be attentive to those in need as we journey through Advent.

I encourage you to make this Advent extra special.  Rather than get caught up in the commercialism of our secular world, think of what you can do to better prepare for the coming of the Lord.  It could be simply to start a routine of sitting after supper on your back porch with a cup of coffee, reflecting in the silence of the night upon the blessings of your day.  If you are not praying together as a family before meals and bedtime, now is the time to start.  An Advent wreath on the table will serve as a good reminder to pray.  Another idea is to read a little from the Gospels each day ... a chapter or less.  Start with Luke since it is the Gospel of our new liturgical year as well as the quintessential Gospel for stories about the birth of Christ.  One more idea: perhaps you can do something to be more mindful of those in need such as dropping off food or your spare change to our Society of St. Vincent de Paul, visiting a nursing home, or perhaps reaching out to help a neighbor put up their decorations.  Pray about it!

My prayer is that these next four weeks will be the best Advent ever for you and your family.

May God bless you!

Growing courageously in Christ!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

 

Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

November 25, 2018

My Dear Friends,

I hope you and your loved ones are enjoying your Thanksgiving holidays.  While others are rushing for sales, we come to give praise and thanksgiving to Christ who truly is our Lord and King! 

This Sunday marks the close of the liturgical year.  Next Sunday is our First Sunday of Advent.  I encourage you to take the time this week to think of how you can truly prepare this Advent for the coming of Christ in glory at the end of time. In history, we celebrate His birth at Christmas. In mystery, we encounter Him each day in His Word and Sacrament and in the faces of our brothers and sisters in need. 

This Friday is our annual Advent Family Gathering beginning at 6:30pm in the Pavilion.  Details are in this bulletin.  Please mark your calendars and come!  It is great fun for the entire family!

Next Sunday, you are encouraged to bring your Advent Wreaths to be blessed at the start of the Mass.  We invited Deacon Bill Ditewig to speak at all our Masses.  He will be leading us in our annual Advent Mission December 3-5 at 11:00am and again at 7:00pm each day.  Please be sure to invite all your friends and family to come.

On a completely different issue, a few weeks ago I gave a presentation on the spiritual, medical/ethical, legal, and practical issues pertaining to the end of life.  By way of summary: for us Catholics, death is not the enemy...it is simply a portal through which we must all pass to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  We were created to live forever with Christ our King in heaven and death is a stage of being “born again” into eternal life. 

While it is never appropriate to withdraw care and concern for those who are critically ill, it is not morally acceptable to prolong the dying process through extraordinary, burdensome, or ineffective treatment.  Care, comfort, and pain relief should always be given.  If you have moral questions, we are here to help! 

Planning ahead by writing a living will, a will and testament, appointing a medical health care surrogate, and durable power of attorney can be very helpful in the event that you are incapacitated.  Conversations with your doctor, attorney, and financial planner can alleviate a great deal of problems for you and your loved ones. 

I also encourage people to talk to the local funeral homes and cemeteries about purchasing services ahead of time.  While the Church prefers that the body be present for the funeral Mass and interred intact, cremation remains a viable option as long as the cremains are treated as a body.  Planning ahead can save your loved ones a great deal of money and heartache. 

Be sure to let your loved ones know what decisions you have made so that all the key players are on the same page.  But most of all, we should live each day as our last ... with Christ the King of our hearts!

Let us grow together courageously in Christ!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

 

Thirty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 18, 2018

My Dear Friends,

This week, we celebrate the quintessential American holiday, Thanksgiving.  While Thanksgiving exists in many other countries and cultures, we celebrate it in a unique way as Americans travel to gather with extended family and friends to give thanks to God for blessings received and to enjoy quality time and a sumptuous feast with one another.  (If we are very lucky, the football games will also be good!)

What is missing?  Surprisingly enough, for many Americans, it is prayer.  That is why I’m so delighted to be able to gather with you on Thanksgiving Day for our 9am Thanksgiving Family Mass.  Each year it is such a blessing to gather together and to give God thanks and praise for all the blessings and graces He continues to shower upon us.  This year, a group of our Faith Formation students will be sharing their Thanksgiving skit during the Mass.  We will also be distributing our Thanksgiving Loaves of Blessing.  One hundred percent of our offertory collection will be given to our parish Society of St. Vincent de Paul to distribute to the poor.  Please bring non-perishable food items for the offertory as well as cash or check offerings.  Thank you!

Please join me in thanking God for the work of all our wonderful Society of St. Vincent de Paul members throughout the year.  This past month, our Society gave $25,000 on our behalf to assist those who were devastated by Hurricane Michael in the Panhandle. This is in addition to the $15,000 our parish donated!  Every week our parish distributes hundreds of pounds of groceries and hundreds of dollars to those in need who live in our area.  More than a handout, they provide the “hand up” people need to get back on their feet and resume a productive life.  This Thanksgiving, our Society has supplied all the food for 60 families to have a delicious Thanksgiving meal!  All this is possible due to your continued generous support.  Thank you!

Speaking of support to those in need, I thank all those who will help / have helped this afternoon from 3-5pm with our Catholic Relief Services (CRS) food project.  Thanks to you, our parish will have packed 20,088 meals for those who have nothing to eat throughout the world.  Our cost is $10,044.  I especially would like to thank all those who have helped us meet this financial commitment through your donations.  If you would still like to donate, please contact Michael or Nancy in the parish office.

Last but not least, please be sure to join us on Friday, November 30th, for our annual Advent Family Gathering beginning at 6:30pm.  It is a lot of fun for the whole family.  Please see this bulletin or our parish website for details!

Let us courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

Thirty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 11, 2018

My Dear Friends,

This weekend, we honor all of our Veterans, especially those who suffered physical, emotional, and spiritual injuries.   We also lift up in prayer all those who currently serve our country in the armed forces, especially those deployed far from home.  Please also pray for their families who are often the true heroes.  They sacrifice so much while their fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, and sons and daughters are on active duty.  We also pray for all those who minister to our veterans and their families.  We are blessed with two wonderful Veteran’s Hospitals and wonderful service agencies.  May God bless them all!

I am pleased to announce that we have paid our Annual Pastoral Appeal assessment.  Thank you for your generosity!  For those who have yet to complete your pledge, please do so!  One hundred percent (100%) of the funds paid over and above our assessment are deposited into our Savings Account.  Your donation is very important in helping us meet our financial commitments.  Thank you!

Speaking of financial commitments, please let me share two that I have made on your behalf.  First, our young adults are a priority.  This is clear from our recent parish surveys as well as the diocesan pastoral plan.  I feel very strongly that we should be doing all we can to support our youth adults to grow in the Lord.  To this end, I committed to do all we can do to help our young adults attend World Youth Day in Panama this January.  The cost to attend is significant ($2,650 per person) and there are 28 of us who would like to attend.  Bishop Parkes generously offered to pay $150 a person.  I felt it was reasonable for the youth to pay $500.  The remaining $2,000 is to be acquired by fundraising and donations.  At this point, we are still $15,000 short.  If you can help, please let me know or drop off your donation in a clearly marked envelope to the parish office.  Thank you so very much!

The second commitment is to help feed the poor.  Catholic Relief Services (CRS) provides invaluable social services to those in need, both domestically as well as internationally.  They are busy helping our friends in the Panhandle after the hurricane as well as Christian refugees in Syria and famine victims in Africa.  In one week, on Sunday, November 18, we will have the opportunity to package 20,088 meals to feed the hungry around the globe.  This is almost 5,000 more meals than last year!  However, we need your help!  We will be packaging the meals from 2:30pm to 5:30pm.  Please sign up at www.stpaulchurch.com.  This is a wonderful family activity as everyone from our first graders through to our seniors can help!  Thank you for helping!

The cost for a meal is about 50 cents!  The entire project will cost us $10,044.  We really need your financial help!  Please consider this as part of your Christmas charitable giving.  It is an expense the parish has not budgeted but one which charity demands.  “Whatever you do for these least ones, you do unto me.” Call Michael, Nancy, or Jim at the parish office for more information.  Thank you!

Together let us courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

Thirty First Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 4, 2018

My Dear Friends,

November is a special month for our family of faith.  We begin by recalling the great gift of the Saints ... those men, women, and children who have shown us holiness is possible.  We are all called to holiness through God’s merciful love.  Our response is, as we read in today’s Gospel, an unfettered love for God and to share that love with those in need.

The very next day, we celebrated All Souls Day and offered prayers for all our beloved deceased as well as for the poor forgotten souls in Purgatory.  Throughout this month, we will remember at every one of our Masses, all those names you submitted on the All Souls Day envelopes.  May they rest in the peace of Christ.

At this time every year, I also offer a “Journey to New Life” workshop.  Please join me this Thursday, November 8, at 7:00pm in the Parish Center.  During this evening, we will talk about some of the pressing issues pertaining to the end of life here on earth such as the Christian perspective of suffering and death, spiritual care for the sick and dying, medical care versus treatment, withdrawal of hydration and nutrition, living wills, Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) decisions, health care surrogates, durable power of attorney, wills and testaments, funeral planning, bereavement assistance, etc.  Thankfully, we are blessed with parishioners who are doctors and attorneys to assist me with your questions.  Moreover, our wonderful local funeral homes are present to answer questions.  Overall, it is a very informative evening that will help you to better prepare for the decisions we all must someday make for ourselves or for loved ones.  I know it is difficult for some of you to get out at night; consequently,  the new Young at Heart Senior Ministry has asked me to offer it in the spring during daylight hours.

Every year we celebrate a Healing Mass in honor of Our Lady of Providence and Our Lady of Good Health.  This year, the celebration will take place on Friday, November 16, beginning with the Rosary at 7:00pm at our beautiful shrine in honor of Our Lady of Good Health.  We will then process to the church for Mass at 7:30pm.  We invited Fr. Claudio Antecini, an Italian priest who is fluent in both English and Spanish, to preside.  He is pastor of the Church of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Brooklyn, New York and a member of the Koinonia John the Baptist Community.  This promises to be a very Spirit-filled Mass!  Afterwards, there will be healing teams as well as an opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.  Please come and bring a friend!

Last, but not least, on Sunday, November 18, in honor of the World Day of the Poor, we will again have the opportunity to package meals to be distributed to the less fortunate.  Last year, collaborating with Catholic Relief Services, we processed 15,120 meals in just a few hours.  It was a huge success and a great event for the entire family.  This year, we would like to package over 20,000 meals!  The cost is about fifty cents a meal.  The entire project costs $10,000.  I would like to invite you to underwrite this important work.  A gift of $500 could provide 1,000 meals!  Please consider this as part of your Christmas charitable giving.  It is an expense the parish has not budgeted but one which charity demands.  “Whatever you do for these least ones, you did unto me.”  Call Michael, Nancy or Jim at the parish office for more information.  Thank you!

Together let us courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 28, 2018

My Dear Friends,

Earlier in the month, I hosted two “Listening Sessions” with parishioners.  Those who attended encouraged me to speak more about how the church has responded to the sexual abuse crisis so here I go...On October 17th, I heard that the diocese was subject to a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse of a minor by Robert Huneke.  In 1979, this former priest transferred to our diocese from the Diocese of Rockville Centre with a letter of recommendation from his bishop.  In 1982, he was removed from ministry after an allegation that he had previously abused a child.  At that time, there were no complaints relating to his ministry within our diocese.  Fast track 36 years...in July of this year, the diocese received an allegation about this same priest.  The individual was referred to our Victim Assistance Coordinator and was advised to report the incident to law enforcement.  The diocese informed the state attorney of the allegation.  The diocese respects the victim’s right to litigate and we pray for and stand with all victims of sexual abuse.

What does this say?  It verifies that our diocese has been doing things right according to the best practices of the time.  The priest was interviewed, letters of recommendation secured, and he was assigned ministry.  When an allegation was made, an investigation was begun which led to the priest returning to New York to face the charges.  It should be noted that both the priest and the bishops involved have died so they are unable to present their side of the facts.  

What is different today?  Fingerprint background screening checks, Safe Environment Training, and very specific letters of recommendation are now required.  When an allegation is made, the individual is encouraged to speak to our Victim Assistance Coordinator and contact law enforcement if they feel a crime is committed.  If the allegation is at all credible, we contact the state officials and the priest is removed from duty until the allegation is cleared.  If the allegations are confirmed, the parish is informed.  It should be noted that some violations of the Dallas Charter of 2002 are not civil crimes.  They are adjudicated according to canon law.  In addition, a lay Review Board assesses all reported allegations.  Our diocese is audited annually and again, every three years by an independent on site auditor.  Last but not least, offenses against minors are tried civilly in the United States as well as by the Vatican in Rome.

What can we learn from this?  In my opinion, our diocese continues to do all it can to address this problem according to the best practices of our time.  Historically, one of our biggest challenges has been bishops who transferred their “troubled” priests to us.  Although the Dallas Charter alleviated much of this, more needs to be done.  This is the subject of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ meeting in November and the Holy Father’s meetings in February.  Let’s keep praying for healing and renewal within our Church!

On a much brighter note, this Thursday is All Saints Day...a holy day of obligation.  Masses are a special children’s liturgy at 5:30pm on Halloween (dress as your favorite Saint!) and at 7:30am, 12:15pm, 5:30pm and 7:30pm (Trilingual) on Thursday, November 1.   Friday, November 2, is All Souls Day and Masses are at 7:30am, 12:15pm and 7:30pm.  The 7:30pm Mass will begin with a rosary at 7:00pm in our beautiful Santo Niño Shrine followed by a candlelight procession into our church.  During the Mass, we will pray for all our beloved deceased.  The liturgy will be trilingual as we unite as a parish in prayer for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one.

Also our parish picnic is on Saturday, November 3, from 11:00am - 3:00pm.  There will be lots of delicious food, music, and fun for the young and young of heart!  Come with the entire family for a wonderful day!

Together let us courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

Twenty Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 21, 2018

My Dear Friends,

A few weeks ago I hosted two “Listening Sessions” or Town Hall Meetings with parishioners.  If you don’t mind, I’d like to share with you what transpired.  Both meetings began with brief presentations on how God has blessed our parish family.  By almost every measure, we are growing.  Our liturgies are beautiful, our religious education and faith formation programs are blossoming, our Preschool is truly stellar, and our ministries are vibrant and healthy.  God is so good to us!  Financially, thanks to your generous donations and the contributions of several endowments by deceased parishioners who remembered us in their end of life planning, we are doing very well.  The results of the parish survey were very affirming with some wonderful suggestions for the future.

The elephant in the room is, of course, the sexual abuse scandals in the Church.  The news of the crimes of priests and bishops has truly rocked our world.  This is most evident in the fact that our attendance in our parish has dropped about 200 souls per weekend since the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report was released.

The good news is that our Diocese has always been very proactive in ensuring the health and well-being of the people, especially children.  For at least the last 35 years that I’ve been involved in this Diocese, every man applying to enter the seminary has to undergo extensive psychological testing and interviews.  Psychological readiness to serve is continually evaluated through the formation process.  After ordination, if a priest is credibly accused, he is immediately removed from duty.  If the charges are verified, he is not reassigned, transferred, or in any way compensated. 

Keeping abreast with “best practices,” in 1992, the Diocese began fingerprinting all employees.  Employee records were also reviewed by an independent panel including lay experts to ensure that no one who was credibly charged was still in active ministry.  When Bishop Lynch was installed as our fourth bishop in 1996, he felt that transparency was imperative and published the names of all those diocesan priests who had abused a minor or vulnerable adult.  Counseling and other assistance have always been extended to the victims. 

As “best practices” evolved, so have our policies.  In 2002, the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was promulgated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) meeting in Dallas.  The Dallas Norms were approved by Rome and constitute proper law for the Catholic Church in the United States.  They mandated safe environment training for those working with minors and vulnerable adults as well as for minors and their parents, mandatory background checks, mandatory reporting to law enforcement agencies, independent victim advocates in each diocese, lay review boards to ensure compliance, annual reporting and independent on-site auditing every three years.  The results of these audits are published and available for your review on the USCCB website.  The Dallas Norms also raised the statute of limitations, increased the number of actionable offenses (such as child pornography), and mandated that the norms be periodically reviewed and updated to keep abreast of “best practices.”  In addition, Rome mandated that all credible charges be prosecuted in Rome as well as the civil forums to ensure that the offenders could never be reassigned.

The good news from the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report is that it confirmed that the Dallas Norms work and in many ways, the Church has become a model for other organizations to follow.  Since 2002 there has been a dramatic decrease in cases.  I only wish that every church and institution providing care to minors or vulnerable adults would follow our lead.

The bad news from the Grand Jury Report is the number of cases and the evident history of cover-up and incompetency by the hierarchy.  The Dallas Norms never addressed episcopal accountability.  The letter by Archbishop Viganó only added fuel to the fire.  The good news is that this has forced an honest discussion about accountability for those in the episcopal office.  The resignations of Cardinals McCarrick and Wuerl and the recent “laicizations” of an archbishop and bishop from Chile is a good beginning.  It is never acceptable to place a minor, vulnerable adult, or impressionable seminarian in harms way, let alone abuse them.  Much has been said of a “homosexual climate” within the priesthood.  That is not my experience nor that of Fr. Bob or Fr. George.  I feel truly blessed to serve alongside these holy men at St. Paul Catholic Church.

I know many people feel there is still much we need to do.  And I agree totally.  Yet at this point, I feel it is important to acknowledge our successes as well as our failures and remember why we are Catholic.  It is not our love for the Pope, the Bishop, or a priest.  It is our love for our Lord and our desire to love and serve Him.  We can do our part by praying for our Church and working to ensure all His children are well served.

I assure you on behalf of myself and Bishop Parkes, that our diocese and parish is doing all we can to ensure that our children and vulnerable adults are safe.  As one writer recently shared with me, we cannot ever say that our parish is truly a safe environment.  It is not.  Dale Mabry is rife with convicted sex abusers.  Visitors are on our campus every day.  Safety must be a priority for us all.  I’m amazed by the number of parents who let their children go to the bathroom unaccompanied or run freely around our campus unsupervised.  We must all be vigilant.  If you see something or someone out of place, report it.  If necessary, contact the police.

On the other hand, we must also not overreact.  I can tell you that most priests do not like to minister to children and some even refuse to visit an unaccompanied elderly person at home.  We are afraid to touch a child, let alone give a hug.  We can be accused of grooming if we call a child by name, give a pat on the back, or give a child a rosary.  When I grew up, our parish priest used to babysit us while my mom taught CCD.  I can’t imagine doing that.  The priesthood today is very different from when I was ordained to serve.  It is all very sad.

Please join me in these 40 days of prayer, reparation, and healing for our Church and for all those who have been hurt by her ministers.  May we arise purified and emboldened to say: never again!

Together let us courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

 

Twenty Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 14, 2018

My Dear Friends,

Today our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has canonized seven new Saints, two of whom are much beloved by many of us.  Pope Paul VI led us through the Second Vatican Council and was an ardent promoter of marriage and life.  And the holy martyr; Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador, who sacrificed his life by speaking against the social injustices of his day.   Four others were priests and sisters, many of whom founded religious communities.  The seventh was a teenager, Nunzio Sulprizo. 

Nunzio was born on April 13, 1817 in Italy during a time of great famine.  His father and sister died when he was only three.  His mother remarried but the stepfather rejected him.  When he was six, his mother died and his grandmother took him in.  Three years later, she also died and an abusive uncle took custody of him.  As a result of mistreatment, Nunzio became sick at the age of 14.  Gangrene set in and eventually his leg was amputated.  Never recovering from his illness, he died on May 5, 1836 at the age of 19.  His life, from all accounts, was filled with sorrow and loss; yet, he found great consolation in his faith and the redemptive value of sharing in the sufferings of Christ.  He placed all his trust in God. 

Nunzio Sulprizo’s life is a great inspiration to all those who suffer from physical and emotional abuse and neglect as well as those with chronic illness.  Through his intercession, there were many miracles which led to his elevation today.  Today, let us pray through the intercession of these holy men and women, may we follow Christ and unequivocally share His love and mercy with others!

To help us all grow ever closer to the Lord, we have invited the famed composer and musician John Michael Talbot to join us this Friday and lead us in an evening of prayer and song.  John Michael’s inspirational music is sure to delight you and will surely help you grow ever closer to the Lord.  The concert begins at 7:00 pm and tickets are on sale in the parish office as well as at the door.  Please be sure to come and bring your friends.

Last but not least, please join us for the Diocesan Family Faith Fest on October 27 from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm at Al Lopez Park, just north of Raymond James Stadium.  This free day of worship, concerts, exhibits, games, delicious food, and other activities will be great fun for the entire family!  This celebration of our diocese’s 50th anniversary will conclude with a 4:00 pm Vigil Mass in honor of our patron, St. Jude.  I encourage you to wear your favorite St. Paul t-shirt!

Together let us courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

Twenty Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 7, 2018

My Dear Friends,

Thank you for your “yes” to come and adore the Lord!  This past week, we began offering Eucharistic Adoration after each weekday Mass, Monday through Thursday from 8am through 8:30pm Compline and on Friday from 8am through 8am Saturday morning.  Already we are experiencing great blessings!  God is so good to us!  Please be sure to make time to visit the Lord as often as you can and to bring a friend!

Please allow me to bring up three points: 1) The Church and Chapel are places of prayer.  If you need to respond to a phone call or talk to a friend, please do it outside.  It is important to maintain “sacred silence” if we are to truly listen to the whispers of the Lord!  2) Safety is everyone’s concern.  I suggest you bring your phone into the Church.  If you see someone or something out of place, let us know.  If you ever feel unsafe, call for help.  3) Pray for our parish!  May we truly develop a passion for the Eucharistic Lord!  Finally, if you would like to be a part of our Eucharistic Adoration Society, please follow the links on our website or complete the form in the narthex.

On Thursday, October 11, after the 12:15pm Mass and at 7pm, I am hosting a special listening session.  I’d like to give you the opportunity for you to share some of your concerns about current Church events in the news.  As a Canon Lawyer and priest for 27 years, I’ll share with you what I know.  The sessions will begin with prayer followed by a very brief presentation on the “State of the Union” at St. Paul’s and a summary of our most recent survey.  We’ll spend the rest of the time listening to your concerns and hopefully providing insights to help you sort out the fact from the fiction.

On Friday, October 12th, at 7pm, we will be dedicating our new shrine in honor of Our Lady of Aparecida.  In 1917, this image was discovered by three fisherman in a river.  Called “Our Lady of the Appeared Conception,” she quickly became the center of devotion.  Today, it is the largest Marian shrine in the world with 6-8 million pilgrims visiting annually!  As Pope Francis noted: “She was found by poor workers, may she be found today by all!”

On a totally different note (literally!), I am very excited to welcome back renowned composer, and singer John Michael Talbot to our parish.  I remember so clearly his first concert here many years ago.  Who can’t be moved by “Holy Is His Name” or his many other “hits”?  His music truly leads me into prayer and his spirituality is so profound.  The concert is on Friday, October 19th beginning at 7pm and tickets are on sale in the parish office.  Please be sure to come and bring your friends.

Also please come to the Diocesan Family Faith Fest on October 27 from 10am to 6pm at Al Lopez Park, just north of the stadium.  This free day of worship, concerts, exhibits, games, delicious food, and other activities will be great fun for the entire family!  This celebration of our diocese’s 50th anniversary will conclude with a 4pm Vigil Mass in honor of our patron, St. Jude.  I encourage you to wear your favorite St. Paul t-shirt!

Together let us courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 30, 2018

 

My Dear Friends,

After much prayerful discernment and consultation, we will step out in faith and begin Eucharistic Adoration, Monday through Saturday morning.  Monday through Thursday, Solemn Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament will begin following the 7:30 am Mass and will continue through Compline which begins at 8:30 pm.  On Friday, Eucharistic Adoration will continue through the Saturday 8:30 am Mass.  I invite you to make a commitment to come to Adoration at least once a week, if only for a few moments.  Invite your family and friends to join you.  You will be blessed!

I also invite you to be a part of our new Eucharistic Adoration Society.  As a member, you are committing to fully participate at Mass at least every weekend, pray daily, avail yourself of confession at least monthly, and to visit the Blessed Sacrament each week.  If you would like, you can choose to receive a daily message selected by our young adult Apostles of the Eucharist to inspire a deeper devotion to the Eucharistic Lord.  We are also offering a Mass on each First Friday for the intentions of the members of the Society.  Please join!  The sign up form is in this bulletin and at www.StPaulChurch.com.

In addition, I’m leading a discussion of “The Real Presence” by St. Peter Julian Eymard on my Facebook page.  You only need to “be my friend” to participate.  I’ve found that this format is an excellent way for people to share insights, inspirations, and questions in a healthy and Christian forum.  Copies of the book are available at the Lighthouse kiosk in the narthex as well as online for free at www.CatholicTradition.org.  This book is used by our high school Disciples of the Eucharist and will be an excellent foundation for those who want to begin formation in January to become an  Associate of the Blessed Sacrament.

Why do all this?  Because of WHO the Eucharist is!  We believe that Jesus is really, truly present ... Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Blessed Sacrament.  And Eucharistic Adoration is one of the surest means of growing ever closer to the Lord!  Come and adore the Lord!

As I mentioned last week, on October 11th, we will offer two listening sessions at 1:00 pm and at 7:00 pm.  This is an important opportunity for us to share an updated report on what is happening in our parish and for you to raise your questions and concerns.  This week, Father Bob and I will be at a convocation for priests.  Hopefully we will have insights to share regarding the scandals in the Church.

On a related note, beginning October 1st we will pray for 40 days for forgiveness, reparation, and healing for the Church, her leaders, and those hurt by her ministers.  For more information, see this bulletin or our website. 

Last but not least, please join us for a special novena in honor of Our Lady of Aparecida, October 3 - 11 at 7:30 pm at her new Shrine with a special Festival Mass on Friday October 12th.  All are welcome.

Together let us courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

Twenty Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 23, 2018

My Dear Friends,

Please join me in thanking everyone who helped make this year’s Ministry Fair such a success!  It was great to enjoy quality time with you and to visit the ministries.  We are truly blessed!  If you missed it, I encourage you to pick up a copy of our Parish Resource Directory.  Make a list of the ministries you would like to know more about and give them a call or send them an email.  If you don’t hear back from them soon, call Nancy at the parish office and she will help you! 

The Parish Resource Directory is a wonderful tool.  You can find the ministries grouped according to their mission.  We also have pages which group them according to language and the cultural communities which sponsor them.  Page 20 is one of my favorite pages as it lists our new ministries in formation.  Towards the end of the book are various spiritual and financial reports.  If you have any questions about them, let us know.  This is YOUR parish and we want you to be informed.  The last pages of the Directory list important events in the coming months.  It is my hope that the Directory will be a invaluable resource to you throughout the year to come!

We have begun processing the results from last week’s surveys. Thank you for sharing.  Some comments show that we need to be better at communicating the things we are already doing, others offer suggestions which are easy to implement, and others set goals we can set.  The Pastoral Council and I will be reflecting on them in the coming months.  Again, thank you for sharing.

On October 11th, we will offer two listening sessions at 1 and at 7pm.  This is an important opportunity for us to share an updated report on what is happening in our parish and for you to raise your questions and concerns.  The week previously, Father Bob and I will be at a convocation for priests.  Hopefully we will have insights to share regarding the scandals in the Church.

On a related note, Bishop Parkes has asked us to pray for forgiveness, reparation, and healing for the Church, her leaders, and those hurt by her ministers.  We are offering this as a special intercession for our novena in honor of Our Lady of Aparecida, October 3-11 at 7:30pm at her new Shrine with a special Festival Mass on October 12th.  All are welcome.

Please join me in thanking Gaby Fotopolous for her service to our community as Director of Communications.  She has accepted another position which will help her to better care for her family.  She has been a blessing to us in so many ways.  In the same breath, we welcome parishioner Charles Yezak to our team as Director of Communications.  He comes with a wealth of experience to help us better serve you.  Please join me in praying for him as he begins his new ministry and I thank you for your patience during this period of transition.

Finally, I’d like to thank Eagle Scout candidate and parishioner Joseph Ralston for his work in renovating our butterfly garden by the McClain Residence and the installation of a new bat house.  It is beautiful!  Thank you so much for your service to the Lord and our community of faith!

Together let us courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

Twenty Fourth Sundy in Ordinary Time

September 16, 2018

My Dear Friends,

Praise God!  It’s here!  This weekend we celebrate our 5th annual Ministry Fair!  For me, this is one of the highlights of our year as we gather to share the many blessings God has bestowed on our parish through our wonderful and vibrant ministries.  The Ministry Fair is also a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and meet new ones.  So often we see fellow parishioners at Mass but don’t really have the opportunity to talk with them.  The networking which happens at the Ministry Fair is truly marvelous!  Last but not least, there is free food and drink and games and activities for the kids.  In sum, it is fun for the entire family.  Come!

It is my fervent hope and prayer that each parishioner in our parish is involved in at least two ministries.  For instance, our children should all be enrolled in Faith Formation and hopefully be involved in our choir, altar server ministry, American Heritage Girls, or Scouting.  Our teens should be involved in youth ministry as well as a liturgical ministry or the Disciples of the Eucharist.  Young Adults should jump right in and participate in the Apostles of the Eucharist, Singles for Christ, or in any one of our ministries.  The same is true of us all!  Whether it is a liturgical ministry, faith formation ministry, Bible study, prayer group, Ministry of Mercy, Knights of Columbus, Council of Catholic Women, MDS ... my prayer is that we will all become active in building the Kingdom of God at St. Paul!

The fact is that all we have is a gift from God ... our time, talents and abilities, and material resources.  How we use and develop these gifts is our gift to God.  We call this stewardship.  Giving generously of our time, talents, and treasure to help others is what is expected of all who dare to call themselves Christian.  We are the hands, feet, and voice of Christ in the world.  If the world is to become a better and safer place for our children and grandchildren, it is because of what we have done to make it so!  The ways we have cooperated with God’s grace!

I encourage you to reflect on all that God has given you.  Do you share your unique gifts and talents with others?  Are you a generous supporter of the parish?  Are you known for your care and concern for those in need?  How is the Lord calling you to be more selfless?  More caring?  These are good questions for us all!  Hopefully, today’s Ministry Fair will provide the motivation and encouragement you need to develop the gifts and resources God has given you and to generously share them with others!

One last point, when you leave the Ministry Fair ... if you feel blessed and joyful to be a part of this wonderful parish family.  Tell others.  Invite them to join you next weekend.  Who knows?  Your invitation may be an answer to their prayers!

Let us courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

Twenty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 9, 2018

My Dear Friends,

September 11th marks a watershed moment in American history.  As a parish family, we lift up in prayer all those who lost lives or loved ones due to senseless acts of terror and violence throughout the world.  We also pray for all those who are on the “front line” in ensuring the safety and well-being of all God’s children ... our first responders, military personnel, and civil leaders.  May they know our gratitude for the sacrifices they make on our behalf.

Next weekend is our 5th annual Ministry Fair.  The Ministry Fair is one of the highlights of the year.  For me, it provides a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the incredible things God is accomplishing in and through our parish.  With over 85 vibrant ministries, there is so much I still need to learn!  The Ministry Fair is also a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and meet new ones.  So often we see fellow parishioners at Mass but don’t really have the opportunity to talk with them.  The networking which happens at the Ministry Fair is truly marvelous!  Last but not least, there is free food and drink and games and activities for the kids.  In sum, it is fun for the entire family.  Please mark your calendar and plan on joining us after each Mass on Saturday and Sunday.  (For our Brazilian friends, please be sure to come BEFORE the 7:30pm Vigil Mass.  Obrigado!)

In preparation for the Ministry Fair, we are distributing our annual questionnaire before each Mass this weekend.  Please take a moment to fill it out.  Your feedback is so important and over the years, has really shaped the direction of our parish.  While we can’t meet everyone’s needs, your suggestion may be just what I need to hear in order to serve you better.  Thank you for caring enough to share!

On the reverse side of the survey, I have included an invitation for you to join our St. Paul Eucharistic Adoration Society.  After much prayerful discernment, I am convinced that God wants us to provide more opportunities for us to grow closer to Him through Solemn Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.  In an increasingly busy, noisy, and hostile world, we all need a sanctuary, an oasis of peace and serenity in which to rest in the arms of our merciful and loving God.  To that end, the priests and deacons of St. Paul would like to offer Eucharistic Adoration Monday through Friday beginning October 1st.  Monday through Thursday, Eucharistic Adoration will extend from after the 7:30am Mass through 8:30pm Compline and Fridays for 24 hours.  Eucharistic Adoration will be suspended as needed, for example when there is Mass in the Church.  But generally, the Eucharistic Lord will be available for you.

This can’t happen unless more people come to Eucharistic Adoration.  This is where you come in!  I’d like to invite you to sign up to be a member of the Eucharistic Adoration Society and sign up to adore the Lord.  We will especially need people in October on Mondays and Tuesdays.  We always need more folks in the early morning hours on Saturday (2-5am).  Thank you for responding to the Lord’s call to “stay awake and spend an hour with Him!”

On another note, I’d like to express my gratitude to members of our Pastoral, Financial, Preschool, and Building Advisory Councils.  They offer me wise and valued counsel so that I might serve you better.  This time of the year I appoint a third of members of the Pastoral Council.  This year I chose  Sandra Castillo to serve as our Hispanic representative, Claudia Vitale as youth representative, Maribel Markines as our Filipino representative, and reappointed Alex Pinzkowski to serve for a second term as our Brazilian representative.  New members of our Finance Council include Gessie Lipscomb and Javier Zuluaga.  A full listing of the members of my advisory councils is available online as well as at next weekend’s the Ministry Fair.

Thank you for your prayers and support and know you are in my prayers as well.  May we all courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 2, 2018

My Dear Friends,

Happy Labor Day weekend!

We thank God for the gift of work.  Yes, that is right.  Work.  If you talk to people who are unable to work or who are searching for work, they will tell you how important work is.  Through our labors, we cooperate with the grace of God in supporting our families and building a better world for all.  During this Labor Day weekend, let’s pray for those who are unable to work, those who are unable to find work, those who are struggling in their work.  We pray for those who are separated from loved ones due to their work and whose work is injurious to their health.  Last, but not least, let’s pray for our “Tweeners” - a wonderful ministry which meets every Thursday morning to help people with their job searches.  Have a great weekend and enjoy quality time with those you love!

Please mark your calendars and plan to join us for our annual Ministry Fair after the 5:30 Vigil Mass on Saturday, September 15 and after each Mass on Sunday, September 16.  This year features free food and drinks, fun activities for the kids, and a wonderful opportunity to meet new friends and learn more about the wonderful things God is doing in our parish!

It is my hope and prayer that every parishioner would be involved in at least two ministries.  One should help others ... for instance, serving as a catechist or joining our Knights of Columbus or Council of Catholic Women.  The other should help you to grow in faith ... such as joining one of our bible studies, becoming involved in one of our prayer groups, visiting our homebound, or joining our Panama Mission.  In today’s bulletin, I highlighted some of the opportunities for kids, teens, and young adults to become more involved in our Church as well as opportunities for those who are young at heart to grow in faith.  I also provided a list of prayer groups in our parish.  Ask the Lord which you should join! Also, you may pick up the new updated Parish Resource Directory at the Ministry Fair.

One of the neat things about becoming involved in ministry is, the more you give, the more you receive.  It doesn’t matter if you are involved in our Jamaican Mission with the Missionaries of the Poor, our Society of St. Vincent de Paul, help with our LifeTeen Ministry, or sing in one of our fantastic choirs.  The more you give, the more you will receive and believe it or not, the greater the blessing for your family!

On another note, I’d also like to thank you for your continued financial support for our parish.  Your sacrificial gift is a sign of your love for the Lord and our Church.  Thank you.  I encourage you to sign up for electronic giving.  Not only is it convenient for you, but helps us to serve you better.  See this bulletin or call Michael at the parish office for more information.

Thank you for your prayers and support and know you are in my prayers as well.  May we all courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros

Pastor

 

 

 

Twenty First Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 26, 2018

My Dear Friends,

 Over the years, we have all read the news of the abuse of children and minors by clergy.  I had hoped and prayed that the worst was behind us.  News of charges against Cardinal McCarrick and report by the grand jury in Pennsylvania opened up many old and painful wounds.  I am angry, disgusted, disappointed, and profoundly saddened.  It is a profound betrayal of a sacred trust, a sin against everything I hold dear as a Christian, and a crime against humanity.

I suffer with the victims, including faithful Christians whose faith has been shaken and good and holy priests such as my cousin in Pennsylvania who now live under a cloud of suspicion.  If there is good news, it is that the Dallas Norms, implemented in June of 2002 and audited and updated annually are working.  The grand jury found that since that date, the number of allegations of abuse plummeted and the manner in which such allegations were addressed fundamentally changed.

You should know that our diocese has always been upfront and transparent with every case of clergy misconduct.  When a credible accusation is made, the priest is immediately removed from duty, the authorities informed, and counseling and other assistance is offered to the victims.  And if the accusation is confirmed, the priest is permanently removed from ministry.  He is not transferred and financial support is withdrawn.  The list of those who have been charged is available on the diocesan webpage. CLICK HERE

The bishops of our diocese have always taken this matter very seriously and Bishop Parkes is no exception.  (Please see his letter in this bulletin.)  We are VERY strict in ensuring that EVERY person - clergy and lay alike – who is in contact with children are vetted through a level 2 background screening check and receive Safe Environment training.  If they are coming from another diocese, they must have a letter of good standing from their bishop or superior.  Each year our diocese and every entity in the diocese are independently audited to ensure full compliance with the Dallas Norms and State law.   

I understand why someone in their anger and frustration would walk away from the church.  I am profoundly sorry and pledge that we will continue to do all we can to ensure that we remain worthy of your trust.

I encourage you to remember why we are Catholic ... our love for the Lord and our desire to share His love and mercy with others.  I also encourage you to be a part of the solution.  Child abuse is not a Catholic clergy problem.  It is rife in our society.  Be sure you and your child participate in our Safe Environment training.  If you suspect that a child is being abused, contact the authorities. 

Please pray for us priests and be assured of our prayers for you. 

 

May God bless you as we courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros

Pastor

 

 

 

 

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 19, 2018

My Dear Friends,

Our children are among the greatest of God’s gifts to us ... second only to the gift of faith and life itself!  They are entrusted to you as parents and guardians for a short time so that you might help them develop to their fullest potential in mind, body, spirit, and soul.  As a parish, we are here to help you!

This week, our Faith Formation programs begin with classes for the children and young people.  Every child not enrolled in a Catholic School should be registered and attend Faith Formation classes.  Home Schooled children should be registered so that we can provide materials and other support as you may need.  If your child is enrolled in a Catholic School, you still need to register them if they are receiving the Sacraments of First Holy Communion or Confirmation this year.  I know that it many Latin-American countries, there is only Sacrament preparation programs.  In the United States, we believe that it is vital for children to receive quality faith formation opportunities every year if they are to truly grow to love Christ and His bride, the Church.

As parents and guardians, we encourage you to be involved.  If at all possible, volunteer as a catechist or assistant.  Each week, review with your child what was learned and every night practice their prayers ... Sign of the Cross, Lord’s Prayer, Hail Mary, Glory Be and for older kids ... Act of Contrition, Apostle’s Creed, Hail Holy Queen, and Memorare.  But most importantly, be sure they fully participate in the Holy Mass each and every weekend!

This week, our Preschool also begins.  We are blessed with an amazing Preschool with the best of teachers and staff and are ranked among the finest in the State.  This year, we have also refurbished the classes for the VPK program.  As a staff, we can’t wait to have our Preschool back in full swing!

This Friday will be particularly exciting!  At all begins at 6:30pm in the Family Center with a novena followed by a special concert featuring “Shout For Joy” a group of ten priests visiting from the Philippines to raise money for their seminary.

And at 7pm in the Church, our Spanish community will gather in the Church for the Rosary followed by the Holy Mass.  Hopefully, this marks the beginning of a tradition of having Mass in the Spanish language every 4th Friday of the month.  A reception will follow in the Parish Center.

Why do this?  Simple.  You asked for it!  Each September I invite you to fill out a brief questionnaire and one of the things many of you requested was more opportunities to celebrate the Mass in Spanish.  Spirituality and language are interconnected.  There are many concepts which cannot be adequately translated.  It is our prayer is that this monthly Mass and reception will strengthen our Hispanic community in their journey of faith for years and years to come!

May God bless you as we courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

 

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 12, 2018

My Friends,

This weekend, following our Sunday morning Masses, our Finance Council is hosting our annual Small Business Fair.  I suggested this initiative as a way of building community while assisting our parishioners who are small business owners.  My dad was a small business owner and I know firsthand the struggles they face, especially in today’s market.  I invite you to stop by and support this important initiative.  You are also encouraged to patronize our bulletin advertisers.  Their support enables us to provide the bulletin and other print media at low or no cost to the parish.  May God bless our small business owners!

On Tuesday, our parish and preschool staff are taking a day of retreat.  It is important that we take time with the Lord as we begin a new school year.  Please keep us in prayer.  The parish offices will be closed all day although Masses will take place as scheduled.

This Wednesday, August 15, is the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven and yes, it is a Holy Day of Obligation.  What does this mean?  We should treat it as a Sunday ... attending Mass in honor of our Blessed Mother and trying to refrain from unnecessary work.  Our Mass schedule is as follows: Tuesday, 7:30pm Vigil, and Wednesday at 7:30am; 12:15; 5:30pm, and 7:30pm in Spanish.  Please come and honor our Lady!

The following is a prayer that can be used by your family at home to extend the joy of celebrating this mystery of faith.

In giving birth you kept your virginity; in your Dormition you did not leave the world, O Mother of God, but were joined to the Source of Life.  You conceived the living God and your prayers will deliver our souls from death (Byzantine Liturgy).

May we one day share in the promise of the Assumption!

Last but not least, this coming Saturday, August 18, we will hold our first Shalom World Revival!  We are blessed to welcome Jenson Joseph who will lead us in a Spirit-led morning of spiritual renewal.  The revival will take place from 9-1.  Admission is free and no pre-registration is required.  A love offering will be taken up.  Please come and bring your friends!

May we all courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 5, 2018

My Friends,

As you read this, I’m taking a few weeks of vacation hiking around Mount Blanc.  For 11 days. I’ll walk over 100 miles through 3 countries and past over 40 glaciers.  The elevation gain/loss is over 32,000 feet through 11 passes and 7 valleys.  It will be awesome!

The best part is that I’m going with my best friend ... our Lord.  When I hike, God is every step of the way.  I see him in the glistening peaks, the rich green valleys, and the glorious verdant alpine meadows.  My Dad calls this “God’s country.” 

But it is also a time of conversation.  The private, intimate conversation between friends.  I talk to Him, sharing my heart.  He talks to me, sharing His heart.  This is prayer.

This is also the way of Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, who lived as a discalced Carmelite in Paris for most of his life (1611-1691).  Living a hidden life of holiness, his simple spiritual way of life was known to very few.  It is only when the eulogy given by the Abbé of Beaufort was published with notes from three conversations, a few letters, and spiritual notes found in his room, did others come to know what it means to live in the presence of God.

Brother Lawrence believed that to be holy, one did not need to spend hours reading books, praying devotions, or doing exceptionally pious things.  He said that we only need to desire to be holy, to love God with all our hearts, and to simply whatever we do out of love for God.  He said “This sums up our entire call and duty, brothers: to adore God and to love Him, without worrying about the rest.”

He lived life with an abiding awareness of the presence of God.  The more Brother Lawrence loved God, the more he was able to detach himself from the worries of the world.  The less he worried, the more he was able to love God.  The same is true of us!

But how to we grow in awareness of the presence of God?  Brother Lawrence would suggest that we simply talk with Him.  In fact, he advocated a continual dialogue or conversation with God.  This eventually became so habitual that it was hard for him not to be aware of God.

If you are interested in knowing more about Brother Lawrence and “The Practice of the Presence of God,” I believe there are still copies of his book for sale in the narthex.  They are also readily available online.  I also encourage you to visit my Facebook page for my reflections and the comments of fellow parishioners.

Let us all grow in the practice of the presence of God and courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 29, 2018

My Friends,

Without a doubt, our children number among the greatest of God’s blessings.  They are proof of God’s love for us and an ever-present reminder that we too are called to be childlike at heart ... filled with wonder and joy, growing together in faith, hope, and love.

As Catholics, we believe that the spiritual, physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being of their children is not only a good thing to foster, it is our sacred obligation.  Of course, this is especially true of the parents and others who are entrusted as primary caregivers of children.

Of all the gifts we can give our children, perhaps the most important is the gift of eternal life which is the fruit of a vibrant faith.  Studies confirm that if we really want our children to develop a personal, life-long, passionate relationship with the Lord, it is vital that the parents (especially the Dad) live the faith.  This means praying at home, modeling the faith, and fully participating in Mass each and every weekend.  The home truly is the first church.

Our Faith Formation Team is here to assist you as parents.  We strive to provide the best Catholic Faith Formation opportunities for your children.  Our goal is that your children will grow ever more in love with the Lord and His Church.

Who should register?  As Carmen Cayon, our Faith Formation Director, said at all our Masses this weekend, every child in grades K-12 who is attending a private or public school should register and attend our Faith Formation programs.  For those who are homeschooled, we have special materials to assist you.  Please register.  If your child is attending one of our fine Catholic schools, they only need to register if they will be receiving First Holy Communion or Confirmation this year.

For those who were raised in other countries, religious education may have been limited to sacramental preparation.  In the United States, we stress the need for Faith Formation for all our young people.  Why?  First of all, our culture has never been Catholic.  Arguably, it is no longer even Christian.  Our children need faith formation if they are to learn about the Lord and our wonderful faith in a way which is appropriate for their development.  Otherwise, their understanding of the Lord and His teachings will be severely impaired.

What if you don’t have young children?  We need you!  First of all, spread the word.  Encourage young Catholic families to enroll their children in Religious Education.  Perhaps offer to take or pick up the children if transportation is an issue.  Second, volunteer as a catechist or assistant.  We would like at least two adults in each classroom - the more the better.  This enables us to provide the one on one attention many children need.  If you are bilingual, have experience in working with children with special needs, or enjoy working with teenagers ... we REALLY need you!  Please contact Carmen in the parish office!

The well-being of our children is everyone’s responsibility.  Let’s pray for our children and their families.  May we all courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 22, 2018

My Friends,

First of all, please join me as we welcome Fr. Eva Nnamene “home” to our parish.  Father Eva is a good friend of mine and has been truly a blessing to our parish during his summer vacation.  Father currently on staff at the Catholic Institute of West Africa in Nigeria. Welcome home!

Today Jesus invites us to “come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”  One of the best ways to this is to stop by the chapel and adore the Lord.  The Lord is waiting for you here each and every day between 7am and 9pm.  On Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays (24 hours) we have Solemn Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.  Come and rest a while in the arms of Jesus!  Even better, attend daily Mass!  We are blessed to offer Mass each weekday at 7:30am and 12:15pm.  Come and join us at the Banquet of Life!

Do you need to come to the church to rest in the Lord?  Of course not!  Your “deserted place” could be your prayer corner at home, your backyard, a local park, or even the beach.  It just needs to be a comfortable and safe place, free of distractions, where you feel the presence of the Lord!

When you go to your “deserted place” I encourage you to bring your Bible.  Read a little every day.  A prayer journal is also very helpful so you can record at the end of your prayer time what God shared with you.

When should you pray?  When can you?  Jesus liked to pray in the early morning hours while his friends slept.  Many of us prefer the evening hours.  St Faustina recommended the 3pm Hour of Mercy.  Remember ... pray when you are most alert and least likely to be distracted.

Prayer is communication with God.  It involves opening our heart to God in praise and thanksgiving, contrition and sorrow, intercession and affirmation.  It also involves listening, being attentive to the still, quiet voice of God.  Remember, listen to the Lord.  Don’t just talk at Him!

If you are interested in developing your prayer life, talk to the priest or deacon of your choice.  Also Sr. Theresa Betz offers a wonderful seminar each year to help you develop your spiritual life.  It is not too early to sign up for this year’s seminar.

The important thing to remember is that there is not a right or wrong way to pray.  Just talk to Him!  And may God bless you and your loved ones as we courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 15, 2018

My Friends,

Today’s Gospel is all about discipleship.  Jesus summoned the Twelve and sent them out two by two to proclaim the Good News of God’s love and mercy to all.  He asked them to bring as little as possible, depending upon God’s grace and the generosity of those they met along the way.

Likewise, the Lord is summoning us today, calling us to go forth and to share His peace and joy with all those we meet.  This is called discipleship.  As baptized Christians, we have the right to proclaim the Gospel.  By virtue of our confirmation, it is our duty and obligation.

For many of us, the idea of sharing our faith is pretty intimidating.  Discipleship and evangelization are best left for the “professionals” ... priests, deacons, religious, and trained lay missionaries.  Yet, nothing could be farther from the truth.  It is the responsibility of each and every one of us!

How?  Good question!  Perhaps the most eloquent witness of our faith comes not from what we say, but what we do.  Can anyone tell that we are Christian by the decisions we make?  How do we act?  What do we buy?  How do we drive?  Our respect and care for others?  Our concern for the poor?  People should be able to tell we are Christian by our joy, our passion for life, the smile on our face. 

Ideally,  others should say to us: “I don’t know what you have, but I want it!”  “Tell me why you are always so cheerful!”  “What is the secret for your joy?”

We should also feel very comfortable inviting others to join us for Adoration or Mass.  Offer to pick them up and then go out for a coffee afterward.  Yours may be the invitation they have been waiting for.  If they express an interest in a bible study, prayer group, divorce support group ... etc., offer to come with them!  What is the worst thing that can happen?  That they say “no”?  I’m sure that they will appreciate your thoughtful offer to help.

One of the goals of Bishop Parkes in his new pastoral plan is precisely this: for each of us to become “missionary disciples who are inspired to invite and accompany others.”  This is also our goal as a parish: to be intentional disciples - sharing the Good News of Christ through word and deed.

I encourage you to reflect on how your words and deeds reflect your faith.  Adjust as necessary.  And also, this week, invite a friend to join you at Church.

May we courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 8, 2018

My Friends,

Each year, at our annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinner, the St. Paul Award is given to a worthy parishioner who exemplifies the qualities of our beloved patron St. Paul.  This year, after widespread consultation, was awarded to Zack Marroquin, chair of our Society of St. Vincent de Paul.  Zack and his team of dedicated volunteers work tirelessly to care for those in need who live within our parish boundaries.  The food and money which is collected for the poor throughout the year are distributed by the members of the Society to those who are struggling to feed their families or make ends meet.  Their goal is never to provide a handout.  Instead,  they provide a hand up to break the cycle of poverty and to allow the people to again achieve independent living.  Congratulations Zack! 

Speaking of caring for those in need, this week Deacon Frank and I and a group of eighteen faithful parishioners will be traveling to our sister parish in Montijo, Panamá for a week-long mission.  We are bringing two doctors, two nurses, and other healthcare providers as well as an energetic team of teens, young adults, and adults who are still young at heart!  In the course of four days, we will be serving seven different communities providing health services and education, readers, faith formation, prayer services, and lots of fun!  We will also help the local communities beautify their local chapel.  We will also have a day of retreat and will participate in the local community’s celebration of Our Lady of Carmel.  It should be a very busy but rewarding week!  Please keep us in prayer!

Why go to Panamá?  First of all, it is what Christ has called us to do!  He charged us to go forth and to share His Gospel with the world.  As Christians, we are also called to help our brothers and sisters.  But that is only part of the reason.  It is important for our young people to experience how our friends live in other parts of the world.  The mission helps us grow in awareness of our global neighbors.  Our sister parish in Panamá also has a lot to teach us about faith and life.  As sister parishes, we have a lot to learn from each other.

Of course, we also need to help those in need in our own backyard.  Two weeks ago, many of youth attended the “Good Samaritan Project” and spent a week caring for children living with disabilities in our area.  This weekend, our SOS ministry is taking up a collection of food items for those who have been rescued from human trafficking in our city.  Next month our Knights are taking up a collection of school supplies for poor children living in our area.   As I mentioned above, we are also blest with a wonderful Society of St. Vincent de Paul which distributes carloads of food each week to those in need who live in our parish.  If there is one thing you can say about our parish: We care!

We are certainly a generous parish.  We do all we can to share God’s love and mercy with those in need.  Thank you for opening your heart to the cry of those in need!  May we continue to courageously live the Gospel!

 

Thirteenth Sundy in Ordinary Time

July 1, 2018

My Friends,

Please join me in welcoming Fr. George Gyasi to our parish.  Fr. George hails from the Archdiocese of Kumasi in Ghana West Africa.  In addition to his native English, he also speaks Asante, the language of the Akan people, Spanish, Italian, and some French!  He was ordained on July 14, 2004 and earned an advanced degree in Bioethics in Rome.  May God bless Fr. George as he begins his ministry here at St. Paul!

As many of you know, I host book studies on my Facebook page.  Today we are beginning a study of the spiritual classic “The Practice of the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection.  Brother Lawrence was a humble Carmelite monk who spent most of his life working in the kitchen.  His life and writings reveal the secrets of daily, moment-by-moment fellowship with God.  After his death in 1691, the eulogy shared at his funeral, three conversations, sixteen letters, and spiritual maxims found in his room were gathered and published for the edification of the faithful.  Copies of the book are available online (written and audio).  To join me, simply become my “friend” on Facebook.

Please mark your calendars and come to a special Shalom Revival on Saturday, August 18th from 9-1 in our Parish Center.  Jenson Joseph will be leading us in our morning of spiritual growth and enlightenment.  Please come and bring a friend!

Last week I shared Bishop Parkes vision for our diocese: “Courageously living the Gospel”  We have also been revising our parish pastoral plan.  Our goal is to continue 1) to provide opportunities for all of us to grow closer to the Lord through quality liturgies, and days and evenings of reflection for the parish as a whole as well as for each ministry.  We will also continue 2) to develop on our Faith Formation program.  We believe it is essential that each child enjoy a personal relationship with the Lord as well as a comprehensive understanding of the Catholic faith.  We support our Bishop’s intention 3) to foster strong youth and family ministries.  We have plans 4) to enrich our ministry to our seniors.  To better reach our Spanish- speaking parishioners we will 5) initiate First Sunday “Tapas with Jesus” receptions and Fourth Friday’s Spanish Evening Mass and Reception.  Finally, we will work with neighboring parishes 6) to develop a family-friendly weekend ministry in which we can help those in need who live in our city.

God is certainly blessing our parish.  May we continue to courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros

Pastor

 

 

Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist

June 24, 2018

My Friends,

Today, Bishop Parkes would like to share with you his pastoral vision for our diocese.  I introduced it in last week’s bulletin and today, in Mass as well as here in this bulletin, he will explain more. It is his hope that we will be able to better meet the changing needs of our youth, the elderly, and those in need.  I’m looking forward to seeing how it will be implemented in the coming years as we “courageously live the Gospel!”

An important part of living the Gospel is being attentive to the cry of the poor in our midst.  Next weekend, we will have an opportunity to support our Holy Father’s charities through the “Peter’s Pence.”  Through this second collection, our Holy Father receives the funds necessary to support the mission of the Church throughout the world.  Thank you for your generosity!

This week our children explored “The Mystery of the Mass” during our Vacation Bible School.  It was an amazing week full of laughter, games, and excitement as they learned more about the Holy Mass.  Please join me in thanking our wonderful staff and volunteers who made this year’s Vacation Bible School one of the best ever! 

As you read this, several of our ladies are participating in a “Welcome” parish retreat.  This weekend retreat is truly a “Welcome” encounter with Lord.  Not only will it change their lives but also will be a blessing to their families and our entire parish.  If you would like to go on our next retreat, contact Nancy in the parish office!

This coming week, many of our teens will be traveling to Pasco County to participate in the Good Samaritan Project.  They will gather with young people from throughout our diocese for a week of service projects to local charities ... such as homes for children with disabilities, shelters for the homeless, and food banks for the impoverished.  The days (and nights!) are filled with prayer, fellowship, service projects, and tons of fun!  Hopefully, more teens will join us next year!  (Contact Stephen our youth minister at the parish office for more information!)

We are also hosting the PSA Sports Ministry Summer Camp this week.  This is a wonderful opportunity for our youth to get out of the house, learn new skills, and develop lifelong friendships.  If you’d like to attend, call the parish office first thing on Monday!

Last but not least, this week we say farewell to our good friend Fr. Victor Bartolotta as he begins his well-earned retirement.  Please join me on Monday night at 6pm at the Family Center as we thank him for his service to our parish this past year.  He has truly been a blessing to us all!

As always, God is doing powerful things in our parish as we courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros

Pastor

 

 

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time 

June 17, 2018

My Friends,

A little over a week ago I hosted a “Q &A” session for the parish.  The evening began with reports from our Finance Council, Building Committee, Preschool Advisory Council, Faith Formation Team, and Pastoral Council.  The bottom line is that God has been good to our parish.  By every standard, we are truly blessed!

I also shared a little about our Diocesan Pastoral Plan entitled “Courageously Living the Gospel.”  After months of consultation and prayerful discernment, Bishop Parkes has articulated a “sacred purpose,” namely:

We, the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg, are a joyful community of disciples proclaiming the Good News and inviting all people to encounter the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.

In addition, he articulated nine goals:

1. Each deanery (area of the diocese) will launch a Catholic Impact Initiative which addresses one local community issue

2. The Diocese will establish 8-10 new affordable housing facilities

3. Each parish will establish or enhance youth ministry opportunities

4. The Diocese will hire three regional associate directors of youth ministry

5. The Diocese will establish a new Catholic elementary school

6. The Diocese will increase student participation in college campus ministries

7. The Diocese and parishes will create a program for effective evangelization and family ministry strategies, including hospitality and intercultural competency

8. Each parish will equip parishioners as Missionary Disciples

9. Each parish will enhance or establish family ministries to respond to the diverse needs of families.

It is an ambitious pastoral plan but one which truly responds to the changing needs of our diocese.  In particular, there is a renewed emphasis on ministry to our youth, teens, and young adults, support for families, and help for the elderly and others in need of affordable housing.  In the coming weeks, we will hear more about this plan and how we can implement it as a parish family.  In the meantime, please let us keep this important initiative in your prayers: “May we all courageously live the Gospel.”

While you are on your knees, please join me in praying for our children and volunteers this week during our Vacation Bible School.  May it be a week filled with joy and much growth in the Lord!  Also, please come this Thursday, June 21st at 7pm in the Parish Center, for a special presentation on our parish Divine Mercy Pilgrimage.  Afterward, we will be presenting a special movie on Divine Mercy by a military chaplain who befriended us in Lithuania.  Please come and bring a friend!  (There will be free refreshments!)

Last, but not least, please join me in prayer for the women who will be on retreat next weekend.  May they feel the “Welcome” embrace of our God and be open to all the graces and blessings He wants to shower upon them!

May we courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

PS  Be sure to mark your calendars for Fr. Victor’s retirement party at 6:30pm on Monday the 25th!  Let’s give him a send-off he will never forget!

 

Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

June 10, 2018

My Friends,

Recently I took our parish staff to see the documentary “Pope Francis: A Man of His Word.”  It is an excellent movie which I highly recommend. The issues presented in the film span a variety of topics ... the preferential option for the poor, the innate dignity of the human person, dignity of women, freedom of religion, basic human rights, ecumenism, care for the environment and issues such as abuse of children by clergy, treatment of migrants and human trafficking women.  For many of us, the teachings presented by Pope Francis seem new and perhaps a bit radical.  The fact is, they are well rooted in what may very well be the biggest secret of our time ... the rich social justice doctrine of the Catholic Church.

While our Holy Father’s articulation of these issues is distinctly his own, the doctrines he presents are evident in the teachings of his predecessors for well over 125 years ... Pope Benedict, St. John Paul II, Blessed Paul VI, St. John XXIII ... all the way back to Pope Leo XIII and his 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum.  But to be honest, our church’s social justice teaching is rooted in Christ himself and even as far back as Genesis.  Each and every person is created in the image and likeness of God.  As such, we have an innate and inalienable dignity with basic human rights, most fundamental of all are the right to life and the freedom of religion.

Of course, people of good will can and often do disagree on how our basic rights and liberties are expressed and balanced for the common good of all people.  The ability to enter into civil and considered discussion is an essential tool if we are to truly identify and address the complex concerns and challenges of our age.  This is only possible if we are humble enough to recognize that our knowledge and experience is finite and that only by working with others with different points of view, can we begin to address the complexity of issues confronting us.  Above all, as Christians, we must never lose sight of the fact that we are all children of God and we are called to love our neighbor as God loves us.

One of the things I love most about our wonderful parish is that while we come from very different perspectives, we are united in our faith and in our love and concern for those in need.  For me, St. Paul is a sign of great hope!

On another note, on Thursday, June 21st at 7pm in the Parish Center, I’m hosting a free movie night.  The evening will begin with a brief presentation on our Divine Mercy pilgrimage to Lithuania and Poland.  Afterwards, we will be presenting a special movie on Divine Mercy by a military chaplain who befriended us in Lithuania.  Please come and bring a friend!  (There will be free refreshments!)

Last, but not least, please join me in prayer for the men who are on retreat this weekend and the women who will go on retreat later this month.  May they feel the “WELCOME” embrace of our God and be open to all the graces and blessings He wants to shower upon them!

Growing together in Christ!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

June 3, 2018

My Friends,

This Saturday we were blessed to welcome Bishop Mar Jacob Angadiath and Bishop Mar Joy Alappat of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church to our parish as they ordained one of our own to the priesthood of Jesus Christ: Father Rajeev Philip Vailiyaveettil.  We join his parents, George and Vimala, and sisters Rhea and Rayna, in offering a prayer of thanksgiving to God for the gift of Fr. Rajeev and are certain that Father will certainly be a blessing to all those he serves.

As American Catholics, we often do not realize that the Catholic Church is actually a communion of 23 autonomous or “sui iuris” churches.  We belong to the largest one ... the Latin Rite.  But there are an additional 22 Eastern Rite churches - all in union with the Holy See. Many of these churches boast apostolic roots and developed over time with distinct theological, liturgical, spiritual, and ecclesiological traditions.  Within the territory of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, we are blessed with two Ukrainian Catholic Churches, two Byzantine Catholic Churches, two Syro-Malabar Catholic Churches, and a Maronite Catholic Church.  All have their own Bishop or Eparch who resides in the United States.

When Rajeev’s family came to Tampa, there were no local Syro-Malabar rite churches.  As the number of Syro-Malabar Rite Catholics increased, two missions were eventually formed.  Rajeev was then introduced to his ancestral Church and came to love it as his own.  When he received his call to serve the Lord as priest, it was logical for him to serve within the St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago.  This diocese was formed by St. John Paul II in 2001.  To my understanding, Fr. Rajeev is the second priest to be ordained to serve in the Diocese of St. Thomas!

Fr. Rajeev has graciously offered to preside at our 5:30pm Mass this weekend (Sunday).  Please come and join us for this incredibly blessed occasion.  After the Mass, Father will lead us in a Eucharistic Procession on our beautiful Peace Path.  We will conclude with a reception for Father.  You will have the chance to receive a special priestly blessing from the new Ordinand.  Come and bring a friend!  (And yes, you can receive Holy Communion twice in one day if you fully participate in both liturgies!)

On another note, you are invited to join me for a special “Q&A” at 7pm on Thursday, June 7.  I’ll share a bit about what is happening in the parish and then try my best to answer your questions and concerns on any matter of our Catholic faith or parish life.  Please come!  Refreshments will be provided.

Finally, please prayerfully consider if God is calling you to join us for our first “WELCOME” or Christ Renews His Parish v2 retreat this month.  More information is found in this bulletin.  It will surely change your life and be a blessing to your family!

Last, but not least, Hurricane Season began on Friday.  While it is highly unlikely that we will have a storm any time soon, we know that this is the time to trim trees, purchase extra water, canned goods, and batteries, and just generally prepare.  Be sure to watch out for new neighbors who may not have experienced a hurricane before or those with special needs ... the elderly, physically challenged, and single parents.  Thanks! 

May we grow ever more deeply in love with the Eucharistic Lord!

 

The Most Holy Trinity

May 27, 2018

My Friends,

Today on Trinity Sunday, we thank God for the gift of our wonderful faith and all the blessings He showers upon us.  Among our greatest blessings are our families.  This Wednesday at 7pm, many of our young parishioners will say “Yes” to the gift of the Holy Spirit!  Please join Bishop Parkes as he confirms 135 of our brothers and sisters!  Your presence would be a huge sign of your loving and prayerful support for our young people as they become fully initiated into our wonderful faith!

This Memorial Day weekend we also pray in a special way for the souls of all those who died in service to our country.  May we always remember the sacrifice they made so that we may live in freedom in this beautiful country!

I’m delighted to share that we have met our goal for the Annual Pastoral Appeal (APA).  We presently have over $420,000 in pledges from over 800 families.  Praise God!  This money will help support hundreds of ministries which serve hundreds of thousands of people throughout our five-county diocese ... from providing quality education in our parishes, schools, and seminary ... to providing continuing education and formation for our priests and religious.  From providing food and housing to the poor, elderly, and others in need ... to providing vital counseling services and legal assistance.  Monies raised through APA help almost every aspect of parish life.  Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!

If you have not yet pledged ... please do so!  Any additional funds are deposited directly into our savings account.  If you would like you can also help us with certain special apostolic works.  For example, we would like to send as many of our young people to see our Holy Father at World Youth Day.  Unfortunately, the cost is $2,600.  I’ve pledged that the youth only need to pay $500 and we’d raise funds for the remainder.  Perhaps you can help!  Another special project we would like to save for is an Education Center.  We have outgrown our facilities and in the current age, must consider a more secure building.  Perhaps you can help!  I’d also like to do more to help the poor living on the streets in Tampa.  Again, perhaps you can help!  Just let me know.

Finally, please prayerfully consider if God is calling you to join us for our first “Welcome” or Christ Renews His Parish v2 retreat this June.  More information is found in this bulletin.  It will surely change your life and be a blessing to your family!

May God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit be with you always!

Fr. Bill Swengros,Pastor

PS After much prayer, I, Fr. Bob and Fr. Victor would like to continue offering confessions from 11:30am to 12 noon, Monday through Friday as well as on Saturdays at 10am and 4pm.  Also, we would like to continue to offer Eucharistic Adoration Wednesday and Thursday 8am-9pm and Friday 8am through Saturday 8am.  We have witnessed so many graces and blessings through the Sacrament of Reconciliation as well as Eucharistic Adoration.  Please be sure to spread the good news and make it a regular practice to come.  We are especially concerned that there are at least two people in church for each hour of Eucharistic Adoration.  Please be sure to sign up for an hour on the poster in the narthex or in our website www.stpaulchurch.com.  Thank you and may God bless you!

 

Pentecost Sunday 

May 20, 2018

My Friends,

This Pentecost weekend we celebrate the birthday of the Church, and in a special way we lift up all our young people who will be confirmed by Bishop Parkes next Wednesday, May 30 at 7pm.  Please be sure to mark your calendars and come.  It would be wonderful to see a packed church in support of our confirmandi and our Bishop!

This Memorial Day weekend we also pray for the souls of all those who died in service to our country.  May we always remember the sacrifice they made so that we may live in freedom in this beautiful country!

This week we also received the results of the ACRE (Assessment of Children/Youth Religious Education) tool.  We administer this instrument every year to our 5th, 8th, and 11th graders in order to ascertain how to better share our Catholic faith with them.  The first part measures their faith knowledge while the second part helps to ascertain how they live the faith.

Our 5th graders continue to excel in every domain.  In fact, in the area of moral formation, they surpassed the national average for children enrolled in Catholic schools!  In regard to their lived experience, they seem to have a healthy relationship with God however only a third read the Bible and 37% have ever thought of a religious vocation.  Only 40% talk about God with their friends.  Hopefully, their parents and grandparents will continue to encourage them in these areas.

Our 8th graders have significantly improved from last year although we still are behind the national averages in almost every area.  That being said, they do report a healthy relationship with God.  Only 20% read the Bible, 29% have thought of a religious vocation, and 31% think it is okay for a couple to cohabit prior to marriage.  Only 50% report that they pray together as a family.  Clearly, we must strive harder to share our faith with our children!

The 11th grade is harder to assess since most do not regularly attend our Life Nights.  That being said, the instrument confirms that we still have much to do if our young people are to develop a mature relationship with Christ and His Church.

My conclusion?  We have a great Faith Formation team and wonderful catechists.  Our parents are more involved than ever before.  Despite the effects of an increasingly secular culture, our young people are developing a personal and meaningful relationship with the Lord and His Church.  As our Pastoral Council and staff revisit our pastoral plan, the faith formation of our young people continues to be one of our highest priorities.  Please keep us and our families in prayer!

Last but not least, I’d like to confirm that Fr. Victor Bartolotta has been granted retirement status by his bishop effective July 1.  We will sorely miss him but wish him well as he begins this new chapter of life’s journey!  We will hold a retirement party for Fr. Vic on Monday, June 25th at 7pm.  Please mark your calendars and bring a friend!

I’m pleased to announce that Bishop Parkes has appointed Fr. George Gyasi of the Diocese of Kumasi, Ghana as our parochial vicar.  Fr. George studied Bioethics in Rome and has taught in the seminary.  He speaks English, Spanish, Italian, and his native Asante language.  He will begin his ministry with us on July 1.  Please keep him in your prayers!

May the Holy Spirit of Pentecost fill you all with His peace and joy! 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

Sixth Sunday of Easter

May 6, 2018

My Friends,

This past few weeks has been an amazing experience of God’s mercy as our small band of 36 pilgrims traveled to Lithuania and Poland to walk in the footsteps of St. Faustina, St. John Paul II, St. Maximilian Kolbe, and Blessed Jerzy Popielusko.  It was a special blessing to pray for your intentions before the famous icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa and the Hill of Crosses.  The need for God’s mercy was never more evident than in the concentration camp in Auschwitz.  It was a pilgrimage we will never forget! 

That being said, I heartily agree with Dorothy: “There is no place like home.”  It is so good to be home with my parish family at St. Paul!  In a special way, I thank Fr. Bob, Fr. Victor, our deacons, religious, and parish and preschool staff for holding down the fort in my absence.  May God bless you all!

This weekend, over 150 children will be receiving their First Holy Communion.  We are so proud of them and so grateful for all their parents and catechists have done to make this day possible.  May God bless you all!  It is always a special joy to see our children so excited to receive the Eucharistic Lord for the first time.  We should follow their example and always receive the Blessed Sacrament as if it was our First Holy Communion as if it was our last Holy Communion as if it was our only Holy Communion!

Today (Sunday), Fr. Bob and a large number of our parishioners will travel to the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle in St. Petersburg to complete their total consecration to Jesus through Mary according to the spirituality of St. Louis de Montfort.  It is certain to be a special celebration with Bishop Parkes and with thousands of people throughout our diocese.  If you are unable to attend, I encourage you to make a small act of devotion to our Blessed Mother before one of our many Marian images on our campus or at home.  Next weekend, we will formally crown her at the beginning of our Masses.

Speaking of Marian devotions, why not take a moment and go on a treasure hunt for our Blessed Mother?  Where on our campus is the image of Our Lady of the Angels, Our Lady of Guadalupe (2), Our Lady of Grace, Our Lady Queen of the Apostles, of Our Lady of Peñafrancia (2), Our Lady of Good Health, the Immaculate Conception, Mary with her mother St. Anne?  Which images did I leave out?  May you always find Mary in your heart!

Growing Together in Christ,

Fr. Bill Swengros

Pastor

 

 

 

Fifth Sunday of Easter

April 29, 2018

My Friends,

I pray that you like our new bronze statue of our Blessed Mother.  I first saw it a few years ago in the Demetz Art Studio in Val Gardenia, Italy and fell in love with it.  The image of Mother and Child is a beautiful expression of our parish family’s love for the Holy Child, Santo Niño, and the Blessed Mother.  I love the way He is represented as the Word of God with a scroll in one hand.  He extends the other hand to us in blessing while proclaiming the truth that there is one God, in three Persons, and that He is fully human and fully divine.  His heartwarming smile and cheerful eyes assure us of his faithful and merciful love!  Our Blessed Mother extends him to us ... encouraging us to sweep him up in our arms and to enthrone him in our embrace.

St. Faustina frequently saw Jesus as a child.  At one point she writes: I saw Our Lady with the Infant Jesus ... . The most holy Mother said to me, 'Take my Dearest Treasure,' and she handed me the Infant Jesus. When I took the Infant Jesus in my arms, the Mother of God and Saint Joseph disappeared. I was left alone with the Infant Jesus.” (Dairy, 608).  Likewise, we are invited to take our Lady’s “Dearest Treasure” into arms and to play with him, sing to him, cuddle with him, and to hold him tight!

The statue is entitled “Regina Degli Apostoli,” Our Lady Queen of the Apostles and was paid for by the donations you submit with our Mother’s Day novenas. Thank you for your generosity!

The statue of the Immaculate Conception is being relocated as an Eagle Scout project to the Peace Path so that our Lady can welcome those who are entering our property through the Stall Road entrance and intercede for all those traveling on Dale Mabry Highway.  It will be lit at night as a beacon of hope for all to see!

Last week I celebrated Mass with the students at Bishop McLaughlin High School.  The principal, Camille Jowanna, introduced the Mass with a summary of the Holy Father’s exhortation “Gaudete et Exsultate.”  She reminded the students that we are all called to holiness of life.  How?  “Do life’s ordinary things in an extraordinary way.”  God gives us the grace we need through prayer, meditation, the Mass, Confession, Eucharistic Adoration, charitable acts, and community outreach.  But we must also work to avoid temptation, especially the “venom of hatred, desolation, and vice.”  Otherwise we will succumb to failure or mediocrity.  Ms Jowanna concluded by challenging the students: “What can you do today to be holy?”

Good question.  Know that you and your loved ones are in my prayers as we grow together in Christ!

In His Peace,

Fr. Bill Swengros

Pastor

 

 

 

Fourth Sunday of Easter

April 22, 2018

My friends,

Last month, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, wrote us a beautiful exhortation “Guadete et Exsultate”, “Rejoice and Be Glad”, on the universal call to holiness. 

As the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council reminded us, all of us are called to be holy (Eph 1:4; Lg, 11).  Unfortunately, many of us think of holiness as beyond our grasp ... a quality which is limited to only a very select few.  We equate holiness with perfection or being sinless.  Instead, holiness is a sharing in the life and love of God. 

Pope Francis reminds us that holiness is found in the love of a parent for a child, the patience of those who care for the sick and elderly, those who struggle to make ends meet, those who speak for those who have no voice ... Holiness comes in various forms ... extraordinary as well as ordinary.  All it requires is an openness to God and a willingness to follow His will.

Our parish is blessed with so many holy men, women, and children.  You can see them as they share our faith with our children, as they pray for us on bended knee in adoration before the Eucharistic Lord, and as they open their hearts and hands to help those in need.  I can tell you that I am so inspired by all the saints in our parish!

That being said, we can all grow in holiness.  How?  First of all, pray for the grace to be holy.  Ask the Lord to help you to discern what is hindering your relationship with Him and to give you the strength to put those things aside.  Also ask Him to show you what you can do to be more faithful to His will.  Remember, holiness is a process not a destination so be patient with yourself.

This week I am on a Divine Mercy Pilgrimage with a group of 36 parishioners.  As we visit those places associated with St. Faustina, St. John Paul II, St Maximillian Kolbe, and Blessed Jerzy Popielusko, know you are in our prayers. 

May the peace and joy of our Merciful Lord be with you and our entire parish family as we grow together in holiness!

In His Peace,

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

Third Sunday of Easter

April 15, 2018

 

My friends,

At a recent meeting with our Bishop, he shared with me all the wonderful things he has heard about our parish from non-parishioners.  Evidently, they visited our parish and were so impressed, they had the share their joy with Bishop Parkes.  They commented how warm and inviting our community is, the number and diversity of our vibrant ministries, our care and generous concern for those in need, and how beautifully we celebrate the Sacred Liturgies. 

Thankfully, this person’s experience is not the exception.  Each week I receive emails, letters, and cards from people who have visited us.  One woman recently wrote: “I can’t say thank you enough for all I have received spiritually and mentally from your whole Church while visiting my mother.  The people, your Church, the Masses, the singing, the shrines outside, the entire atmosphere is wonderful.  You give the joy of Jesus.”  I truly feel blest to be a part of this parish family.  I hope you do too!

What is our secret?  It is YOUR openness to the Holy Spirit, YOUR love for the Lord, and the way YOU share His love and mercy with others.  Thank YOU for your “yes” to the Lord!

Can we do better?  Certainly!  The strategic plan for our parish is now 5 years old and the Pastoral Council is discerning how God is calling us to grow.  For example, almost 4,000 people attend Mass each weekend and more than 8,000 attended Mass on Easter Sunday, yet almost 20,000 people are registered in our parish.  How can we touch those members of our community that rarely attend Mass?  There are almost 3,700 children registered in our parish yet less than 800 are involved in our Faith Formation program.  How can we ensure that no child is left behind?  While we are blest with almost a thousand volunteers, they are still a small percentage of the total community.  How can we invite more to participate in ministry?  In our second reading, the early church community was known for its care for those in need.  To date, less than 700 families have chosen to donate to the Annual Pastoral Appeal (APA).  How can we encourage everyone to participate in supporting the charitable works of our diocese?

I don’t have the answers.  That is one of the reasons why I’m depending on the wisdom of the Pastoral Council and our talented staff.  But I can tell you that an important part of the solution is YOU!  1) Continue to share your faith with others by the way you live your lives.  People see your care and concern, your joy and peace ... and they are touched!  2) Invite others to join you for Mass and other Church functions.  The worst they can say is “no.”  But who knows?  Yours could be the invitation they have been waiting for!  3) Pray.  Let us pray for our parish community.  That we may continue to model the example of the early Christians by our devotion to the Sacred Scripture, Holy Eucharist, community life, and extending God’s mercy to those in need.  May we live our faith!

Growing together in Christ,

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

Divine Mercy Sunday

April 8, 2018

Alleluia!  He is risen!

My friends,

Today is the day of Mercy!  Our Lord told Saint Faustina: “My daughter, tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and 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 fount 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 are open all the divine floodgates through which graces flow. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. Everything that exists has come forth from the very depths of My most tender mercy. Every soul in its relation to Me will contemplate my love and mercy throughout eternity. The Feast of Mercy emerged from My very depths of tenderness. It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy” (Diary, 699).

Today is the day of Mercy!  Today we are called to turn to the Lord, to bask in the rays of his mercy, to be immersed in his merciful love!  One of the surest means of opening ourselves to his mercy is through the praying of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy before the Eucharistic Lord.  In today’s bulletin, we’ve included how to pray the chaplet of Divine Mercy, given by the Lord to St. Faustina.  I’m sure you will find it to be an incredibly powerful prayer.  Our Lord promised: “Whoever will recite it will receive great mercy at the hour of death.  Priests will recommend it to sinners as their last hope of salvation.  Even if there were a sinner most hardened, if he were to recite this chaplet only once, he would receive grace from my infinite mercy.  I desire that the whole world know my infinite mercy.  I desire to grant unimaginable graces to those souls who trust in my mercy” (Diary, 687).

Today is the day of Mercy!  Mercy, like love, is empty if it is not shared.  Saint Faustina recommends at least one act of mercy a day.  It could be through a “merciful word, by forgiving and by comforting; secondly, if you can offer no word, then pray – that too is mercy; and thirdly, deeds of mercy” (Diary, 1158).  The seven corporal acts of mercy are: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, and bury the dead.  The seven spiritual acts of mercy are: to admonish the sinner, instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, comfort the sorrowful, bear wrongs patiently, forgive all injuries, and pray for the living and the dead.  Let us do an act of mercy today!

Today is the day of Mercy!  May our merciful God shower his blessings upon you and your loved ones!  And may we grow together in Christ!

Fr. Bill Swengros,Pastor

 

Easter Sunday of the Lord's Resurrection

April 1, 2018

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 me ... 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 follow the Lord and 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 broken.  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 help 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.

I 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. Victor, 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!

Fr. Bill Swengros

Pastor

 

 

Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion

March 25, 2018

My Dear Friends,

Welcome!  Whether you are one of the founding families who faithfully prayed this parish into existence 51 years ago, or if you are here for the first time today, welcome!  Today we celebrate Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion and begin our annual pilgrimage through Holy Week.

Our Liturgy begins with triumphant songs of praise as we wave our palm branches high. We joyfully welcome Jesus our Messiah into the Jerusalem of our hearts.  Yet, mere minutes later we hear ourselves joining the crowd with fist raised high crying out “Crucify him!”  “Crucify him!”  Standing vigil as the One who loves us so much, He became one with us in all things but sin. He surrendered His life for us on the altar of the cross to atone for our sins so that we might be liberated from death to live eternally with Him in heaven.  O how great is our merciful Lord!

I invite you to join me this Holy Week on a journey of faith sure to change your life.

Monday of Holy Week: Come to the Seder Supper at 6:30pm in the Family Center.  You can never fully appreciate the miracle of the Mass unless you understand the wonder of its roots: the Jewish Passover Service.  Please call the parish office for reservations.

Tuesday of Holy Week: All the priests of our diocese will gather with Bishop Parkes in the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle in St. Petersburg for the Chrism Mass at 11:30am.  During this Mass, the Bishop will bless all the oils used in our Sacred Liturgies and will invite the priests to renew their commitment to serve God and you, His people.  Please come!

Wednesday of Holy Week: You are invited to journey with the Lord and our Amor de Jesus Grupo de Oración on the Via Crucis to Golgotha beginning at 7pm in our beautiful Santo Niño Shrine.  It is a very moving drama which you will never forget!

Holy Thursday: The Sacred Triduum begins with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at 7pm.  Tonight we remember the institution of the Eucharist and the Priesthood and the Lord’s commandment for us to serve one another.  Afterwards there will be Eucharistic Adoration until midnight in our “Garden of Repose.”  Come and adore the Lord!  (For more details about today, please see this bulletin.)

Good Friday: Today we remember the suffering and death of Christ on this day of fasting and abstinence.  Stations of the Cross are at noon with our teens and at 9pm on the Peace Path (bring a candle!).  The Passion of the Lord is celebrated at 3, 5 (Spanish), 7 (choir), 7:30 (Portuguese).

Holy Saturday: Today we wait at the tomb of Christ until the Great Easter Vigil at 8pm.  This Mass is the central liturgy of our tradition as welcome the Risen Lord into our midst!  Note: there will NOT be 5:30pm or 7:30pm Vigil Mass.  (For more details on this day, please see this bulletin.)

Easter Sunday: Come join us as we celebrate the Risen Lord.  Masses are at 6am (NEW), 7:30am, 9am (Church and Family Center), 10:45am (Church and Family Center), 12:30pm (English in Church and Portuguese in Family Center), 2pm (Spanish) and 5:30pm!  Come and bring your friends!  Additional parking is available south of PDQ at the Medical Center.

This week is a wonderful opportunity to grow in God’s grace.  May the Lord bless you and your loved ones!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

Download the Diocese of St. Petersburg Mutually-Shared Vision E-Book HERE

WE WELCOME FATHER GEORGE GYASI

Please join us in welcoming Fr. George to our parish as the new Parochial Vicar. He comes to us from St. Anne in Ruskin. Fr. George speaks Asante, Spanish, Italian and some French! May God Bless Fr. George as he begins his ministry at St. Paul.

Congratulations to our 105 Confirmandi who received an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on May 30, 2018.  Thank you Bishop Gregory Parks for your presence and support in such a special day!

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