Pastor's page

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!

 

New online Book Study 

with Fr. Bill  

Starting on July 1st.  The Practice of the Presence of God is available online and also in our Lighthouse Kiosk.  Just befriend Fr. Bill Swengros on Facebook HERE

and join the conversation!

 

 

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