WEEKDAY MASS SCHEDULE: Mon. - Fri. 7:30am & 12:15pm, Sat. 8:30am; WEEKEND MASS SCHEDULE: Sat. Vigil 5:30pm & 7:30pm (PORT); Sun. 7:30am; 9:00am; 10:45am; 12:30pm, 2:00pm (SPAN); 5:30pm

Pastor's page

May 8, 2022

My dear friends,

First of all, Happy Mothers’ Day!  We thank God for the gift of our mothers, living and deceased and for the many ways they reveal to us the face of God.  We pray for all women, that during this month of May, they may be enfolded in the mantle of our Blessed Mother and always know our gratitude for the love and support they have selflessly shared with us!  May God bless you all!

One of the best ways to honor your favorite mom is to enlist her in our month-long novena of Masses in honor of Mothers’ Day.  Pick up an envelope in the narthex and return the outer envelope with the names of all the women you would like us to remember in prayer.  You are encouraged to include a donation.  Let us storm heaven for our moms!

This week, in a special way we honor our Blessed Mother under the title of Our Lady of Fatima.  Between May 13 and October 17 of 1917, our Blessed Mother appeared to three Portuguese children, Francisco, Jacinta, and Lucia, and asked them to pray the rosary for world peace, for sinners, and the conversion of Russia.  They were also entrusted with three “secrets” which pertained to the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a vision of hell, and an assassination attempt against the Holy Father.  Our Holy Father Pope Francis has entrusted his Petrine ministry to Our Lady of Fatima.  During this month of May, I encourage you to pray the rosary each day whether alone, with your family, or with friends.  Let’s pray for peace and healing in our world!

This Friday is the feast of Our Lady of Fatima.  In honor of Mary, Mother of the Church, we are hosting a special Vatican Exhibition of the “Treasures of the Church.”  Fr. Carlos Martins will be joining us this Friday at 6:30pm in the Church for a brief presentation.  Afterwards, we will go to the Family Center where there will be 165 sacred relics.  The Acts of the Apostles records how people were healed through contact with relics (Acts 19).  Those miracles have continued through the ages.  These relics range from one of the largest relics of the True Wood of the Cross to recently canonized Saints. You are encouraged to bring your favorite rosary, bible, or holy card so that it can become a third-class relic.  We are so blest to be able to host “Treasures of the Church.” Be sure to come and bring all your friends!

Last but not least, I thank you for all your prayers for me and our parish.  They are working.  Change is never easy, but it is essential if we are to grow.  Know you are in my prayers as well.  May we place all our trust in Him!

Growing together in Christ!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

May 1, 2022

My dear friends,

Today is the Third Sunday of Easter and the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker.  And while the actual feast day is assumed in our Sunday celebration, we thank God for the gift of St. Joseph.  We pray for all our men ... that they may follow in the footsteps of St. Joseph, faithful husbands, loving fathers, and devoted disciples of Christ.  We also pray for all those who work, especially those who are struggling with work or are struggling to find work.  May God bless them!

Today also marks the beginning of the month of May.  We honor our Blessed Mother and through her, all those women we know and love.  May they all follow the example of Mary, ever in love with her husband Joseph and her son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  One of the great ways to honor our mothers is to offer a month-long novena of Masses for them.  Pick up an envelope in the narthex.  Give the inner card and envelope to the mom of your choice.  And write down the names of all those you wish us to pray for on the outer envelope.  Return it with a monetary gift and we’ll place them on the altar for every Mass throughout the month of Mary.

This weekend we also celebrated First Communions for about 120 children.  We thank God for their “yes” to the Lord, their parents and families, and for their catechists.  We pray that they may develop a life-long passion for the Bread of Life.  In the same breath, we pray for ourselves.  May we always receive the Eucharistic Lord as if it was our first Holy Communion, our last Holy Communion, our only Holy Communion.

On a much sadder note, I was informed by Bishop Parkes last week that I am transferred to St. Ignatius Parish in Tarpon Springs.  While I’m delighted to serve the Lord and His people in whatever capacity God wills, I am very sad to say farewell to you, my St. Paul family.  Each and every day of the past eight years have been a blessing to me, and you have taught me so much about what it means to be a priest, a disciple of Christ, a man of faith.  Thank you.  I will never forget you and will pray for you every day for the rest of my life.

The good news is that our Bishop has assigned Fr. Craig Morley to be your new pastor.  He is a joyful man with a wealth of experience.  I am sure that he will be a blessing to you.  He is presently serving as pastor of Holy Family.  I know that you will make him feel right at home.  The changes take place on July 1, 2022.

Meanwhile, let us pray for one another.  Change is never easy, but it is an essential part of life if we are to continue to grow.  The key is to be open and to trust God.  He is in control and loves us more than we can ever imagine.

Know you are in my prayers.  Please pray for me as well.  May we place all our trust in Him!

Growing together in Christ!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

April 24, 2022

My dear friends,

Easter is the central mystery of our faith.  If Christ did not rise from the dead on Easter morning, all we believe is nothing more than a nice philosophy, pious platitudes.  Jesus rose from the dead to break the bonds of sin and death and to restore to us the promise of eternal life in heaven!

Easter is such an amazing mystery. It cannot be contained in a 24 hour period and overflows to an octave or eight day period.  Today, Divine Mercy Sunday, in a real way, is Easter Sunday. Today we focus on the infinite merciful love of God and the first gift of the Resurrected Lord to His apostles: The Sacrament of Reconciliation.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is such an amazing gift.  Here we encounter Divine Mercy and receive His unconditional love and forgiveness. Here we receive His grace to not only be freed from sin and death but also the grace needed to continue our journey of faith and withstand the temptations of the evil one.  Here we are blest to offer the Sacrament of Reconciliation Monday through Friday at 11, Saturday at 10 and 4, and by appointment.  I recommend that you avail yourself of this Sacrament of Mercy at least every month, if not every two weeks.  You will be amazed at how regular confession “supersizes” your faith and assists you in your spiritual walk.  It will be a blessing to you and to your family.  Come and be reconciled!

Today, Divine Mercy Sunday is so important because on this day, our Lord promised St. Faustina, that “the flood gates of heaven” would open and we would be immersed in the ocean of His mercy.  Today we have the possibility of receiving a plenary indulgence: “For those souls which approach the Fount of life on this day will be granted complete remission of sins and punishment.”  To receive the plenary indulgence 1) receive Holy Communion today, 2) recently receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation and renounce all attraction to sin, 3) pray for the Holy Father’s intentions, 4) pray the Chaplet of Mercy or venerate the image of Divine Mercy (available on our Saint Paul Catholic Church app, website, and in the narthex).  Jesus stated, “Mankind will not have peace until it turns with trust to My mercy.”  May we all place our trust in Jesus!

Now that Lent is finished, I hope you will continue all the wonderful Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and works of charity into the Easter Season.  May we all be known by the quality of our relationship with God, our capacity to discipline ourselves so that we may not be enslaved by our environment, and our love and concern for our neighbor.

Take the time for daily prayer and meditation.  You will find the Bible, the Sacred Mass, and Eucharistic Adoration to be a indispensable help on your spiritual journey.  Get involved in our parish ministries.  We have over 80 vibrant ministries and each week the bulletin is full of activities.  Roll up your sleeves and get involved.  You will be glad you did.  Finally, continue to financially support our parish.  The present economic recession has had a detrimental effect on our parish budget.  Every dollar counts.  Please take time to ask if there is more you can give to support your parish.

May God bless you and your loved ones throughout this Holy Season.  “Jesus, we trust in you!”

Growing together in Christ!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

April 17, 2022

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, your gratitude for the many blessings received, and your desire to grow ever deeper in faith.  May God bless you!

This past year has been difficult.  Between the pandemic, the war, the rise in violence, mental health crisis and inflation, many feel angry, frustrated, disillusioned, and discouraged.  Easter reminds us that Jesus Christ was victorious over sin and death.  He is the antidote to violence and despair.  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 to us.

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 one another and for the poorest, most vulnerable, most oppressed, most broken - whether they live across the street or on the other side of the world! 

In our parish, we are blest with over 80 ministries which strive to make the difference in the world through worship, faith development and sharing, community building, and those dedicated to helping those 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!

With the worst of the pandemic behind us, now is the time to invite others to rediscover Christ and His Church.  Invite others to join you next Sunday, 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.  There will be a special Mass in the Family Center at 3pm followed by the chaplet before the Eucharistic Lord.  Come and invite your family and friends to join you.  For more information, please visit www.stpaulchurch.com or download our FREE Saint Paul Catholic Church app.

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

On behalf of Fr. Peter, Fr. Tim, Fr. Tamil, 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 in Christ!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

April 10, 2022

My dear friends,

Welcome to this celebration of Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion.  In a special way, we welcome our college students and other family members who have come home for Holy Week, those visiting our parish, and those of other faith traditions.  Welcome!  We pray you feel right at home!

This Holy Week is full of wonderful opportunities for you to grow in faith.  I pray you will take advantage of them and come as often as possible.

Seder Supper:  On Monday at 6:30pm, we will gather for our annual Seder Supper, a wonderful way to recall our rich Jewish heritage as we prepare to commemorate the Last Supper this Thursday. Call the parish office to reserve your seat!

Chrism Mass:  On Tuesday, beginning at 11am in the Cathedral of St Jude the Apostle in St Petersburg, Bishop Gregory Parkes will preside over our annual Chrism Mass. During this special liturgy the priests will recommit themselves to ministry and the holy oils will be blest.  Please pray for us!  The ceremony will be livestreamed by the Diocese of St. Petersburg!

Via Crucis:  You are invited to join us on Wednesday at 7pm for a special "living" Via Crucis hosted by our Grupo de Oración Amor de Jesus.  We will begin in the Santo Niño Shrine and process on the Peace Path. Be sure to invite your family and friends to join you!  Remember, 11am is the last time available for confessions as well as daily Mass until Easter Monday, April 18!

Holy Thursday - Mass of the Lord's Supper:  The Sacred Triduum begins at 7pm.  Join us in our “Upper Room” as we celebrate the Last Supper with the washing of feet.  Tonight, we also renew our pledge to love and serve the Lord and to share His love and mercy with others. Afterwards, the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist will be reserved in our beautiful Chapel of Repose in the Family Center until midnight while our young people visit area churches.  Please come and spend some quality time with the Lord in our “Garden of Gethsemene!”

Good Friday - Passion of the Lord:  The Triduum continues on Good Friday, April 15th, with the celebration of the Stations of the Cross at noon followed by the start of our Divine Mercy Novena at 2:30pm.  The celebration of the Lord’s Passion will take place at 3pm in English, 5pm in Spanish, 7pm in English, and 8:30pm in Portuguese.  Remember, Good Friday is a day of fasting and abstinence.

Holy Saturday:  Today, the Church waits at the Lord's tomb, meditating on His suffering and death. At 8:30am, we will celebrate the Preparation Rites for those to be received into the Church. At 10am, we will begin our epic Easter Egg Hunt for kids 10 and under. Come at 11am for the traditional Blessing of your Easter Food and Baskets in the Family Center. At 3pm we will pray the second day of our Novena to Divine Mercy in our beautiful Santo Niño Shrine.  Finally, and most importantly, at 8pm, please join us as we celebrate the great Easter Vigil - the "night of nights," as we welcome our Elect into the Church! It will be a celebration you will never forget! NOTE: In accord with ancient tradition, there will not be 5:30pm and 7:30pm Vigil Masses tonight, Saturday, April 16.

Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord:  Today, we celebrate the central mystery of our faith: the Resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord and God! Please come and share our Easter joy!  Below is our Easter Sunday Schedule:

  • 6:00am Predawn Mass in the Church
  • 7:30am Sunrise Mass in the Church
  • 9:00am Masses in the Church and Family Center
  • 10:45am Masses in the Church and Family Center
  • 12:30pm Mass in the Church
  • 12:30pm Misa em português no Centro de Familia
  • 2:00pm Misa en español en el Iglesia
  • 5:30pm Life Teen Mass in the Church

In addition, after the 2pm Mass, we will continue our Novena to Divine Mercy in the Church. This Novena will conclude during Divine Mercy Sunday, April 24, with a special Mass at 3pm in the Family Center with a consecration to Divine Mercy.

I look forward to seeing you throughout this Holy Week. May God bless you!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

April 3, 2022

Friends,

On this last Sunday of Lent, we renew our commitment to return to the Lord and to open our hearts to His love and mercy.  One of the best ways to prepare for Easter is to go to Confession.  I remember going as a child with my family.  All eight of us would line up - one after another - children first, then my parents.  My parents were a powerful witness to the fact that we all need God’s mercy.  Area parishes are offering Penance Services:

  • Monday, April 4 at 7pm at Most Holy Redeemer
  • Tuesday, April 5 at 7pm here at St. Paul
  • Thursday, April 7 at 7pm at Our Lady of the Rosary

In addition, we will continue to offer the Sacrament of Reconciliation Monday through Friday at 11am and Saturdays at 10am and 4pm.  NOTE: The following week is Holy Week (April 10-16) and we will offer confessions ONLY on Monday (April 11) and Wednesday (April 13) of Holy Week.  The priests need time to spiritually prepare for the Sacred Triduum.  Of course, during Easter Week (April 17-24) we will resume our normal confession schedule.

This Friday, our Middle School Youth are offering a Meditation on the Last Supper at 7:00pm in the Courtyard.  The youth will represent the apostles during the Last Supper and share their unique perspective.  Please come and support our youth!

This coming Sunday is Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord.  Please invite your family and friends and come early.  I encourage you also to bring your palms from home.  We are blest with wonderful palm trees, and it helps to unite our parish with your domestic church, the home!

Holy Week is full of amazing liturgies.  Please be sure to check out this bulletin for details.  With the worst of the pandemic behind us, now is the time to invite those you know to come “home” for Easter.  People will not return because of a slick ad or a letter from me.  They will respond to your personal invitation.  Invite your family and friends, neighbors and coworkers, classmates, and teammates to join you for Mass this Holy Week.  Who knows?  They may be waiting for your invitation!  

Last, but not least, you are invited to join me for a visit to the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art on Monday, April 18th.  The museum is free and opens at 10am.  There is a wonderful restaurant at the museum to purchase lunch and we want to support the museum.  This is one of the finest museums in our country and its collection of religious art is truly amazing.  I am especially impressed by the number of works depicting prominent biblical women.  Every time I go there, I see and learn something new!  If you are interested, please send an email to the following address:  IgniteYourFaith@StPaulChurch.com.

Growing together courageously in Christ,

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

March 27, 2022

My dear friends,

Praise God!  Today is Laetare Sunday, a time of rejoicing as we reach the midpoint of our annual Lenten pilgrimage!  This is a great time to pause and to reflect on how we have been doing.  Have we been faithful to our Lenten pledge to pray, fast, and to do acts of charity?  Have we grown closer to the Lord and more faithfully followed His will in our lives?  Have we shared God’s merciful love with others?  If so, congratulations!  For the next few weeks, see if you can do even better!  If you weren’t successful, don’t despair.  Try anew.  Make sure your goals aren’t too lofty and see if you can enlist the help of friends and family to assist you to fulfill your promises.  Hopefully, come Holy Week, we will all be better prepared to celebrate the Paschal Mysteries as well as better disposed for the day when we are called before our Creator.

The focus of today’s readings is reconciliation.  We are called to the “ministry of reconciliation.”  Reconciliation isn’t simply a truce or absence of conflict.  Nor is it merely a restoration of a prior relationship.  Nor is it achieving some sort of a balance in a relationship.  True reconciliation results in a stronger relationship.  It requires open and merciful hearts which are open to growth and healing.  It is an acknowledgement of failures, a restitution or reparation of damage, and a moving forward with a better understanding and renewed commitment towards the good of the other.

More than ever, we need reconciliation.  With our God, with others, and with ourselves...

I encourage you to avail yourself of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and. if possible, approach this Sacrament of Healing every month.  There are many opportunities coming up in the next few days.  We offer the Sacrament of Confession Monday through Friday at 11am and upon request.  On Saturdays, we offer Confession at 10am and at 4pm.  Our Communal Penance Service is next week, Tuesday, April 5, beginning at 7pm.  We will have several priests from throughout our area so the lines will not be too long!  Other Communal Penance Services in our area are at St Timothy’s this Tuesday at 7pm, St. Mary’s this Saturday at 11am, and Most Holy Redeemer next Monday, April 2nd at 7pm.  Come and be reconciled with the Lord!  If those times are not possible for you, call the office for an appointment.  Fr. Tim, Fr. Tamil, Fr. Peter, and I are here for you!

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us the story of the Prodigal Son.  Although the son made so many hurtful and selfish choices, the father’s love for him never wavered and he waited for him to come home.  When at last he came home, he reconciled with him with great joy.  Even more so, our heavenly Father is waiting for you and I to return home.  Let’s go home!

And if you find yourself resentful of others, as was the oldest brother, accept your heavenly Father’s love and be the better person.  Bury your resentments and jealousies and be reconciled!

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy!”  (Mt 5:7)

Growing together courageously in Christ,

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

March 20, 2022

My dear friends,

This Friday we celebrate the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord.  This mystery heralds one of the central mysteries of our faith – the incarnation of Jesus Christ.  We believe that Jesus is fully God and fully man ... the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity!

St. Luke records the visit of the angel Gabriel to a young girl named Mary.  Her “fiat” or yes to the invitation of God to be the mother of our Savior continues to echo through the ages.  Likewise, God calls each of us to be “God-bearers.”  We do this by proclaiming through word and deed the Good News of God’s love and mercy.

In addition to our 7:30am and 12:15pm Mass, we will have a special tri-lingual Mass at 7:30pm in the main church.  Come for the delicious Lenten Dinner provided by our Knights of Columbus at 5pm and then at 7pm we will pray the Stations of the Cross.  Please come and honor our Blessed Mother!

The Angelus:

The Angel of the Lord declared to Mary: And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.  Hail Mary ...

Behold the handmaid of the Lord: Be it done unto me according to Thy word.  Hail Mary ...

And the Word was made Flesh: And dwelt among us.  Hail Mary . . .

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray:

Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection, through the same Christ Our Lord.

Amen.

 

Growing together courageously in Christ,

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

March 13, 2022

My dear friends,

This week, we have a unique opportunity to share our rich Catholic faith with our non-Catholic friends.  While many will think of green beer and leprechauns this Thursday, we recall the great bishop and evangelist St. Patrick. Kidnaped and enslaved as a sixteen-year-old, he escaped, only to return to share with the people of Ireland the good news of Jesus Christ.  If you want to give yourself and your family a treat, read his biography (it is readily available online and it is not long!).  It will inspire and challenge you!  The best way to honor this holy Apostle to Ireland...come to Mass or Eucharistic Adoration.

On Saturday, we recall St. Joseph, husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus.  He was an amazing man who dared to follow the Lord’s dream.  While we know little of him, I can’t help but wonder what a profound impact he had upon the Lord as a youth.  He is a great model of what it means to be a loving father, husband, and Christian in the world.  Join us for his novena after every 12:15pm Mass this week or pray it on our Saint Paul Catholic Church app or StPaulChurch.com website.  On the vigil of the feast, let’s go the Fish Fry at 5:00pm, visit the Council of Catholic Women’s St. Joseph table, pray the rosary at 7:00pm and Our Lady of Good Health novena, and celebrate Mass at 7:30pm.  Afterwards, we will consecrate ourselves to Good Saint Joseph!

On another note, in its annual State of the Bible study, the American Bible Society reported on the number of “practicing Christians.”  This was defined as those who attend religious services at least monthly and agree their faith is very important in their lives.  Of those that self-identified as Catholics, 22 percent qualified as practicing and 78 percent qualified as non-practicing.  How would you have been classified?  How can we reach out to the non-practicing?

I recently met with a small group of our Youth Group’s Peer Ministers… and they agreed that personal invitations are the best way to invite people to come to Mass.  On the way to Mass, discuss the readings and their importance.  Afterwards, go out for brunch or dinner and then discuss how God touched you during the Mass.  Sharing one’s faith is one of the best ways to develop a more personal relationship with the Lord.  Brandon Vogt wrote an excellent book on how to draw your child back to the Church.  It is called “Return” and it is available online through Word on Fire as well as in our St. Paul parish office.  Let me know if you are interested in forming a discussion group on this book.  It might be a great way to learn how to reach your young adult or teen.  We could meet on Thursday nights and go to Benediction together.  Let me know!

Finally, next Friday, March 25th, is the Feast of the Annunciation.  While it is not a Holy Day of Obligation, we will have a special bilingual Mass outside at the Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche (~7:30pm) after the 7:00pm Stations of the Cross, weather permitting.  Please come and honor our Blessed Mother!

Growing together courageously in Christ,

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

March 5, 2022

My dear friends,

We are blest to welcome “home” Fr. Kevin MacDonald, CssR, who has graciously accepted our invitation to again lead our annual Lenten Parish Mission. Father is a Redemptorist priest and has served throughout the Eastern seaboard and Caribbean. Fr. Kevin will speak at all the Masses this weekend, March 5-6. The mission will be on the Eucharist and will take place Monday through Wednesday, March 7-9 with different talks at both the 12:15pm daily Mass and later at 7pm. (Six talks in all!) On Tuesday night, there will also be a communal penance service and the mission will conclude on Wednesday night with the celebration of the Holy Eucharist Mass. Please mark your calendars and invite your friends, coworkers, classmates, and neighbors to join you! Don’t miss it!

The theme of this year’s Lenten Mission is the Eucharist and it couldn’t be more timely.  Last year, The Pillar published a four-page report on the attitudes and beliefs of Catholics, once Catholics, and non-Catholics.  The study found that 70% of Americans are affiliated with some branch of Christianity, including the 24 percent who are Catholic.  The second largest group is the 20% who are unaffiliated.  All other faiths make up the remaining 10% of Americans.  The percentage of those who describe their affiliation as “nothing in particular” is on the rise, especially among those born since 1990.  59% of “none’s” say their families of origin had no religious affiliation.  This means that there is a great need for evangelization in our society with one out of five not belonging to a faith community.

Among self-identified Catholics, only 43% are registered in a parish and only 69% go to Mass at least weekly.  Going to Mass is important!  It was found that if a child is not taken to Mass weekly, there is only a 12% chance that he or she will as an adult.  If a child is raised in a strong Catholic family that regularly participates in Sunday Mass, the child is much more likely to develop a life-long and personal relationship with Christ and His Church. 

Of those that self-identify as a Catholic, only 41% agreed with the statement: “I believe the Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ.”  Those who attend Mass at least weekly agreed only 50% of the time.  How sad!  Those who attended Mass less frequently were less likely to believe in the Real Presence.  And of those who never attend Mass, only 32% believe in the Real Presence!  Obviously, we must all share our faith in the Real Presence and not assume that other Catholics share our beliefs.  To be clear, we believe with a Divine and Catholic Faith that Jesus is truly and really present, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, in the Blessed Sacrament!  It is not merely a symbol, a sign or representation.  Certainly, if you believe in a God who created heaven and earth out of nothing that Jesus could change water into wine, multiply fish and loaves of bread, heal the sick, and raise the dead ... He can change Bread and Wine into His Body and Blood!  If there is doubt about the origins of our belief, reread John 6, 1 Corinthians 11, and the writings of the Apostolic and Early Church Fathers! 

This week, let’s make a commitment to the Eucharistic Lord.  If you have doubts, bring it to prayer. “Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief” (Mk 9).  Talk to a priest.  Ask the Lord to grant to you the gift of faith.  Then come to Eucharistic Adoration...you may find that your prayer has been answered!

Growing together courageously in Christ,

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

February 27, 2022

My dear friends,

Are you ready to go?  Are you ready to grow closer to the Lord?  Are you ready to begin our annual Lenten pilgrimage to the glory of Easter?  I hope so!  To help you grow closer to the Lord throughout Lent, we would like to give you a free copy of Joseph F. Sica's Lenten devotional entitled, A Time for Mending (available also in Spanish). Please, only ONE copy per family! This year, you are also invited to join us in a Facebook discussion of "Praying with Jesus and Faustina" as compiled by Susan Tassone. Copies are available at the parish office as well as online.

Our journey begins with a celebration!  This Tuesday is our Annual St. Paul Fest, beginning at 6pm. There will be lots of delicious food, music, dancing, ... and just plain good fun!  You are welcome to bring your favorite food from your country of origin to share with others. Please be sure to contact Eddie Mendez (emendez@stpaulchurch.com) at the parish office beforehand so we can group food from similar nationalities together. This evening is lots of fun and the food is incredibly delicious so please come and bring your friends!

Lent begins in earnest on Ash Wednesday, March 2nd as we remember the clarion call to “Repent and believe in the Gospel.”  Masses are at 7:30am, 9:00am, 12:15pm 2:00pm, 4:00pm, 5:30pm, 6:00pm in Portuguese (in the Family Center), 7:00pm, and 8:30pm in Spanish.  Everyone is welcome to receive ashes regardless of their age or creed.

On Ash Wednesday, we will be distributing pieces of cloth.  You are invited to take one home and cut it into a heart.  Prayerfully reflect on what area of your life, your family, our church, our world needs healing or mending and write your prayer on the heart.  Then place it in your prayer corner, in your bible, or on your mirror.  Bring it back to the Church Palm Sunday through Good Friday as a sign of your trust in Divine Mercy and faith that our Merciful God truly hears our prayers.  We will then use all the hearts to create a banner for Divine Mercy of God.

Next Sunday, we are blest to welcome Fr. Kevin MacDonald, CssR, who has graciously accepted our invitation to again lead our annual Lenten Parish Mission. Father is a Redemptorist priest and has served

throughout the Eastern seaboard and Caribbean. Fr. Kevin will speak at all the Masses this weekend, March 5-6. The mission will be on the Eucharist and will take place Monday through Wednesday, March 7-9, with different talks at both the 12:15pm daily Mass and later at 7pm. (Six talks in all!) On Tuesday night, there will also be a communal penance service and the mission will conclude on Wednesday night with a Mass. Please mark your calendars and invite your friends, coworkers, classmates, and neighbors to join you! Don’t miss it!

I’m so excited about our Lenten pilgrimage and I pray that you are too!  May God touch us, heal us, and fill us with His peace and joy!  Growing together courageously in Christ,

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

February 20, 2022

My dear friends,

I’d like to thank you for all of your prayerful support and participation in the first phase of the historic Synod on Synodality. Requested by the participants in the Regional Synod on the Amazon, it is a call for us to learn how to better journey together as Church.  Synods are an ancient institution in the Church in which the pastors and faithful meet in union with the Pope who has called for a synod in order to help him to discern how best to respond to the challenges and opportunities of the day.  The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council asked for regular synods to better serve the people of God.  Synods are primarily consultative in nature although the Pope or Bishop(s) who call for a Synod can use them to create new law.  They cannot change the dogma or revealed faith of the Church.

Our Advent Mission with Fr. Carlos Rojas focused on synods and St. Joseph to lay a foundation of our understanding of synods.  Last month, I led us in an evening of prayer in preparation for our synodal gathering and a few weeks ago, Fr. Peter led us in our two gatherings.  The insights from these meetings were then forwarded onto our Bishop Parkes who will take the reflections from throughout the diocese and report them to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.  They will then compile them and send them on to Rome where it will form the Preparatory Document for the Synod on Synodality.

In my letter to Bishop Parkes, I shared our “best practices” as a parish ... ways in which we practice synodality.  As a canon lawyer, I shared a few suggestions on how the current Code of Canon Law could be updated to reflect a more “synodal church.”  As for our listening sessions, I reported that our synodal parish listening sessions were very positive and the suggestions and comments were very helpful.  One of the reoccurring themes was the need for a new evangelization.  So many have fallen way from the Church.  Also, there was concern for those who, while still Catholic, are not active.  People are looking for ways to reach out to those who are missing from our parish family.  There was also a concern about those who are in prison, those who suffer from mental illness, those who feel alone and abandoned, and those who are single.  Some also expressed a desire for more ecumenical dialogue and ways to share our faith with those who lack a religion.

Since then, I have heard from the Diocese that our observations, comments, and suggestions were well received.  Obviously, our participants invested a lot of prayerful thought.  Thank you!

We are a synodal parish or a parish which listens and journeys together in faith.  I would like to invite you to our semiannual Q&A or Parish Family Meeting on February 24th after the 12:15pm Mass.  It will be live broadcast so you can watch it later.  If there was sufficient interest, I’d be happy to meet again in the evening.  The “agenda” is to listen to your concerns, answer your questions and share how God is blessing our parish or the “state of the union” and the results of the synod listening session.  In addition, I need to hear from you about a proposal to remove the floor tiles in the church which contain images of the cross and Sacred Host and move the tabernacle into the church.  Why are we proposing this?  Having a cross or host on the floor is like putting a US flag on the floor for people to walk on.  It is considered to be very disrespectful by many.  The goal of moving the tabernacle into the church will enable us to worship before the Eucharistic Lord before and after Mass and will enable the clergy to better serve you.  Eucharistic Adoration will continue to take place in our beautiful chapel.  The tabernacle in the chapel will be installed in the rectory chapel where it is sorely needed.  Of course, before any of this happens, I need to hear from you.  Please join us on February 24th at 1:00pm.

Thank you for your prayerful support.  Let us continue to grow together courageously in Christ,

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

P.S.  Correction to last week’s bulletin: “The Council of Nicaea went so far as to forbid kneeling during reception of Holy Communion as kneeling was seen to be penitential and not reverential.”  The point was that what is thought to be “reverential” can change with time.  Now of course, kneeling is a gesture of reverence as well as penance.

 


 

 

 

February 13, 2022

My dear friends,

On this Saint Valentine Day weekend, we pause to honor all those living the holy vocation of Marriage.  There are many Saint Valentine’s in our faith tradition.  Most died as martyrs, exemplifying the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love.  We offer prayers for all those preparing for holy marriage, those living their vocation of marriage, those struggling with the trails of life, and those who are widowed, separated, or divorced.  May they all know our prayerful support!

We have completed the first portion of the Synodal process with an evening of prayer and several listening sessions.  The sessions were very encouraging and insightful.  People shared their great love for the Lord and His Church and appreciation for our wonderful multicultural parish family.  Those who attended were very grateful for the opportunity to adore the Blessed Sacrament and go to Confession every weekday.  They also expressed their gratitude for our response to the challenges of the pandemic.  The participants were concerned for those who are no longer active in the faith, those who feel alone and lost, and those who are in prison.  They also shared a desire for more ministry to those who are single and outreach to those who are not members of our Church.  All in all, it was a great affirmation of what our parish is doing and our goals for a new evangelization.  Thank you!

There has been some confusion which must be clarified: receiving Holy Communion on the hand is not less reverent than receiving it on the tongue.  In fact, until the 8th Century, reception on the hand was the normative way of receiving the Blessed Sacrament and the Council of Nicaea went so far as to forbid kneeling during reception as it was seen to be reverential! During the pandemic, given that Covid-19 is transmitted through the air, dioceses throughout the world, including Rome, mandated Holy Communion on the hand.  While you may normally have a choice in the United States as to how you can receive Holy Communion, the danger to those who were vulnerable dictated that the choice be limited to reception on the hand.  While a person may not be worried about contracting the disease, there are many in our parish family who are vulnerable, including our ministers.  One would hope that the virtue of charity, patience, obedience and humility would be evident, above all, in the Communion line.  Finally, it must be reiterated that reverence has little to do with whether you receive the Blessed Sacrament on your hands or tongue, standing or kneeling, whether your head is covered or not ... it has to do with what is in your heart ... your love for the Lord and care and concern for others. Anything less is to approach the altar unworthily, with a lack of reverence.  Please, please, please be wary of what you see or read on social media and even many “Catholic” news outlets.  If you have a question, please ask.  There is a new-phariseeism which is truly contrary to Gospel and the dogma of our Church.  As the Pope recently affirmed: “They are the work of the devil.”

I’d like to conclude with the words of Bishop Theodore of Mopsuestia (Syria; c. 350-428): “To receive the Sacrament which is given, a person stretches out his right hand, and under it he places the left hand. In this he shows a great fear, and since the hand that is stretched out holds a higher rank, it is the one that is extended for receiving the body of the King, and the other hand bears and brings its sister hand, while not thinking that it is playing the role of a servant, as it is equal with it in honor, on account of the bread of the King, which is also borne by it. When the priest gives it he says: ‘The body of Christ.’ He teaches you by this word not to look at that which is visible, but to picture in your mind the nature of this oblation, which, by the coming of the Holy Spirit, is the body of Christ. You should thus draw near with great awe and love, according to the greatness of that which is given: with awe, because of the greatness of (its) honor; and with love, because of (its) grace. This is the reason why you say after him: ‘Amen.’”

Amen!

Growing together courageously in Christ,

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

February 6, 2022

My dear friends,

I’m not much of a fisherman, but I can imagine how Simon Peter, his brother Andrew, and James and his brother John must have felt when, after a long night of fishing, Jesus came along.  They were simply trying to clean their nets so they could go home, have a nice meal, and rest when Jesus asked if he could put the boat out again, a few yards from shore so he could speak.  As much as I am sure they loved to hear him, I’m also sure their stomachs were rumbling and their eyelids were drooping.

It was then that the Lord called them to put out into the deep water and lower their nets for a catch.  Simon Peter reluctantly agrees to go out and lower his nets once again.

This reading is particularly important in this juncture in the life of the church.  I think that many of us (if not all of us) are simply exhausted by over 2 years of Covid-19.  And it shows.  We suffer from waves of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, anxiety, and acceptance.  We are ready to move on but at times feel thwarted at every turn.  Like the apostles, we are tired, hungry, and frustrated.  It is then that Jesus steps into our boat and invites us to listen to His message of love, mercy, forgiveness, healing, and hope.  He promises us joy.  He promises us love.  He promises us life in abundance.

During these next few weeks before Ash Wednesday (March 2), the Lord calls us to “put out into the deep,” to “lower our nets” and be prepared for a catch!  Now is the time to redouble our prayers for our Church, our nation, our world ... for the gift of healing, for the gift of peace.  May we work together to build a better future for our children and our children’s children!

Now is the time to “put out into the deep,” and re-engage with daily prayer and reflection on the Bible and if possible, daily Mass and Eucharistic Adoration.  Now is the time to go to Confession.  Start anew!

Now is the time to “lower our nets” and engage in parish ministries.  If you don’t belong to a Liturgical Ministry, join one!  If you are not active in a Ministry of Mercy, roll up your sleeves and help!  If you aren’t involved in any of our bible studies, prayer groups, faith formation programs, or community building ministries ... please do so!  Now is the time to break free of the self-imposed “quarantine” and isolation and re-engage!

Now is the time to be fishers of men!  Invite others to join you for Mass and other parish events.  Share with others the cause of your peace and joy!  Use your social media as a platform for Christ rather than the world. 

Now is the time to leave everything and follow Him!  This is an exciting time, a Spring-time of grace for you, your family, our parish, our nation, our world.  Let us share the warm sunshine and gentle rain of God’s love and mercy!  Let us put out into the deep!

Growing together courageously in Christ,

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

January 30, 2022

My dear friends,

Today’s second reading is familiar to all of us ... and it is probably the most quoted scripture at weddings - St. Paul’s description of love: 

“Love is patient, love is kind.  It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude,  It does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered,  It does not book over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with truth, It bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails.” (1 Cor 12:31-13:13).

More than simply words, it provides a wonderful tool to help us love as Christ loves us.

One of the books I often share with couples is “The Love Dare” which is featured in the movie “Fireproof.”  In this book, the reader is challenged to take one phrase from St. Paul’s beautiful description of love and to live it.  So often we think that the goal of marriage is change our spouse.  No!  The goal is for us to become the person that God has created me to be!  The book presents a unique each day for 40 days based on 1 Corinthians.  For example, the dare for the first day is to be more patient.  How can I be more patient today!  It is a very challenging exercise which is sure to change your life and the quality of your relationships with others.  Try it!

Speaking of enriching relationships, we are blest with two ministries to help you.  Couples for Christ (email:  Couples-for-Christ@stpaulchurch.com) and Diálogo Matrimonial en español (MDS) (email:  DialogoMatrimonial-esp@stpaulchurch.com) are wonderful ministries which help build strong marriages and families. I also highly recommend Worldwide Marriage Encounter. It is the “gold standard” of marriage enrichment programs (wwme.org). If your marriage is struggling, Retrouvaille enjoys an unmatched reputation for healing broken or damaged relationships (helpourmarriage.org).  Of course, I strongly urge those with troubled marriages to seek professional marriage counseling.  It is important to get help when you first notice problems as opposed to waiting until the hurt and resentment builds to a breaking point.

Our parish is blest with two groups for young adults: Apostles of the Eucharist and Singles for Christ.  For more information, contact Eddie Mendez in the parish office.  While our parish has excellent support groups for the bereaved and for those who are struggling through a divorce, we don’t have a singles group for adults.  If you are interested in forming one, please contact Eddie.

Love is patient, love is kind ... I pray that the love of God will in you and in all those you love!  May God bless you!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

January 23, 2022

My dear friends,

This weekend we say farewell or “Adeus” to a good, faithful, and holy priest, Fr. Thomas (Peter) Jones, OFM.  Frei Tomás has been serving our Brazilian Community for many years.  Born in New York, Fr. Jones was set to attend Fordham University as a physics major – that is, until a meeting with his high school guidance counselor who advised him to consider the Franciscans if he was thinking about the priesthood.  Up to that point, he hadn’t really considered a priestly vocation.  Tom joined the Franciscans and was fully professed in 1956 and ordained in 1959.  The following year he was sent to Brazil to serve as a missionary.  These were indeed the best and most rewarding years of his life.  He truly loved the people and land of Brazil.  He also served periodically in New York and Massachusetts.  Eventually he came to “retire” at St. Anthony Friary in downtown St. Petersburg in 2014.  He then devoted his remaining years of service offering Masses in Spanish and Portuguese throughout our diocese.  Our Brazilian community truly loved him and when he was no longer able to drive to Tampa, would often go to St. Petersburg to bring him here to celebrate Mass!  During the pandemic, he continued his ministry online ... praying each month with our Men’s Terço Rosary Group.  He was their spiritual father - if not their spiritual grandfather.  He will indeed be sorely missed.  We will be praying for him in a special way during this weekend’s Mass in Portuguese (7:30pm Saturday Vigil Mass).  May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen.

On another note, we are celebrating today our feast day ... the Conversion of St. Paul, our patron Saint as well as Word of God Sunday!  Our parish was erected on April 12, 1966 - some 56 years ago.  Since then we have been blest by God in so many ways.  I thank God for our spiritual leaders and wonderful parishioners throughout the years who have helped form us into such a vibrant, diverse, Spirit-filled, and Eucharistic community of faith.  I feel so blest to be part of this wonderful family of faith and as I begin my 8th year of service as your pastor, I pledge to continue to do my best to be a worthy, faithful, and loving servant of the Lord and of each one of you.

As we celebrate the conversion of St. Paul, it would be good to remember your conversion experience(s) - how you came to know and love the Lord.  Share your “call” with someone else, it helps strengthen your relationship with the Lord. 

Also on this Word of God Sunday, I would like to invite you to join one of our wonderful Bible Studies.  We offer them in English, Spanish, and Portuguese languages.  I also am offering a study of the Old Testament on our parish FaceBook page (StPaul Tampa Parish).  We are currently reflecting on the Book of Genesis.

Finally, I also encourage you to make it a habit this year to stop by our wonderful Eucharistic chapel at least once a week to adore the Lord.  We offer Eucharistic Adoration every weekday from 8am through 9pm and on Fridays, all night long through Saturday morning Mass.  Come and adore the Lord.  You won’t be sorry! (And who knows?  Like St. Paul you may be knocked off your horse! ☺ )

May God bless us all in our journey of faith!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

January 16, 2022

My dear friends,

Today, we remember the Wedding of Cana.  When Jesus changed the water into wine, it was more than simply a way to provide more wine.  For the Jewish wedding ceremony, then as well as today, wine is a constitutive or necessary element to celebrate the wedding.  Through the wine, the blessings of God are “consumed.”  When Jesus supplied more wine, the couple was able to receive the fullness of God’s blessings.  In this sense, the first miracle or sign Jesus performed, according to St. John, was the blessing of this couple, and by extension, all couples who receive the Sacrament of Marriage.  It was through this miracle, that the disciples began to believe in him (Jn 2:11).

Our belief in the sanctity of marriage separates us as Catholics from every other religion.  We believe that marriage is a sacred covenant between the couple and God himself.  It is a visible sign of God’s love ... a Sacrament.  “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament” (CCC 1601).  It cannot be ended by any human power.  While it may be necessary for a couple to separate (divorce), remarriage is not possible unless the first marriage was proven invalid (Mt 5:32; 19:9; Mk 10:11-12; Lk 16:18).

Unfortunately, there is a great deal of confusion about the nature of marriage in our society.  A large and growing percentage of the kids in our faith formation program don’t believe it is wrong to live with a person prior to marriage. And, at this point in time, the parents of the majority of the children we baptize are either not married or only in civil unions.  While I’m delighted they are presenting their children for baptism, many do not realize that the best gift they can give their children - after sharing with them the gift of faith – is the gift of a healthy and holy marriage!  In fact, they wonder why we talk to them about marriage when all they want is to have their child baptized!

While I understand the fear of commitment and also understand the financial pressures and family expectations many people face ... it is hard for me not  to overstate the importance of marriage as the foundation of our Church and society as a whole.  And the fact is, it works!  Active Catholics who marry active Catholics (those who pray every day, participate in Mass every Sunday, and live their faith ...) have an incredibly low divorce rate!  Some say as low as 2%!  The key is to LIVE your faith!  The Sacrament of Marriage is not a reward for having a perfect relationship.  It is an openness to the sacramental grace needed so that you may journey together hand in hand with the Lord throughout the adventure of life ... with all its joys and challenges.  

If you or someone you know would like to marry in the Church, I encourage you to call Maria in the parish office.  We want to help you!  If you or your significant other are previously divorced, call Maria!  We want to help you! 

For those of you who are called to single life, know you are loved and supported!  Your vocation is also very important.  Know that Jesus wants to change your water also into the supernatural wine of His grace!  The key for all of us ... married, single, or religious ... is to listen to Mary’s advice at the wedding of Cana ... “Do whatever He tells you.”

May God bless us all in our journey of faith!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

January 9, 2022

My dear friends,

Today is the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord and, for most parishes, the last Sunday of the Christmas Season.  Here at St. Paul, we continue to bask in the glory of Christmas a little while longer as we celebrate the Feast of the Child Jesus or Santo Niño next weekend.  This devotion has its origin when Mary and Joseph adored their newborn Son, followed by the shepherds and magi, and finally spread throughout all the world.  Whether He is known as the Holy Child, Santo Niño, Divino Niño, Infant of Prague, Bambino Gesu, or by any other title ... He is Emmanuel, God-With-Us, Savior of the World!

Join us each evening this week for the rosary and novena beginning at 7pm, followed by the Holy Mass.  Next Saturday, January 15th, after the Mass, we will have a rosary procession.  It is really beautiful as we process with Santo Niño, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Good Health, our Lady of Aparecida, Our Lady of Peñafrancia, Our Lady of Fatima, and God-willing, El Señor de los Milagros!  It is really a very powerful experience of “catholicity” as a family of faith!

Next Sunday, January 16th, we will celebrate the Festival Mass at 4pm, God-willing, at the Peace Path. Afterwards there will be a reception featuring prepackaged food.  We will then continue with the Sinulog.  The Sinulog is a special type of prayer in which the chant “Pit Senyor” or “Praise the Lord” is repeated over and over to a simple step or dance.  It is a beautiful form of prayer.  Once you start, you won’t want to stop!

The following weekend, January 23rd, we will honor our Patron Saint, St. Paul and his conversion.  It is also the Word of God Sunday and a time when we renew our prayers for a greater respect for all human life, from conception to natural death. 

I’m pleased to announce that on Friday, January 28th, at 7pm, Dr. Ray Guarendi will be joining us!  He will be sharing on “Standing Strong as a Parent and Godparent.”  Dr. Ray is a popular Catholic evangelist, clinical psychologist, author, and father of ten children!  His presentations are packed with humor and real life.  NOW is the time to mark your calendars and invite your family and friends to join you for this wonderful evening of practical insights and spiritual growth.  His goal is to foster confident parenting, stronger marriages, and better families.  Please come!!

Finally, I’d like to thank everyone for their prayers and support as we journey through this latest wave of the pandemic.  I appreciate your words of encouragement as well as suggestions for what we could do differently.  I know some feel that we should do more to help keep everyone safe and some feel that we are doing too much.  Be assured that I’m trying my best and I appreciate your prayers.  I do trust in God and by each of us doing as much as we can to help keep others safe, this too will pass.  Again, thank you and may God bless you!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

 

January 2, 2022

My dear friends,

We begin this New Year of the Lord with the Feast of the Epiphany.  Like the Magi of old, we are called to journey in faith in the dark of night across a vast and uncharted territory in order to worship and adore the Christ, the newborn King of the Jews.  And like the Magi, this experience changes us forever.

While we make like to think of the journey of the Magi as “a walk in the park,” it must have been extremely difficult.  Although I have never ridden a camel, I can’t imagine how it could have been a comfortable trip.  Following a distant star, they left behind all they knew and loved and traveled for months on end through foreign lands.  St. Matthew recalls that they were “overjoyed” at seeing the star over Bethlehem, reflecting the fact that often they had to journey for long periods without seeing the star.  Still they pressed on, hoping against all hopes, they would eventually encounter the Prince of Peace.

Our pilgrimage of faith is similar.  We too have been called by name, summoned to journey through a world which often feels very dark, cold, hostile, and even alien.  At times, our relationship with God is strong and vibrant.  At other times, we may feel very much alone as we struggle with the many challenges of life.  And yet we press on.

It is then, in the most unlikely of places, we discover Emmanuel, God-with-us.  He is present in the newborn child, the unwed mother, the homeless person, the sick, the elderly, the imprisoned, the stranger on the street ...  Do we recognize Him?  What do have we to offer Him?

My friends, God is indeed with us, here and now.  Like the Magi, we must leave our comfort zones if we are to discover Christ, ever present in the world.  How?  First of all, pray.  We can’t see His star, let alone hear His voice unless we are in relationship with Him and this is possible only through prayer.  As we begin a new year, make a commitment, individually and as a family, to grow in faith by praying every day, mediating daily on the Sacred Scriptures, participating in Mass at least every weekend, and availing yourself monthly to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Secondly, we must open our eyes and hearts to see Christ in one another.  St. Teresa of Calcutta reminds us that He is especially present in those in need.  I encourage everyone to be involved in at least two ministries in our parish, one which feeds you and the other which helps another.  Also remember that charity begins at home.  We need to share God’s love by word and deed where we live, work, study, and play.  Sharing our talents and treasures is a beautiful way of adoring and glorifying the Lord.  This encounter with the Lord changes us just as it changed the Magi.  

Epiphany is so much more than a commemoration of a historical event.  It is a celebration of God’s love and presence in the world.  This weekend I hope to be able to greet you after Mass and I look forward to journeying with you through the coming years.  May God bless you and your loved ones!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

December 26, 2021

My dear friends,

Merry Christmas!!!  For us Catholics, Christmas is so much more than a day!  The joy and wonder of Christmas cannot be contained within a twenty-four hour period and flows through an entire octave of days ... through the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God!  Each day in this period is celebrated as Christmas Day itself!  Even then ... the Season of Christmas continues through the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord on January 9th and in our parish ... (because we love Christmas SO much!!) our Christmas Season continues through the celebration of the Holy Child or Santo Niño on January 16th and Word of God Sunday, the 24th, on which we also commemorate the Feast Day of the Conversion of Saint Paul!  It is literally a whole MONTH of CHRISTMAS!!!

So, the question is how can you keep the spirit of Christmas alive throughout the octave and indeed the entire month of January?  We could give ourselves a present every day and gorge ourselves on Christmas cookies for the next four weeks.  OR we could think about what the real meaning of Christmas is and keep that spirit alive.  Christmas is the celebration of the Love of God made visible.  How can you make God's love more visible to others?  Christmas is the celebration of the Word of God made flesh.  How can you grow more familiar with Word of God, the Bible?  Christmas is the celebration of the Holy Family and the visitation of the shepherds and magi.  How can we be more present to the gift of our families?  Christmas is about Mary and Joseph who dared to say "yes" to the will of God and accepted their vocation to be God-bearers to the world.  How can I better follow God's will in my life?  How can I be a God-bearer to the world? 

Christmas is a way of life.  It is an awareness that God is with us.  Emmanuel.  He has been with us.  Is with us.  And will always be with us.  Christmas is a celebration of the gift of life with a song of gratitude and praise on our lips.  Christmas is an awareness of the gift of now.

How can you better live this mystery in your daily life?

On this day, the Feast of the Holy Family, I thank God for the gift of my family of faith, the parish of St. Paul.  Not a day goes by when I don't offer a prayer of thanksgiving for the blessing of being able to serve you as pastor.  I know that each day is a gift and I treasure each and every one.  I feel especially blest to be able to serve along such amazing priests, deacons, religious, and lay men and women.  You inspire me by your faith, your incredible talents, your generosity, your love, and your patience with me.  Thank you.  I thank God for you.  You who are here this weekend and those who are reading this online.  Thank you for your "yes" to God.  You are truly a blessing to me.  Thank you for your prayers and support.

This coming Saturday is the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, New Year's Day, and the World Day of Prayer for Peace.  Please join us for the Holy Mass on New Year’s Eve at 5:30pm and 7:30pm.  Beginning at 10:30pm, we will have a Holy Hour.  At 11:30pm, we will begin the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass so that we can consecrate the World to Jesus at midnight.  There will be a reception afterwards.  On Saturday, New Year's Day, Mass will be at 9:30am, 12:30pm, and 2:00pm in Spanish.  The normal Saturday night Vigil Masses will be at 5:30pm in English and 7:30pm in Portuguese.  Come keep the Feast!

May the peace and joy of the Holy Family be with you and your loved ones!

Merry Christmas and have a Blessed New Year!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

December 25, 2021

Merry Christmas!

Welcome!  With all of our hearts, we welcome you to this celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Hope for the world!  In a special way, we welcome those who have traveled far to be with us, those who are here for the first time, as well as those from other faith traditions.  We pray that you feel right at home!  Welcome and thank you for joining us this Christmas!

Christmas is a celebration of God’s love made Incarnate.  It is the celebration of our God who loves us so much that He chose to become one with us in all things but sin so that we could be restored to the possibility of eternity with Him in heaven.  While others value power, popularity, prestige, and wealth, we find hope in the Child born of a poor humble homeless family, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and asleep in a manger.  Christmas reminds us of God’s love for us, the importance of the family, the inherent and inalienable dignity and worth of every human being, and our duty to help others and somehow make our world a better and safer place for all ... especially for the poor, elderly, young, sick, oppressed, and vulnerable among us.  Christmas calls us to be kind and generous and to be grateful for all the blessings the Lord bestows on us.

Christmas means hope.  We place all our hope in the Baby Jesus who came into this world to share with us the merciful love of God!

Christmas means love.  Love which has become flesh so that one day we will become one with God in eternal life!

Christmas means joy.  The Lord is with us and will always be with us until the end of time.  He is the source of all true joy!

While for most people, Christmas is a day.  For us, it is a Season of Joy which extends through much of the month of January.  In this bulletin, you will find many of the activities in the upcoming Christmas Season.  Please mark your calendar and invite others to join you.  Who knows, yours may be the invitation others have waited for!

But Christmas must be more than that.  It needs to be a way of life.  That is why I proudly display my Christmas creche all year round.  It is a visible reminder of my call to celebrate the gift of Christmas throughout the year.  How about you?  How will you live Christmas this year?

On behalf of the priests, deacons, religious, staff of the parish and preschool, and our many faithful volunteers, may God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit fill your heart and those you love with the love, peace, and joy only the Christmas Child can give!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

December 19, 2021

My dear friends,

Today's Gospel tells the story of Mary's visit to her cousin Elizabeth.  The Mystery of the Visitation touches the heart of what it means to be a Catholic Christian ... to encounter God and then, filled with the Holy Spirit, to go forth and be His hands, feet, and voice to those in need.  Mary accepts the invitation of the Archangel Gabriel to become the mother of the Messiah.  She responds "yes" and then immediately goes to assist her cousin Elizabeth ... a hazardous journey of 85 miles south through the hills of Judea.  Likewise, today at Mass, God will speak to us through His Word and become one with us through the Holy Eucharist.  We are then empowered, if not propelled (or compelled) to share His love and mercy with others.  This mystery resonates so strongly in us, we call our celebration the Mass from the closing words in Latin "Ite, missa est" - "Go, it (the assembly) is dismissed" which has taken on the meaning "Go, begin your mission!"  For indeed, all of us are called to leave the gathering, nourished by Word and Sacrament, to share the Good News of Jesus with all the world.  Is it any wonder why the Catholic Church is the largest private provider of social services in the world or why Catholics continue to assume prominent positions in governments, schools, and hospitals?  Catholics care.  We care.

I'd like to thank you for your continued generosity towards our parish and the many charities we support throughout the year.  Our parish has a well-deserved reputation for caring for those in need and selflessly sharing of time, talent, and material resources to make a difference in the lives of others.  Thank you!

I'd also like to thank you for the many expressions of affection and gratitude which you have shared with me, Fr. Peter, Fr. Tamil, Fr. Tim, our deacons, and our staff throughout the year.  We are all so very grateful and feel blest to be able to journey with you in faith and to be of service to you and to the Lord.

You are invited to join me on Monday night for the traditional Las Posadas.  This Latin tradition recalls the entry of the Holy Family into Bethlehem, finding the doors of the inns closed to them until they find a humble stable.  We will put a decidedly multicultural twist on this, beginning at 6:30pm in the courtyard.

On Tuesday night, we are hosting the Simbang Gabi or Night Mass.  This special novena of Masses in anticipation of Christmas is truly a wonderful event.  Please come at 7:00pm in our beautiful Santo Niño Shrine and dress warmly!

Christmas falls on a Saturday this year.  Christmas Eve Masses will be at 4:00pm, 6:00pm, 8:00pm, and midnight (beginning with carols at 11:15pm).  Come early.  There will be "overflow" Masses at 4pm and 6pm (Portuguese) in the Family Center.  Christmas Day Masses are at 7:30am, 9:00am, 10:45am, 12:30pm, and 2:00pm (Spanish).  There will NOT be Masses at 5:30pm or 7:30pm on Christmas Day.

Sunday Masses in honor of the Holy Family will be at the normally scheduled times with an additional Mass at noon in the Family Center for our Brazilian friends.

Please be sure to invite your friends and neighbors to come "home" to Church with you this Christmas.  Who knows?  They may be waiting for someone kind like you to welcome them "home to Christ" this Christmas!

Growing together in Christ,



Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

December 12, 2021

My dear friends,

“Rejoice the Lord always!  Again I say, rejoice.  Indeed, the Lord is near.”  These words, taken from today’s Introit (Phil 4:4-5), set the stage for today’s liturgy.  It is especially relevant as we remember the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas and the Philippines.

Much has been written on the visitation of our Blessed Mother to St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin and the miraculous image which appeared on his tilma in 1531.  Her appearance as a young, pregnant native American so many years ago triggered the largest conversion of humanity in the history of Christianity and continues to draw all of God’s children closer together into the mystery of God’s love.  You are invited to join our special celebration at 2:00pm today.  Afterwards, there will be a reception with authentic Mexican food.  Please come and bring a friend!

On Wednesday, we begin our traditional Christmas Novena which is available online and on our FREE Saint Paul Catholic Church App in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.  It is a powerful devotion which will truly bless you as we approach the miracle of Christmas.  Our Filipino friends, will be traveling throughout our diocese for a novena of Simbang Gabi or Evening Masses.  The schedule is on our parish website.

This Thursday, we will gather for an evening of prayer and catechesis in preparation for the Synod.  It is a time for us to listen to the still, quiet voice of the Holy Spirit and pray for a listening heart, a discerning spirit, and a mind eager to grow in the Lord.

Finally, on Friday, we will offer the anniversary Mass for Our Lady of Good Health OUTSIDE at her shrine.  Dress warmly as we ask her intercession for an end to the pandemic, healing for those who are ill in mind or body, and for a joyous celebration of Christmas!

One last word ... the Holiday Season is especially difficult for many who are grieving, struggling with mental or physical health issues, finance issues, or relationship issues.  Sometimes all they need is a smile, an understanding ear, and a warm embrace.  Let us be sure that the “inn” of our hearts are open to those in need.

Growing together in Christ,

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

December 5, 2021

My dear friends,

Advent is a beautiful season of expectant hope.  While the rest of the world turns to elves, reindeer, and snowmen, we turn our hearts to the coming of Christ ... His second coming .. When He returns in glory at the close of time ... either the end of the world or our personal time here on earth.  What can you do to better prepare for that day?  In the words of our Gospel, how can you “Prepare the way of the Lord?”. How can you “make straight his paths?”  How can you help all to “see the salvation of God?”  Put in another way, how can you grow more in love with Him?  How can you better share His love and mercy with those in need?  Good questions!

I hope you enjoyed the Advent mission with Fr. Carlos Jose Rojas as much as I!  I truly felt blest to journey with him in faith.  What a holy priest!  Let’s offer a prayer of thanksgiving for the gift of his priesthood!  Likewise, I hope you are enjoying your parish “Advent & Christmas Guide.”  Written by fellow parishioners with much love, it has truly inspired me!

Today at 3:00pm, the annual “Spanish Christmas Pageant”, sponsored by our Amor de Jesus Prayer Group, will held in the Family Center. 

This Wednesday, December 8th, is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary and is observed as a Holy Day of Obligation. As such, it is to be treated as if it were a Sunday. Catholics are obliged to participate in making this day special and holy by attending Mass in honor of our Blessed Mother.

This day also marks the close of the Holy Year dedicated to Saint Joseph.  Our consecration to Jesus through Saint Joseph will take place after the 7:30pm Mass on Wednesday.  The following prayer is a “Daily Act of Consecration to Saint Joseph”:

My Father and my Guardian, I give myself entirely to you, and to show my devotion to you I consecrate to you this day; my eyes, my ears, my mouth, my heart and my whole being without reserve. Wherefore, O Good Father, since I am your own, keep me and guide me as your property and possession. Amen.

On Thursday, our deanery is hosting a “Night of Prayer for the Synod” at Our Lady of the Rosary in Lutz beginning at 7:00pm and on Friday our Middle School students will be hosting “Christmas Story” with yours truly beginning at 6:30pm in our courtyard.  Bring a comfy chair and warm blanket!  Next Sunday, from 8:30am to 1230pm, we have “Breakfast with Santa” hosted by our marvelous Knights of Columbus.

There’s lots happening throughout this Holy Season so be sure to consult the bulletin, website, or Advent & Christmas Guide each day!  May God bless you and your loved ones throughout this Holy Season!

Growing together in Christ,

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

November 28, 2021

My dear friends,

Of all the seasons of the year, my favorite is Advent.  Each evening my family would light the Advent wreath before each meal and pray the special prayers.  We spent a day decorating the house and trimming the tree together.  At night, we would sit around the Christmas tree, light a fire in the fireplace, and pray our bedtime prayers together.  The younger ones would spend hours arranging and rearranging the Christmas Creche under the tree.  We didn’t have much money so the emphasis was never on shopping ... it was on spending quality time with those we love.  To this day, while the rest of the world sees the “holiday season” as an extended frantic shopping spree, I love to slow down and enjoy quality time with those I love ... our Lord and my family and friends.

Advent is a Season in which we recall Christ’s birth in Bethlehem, recognize His presence among us now, especially in the faces of those most vulnerable, and prepare for Christ’s return in glory at the close of time.  How is God calling you to prepare for His coming in history, mystery, and glory?

One beautiful way is to join us for this week’s mission with Fr. Carlos Jose Rojas.  Fr. Carlos is a former parishioner who now serves in St. Cecilia parish in Clearwater, Florida.  He is full of the Holy Spirit and is a gifted preacher and artist.  He will be sharing with us on St. Joseph, as we close this Holy Year dedicated in his honor and the upcoming Synod on Synodality.  What does St. Joseph have to do with Synodality?  And what do both have to say to us as a multicultural community of faith?  Good questions!  Come to the mission and find out!

On Monday, after the 12:15pm Mass, and again at 7:00pm, Father will introduce to us the notion of Synodality and why the Holy Father has called for this extraordinary synod.  On Tuesday, the two talks will be repeated in Spanish (after the 12:15pm Mass and at 7:00pm).  On Wednesday, Father will share on St Joseph and what he has to teach us about synodality.  Again the talk will be after the 12:15pm Mass and at 7:00pm.  On Thursday, both talks will be repeated in Spanish.

On Friday night at 7:00pm, Father Rojas will conclude the Mission with a special bilingual Mass which will celebrate our many cultures.  The evening will begin with the Rosary and our novena in honor of Santo Niño.  A bilingual Mass will follow.  Afterwards, there will be a reception.   Those who wish, can reconvene in our beautiful Santo Niño Shrine to begin our novena in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  This promises to be one of our best Advent Missions ever.  Please plan on coming and bring a friend!  (Note: The nursery will be open each night.)

This Season of Advent we are called to enter the spirit of “synodality,” to listen with open hearts as we encounter Him - who is truly the “Reason for the Season.”  May God bless you and your loved ones!

Growing together in Christ,

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

November 21, 2021

 

My dear friends,

Today is the Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.  This feast is more important than ever as we acknowledge His sovereignty over all creation and offer Him the praise and worship He alone deserves.  It is also a good time to look within, examine our hearts, and reflect on our lives and ask in what areas have we refused His sovereign rule.  Is Jesus the King of our time?  Our talents?  Our treasure?  Our relationships?  Our work?  Our social media pages?  Our sexuality?  In what areas have we tried to exclude Him or limit His domain?  Next Sunday is the First Sunday of Advent.  Perhaps as our Christmas gift to the newborn King, we can submit all of ourselves to Him ... our hopes and dreams, talents and abilities, possessions and relationships. 

For over two decades, the Bishop of the Diocese of St. Petersburg has recognized an outstanding Catholic from each of the 74 parishes and five missions as a way to recognize those persons showing distinguished and outstanding service to their parish. Today, at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle in St. Petersburg, Bishop Parkes will confer the St. Jude the Apostle Award to Martin Butler for his service to the Lord and His people.  Martin is a model to me in so many ways.  He is the first to volunteer whether as a member of the Pastoral Council, Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, Sacristan, Altar Server, Bereavement Ministry, and Bible Study. 

Martin joins a veritable “who’s who” of “saints” who received the award in past years: Elizabeth Marshall, Joseph Santayana, George Johnson, William (Bill) Lupo, Julie Cate, John & Carol Pare, Joel & Gloria DuBois, Kevin & Debbi Pawlowski, Don Lau, Bob & Melanie Hutchinson, Drs. Lodovico & Claudia Balducci, Ed & Susan Bilbao, Tom & Holly Malouf, Chuck & Mariann Sincell, Dr. Louis Savary & Dr. Pat Berne, Shawn & Jackie Cosgrove, Tim & Suzanne Casey, John & Marie Bobak, Patricia & Javier Palacios, Jerry Harder, and Charles Glass. May God bless them one and all!

On another note, this Thursday is Thanksgiving.  So often we focus on turkeys and football and lose sight of the true meaning of this wonderful day ... an opportunity to pause and to give thanks to God ... the source of every blessing.  And, of course, the best way to do this is through the Holy Eucharist ... a Greek word which literally means “thanksgiving!”  We will offer the Holy Mass at 9:00am.  In the spirit of the day, we ask everyone to bring a non-perishable food (or bag of food) to share with those in need during the upcoming holiday season.  Our Middle School ministry is preparing a skit and our High School ministry is preparing a gift for everyone.  Please come and bring a friend!

As I mentioned before, next Sunday is the First Sunday of Advent, the beginning of a new liturgical year.  I encourage you to prayerfully reflect on what God is calling you, your family, and circle of friends to do OR not to do this year in preparation for the birth of Christ and His return in glory at the close of time.  My prayer for you is that the coming year may be one of great spiritual growth and enrichment and of peace and joy.

Growing together in Christ,

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

November 14, 2021

My dear friends,

In honor of the World Day of the Poor, we will gather this afternoon to create over 20,000 "ready to eat" meals for those most in need throughout the world.  Working in partnership with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Helping Hands, we will create and package these nutritious meals which will be sent to 27 church-run centers serving vulnerable people across Burkina Faso. The centers serve the elderly, the sick, and girls fleeing forced marriage.  As you read this, I don’t know how many volunteers are still needed.  My suggestion is to stop by the Family Center after Mass today (Sunday) and ask if they can use your help.  I know that CRS will welcome your prayers and donations.  If enough funds are raised, maybe we can host a second event in the Spring.  It is a fun way for the whole family to put our faith into action, showing our care and concern for those in need!

This weekend, we are also offering the perennial “Teaching Mass.”  God has entrusted to us a wondrous gift – the Holy Sacrifice of the Catholic Mass.  It is through the Mass that God speaks to us through His Holy Word and nourishes us with the Bread of Life and Cup of Salvation.  So many Catholics do not know the Church’s teaching on the Real Presence.  Even fewer understand the Sacred Liturgy.  Unfortunately, they may “attend” or “go” to Mass rather than fully, consciously, actively, and fruitfully participate in the Divine Liturgy.  Hopefully, today’s celebration will remind you of some things you were once taught and perhaps even teach you a thing or two that is new.

We believe that Christ is really and truly present, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Most Holy Eucharist.  It is not a symbol or representation.  It is the REAL PRESENCE!  For this reason, the Blessed Sacrament IS the source and summit of our faith because the Holy Eucharist IS Jesus!  While Christ is indeed present everywhere, He has made Himself visible for all to see in the Blessed Sacrament. Whenever we enter the church or chapel, we are in the presence of God in a profound and singular way.  For this reason, we should always be reverent in our church and chapel, never eating or drinking, chewing gum, chatting with neighbors, or talking on our phone.  When we approach the altar, we should do so with great reverence and humility, recognizing that we are unworthy of so great an honor. 

One of the things the priests have noticed is the capricious way in which some people receive the Blessed Sacrament.  Recognize WHO you are receiving and approach with great reverence.  While the person in front of you receives, bow and then step forward with your hands placed one on top of the other in the form of the cross with your dominant hand cradling your other hand.  With devotion, consume the Eucharistic Lord or step aside and consume the Sacred Host.  

Do not walk away until you have consumed the Host.  Of course, you are also welcome to receive the Lord on your tongue.  If you are with others who are not Catholic or are young, instruct them as to how to come forward with their arms crossed in front of their chest for a blessing.  Assist them so that they feel comfortable and ready to receive God’s blessing.

Arguably, one of the most important parts of the Mass occurs when you return to your seat.  Invite the Lord into your heart, enter communion with Him.  Allow Him to touch you, to heal you, to strengthen you, to love you.  And then bring to Him the concerns, hopes, and dreams you have in your heart.  Listen to Him.  Rest in His embrace. 

I pray that each and every Holy Communion you receive may be for you a profound experience of the love of God and the grace and peace of Jesus Christ.  Please pray for me as well.

Growing together in Christ,

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

November 7, 2021

My dear friends,

November is a special time for us as Catholics as we remember in prayer our beloved deceased and all the poor souls in purgatory, especially those who have no one to pray for them.  The practice is rooted in the Old Testament (2 Maccabees 12:38-46).  Judas Maccabee orders that sacrifices be offered in the Temple in Jerusalem for slain Jewish soldiers who did not die in a state of grace. In the New Testament, St. Paul prays for Onesiphorus, who recently died. St. Paul prays “May the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day” (2 Tim 1:18).  I encourage you to take time this month to go to daily Mass, pray the Rosary or Chaplet of Divine Mercy, or visit a local cemetery.  Let us continue our prayers for all those who preceded us into eternal life.

Indeed as Catholics, by virtue of our baptism into the priesthood of Jesus Christ, we are called to be prayer warriors, intercessors on behalf of the living as well as the deceased.  This is especially important as we honor our Veterans this Thursday.  We offer a prayer of thanksgiving and healing for our Veterans who served our country faithfully, often suffering lifelong physical, emotional, and spiritual injuries.  We also lift up in prayer their families and friends who often suffered as a result of the military service of their loved ones.  May God bless them all and bring them peace and healing!

On another note, last week I offered my annual Journey to New Life Seminar.  It is an act of love and mercy to periodically review, update, and share with loved ones our Living Will, Health Care Surrogate, Durable Power of Attorney, Will, Insurance policies, and Funeral plans.  Remember that even “pre-paid” funerals have additional costs.  It is wise to plan ahead.  In addition, a loved one should know your medications and important emergency contact numbers as well as where you keep important papers and passwords so that they can be located if needed.  A little bit of planning can save a great deal of angst for loved ones at a later date.

As we speak of end of life issues, we recently received a generous bequest from a parishioner.  She was a faithful and dedicated woman who truly loved the Lord and her parish family of St. Paul.  I remember her as a committed catechist, sharing our wonderful faith with our little ones for as long as her health permitted.  She was an inspiration and dear friend to many of us.  Her gift is allowing us to pay for a large part of the sports field/overflow parking.  I know that her heart would burst with joy to see our young families gather each Saturday as their children play soccer.  Her gift is a legacy and testament to her love for the Lord and His children.  If you are interested in making a legacy gift to St. Paul Catholic Church in your charitable giving, contact our parish, your financial advisor, or your lawyer.  Remember, all estates and trusts left to the parish should specify, to “Gregory L. Parkes, Bishop of the Diocese of Saint Petersburg, or his successors in office, a Corporation Sole, for the benefit of Saint Paul Parish, Tampa.”  If you need help completing this document, several of our parishioners  who are lawyers, have offered to help, free of charge.  Please contact Brian Smith at the parish office for more information.  Thank you and remember, God will not be outdone in generosity!  And may our anonymous donor know our gratitude and rest in the arms of her beloved Savior forever!

Growing together in Christ,

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

October 31, 2021

My dear friends,

Today, Sunday, is the Eve before All Saints Day or “All Hallows Day.” While our secular world celebrates All Hallows Eve or Halloween with silly costumes and “Trick or Treating”, we recall those men, women, and children who have gone before us in faith and who have been recognized and honored by the Church as Saints of God.  They have shown us that it is possible for us to follow Christ and to live His Holy Gospel values in every age and in all walks of life!

Recently while leading a day of reflection, I invited those who were gathered to name their favorite saint ... someone whose example they hope to follow in life.  While I have many favorite saints, St. John Vianney is the model I try to emulate in my life.  His passion for the Lord, the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the poor, the sick, the elderly, and the youth is the ideal for every parish priest.  How about you?  Who is your favorite saint and why?

Another favorite of mine is Blessed Carlo Acutis, a young Italian with a tremendous passion for the Lord and the Holy Eucharist.  He died in 2006 at the tender age of 15 from leukemia but not before he left a legacy to us all in his documentation of the Eucharistic Miracles of the world, now on display in our narthex.

Carlo believed that “The Eucharist is the highway to heaven.”  And he went to Mass as often as possible  He stated, “The more Eucharist we receive, the more we will become like Jesus, so that on this earth we will have a foretaste of heaven.”  He loved Eucharistic Adoration.  One day, he said: “When we face the sun we get a tan… but when we stand before Jesus in the Eucharist we become saints.”  He added, “The only thing we have to ask God for, in prayer, is the desire to be holy.”  Carlo lived his life to the full ... “To be always united with Jesus, this is my plan of life.”  In doing so, he serves as a model of how we should all live our lives!  Blessed Carlo, pray for us! 

Join us on Monday as we honor All The Saints in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist at 7:30am, 12:15, 4pm, 6pm, and 7:30pm (Trilingual).  May we one day be numbered among the Saints of God in heaven!

Tuesday is All Souls Day.  On this day, Holy Mother Church invites us to pray for all our dearly beloved deceased and in a special way, the poor forgotten souls in purgatory.  In addition to our regularly scheduled Masses at 7:30am and 12:15pm, we will offer Mass at 6pm in the Family Center and at 7pm in the Church, we will pray the rosary followed by a special candlelight Mass for all those for whom we have offered funerals or memorial services during the past year.  We normally average 64 funerals a year. This year, due to the pandemic, there have been over 107!  “May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.”

As a last note, as the rate of Covid-19 infections decrease, our safety protocols are being adjusted in accord with CDC guidelines.  Thank you for your patience and understanding through all of this!

Growing together in Christ,

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

October 24, 2021

My dear friends,

Throughout the history of the Church, pastors have consulted the faithful in order to better discern how to meet the challenges of that day.  During the Second Vatican Council, the Fathers called for periodic synods or gatherings of bishops and experts to discuss doctrinal or pastoral matters and offer suggestions to the pope or, in the case of a diocesan synod, the local bishop. 

What is a synod?  A synod is an advisory body in which the participants prayerfully gather to discern, reflect and express their desires but not necessarily resolve the questions of the day.  Literally speaking, the word “synod”, is derived from two Greek words “syn” meaning “together” and “hodos” meaning “road” or “way”, and means a “coming together.”  The pope or bishop who convokes the synod then issues a response to the reflections and suggestions posited by the synod.

Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has invited the whole world to participate in a “grassroots” consultation in preparation for the upcoming synod entitled: “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.”  Part of his goal is simply to encourage bishops throughout the world to encounter, listen, and discern with the people of God our hopes and dreams for the future of the Church universal. 

It is also Pope Francis’s hope that more bishops will become familiar with the synodal process and embrace it in their own dioceses.  While diocesan synods are common in Italy and in other parts of the world, for a variety of reasons, they are surprisingly very rare in the United States.  It is important to remember that the synod is not a deliberative body as you find in other religions.  Nor is it in the power of the pope or synod to change the divinely revealed truths as reflected in the doctrine of our Church, but synods can help us to re-articulate them in a new way.

Bishop Parkes formally opened the synodal process for our diocese last weekend at a special Mass.  “Journeying Together” is a listening and sharing opportunity for the Diocese of St. Petersburg that seeks to discern how the Holy Spirit is leading the Church to move forward.  He has asked me to appoint six representatives from our parish who will participate in the diocesan sessions beginning in December.  Bishop Parkes will then submit a ten page report to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  This will then be summarized in a national report to be sent to Rome.  All the reports from the Bishops’ Conferences will then be synthesized into the preparatory “working document” or “instrumentum laboris” for the Synod of Bishops which will take place next year in Rome.

As I know more about the expectations of Bishop Parkes, I’ll let you know.  We may even have a “mini-synod” here at the parish so that the representatives can faithfully share your dreams, concerns, and ideas regarding the future of the Church with our Bishop.  Sound exciting?  I hope so

Let us pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  May we truly be a “listening church” as well as “learning church” as we discern the will of God for the future of the Catholic Church.

Growing together in Christ,

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

October 17, 2021

My dear friends,

One of my mother’s favorite images is the Throne of Mercy.  It is usually depicted as an image of the Holy Trinity: God the Father holding His crucified Son in His lap with the Holy Spirit descending overhead.  The Throne of Mercy is the Throne of our Triune God, before which repentant sinners must approach to receive mercy and forgiveness.  In today’s second reading, the author of Hebrews calls us to “confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help” (Heb 4:16, cf Rom 3:25).

This is an important part of the devotion to El Señor de los Milagros or Our Lord of the Miracles.  While it is popularly celebrated in Lima, Peru, it has much to offer us all.  The

Peruvians recall the miracle of 20 October 1687. A devastating earthquake utterly destroyed the city of Lima, save for a wall on which hung the painting of the crucifixion of Jesus, El Señor de los Milagros. Because of this miracle, a replica of the painting was made and processed through the streets of Lima, Peru. This tradition continues to this day.

The spirituality is very profound.  It acknowledges that the sins of humanity, both personal and social, cry out for justice.  In righteousness, we all deserve death due to our own sins, as well as the sins of the world: abortion, war, murder, child abuse, adultery, pornography, etc... We dare to approach the Throne of Mercy under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and with Christ the Crucified Lord as our High Priest and intercessor,  to our Heavenly Father for mercy and forgiveness – for ourselves and for the sins of the whole world.

At today’s 2pm Mass (in Spanish), we will honor El Señor de los Milagros in a special way. I encourage you to join us.  If you can’t, at least offer a rosary or a chaplet of Divine Mercy ... “in atonement for our sins and for those of the whole world.”

I also encourage you to approach the Throne of Mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This Sacrament of Forgiveness is a personal encounter with our Merciful Lord as we confess our sins, acknowledging our faults and failings and accepting penance to help us amend our lives, so that we might truly become reconciled with God.  Ideally, we should all avail ourselves of this healing balm at least monthly.  It will not only set us free from sin and restore us to our baptismal purity, but give us the grace we need to do better and to conform our lives more faithfully to the will of God.

We offer this Sacrament Monday through Friday from 11am-noon and Saturdays at 10am and 4pm.  You can also make an appointment for confession if these times are not convenient.  We are here for you! 

Let us approach the Throne of God with loving trust in Jesus, the Mercy of God incarnate! 

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

P. S.  Please keep our children in prayer as they complete their preparations for First Reconciliation.  May they be open to the loving mercy of God!

 


 

October 10, 2021

My dear friends,

A few weeks ago, we distributed our annual Parish survey.  This is an important tool to enable me, my brother priests and deacons, parish staff, and the Pastoral Council to serve you better.  Thank you for caring enough to share your thoughts, concerns, and ideas.  Thank you!  Here is a brief summary:

Question 1: “What do you like about St. Paul Catholic Church?”  I was delighted to see the number of people who really love the liturgies, diversity, inclusiveness, openness to other cultures, and our welcoming spirit.  In general, people liked the Mass schedule as well.

Question 2 pertained to evangelization: “When was the last time you invited someone to join you for an event or liturgy at St. Paul.”  I was really pleased by the percentage of people who responded that they had invited others to join them at St. Paul.  Only 12 responded “nobody.”  This is a marked improvement from previous years.

Our third question assessed our spiritual health: “How would you describe your relationship with God?”  Your answers were truly inspirational.  Most felt very close to God and were growing ever more in love with Him.  As expected, there were a handful that were going through a dark night of the soul and felt distant, but most reported a very personal, intimate, and growing relationship with God.

Question 4 was “If there was one thing we could do to serve you and your family better, what would it be?”  The majority felt well served and didn’t have any suggestions to offer.  Others had a smattering of suggestions from how to improve the quality of the liturgy to how to enhance outreach.  While there wasn’t a consensus of opinion, this question certainly offered a lot of food for thought which the staff and Pastoral Council will continue to prayerfully process and address. I’ll mention more later.

The last question had to do with ministries in which you presently are active.  Of the 489 people who participated in the survey, the vast majority was involved in ministry.

What does all of this tell us?  God is alive and working in St. Paul Parish.  And while we consistently work to improve our liturgies, Preschool and Faith Formation programs, youth ministry, ministries of mercy, and our community building ministries, we can always do better.  Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and choosing St. Paul as your spiritual home.

On a final note, October 12th is the Feast of Our Lady of Aparecida, patroness of Brazil.  This small clay image of the Immaculate Conception was found by local fisherman in October of 1717.  Many miracles were attributed to her intercession and her devotion grew.  To this day, it is the largest Marian Shrine in the world!  Join us for a special Mass on Tuesday night beginning with the rosary at 7:00pm at our Shrine to Our Lady of Aparecida in the fountain area.  Afterwards, there will be light refreshments.

Our Lady of Aparecida, pray for us!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

October 3, 2021

My dear friends,

October is “Respect Life Month,” a time to remember the innate dignity and worth of every human life, from the moment of conception to natural death.  In a special way, we pray for conversion of hearts: May we see God’s face in every human being, especially those most vulnerable.  We are proud to support the Knights Women’s Center, LifeStyle Family Medical Center, and Sidewalk Advocates for Life in their important efforts to educate and assist women with difficult or unexpected pregnancies.  This weekend, LifeStyle Family Medical Center is here accepting our donations.  Please stop by their table and see what you can do to assist those who are most vulnerable.

An important part of our evangelization effort is a renewed focus on the Blessed Sacrament.  To that end, we are turning to the youngest saint of the new millennia, Blessed Carlos Acutis, to assist us.  Young Carlos called the Eucharist his “highway to heaven.”  He attended daily Mass and loved Eucharistic Adoration.  Before his death at the age of 15 from leukemia, he created a computer program of Eucharistic Miracles throughout the world.  We will display his panels throughout the year.  His “birthday” into heaven was October 12, 2006.  Today marks the first day of a novena in his honor.  The daily meditation is found on our parish website and Saint Paul Catholic Church app or you can just pray five “Our Fathers,” five “Hail Marys”, and five “Glory Bes” each day until October 12th.  Blessed Carlos Acutis, pray for us!

Today, we also begin a novena in honor of Our Lady of Aparecida, patroness of Brazil.  We will gather each night at 7:30pm at her shrine in the fountain area.  You can find the novena on our parish website as well as on the free Saint Paul Catholic Church app.

Tomorrow, October 4th, is the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi.  While Francis is often remembered for his love for animals and nature, his holiness flowed from his devotion to Christ Crucified, the Holy Eucharist, and Mother Church.  He had a great love for Lady Poverty and a passion for the poor, especially lepers.  He was a committed evangelist and traveled far to share the Gospel with the Muslims.  He believed that the key to holiness was to radically follow Christ – to live the Gospels – and this he did as none other!  In honor of St. Francis, join us for a special Mass beginning at 7pm with the rosary on the Peace Path (weather permitting).  Come and honor the Poverello from Assisi!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Tuesday is the feast of St. Faustina, the apostle to Divine Mercy.  We are blessed with the Cenacles of Divine Mercy in both English and Spanish.  Contact Laurie in the parish office for more information.

October is also Pumpkin Patch month.  100% of the funds generated from the Pumpkin Patch are used to help fund the youth ministry in our parish and your purchases help support indigenous farmers in New Mexico as well.  This Friday is our Fall Festival from 5pm-8pm with food, music, and lots of games and activities for kids of all ages.

Lastly, this week, the priests will be gathering for our annual convocation. This year’s theme is “Rebuild the Family, Transform the World.”  Please keep us all in prayer.  You know we need them!  May God bless you as we courageously grow together in faith!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

September 26, 2021

My dear friends,

This Wednesday, at 1:00pm in the church, I will host a “parish family meeting” to share with you how God is working in our parish, the results of the parish survey, our recent stats, our challenges, and some ideas for the future of our parish.  I know that the time of our meeting is not convenient for many of you, so it will be taped so you can look at it later at your convenience.

At the meeting this Wednesday, I’ll share the results of the survey that we took two weeks ago.  Your comments and suggestions were very helpful.  We’ll also share about how our Preschool, Faith Formation, parish ministries, and how our parish finances are doing.

The parish “family meeting” also gives me the opportunity to share a bit more of our discernment for our future.  As I’ve shared before, our parish staff, pastoral council and ad hoc evangelization team worked hard throughout the past two months on developing a  re-evangelization plan.  At this point, members of the evangelization team will join the pastoral council as we begin to implement the plan.

There are several areas of special focus.  The first is that we all need to be prayer warriors and lift up through prayer, fasting and works of sacrifice or almsgiving those whose faith has either grown cold, who have left the church, or perhaps have never known Christ.  There is true power in your prayers.  Do not forget it!  Make a list of those who are in need of your prayer and storm heaven every day on their behalf.

Another area of focus is on welcome.  Everyone who comes to our church should feel “at home.”  It is hard to feel welcome wearing masks but, God willing, that will end soon.  It is important to remember that each and everyone of us is called to be a minister of hospitality.  We already have some ideas on how to become more welcoming, but we look forward to your ideas as well.

The new evangelization also requires that each of us invite others to come and know Christ and His Church.  In a polarized and critical world, it can feel uncomfortable sharing faith.  We forget that the joy and peace of Christ is exactly the remedy the world so desperately needs!  So many are searching for what we have found!  We must invite others to come and meet the reason for our joy and our hope!

Lastly, we will strive to “ignite” our faith through quality liturgies, faith formation offerings, ministries, missions, and retreats.  It is important for each of us to be on fire with the love of God if we are to do His will.

To hear more about this and to share your ideas and concerns, please come to the main church this Wednesday at 1:00pm.  May God bless you as we courageously grow together in faith!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

September 19, 2021

My dear friends,

First of all, THANK YOU for helping to make this year’s Ministry Fair such a huge success.  It was amazing to see how God is working through our many active and vibrant ministries, by networking with the leaders of our parish, by meeting so many new friends!  The positive energy in the Family Center was absolutely infectious!  The food was pre-packaged and with the vast majority of people wearing masks, I think most people not only felt safe but had a GREAT time! 

I especially thank all of you who attended and signed up for a ministry.  May God bless you!  The leaders of the ministries have been reaching out to contact you.  If you haven’t heard from anyone yet, please contact Laurie Erickson at the parish office (813-961-3023; lerickson@stpaulchurch.com).

If you missed the Ministry Fair, the Ministry Directory is available in the narthex of the church as well as online.  It is our hope and prayer that every member of our parish will be active in at least one ministry!

Speaking of ministries, there are several which have not been able to meet in person due to the pandemic. While we understand people’s concerns, certain ministries are desperately needed.  The services they provide are truly essential and virtual meetings are limited in effectiveness.  If you are interested in visiting the homebound, providing group support to the bereaved, or providing support for those looking for a job, please contact me or Laurie at the parish office. 

On another note, during my homilies last weekend, I spoke about the pandemic of disbelief which has spread throughout the world.  It has affected every religion and demographic.  Recent studies indicate that half of the people living in our area do not belong to a faith community.  More disturbing, half of our young people have left the church.  And of those who have not left, only a fraction are truly active or living the faith.  I’ve asked our parish staff, Parish Council, and a special ad hoc Evangelization Committee to read “Return” by Brandon Vogt and to present a pastoral plan for me.  While Brandon wrote his book for parents who desire to draw their children back to the church, his insights are useful for us all.

He suggests that the first step is for YOU to practice your faith!  Pray, fast, and offer sacrifice (do acts of charity) for those whose faith has grown cold.  Model what it means to be a Catholic ... a joyful and faithful disciple of Christ.  Be patient.  St. Monica prayed and fasted for decades for her son St. Augustine.  Pray that they will find a St. Ambrose to assist them as he assisted Augustine.

Second, listen to them with an open heart.  Ask open ended questions and listen to their responses.  Do not judge.  You may find that they simply need to be encouraged.  Or perhaps they have been misled by much of the fake news which permeates the internet.  One conversation probably won’t change their hearts, but a series of conversations over a long period of time may.

Third, plant seeds.  Invite them to join you at church events.  Encourage them in their journey of faith.  Share with them the cause of your joy and source of your faith.  Some seed may fall on thorns.  Others on rock. Some may be stolen by birds.  But who knows?  Maybe one will fall on good soil!

This Thursday we are celebrating the feast of Padre Pio.  And this Saturday we begin our novena in honor of St. Francis.  May they join us in prayer for your loved ones!

Courageously growing together in faith!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

September 12, 2021

My dear friends,

I LOVE our Ministry Fair!  I love meeting new people, talking to our faithful volunteers, and learning more about how God the Holy Spirit is working in and through our parish.  It is exciting to see the diversity of our parish in full display as volunteers from our various ministries invite us to become more active in our community of faith.

I encourage everyone to be involved in at least two ministries.  One should be something in which you give of yourself ... for instance becoming a Minister of Hospitality, catechist, or High School Ministry Core Team member.  The second should be something that you do for you... something that will help you learn and grow closer to Christ... like joining a Bible Study, Music Ministry, Shawls of Hope, or Eucharistic Adoration Ministry.  The fact is, the more active you are, the smaller the parish becomes and the more blessings you and your family will receive.

Some of you may be concerned about the pandemic.  I share your concerns.  Do what you can and trust God to the rest.  Thankfully, it looks like this wave is passing.  This is the opportunity for us to get more involved.  Stretch yourself.  You will be glad you did!

Allow me to suggest a few ministries for you.  Our Liturgical Ministries always need more help.  We are also turning families with young children away due to a lack of catechists.  We’d love to be able to open more classrooms!  We also need people who can help with special events (“Helping Hands”), ministry to the bereaved, outreach to the homebound, and ministry to the unemployed.  If you are interested in helping, see Laurie at the Ministry Fair or call the parish office.

Come to the Ministry Fair this weekend!  There is free food and drink and activities for the kids (inside and out!).  See you there!

On another note, this week we celebrate two related feasts - the Exultation of the Cross and Our Lady of Sorrows.  The feast of the Exultation of the Cross is on Tuesday and originates in the beginning of the 4th Century.  Constantine had issued his Edict of Toleration - allowing citizens of Rome to choose their own religion.  His mother, Saint Helena, then went to Jerusalem to visit the holy places associated with Christ.  Through God’s grace and a lot of ingenuity, she discovered the Holy Wood of the Cross and built the church of the Holy Sepulcher over the site of the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Christ.  On Wednesday, we recall Our Lady of Sorrows (Lk 2:35; Jn 19:26-27) and remember that to follow Christ also means to transverse the Via Dolorosa.  To honor these feasts, come to Mass at 7:30am or 12:15pm or come to Eucharistic Adoration (8:00am to 8:30pm).  Another idea is to pray the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, Chaplet of Divine Mercy, or Stations of the Cross.  Come, let us adore Him!

Have a great week and I’ll see you at the Ministry Fair!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

September 5, 2021

My dear friends,

This Labor Day is extra special within the context of the Year of St. Joseph.  Our Holy Father noted that he was inspired to dedicate this year to St. Joseph, specifically in his role as patron saint of workers.  Pope Francis made special note of all the essential workers ... not only those who provide medical care and emergency services such as police, fire fighters, and paramedics but those unsung heroes who work behind the scenes to care for us... teachers, government workers, grocery clerks, truck drivers, gas station attendants, and farmworkers.  We believe that work is more than a “necessary evil.”  It is a sharing in the creative act of God, lends meaning and dignity to life, and provides for the common good.  This Labor Day, we thank God in a special way for all those who provide essential services for our community.  We also pray for those who are unemployed, underemployed, or otherwise unhappy in their labors.  May St. Joseph intercede for them!

This week, we continue to ask Our Lady of Good Health to intercede for us and bring the pandemic to a close.  The festival Mass will take place this Wednesday, on the Birthday of Mary, beginning with the Rosary at 7pm.  Weather permitting, it will be held outside at her shrine.  Please come and bring a friend!

On Thursday night at 7pm in the Family Center, I’ll be sharing about my pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela on the Camino Primitivo.  Come and bring a friend!

Next weekend, we will host our Annual Ministry Fair in the courtyard and Family Center.  Every ministry in the church has been asked to participate.  You are invited to come and talk with those involved in the many diverse ministries of our parish and discern where is God calling you to serve.  Ideally, we should all be involved in at least two ministries.  One you should do to feed yourself ... to help you grow in grace.  The second should be one you do for others ... to help them grow in grace.  For instance, you may want to join one of our amazing Bible Studies and volunteer as a Catechist and share our faith with our second graders.  Or you could join our wonderful Knights and be a part of our SOS ministry against human trafficking.  You could volunteer as a Minister of Hospitality on Sundays and volunteer to help with weddings and baptisms.  If you can’t do anything else because of physical limitations, perhaps you can become a Rosary Maker or part of our Prayer Ministry!

It is easy to feel lost in a large parish.  I get that.  The best way to feel “at home” is roll up your sleeves and get involved!  Most of our volunteers will tell you they get a lot more out of the ministry than they put into it.  For more information about our ministries, please visit StPaulChurch.com.  Prayerfully discern how God is calling you to be involved. If there is a ministry we don’t have but you would like to start, let me know!  We are here to help.  You won’t be sorry!

Let us all continue to grow courageously in faith!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

August 29, 2021

My dear friends,

This coming Saturday, September 4th, is the Feast of St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta.  Mother Teresa continues to serve as an incredible inspiration to me and to so many as an example of authentic Christian discipleship.  She led by her example of what it means to love as Christ taught us.  As a result, when she spoke ... whether about the care of the sick or dying, the elderly or a child within the womb ... the world listened.  She taught us about the infinite and unconditional mercy and love of God.  She taught us about the importance of listening to His voice and responding to His call to do something beautiful.  She taught us that it wasn’t necessary to do great things but to do little things with great love.  She taught us that real love involves sacrifice, a dying to self.  She taught us to care more, not less.

The source of her strength was her profound love for God.  She began each day with a holy hour before the Eucharistic Lord.  If it was a particularly busy day, she would tell the sisters that they needed to spend a longer time before the Lord to have the graces needed.  How true!

It seems to me that her message is more relevant today than it was when she walked this earth.  During this week, I encourage you to read more about her life and spirituality.  There are a number of wonderful articles online as well as books to read.  I also encourage you to prayerfully discern how God is calling you to walk in her footsteps.  In a few weeks, we will be hosting our annual Ministry Fair.  How is God calling you to be more involved?  Is God calling you to join our Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Farmworker’s Ministry, Jamaican Ministry, or Panama Ministry?  Or perhaps even initiate a new initiative locally?

Is God calling you to become more active in our parish liturgies serving as a lector, minister of hospitality, music ministry, sacristan, altar server, extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, Arts & Environment, or even just help with the PowerPoints?

Can you help with Faith Formation or Youth Ministry?  Are you being called to join the Knights of Columbus or the Council of Catholic Women, Couples for Christ or Matrimonial Dialoges, or one of our Prayer Groups or Bible Studies?

Pray about it and plan on coming to our Ministry Fair after the weekend Masses on September 11th and 12th.

Let Mother Teresa be your inspiration and do something beautiful for God!

Let us all continue to grow courageously in faith!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

P.S. Many have asked if I would share my experiences from the Camino Primitivo.  I’ll offer a presentation at 7pm on Thursday, September 9th in the Family Center.

 


 

August 22, 2021

My dear friends,

This month, I’ve been meeting with our parish staff, Parish Council, and our new Evangelization Committee to prayerfully discern how to respond to the call first heard at the Second Vatican Council and echoed by every Pope since then for a new evangelization.  We often think of evangelization as missionary work, reserved for the professionals.  We forget that it is our right and obligation to share our faith by virtue of our Baptism and Confirmation!  Each and every one of us who has been fully initiated into our faith by the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Eucharist has received a divine mandate “to proclaim the Gospel to the nations.”

That may sound a bit ambitious.  I understand.  But we can start at home.  St. Monica is our model.  St. Monica was married to an unbelieving husband and her sons were not baptized.  Through her efforts, her entire family was converted to faith and her son Augustine became one of the greatest saints of all time!

What did she do?  First of all, she led by example.  She prayed and fasted every day and was the loving and merciful person God has called us all to be.  Nothing turns off people faster from the faith than hypocrisy.  That is why Jesus was so offended by it.  It is so important that we practice what we preach.  Pray and read the Bible every day, go to Mass at least every weekend, and go to confession at least monthly.  Fast for the conversion of those you love and for the whole world.  And finally, be known for your kindness and charity towards others.

Second, Monica gently shared her faith with her husband and sons.  When we are excited about something ... we want to tell others!  Whether it is about the birth of a child, a new promotion, a great play on the field, or your kid’s accomplishments in school.  Likewise, we must share our joy about all the wonderful things God is doing for us!  As you would invite others to join you at your favorite restaurant, invite others to join you at Holy Mass or at one of our many parish events.  Share your joy!

Third, when the occasion arises, don’t be afraid to open discussions about faith.  Listen.  Don’t judge or argue.  If they have questions you can’t answer, promise to get back to them and do your research so you can respond to their concerns (The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a great resource).

St. Monica is a great model for us.  Join me this Friday at 7:00pm for the Rosary followed by the Holy Mass as we pray for the “Augustines” in our lives.  May they come to know the love and mercy of God and the wonder of His Holy Church!

On a final note, many have asked if I would share my experiences from the Camino Primitivo.  I’ll offer a presentation at 7:00pm on Thursday, September 9th in the Family Center.

Let us all continue to grow courageously in faith!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

August 15, 2021

My dear friends,

Every year, we administer the ACRE assessment to our 5th and 8th graders.  One of the questions which baffles them is the difference between the Ascension and the Assumption.  The Ascension of Jesus is when Jesus ascended to the Father in heaven 40 days after Easter (Lk 24, Acts 1).  The Assumption is not found in Scripture but has always been a part of our Christian faith.  So much so, that in 1950, Pope Pius XII declared, “the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord ...”   Mary was assumed into heaven.  She did not ascend.  She needed God’s grace just as we all do.  The doctrine of the Assumption is important as it confirms Mary’s role as model of the Church and model of us all.  Where she has gone, we all hope to follow through the grace of God!  Mother Mary, pray for us!

This Wednesday, we begin a special novena in honor of St. Monica, mother of St. Augustine.  Monica was a Christian woman who lived in Algeria in the 4th century.  Her husband was not a Christian and the marriage was riddled with problems.  Together they had three children, the oldest was Augustine.  Through Monica’s prayers, her husband had a change of heart and converted to the faith a year before he died.  Her son, Augustine, was a brilliant thinker and pursued the secular philosophies and ideologies of his day.  He even had a mistress and a child.  Monica prayed for his conversion as well and followed him to Milan where he met St. Ambrose and accepted the faith.  Monica died shortly afterwards in Ostia, the port city of Rome.  Saint Monica is the patron saint of troubled parents, battered spouses, victims of abuse, difficult marriages, despondent mothers, widows, wayward children, alcoholics, and patience!  The novena is found on the FREE Saint Paul Catholic Church app as well as our website.  On her feast day, Friday, August 27th, we will have a special Mass of healing for the family beginning with the Holy Rosary at 7pm.  Come and bring a friend!

We all know a “St. Augustine” — a good person who either has never known the Lord, whose faith has grown cold, or who has left the Church.  Turn to St. Monica for inspiration and prayers!  I also encourage you to follow her example and pray, fast, and sacrifice each and every day on behalf of your loved one.  Listen to their concerns with open, non-judgmental hearts and respond with love.  Plant the seeds of faith by sharing your own and inviting them to join you for Mass next weekend.  Remember, while it may seem like all your seeds are falling upon rocks, thorns, or the path ... there are also some that have fallen on good soil and will eventually germinate with God’s grace.  Have faith!  Trust God.

Last but not least, next month is our Annual Ministry Fair (September 11-12).  Mark your calendars!  But don’t wait until then, ask the Lord to reveal to you which ministries to join.  I encourage everyone to be involved in at least two ministries.  One in which you feed others (i.e. as a minister of hospitality, catechist, coach for our soccer teams, etc.) and another which feeds you (i.e. member of the Eucharistic Adoration Society, Bible study, Knights of Columbus, Council of Catholic Women, etc.).  For more information, contact Laurie in the parish office.

Let us all continue to grow courageously in faith!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

August 8, 2021

My dear friends,

This weekend, we offer a special prayer of blessing for our catechists.  Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, recently wrote an Apostolic Letter entitled “Antiquum Ministerium” or “The Ministry of the Catechist.”  This important letter highlights the importance of the ministry of catechist in the history of the Church and institutes a new lay ministry of Catechist.  The goal is to recognize and empower this vital ministry of evangelization in the contemporary world.  Indeed, we are so grateful for the ministry of our catechists and ask God’s blessings upon them.  We also invite YOU to consider serving as a catechist or assistant in our Faith Formation program, a core team member for our youth, or a facilitator of one of our bible studies or adult formation programs.  Thank you for your faithful discipleship to Christ!

This weekend, we also ask God’s blessings upon all our teachers and students (which hopefully describes each of us!).  Indeed, we all have so much to learn and to share with others.  I encourage all of us to think of how we can grow in knowledge of God and His world!  Why not join one of our classes in Spanish or ESL?  Join in one of our many bible studies!  Assist with our RCIA!  Perhaps take up a musical instrument, develop a new hobby, learn CPR and Basic First Aide, or simply read a book a month!  Do you have a special gift or passion you would like to share with others?  How is God calling you to grow this year?

Next month is our Annual Ministry Fair (September 11-12), but NOW is a good time to think of how God is calling you to grow.  I encourage everyone to be involved in at least two ministries.  One in which you feed others (i.e. as a minister of hospitality, catechist, coach for our soccer teams, etc.) and another which feeds you (i.e. member of the Eucharistic Adoration Society, Bible study, Knights of Columbus, Council of Catholic Women, etc.).  For more information, contact Laurie in the parish office.

On another note, during this month, the priests, staff, and a small group of parishioners are reading Brandon Vogt’s book “Return.”  The purpose of the book is to assist parents whose children have left the Church.  The principles of the book really apply to us all.  We are all called to invite those who have either grown lukewarm in their faith, who feel abandoned or hurt by the Church, who feel that the Church fails to serve their spiritual or emotional needs to come home.  We are also called to invite those who don’t belong to a faith community to join us.  Why?  We believe we have something to offer... Jesus Christ and His Gospel of life, love, and truth

My prayer is that we will be able to share the insights of Brandon Vogt to the parish and it will truly help us to be transformed into an evangelical parish ... which reaches out and welcomes all to come to know and love our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

What can you do?  First of all, think of those who have left the Church for one reason or another or who don’t belong to any faith community.  Make a pledge to pray, fast, and sacrifice for them each and every day.  Trust that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, wants them to experience the fullness of His love and mercy even more than we do.  Pray that His will be perfectly done!

 

Let us all continue to grow courageously in faith!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

August 1, 2021

My dear friends,

This Friday, August 6th, is the Feast of the Transfiguration.  While it is not a Holy Day of Obligation, it certainly could be!  On this day, we recall how the Lord took Peter, James, and John and climbed Mount Tabor where they prayed and He was miraculously transfigured before them, speaking to Moses and Elijah.  This event prepared Him and the disciples for their journey to Jerusalem where Christ would suffer and die and rise on the third day for our salvation.  In addition to our normal daily Masses at 7:30am and 12:15pm, we will have a special 7:30pm evening Mass beginning at 7pm with the rosary and novena in honor of Santo Niño. 

Let us pray: “God our Father, in the transfigured glory of Christ your Son, you strengthen our faith by confirming the witness of your prophets, and showing us the splendor of your beloved sons and daughters.  As we listen to the voice of your Son, help us to become heirs to eternal life with Him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

At the close of June, I went on a whirlwind visit to Soná in Veraguas in Panama.  I went with a fellow parishioner to discern God's will as we begin the next chapter of our relationship as a sister parish with the people of the diocese of Santiago.  The parish of Soná serves a large community which is spread over a vast area.  While there is one church, there are about 170 chapels which serve the people living in the outlying villages.  The parish is served by four priests.  The bishop desires to create a new parish in San Lorenzo to better serve the people living in the southern zone of the parish. 

On this trip, we visited Soná as well as the communities of San Lorenzo, Agua Blanca, Farfan, Lagatero, Chorillito, and Rio Grande.  In each community, we celebrated Holy Mass and met with leaders of the community.  We also visited Playa Blanca and Playa Arrimadero.  The men mainly work in the fields with crops and cows.  If they are blest, they may find work for $10 a day.  The women are homemakers.  There is no cell phone service or electricity but water is available in most homes.  Others do without.  The people are faithful, joyful, humble, and compassionate.  It was a joy to spend these days with them.

The pastor, Fr. Narciso, has been a dear friend for 12 years.  He is a charismatic priest who definitely has the heart of a pastor and great devotion to the Lord.  His energy and enthusiasm is contagious.  The goal is to journey together as sister parishes.  They have much to share with us and we have much to share with them.  God willing, our efforts will do much to grow in faith and improve the quality of their lives. 

If you are interested in assisting or even coming on a mission, please send an email message to the following address:   panamamission@stpaulchurch.com

Next week I’ll share about my journey on the Camino Primitivo!

May God bless us as we grow together courageously in faith,

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

July 25, 2021

My dear friends,

Like every family, a central focus of our family of faith is our children.  They are truly gifts from God and we take very seriously our responsibility to help them develop an intimate relationship with our merciful Lord and a lifelong passion for our rich Catholic faith.  There is no question that Jesus had a special place in His heart for children and so do we!  That is why we have invested so much of our time, talents, and treasure to providing the best Faith Formation opportunities for our children.

Case in point is this week’s “Treasures of the Vatican” Vacation Bible School.  While the world thinks the treasures of the church are priceless works of art, we realize that it is really our wonderful faith in Jesus Christ and His Word and Sacraments.  We are also reminded of the witness of the holy deacon and martyr St. Lawrence who, when asked to surrender the treasures of the church, brought to the emperor the poor, sick, young, and elderly.  Indeed they are our treasures!

This weekend, Carmen Cayon, our wonderful Director of Faith Formation will be speaking at all the Masses about our programs and the importance of registering your children.  As a reminder, EVERY child from kindergarten to twelfth grade who is not enrolled in a Catholic school or an approved Catholic homeschool program should be registered in our parish program.  In addition, EVERY child who is eligible to receive First Reconciliation and First Holy Communion or Confirmation MUST be enrolled, even if attending a local Catholic School. 

Why is this important?  Because we want the best for our children!  We want them to come to know and love Christ and His Church.  And unlike other countries, our society has embraced a decidedly non-Catholic, in fact, non-Christian culture.  If your children are to come to develop a personal relationship with God and a lifelong passion for our rich faith tradition it is because of YOUR efforts.  And we are here to help you!

What can you do to help?  First of all, encourage the Catholic families you know to go to Mass each and every weekend and to register for Faith Formation.  No child should be deprived of a relationship with the Lord.  Second, we need volunteers to serve as catechists and assistants.  Last year, a young person volunteered to help set up the classes and welcome people who entered our buildings.  You can help as well!  Please contact the Faith Formation office for more information.

We are truly looking forward to a “normal” year after last year’s challenges.  There is no question that children learn better in an “in person” setting.  That being said, we will continue to offer “home schooling” opportunities for families with unusual needs.  We are here to serve you and your children.

Please join me in prayer for our children, their families and our entire Faith Formation team.  May God bless us as we grow together courageously in faith!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

July 18, 2021

My dear friends,

According to St. John, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the first gift of the Resurrected Lord on that first Easter Sunday (Jn 20:23).  It is properly called the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Penance, Confession, Conversion, and Forgiveness because that is what it does.  It is a Sacrament of Healing as the penitent approaches the throne of God’s mercy for pardon, reconciliation, conversion, and true satisfaction for one’s sins.  It restores us to the graces of our baptism.

It is important to recall that only God forgives sins.  Jesus imparted his own power to forgive sins to the apostles and reconcile us to God and to the Church (Jn 20:23; Mt 16:9).  In other words, the priest, acting in persona Christi, pronounces the forgiveness of God.

A good confession must be carefully prepared through prayer and reflection.  Pray for the grace for a good confession.  Make a good examination of one’s conscience and reflect on how truly sorry you are for how your sins offended God and neighbor.  Finally, there must be a true intention of sinning no more.  Conversion implies a change of life.  There are many examinations of conscience available on line and on various apps.  Choose one that suits your needs and don’t be afraid to dig deep.  The priest will tell you if you are being too scrupulous.

When you enter the confessional, greet the priest, make the sign of the cross and then say: “Bless me father, for I have sinned.  It has been ___ months since my last confession.”  It is good to confess your sins once a month, at most twice a month.  More than that is a sign of a disordered theology of the sacrament.  As the Rite of Penance notes, “The most important act of the penitent is contrition, which is ‘heartfelt sorrow and aversion for the sin committed along with the intention of sinning no more.’” “The genuineness of penance depends on this heartfelt contrition.”  Going to confession several times a week demonstrates a failure to experience “a profound change of the whole person” through contrition and God’s grace.

The second element is confession of sins which involves a “true knowledge of self before God and from contrition for those sins.”  It is important to state the kind and number of each and every grave sin which YOU have committed (not your spouse’s, children’s, friend’s...).  

Don’t go into all the gory details or explain all the mitigating factors.  If the priest needs more information, he’ll ask. At the end say, “For these and for any others I have forgotten, I am heartily sorry.”

The third element is satisfaction.  “True conversion is completed by acts of penance or satisfaction for the sins committed, by amendment of conduct, and also by the reparation of injury.”  It is meant to heal the wounds which sin inflicts in our relationship with God, others, and ourselves. The priest will ask you to pray an act of contrition.

Finally, the last element of the Sacrament is absolution.  It is God who grants pardon to the repentant sinner who manifests his or her change of heart through this Sacrament of Grace and subsequent choices in how he or she acts, speaks, and thinks.  Don’t forget to thank the priest before you leave and to do your penance.  But most of all, do your best to avoid falling into those same sins.

While the Sacrament of Confession is necessary to absolve mortal or grave sin, it is also a very useful remedy for all venial sins.  Again, the object is to perfect the grace of baptism.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is truly a wondrous gift from God and an occasion of great healing.  Go to Confession frequently.  If you can’t come during our daily scheduled times for Penance, make an appointment to see a priest.  We are here for you and you are in our prayers!

Growing together courageously in faith,

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

July 11, 2021

My dear friends,

As you read this, I’m presently walking over 230 miles on the Camino Primitivo from the Cathedral in Tampa’s sister city of Oviedo to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.  I’ll be there for the feast of Santiago or Saint James.  Of all the routes to Santiago, it is called the “Primitivo” because it was the first, but also because of its remote nature.  Of all the caminos or paths to Santiago, this is the one “less traveled” with less than 4% of the pilgrims walking through the hills of Asturias and Galicia.

Pilgrimages have long been a part of the Judeo-Christian experience.  The Holy Family went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem at least three times a year.  Jesus and his disciples did the same.  After the death and resurrection of our Lord, people visited the Holy

Places which Jesus walked and shared the Good News of God’s loving mercy.  As the Apostles were martyred, people also visited their tombs to pray.  When the Holy Land was inaccessible due to wars, a renewed emphasis was placed on pilgrimages to the tombs of the apostles, especially Rome and Santiago, the traditional resting place of St. James who was buried “in a field under the stars,” or “Compostela.”  Throughout the centuries, millions of pilgrims including the greatest of the Church’s saints have walked the camino on pilgrimage from the four corners of the world. 

Why? The Camino de Santiago is a transformative experience.  More than a walk through the hillside of Spain, it is a journey which invites even the most hardened of hearts to look within and to grow ever closer to the Lord.  Several years ago, I walked the Camino Francés and it changed my life forever.  I’ll never forget the 580 miles I walked across Spain, the people I met and places I visited.  I had a profound spiritual experience, a theophany, while praying before the relics of St. James in the Basilica of Santiago.  In fact, I believe it ultimately led me to return to St. Paul to serve as your pastor.

I don’t have the same expectations for this camino as I know in my heart of hearts that God has something very different planned for me this time.  But I am equally certain that He will be walking with me on my road to Emmaus (aka Compostela).  As I walk, I’ll be posting on my Facebook and the parish Facebook pages.  Although it might be better for me to turn off all social media, I believe that I’m called to share my experience with you, my spiritual family.  In that way, hopefully we will all, albeit virtually, share the experience. 

As I walk, know that you are in my prayers and I humbly ask your prayers for me as well.

¡Buen camino!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

July 4, 2021

My dear friends,

The Fourth of July is the quintessential American holiday.  Today, we gather with friends and family members to celebrate the birth of our nation with barbeques, picnics, and fireworks.  It is a wonderful time to count our blessings as well as to recall the sacrifices made on our behalf since the Declaration of Independence was adopted in 1776.  As Americans, we also recognize the sacrifices which continue to be made by those who faithfully serve our country in the military and other government services.  Let us pray!

This is also a good time for us to reread the Declaration of Independence and to reflect on the work that still needs to be done.  Unfortunately, it is not always true that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  Every phrase of that sentence presents its own unique challenges which we are called to address.  We pray for people of good will to lay down ideological and political differences to work together for the common good of all.  Let us pray!

 

A Prayer for Independence Day

by United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

 

God, source of all freedom,

this day is bright with the memory of those

that declared that life and liberty

are your gift to every human being.

Help us to continue a good work begun long ago.

Make our vision clear and our will strong;

that only in human solidarity will we find liberty, and justice

only in the honor that belongs to every life on earth.

Turn our hearts towards the family of nations:

to understand the ways of others,

to offer friendship,

and to find safety in the common good for all.

We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

May this Independence Day truly be a time to give thanks to God for the gift of our nation, to re-commit ourselves to work together to preserve our inalienable right to life, liberty, and freedom for all, and to enjoy quality time with your loved ones.

May God bless you and may God bless America!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

June 27, 2021

My dear friends,

This Tuesday, we celebrate the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul.  One day, after the pandemic has passed, I’d love to lead a parish pilgrimage to Rome to visit the many sites associated with these faithful apostles.  When I was on sabbatical in Rome, I was informed that I would be appointed as pastor of St. Paul so I spent a lot of time visiting and praying in these holy sites for you and for me to be worthy to serve as your pastor.  It was a great blessing to me to walk in the footsteps of St. Peter and St. Paul and to lift our parish up in prayer.

When you think of St. Peter and St. Paul, many images come to mind.  But my guess is that you probably don’t think of them as small businessmen.  But indeed they were!  St. Peter was a fisherman and St. Paul was a tentmaker!  How appropriate it is to host our annual Small Business Expo this weekend.  This initiative was started to highlight our parishioners who are also owners of small businesses.  I hope you will be able to stop by for a visit and to learn more about your fellow parishioners and show your support for their businesses.  The Expo will be open today (Sunday) from 8:30am to 2pm.  I also encourage you to support those businesses which advertise in our bulletin.  They make this important publication possible!

On another note, we are in an unusual place in our parish history.  July is normally the month when we “catch our breath” before jumping into a new year.  This year, our needs are different.  Due to the stress of the pandemic, I think most of us need “R&R” more than ever.  Yet, on the other hand, there is another sense that we want to get back into the normal swing of things.  Then, there is the still very real and present danger of the pandemic, especially with the “D variant” which plagued India.

My advice is to be sure that you recharge.  Enjoy quality time with the Lord and with your loved ones.  Engage in “self-care” in mind, body, and soul.  Reach out to those you haven’t seen in a while.  Invite family and friends to join you for Church and reinitiate those bonds which sustain us.  Exercise, eat right and be smart and careful, especially among those who are still very vulnerable and have been unable to get a vaccination.  But most of all, ask the Lord to reveal to you how you can grow closer to Him.  Praying and reflecting on the Sacred Scriptures each day, participating in daily Mass, and regularly going to confession are really vital.  If you feel your relationship with the Lord is stagnant, you may also want to make an appointment to talk with your favorite priest or deacon.

My hope and prayer is that this July will be one of great grace for you and your family!

Courageously growing together in faith,

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

June 20, 2021

My dear friends,

This Tuesday I will host a virtual “town hall meeting” with Brian Smith, our parish manager, Carmen Cayon, our director of faith formation, and Mindy Geer, our preschool director.  We will begin at 7:00pm and it will be aired on our parish Facebook (facebook.com/stpaultpa) and posted on our parish’s website (www.stpaulchurch.com). The goal is to share information on how the parish is doing as well as to respond to your questions and concerns online.  Since  the meeting will be posted on these two sites, you will be able to view the presentation at a later time. You are always welcome to raise questions or give feedback.

My report?  God has blessed us!  Your parish family is doing well.  Attendance at Mass continues to increase and Faith Formation had a good year.  Highlights include the dynamic and growing High School and Middle School ministries, and the phenomenal catechists who were able to share our faith with children who were either attending classes in person, on line, or were being home schooled.  While the number of kids was predictably lower than usual, I think everyone had a good year.  Another huge success was our Apostles of the Eucharist ministry for young adults.  Our adult Faith Formation opportunities were affected by the pandemic but the Bible Studies, for the most part, had a good year nonetheless.

Many of our ministries were hit hard by the pandemic and either had to meet virtually or suspend their activities altogether.  That being said, many others had a grace filled year.  We can’t express our gratitude enough for our Liturgical Ministries and Ministries of Mercy who went on overdrive during the pandemic!  Thankfully, more and more ministries are returning to face to face meetings as the number of those fully vaccinated increase.

Our Preschool had an amazing year.  While the number of students was low, we were able to provide an exceptional learning experience for those that did attend while keeping everyone healthy!  In addition, we were able to submit our renewal of the prized NAEYC certification.  Kudos to Mindy and our teachers!

While many of our sister parishes experienced Covid outbreaks, we were able, through God’s grace, to keep everyone healthy and safe.  Fiscally, we trimmed our sails and many of our parishioners switched to online giving.  As a result, we ended the fiscal year in the black, against all odds!  God is so faithful!  Furthermore, we are on track to meeting our goal for pledges to APA in the coming week.

At present we are working to expand our grass lot for “overflow parking” and a place for the kids to play.  We have replaced three large air conditioners, paved the Peace Path, and upgraded our landscaping.  We are in process of replacing the Church bells and installing new doors in the Family Center.  All these projects fall within our budget.

This coming year, we have a lot of exciting plans.  To hear about them, please listen to the broadcast.  Suffice to say, we are blest to have Fr. Peter, Fr. Tamil, and soon - Fr. Tim in our parish!  It will be an exciting year!  Please keep holy, healthy, happy, and safe and sound!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

June 13, 2021

My dear friends,

This past week, we celebrated the Corpus Christi, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.  Each time we receive Holy Communion, we are invited to enter a profound union with Christ ... to become what we eat.  This Food is unlike any other because when we receive the Blessed Sacrament, we are receiving the gift of God himself and He invites us to be assimilated into Him, to become one with Him, physically as well as spiritually.  St. Peter Julian Eymard points out that when we receive Holy Communion, we continue the incarnation of Christ, once again allowing Christ, through us, to give glory and praise to the Father, care for the poor and the sick, and share the Good News of God’s infinite loving mercy with others.

So how do we open ourselves to this grace?  First of all, it is important to prepare for the Gift we are to receive.  Prayerfully reflect on the Sunday readings throughout the week. The readings are readily available online as well as on our Saint Paul Catholic Church app.  I begin my preparations for the next weekend by reflecting on the readings each night before I go to bed!

You also need to prepare your soul to receive Holy Communion.  St. Paul warns us of the dangers of eating the Body and Blood of Christ unworthily.  Examine your conscience every night and go to confession every month, if not every two weeks.  No one should receive Holy Communion unless in a state of grace. 

It is good to have a plan of continued spiritual development.  Have spiritual reading or materials to study by your devotional space or bedside so that you continue to grow in the rich tradition of our faith.  There is so much available today online and in print in a variety of media.

More immediate preparations include the Eucharistic Fast.  Unless excused due to age or infirmity, the church expects a minimum of one hour.  I’d suggest longer if you can.  Use your common sense.  Also, it is good to dress up for Mass.  The way we present ourselves during Mass reflects our interior disposition.  While Sunday Mass is not a fashion show, it is also not a trip to Walmart!

Once in church, greet your neighbors.  Afterwards, limit your distractions and focus on the Lord.  He has been waiting for you and has something special for you to hear!  I heartily recommend bringing a journal or notebook with you to Mass.  Write down your thoughts and impressions.  What is the message the Lord wants to give YOU!  This could have something to do with the readings, the prayers, or the homily or it could be something entirely different.  The point is ... listen to HIM and write it down!

Lastly, I think it is important that we never leave church without a "take-home".  God has a special present for each of us and he wants us to act on it.  Mass is more than good feelings.  What is he challenging us to do?  How is he asking us to change?  What can we do to be more loving, more faithful, more true to who he has created us to be?  These are important questions which need to be answered after each and every Mass

My friends, my prayer is that we may all actively and fully participate in the Mass.  May we celebrate each Mass as if it were our first Mass, our last Mass, our only Mass.

Have a wonderful week and please keep holy, healthy, happy, and safe and sound!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

June 6, 2021

My dear friends,

This weekend, we celebrate the source and summit of our faith, the Most Holy Eucharist.  We call it the source and summit because of our firm belief that it is truly the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Our faith is based on the words of Jesus and our own personal experience and is supported by the constant magisterium of the Church from the Apostolic Age to the present day!

One of the greatest challenges of our age is the number of baptized Catholics who no longer believe in the Real Presence or have adopted a Protestant mentality which sees it as a symbol…. a spiritual communion which is dependent upon the faith of the believer.  It is more important than ever that we share our faith in the Eucharistic Lord with others, to assist at Holy Mass as often as possible, and to come to Eucharistic Adoration at least once a week.

“May the heart of Jesus, in the Most Blessed Sacrament, be praised, adored, and loved with grateful affection, at every moment, in all the tabernacles of the world, even to the end of time. Amen.”

On another note, this Friday is the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.  You are cordially invited to join me for a rosary and special Mass beginning at 7:00pm.  This feast celebrates the merciful love of our Lord.  In a special way, we pray for healing in our families, our nation, and the world.  On Saturday, we remember the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I encourage you to entrust yourself and your families to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary:

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary, I consecrate myself and my whole family to you. We consecrate to you: our very being and all our life. All that we are. All that we have. and all that we love. To you we give our bodies, our hearts and our souls. To you we dedicate our home and our country. Mindful of this consecration, we now promise you to live the Christian way by the practice of Christian virtues, with regard for human respect. O most Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary, accept our humble confidence and this act of consecration by which we entrust ourselves and all our family to you. In you, we put all our hope and we shall never be confounded.

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.

Have a wonderful week and please keep holy, healthy, happy, and safe and sound!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

May 30, 2021

My friends,

This weekend, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, the central mystery of our faith and life as Christians.  It is the mystery of God in himself, one God, indivisible, and yet a consubstantial Trinity of Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The mystery of the Holy Trinity is the source and summit of all other mysteries and is that which distinguishes Christianity from every other religion.  As a mystery of faith, we speak of the Trinity by analogy.  The Trinity is a family of love consisting of the Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier of all that is, was, and ever will be.  We proclaim this faith every time we seal ourselves with the sign of the cross, pray the Creed, or sing our Gloria!  May the Triune God be praised and adored forevermore!

This weekend is also Memorial Day weekend.  This is a wonderful opportunity to spend quality time with those you love.  Develop those family traditions and build new memories, whether a trip to the beach, a barbeque in the backyard, or simply going for a walk with a friend.  But PLEASE don’t forget the reason for this holiday.  Pray for the souls of all our fallen heroes; those men, women, and children who have sacrificed their lives in service to our country so that we might live in freedom and enjoy the many other benefits of living in this wonderful country.  This is a time to pause and reflect and offer a prayer of gratitude as well as supplication for their souls and the souls of all our beloved deceased.  Join us for Holy Mass at 7:30am or 12:15pm Mass.  At 10am, Bishop Parkes will celebrate a special Mass at Calvary Catholic Cemetery at 11801 US 19th.  You are most welcome to come. 

Next weekend, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ!  This mystery of faith is one which distinguishes us from every other Christian faith (except the Orthodox!).  We believe that the Holy Eucharist is really and truly the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  It is the sum and summary of our faith because the Eucharist IS Jesus! 

We will spiritually prepare for the Solemnity through 40 Hours of prayer and fasting.  On Thursday, June 3rd, we will begin with the rosary at 7pm followed by the Holy Mass presided by Fr. Peter.  Afterwards, we will have a Eucharistic Procession on our newly paved Peace Path.  Eucharistic Adoration will then continue throughout the night.  On Friday night, we will again have a special Mass and Procession presided by Fr. Tamil.  I’ll preside on Saturday night at 5:30pm and again on Sunday at 5:30pm.  For more information and the complete schedule, please see page 4 in this bulletin.

I encourage EVERY parishioner to come and adore the Lord between 8am on Thursday, June 3rd through 5:30pm on Saturday, June 5th.  Also come to Mass on each day, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday!  If you can’t come, at least reflect on the importance of the Eucharist in your life.  Let us keep the Feast!  God will certainly bless you!

Have a wonderful week and please keep holy, healthy, happy, and safe and sound!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

May 23, 2021

My friends,

Today is Pentecost, the Birthday of the Church!  More than a historical event, it signifies the beginning of an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, a river of grace, which continues to shape and guide the Church just as the Colorado River shapes the Grand Canyon and it spills into our hearts just as the Niagara River spills over the great Niagara Falls!  Let us be open to the gift of the Holy Spirit this day, in a special way, so that we may be renewed through the Spirit as individuals, as families, as a parish family, and throughout the Church universal!  Let us pray for peace throughout the world and for healing in mind and body, especially from the ravages of the pandemic.  Come Holy Spirit!

This weekend we are saying “Farewell” to our good friend and spiritual leader, Father Bob Romaine.  Fr. Bob has been a blessing to us in so many ways.  Each of us has a special memory of how his wisdom, compassion, and great love for God has touched us.  For me especially, he is a dear friend and brother priest as well as an invaluable aide throughout his tenure in our parish.  As he leaves for Holy Family Parish in St. Petersburg, he leaves with our prayers and best wishes!  Fr. Bob, this is always your home!

Fr. Tim Williford has been assigned as our new parochial vicar.  He will begin his service on July 1st.  Please keep him and the people of St. Stephen Parish in prayer during this time of transition.

In a few weeks, we will also be saying goodbye to our Middle School Youth Minister, Stephen Eschenfelder.  Although he was only with us for a year, his influence upon the lives of our Middle Schoolers, their parents, and our entire staff has been very powerful.  He has been a blessing for us and we wish him well as he begins his service at Bishop McLauglin High School as campus minister.  Please keep him in prayer, and us as well, as we begin accepting applications for our next Middle School youth minister.

On another note, there has been a lot of construction on our campus.  Like every home, your spiritual home is in constant need of repair and upgrades. We have recently replaced an air conditioning unit in our Parish Center.  At the same time, Hillsborough County is putting the electric lines on Stall road underground to reduce disruptions in service during severe storms.  We are also improving the grass “overflow” parking lot in the back of the campus so our parish youth can use it to play soccer.  In the coming weeks, we also will be replacing the church bells as the old system is not able to be repaired.  We will also be replacing the large sliding room dividers in the Family Center.  They are old and can no longer be repaired.  Finally, if money allows, we will be paving the Peace Path so that it is safer and handicap accessible.  Thankfully, we are able to complete all this work without having to ask for a special collection.  God is good!

Have a wonderful week and please keep holy, healthy, happy, and safe and sound!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

May 16, 2021

My friends,

Today we celebrate “Ascension Sunday” and recall how Jesus ascended into heaven.  Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, reminds us: “the Ascension does not point to Jesus' absence, but tells us that he is alive in our midst in a new way.  He is no longer in a specific place in the world as he was before the Ascension.  He is now in the lordship of God, present in every space and time, close to each one of us.  In our life we are never alone: we have this Advocate who awaits us, who defends us.  We are never alone: the Crucified and Risen Lord guides us.  We have with us a multitude of brothers and sisters who, in silence and concealment, in their family life and at work, in their problems and hardships, in their joys and hopes, live faith daily and together with us brings the world the lordship of God's love, in the Risen Jesus Christ, ascended into Heaven, our own Advocate who pleads for us.”  Ascension Sunday is not merely a remembrance of a past event, but a celebration that Christ is with us, now and until the end of time!

The mystery of the Ascension took place nine days before Pentecost.  Luke reminds us that the apostles fasted and prayed for that first “novena” or nine days in preparation for the gift promised by Jesus: the Holy Spirit.  We are likewise in the midst of prayer and fasting as we await a new Pentecost or outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon our parish and especially upon all those who will be confirmed this coming Saturday, May 22nd at the 2pm Mass with Bishop Gregory Parkes.  Please join us in prayer for the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  The novena is found on the Saint Paul Catholic Church app as well as www.stpaulchurch.com.  If you don’t have time to pray the novena, at least promise to pray this short prayer every day:

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of us Your faithful and kindle in us the fire of Your love. Send forth Your Spirit and we shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth. Let us pray: O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit instructs the hearts of the faithful, grant, that by the same Holy Spirit, we may be truly wise and ever rejoice in His consolations, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Finally, as part of the “Courageously Living the Gospel” initiative, the parishes in our area (deanery) are forming a Catholic Soccer League.  This fall, children of various age groups will play with teams from other parishes.  In preparation, we are renovating our grass parking lot in the west end of the property so that we can play on campus.  We are in need of volunteers to serve as coaches, referees, and lots of volunteers to assist.  Please call Brian at the parish office if you can help.  The goal is to help our children develop good Catholic sportsmanship while having a great time playing soccer!

Have a wonderful week and please keep holy, healthy, happy, and safe and sound!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

May 9, 2021

My friends,

One of the most beautiful and profound vocations is that of being a mom.  As I often remind young mothers when their children are being baptized, they are an icon of Christ.  Each day they sacrifice so much for their children, placing their lives on the line for them, nurturing them with their body and blood.  They model for us how Christ loves us ... a total, sacrificial, unconditional love.  When I reflect on the way I am loved by the Lord, I often reflect upon the way I am loved by my Mom.  This day, in a special way, let us thank God for the gift of motherhood and for the many ways these incredible women reflect the face of God!

One of the greatest ways we honor our mothers is through our relationship with the Lord.  We congratulate our children who received their First Holy Communion these past two weeks.  May this Communion be the first in a lifetime of communion with the Lord!

The Second Vatican Council affirmed that the Holy Eucharist is "the source and summit of the whole of Christian life" (Lumen gentium, n. 11).  Indeed, the Most Blessed Sacrament contains "the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Paschal Lamb and the Living Bread which gives life to all through his flesh" (cf. Presbyterorum ordinis, n. 5).  It is not a mere symbol.  In the  Most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist "the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained (Council of Trent, DS 1651).

Recognizing the presence of Christ under the guise of bread and wine, St. Paul exhorts us to examine our conscience: "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord" (1 Cor 11:27).  For this reason, the Church has consistently taught: "A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or receive the Body of the Lord without prior sacramental confession unless a grave reason is present and there is no opportunity of confessing; in this case the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as possible" (Code of Canon Law, c. 916).  We are blessed to be able to offer the Sacrament of Reconciliation Monday through Friday at 11:00am and Saturdays at 10:00am and 4:00pm.  Come and experience the healing touch of Christ!

On another note, the Feast of the Ascension of Christ into heaven is normally celebrated this Thursday.  In most of the United States, it has been transferred to next Sunday so more people can celebrate this profound mystery.  Unfortunately, this disrupts the connection between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost Sunday ... the first novena or nine days of prayer and fasting in the Church!  I invite you to join me in participating in our traditional novena of prayer beginning on Friday the 14th and continuing to the Saturday before Pentecost.  We will be reflecting on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and interceding on behalf of our young people who will be confirmed by Bishop Parkes on Saturday May 22nd at 2:00pm.  All the prayers are found on our Saint Paul Catholic Church app as well as on our parish website (www.stpaulchurch.com).  Come Holy Spirit!

Have a wonderful week and please keep holy, healthy, happy, and safe and sound!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

May 2, 2021

My friends,

This weekend, we thank God for all our children who received their First Holy Communion.  It is a very important step in their spiritual lives as they receive the Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for the very first time.  We pray that they may develop a lifelong passion for the Bread of Life and Cup of Salvation.  We are also very grateful for their families and catechists who have made this day possible.  May God bless you all!

One of the things the pandemic taught us was that we should never take the Eucharist for granted.  For many of us, the most difficult thing about the lockdown last year was the fact that the churches were shuttered and it was not possible to receive the Blessed Sacrament.  For us Catholics, we believe that the Eucharist really and truly is the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our dearly beloved Lord.  It is not a symbol nor a representation.  It is not a virtual presence or make believe.  It is not merely a spiritual sharing.  It is the Real Presence of Jesus Christ because He told us so!  This is our faith and the faith of our Church since its very beginnings that first Easter when the two apostles recognized Christ in the Breaking of the Bread!

This May I, encourage you to 1) read John, chapter 6.  2) Remember the Third Commandment and keep holy the Sabbath day.  We do that by assisting at Holy Mass.  Be sure to come to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as often as you can, daily if possible. 3) Also come to Eucharistic Adoration every week, if not more often.  We adore the Lord Monday through Thursday beginning after the 7:30am Mass and concluding with Solemn Compline and Benediction at 8:30pm.  May we all grow ever more in love with the Eucharistic Lord!

The pandemic also reminded us of the importance of the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.  Unfortunately, priests were not allowed into the hospitals to anoint the sick (and still aren’t if the patient is Covid positive!).  It is SO important that we have the opportunity to avail ourselves of this beautiful Sacrament of Healing.  The priests have discerned that we would like to offer this Sacrament EVERY Saturday morning after the 8:30am Mass.  Of course, you are ALWAYS welcome to ask for this Sacrament whenever needed.  We strongly urge you to receive the Sacrament  whenever you are scheduled for an operation requiring general anesthesia, before being admitted to the hospital, or as soon as you are admitted to Hospice Care.  It is a Sacrament for Healing of mind, body, and spirit, and should not be delayed until the person is actively dying.

Finally, the pandemic reminded us of the importance of family.  Next weekend is Mothers’ Day.  I sincerely hope that you have enrolled all the mothers you know in our novena ... living as well as deceased so that we can pray for them throughout the month during every Mass.  It is a beautiful bouquet of prayers for those we truly love and honor!

Have a wonderful week and please keep holy, healthy, happy, and safe and sound!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

April 25, 2021

My friends,

Today we say “farewell” to our dear friend Fr. Ambrose Kadambukatt, OCD, as he prepares to return home to his beloved family in India.  The Second Vatican Council called religious communities to remember their roots and renew the vision of their founders.  As part of that, the Carmelites are calling all their professed members to live in their communities.  As a side benefit, Father will live closer to his family, for the first time in decades! 

Father has been a great blessing to our parish family.  It has been a special blessing for me to live and worship with him.  He is a truly holy priest and dear brother.  Please join me in praying for him and if possible, attend the reception today at noon to offer your personal thanks.

This week we also welcome Fr. Tamil Selvam of Tamil Nadu.  He was ordained five years ago and has served as the secretary of the bishop of Sivagangai.  We have been friends for almost three years.  This will be his first full time pastoral assignment in a vastly different culture.  I thank you for helping him to feel right at home!

On another note, the readings proclaimed at Mass during this Holy Easter Season remind us that Christianity is essentially evangelical.  In other words, we can’t call ourselves Christian if we aren’t sharing our faith through word and deed.  In the past, I think we all assumed we could be “undercover agents” for the Gospel, working behind the scenes to quietly proclaim the Gospel while leaving it to the “professional” missionaries to do the heavy lifting.  Unfortunately, we no longer have that luxury.  With over 50% of our neighbors no longer belonging to a faith community, with “fallen away” Catholics constituting the second largest Christian denomination, with 70% of professed Catholics reporting that they believe the Eucharist is only a symbol and not the Real Presence of Christ, we all have to mobilize!  By virtue of our baptism, we have the right to proclaim the Gospel. By virtue of our confirmation, it is our obligation.  And by virtue of the present state of affairs, we are now all deputized as “essential workers” or “front line” evangelists.

So let’s begin with your home and circle of friends.  Think of those you know and love who were baptized Catholics and invite them to come to Mass with you.  Focus first on those who were active in their faith but have fallen away because of the pandemic or life situations.  Welcome them to come “home.”  Listen to their fears and worries.  Address their concerns and objections.  If you don’t have an answer ... just tell them you will get back to them as soon as you have a clear response.  We are all here to help you and there are a number of reputable sources online to assist you as well.  Our people are inundated with a lot of “fake news” when it comes to the Church.  Don’t take it personally.  Don’t get angry or distressed.  It helps to ask them open questions and then respond to their concerns in a clear and factual response.  Invite them to join you one Sunday.  But perhaps most importantly, pray for them.  During this year of St. Joseph, ask him to intercede for them with his Son!

Meanwhile, keep holy, healthy, happy, and safe and sound!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

April 18, 2021

My friends,

The fifty days of the Easter Season are ones of special joy as we continue to reflect upon the central mysteries of our faith.   This is the time of “mystagogia.”  The Church calls us to “embrace a deepened understanding of the mysteries of baptism, confirmation, and the Eucharist, and especially of the Eucharist as the continuing celebration of faith and conversion.”  To assist us, the Church has chosen Gospels which relate the post-resurrection appearances of Christ and readings from the Acts of the Apostles which emphasize the nature of the Church.

So what can we glean from today’s readings?  All three readings share a common theme: Christ suffered and died for us, in atonement for our sins.  His passion and death and resurrection were for the forgiveness of our sins, to break the chains of sin and death, and to open the gates of paradise for all those who are open to His mercy.  How? Our response is an act of faith coupled with a sincere repentance or sorrow for our sins, a firm intention to change our lives or be converted, and a commitment to follow His will.

At this important juncture in the history of the Church, we are called to participate in a new evangelization.  There are so many who have stopped practicing their faith.  For some, the pandemic provided a convenient excuse as to why they are no longer going to church.  For others, it is because of disagreements with the Church’s teachings or the sins of her ministers.  While they may say they believe in God, it is a god of their creation, not the God of Jesus Christ.  Because the God of Jesus Christ is a God who calls us to community, a Church.  And we are called to follow His will not our own.  From the beginning, the disciples realized that they were called to faithfully hand on the teachings entrusted to them by Christ and to share His Good News to all the world.

The same is true today.  Unfortunately, less than 50% of our neighbors claim to be part of a faith community and 70% of those who profess to be Catholic, no longer believe in the Real Presence.  It is our mission to share the Good News that Christ is Risen!  He is here!  We have seen Him!  He is speaks to us every time we open the Bible but especially at Holy Mass and He invites us to participate in the Last Supper and enter communion with Him ... Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, at every Eucharist.  The Eucharist is really and truly Christ ... not a symbol or metaphor.

Now is the time to invite people to come home!  Encourage them to cast aside their fears and open their hearts to Him.  Invite your family and friends to join you for Mass next weekend.  Who knows?  Yours may be the invitation they have been waiting for!

Growing together courageously as disciples of Christ!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

April 11, 2021

My friends,

During the Easter Season, we celebrate the passion, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Dying and rising are an integral part of every Christian life.  This is true of us as individuals as well as our parish family. 

It is with a heavy heart that I share that Fr. Ambrose Kadambukatt, OCD, has been called home to India by his superiors.  While I rejoice that he is able to return to his family, I’m sad to see him go.  Fr. Ambrose’s farewell celebration will be held on April 25 at noon. 

We have also just received word that Fr. Bob Romaine has been assigned to serve as parochial vicar of Holy Family Catholic Church in St. Petersburg.  Fr. Bob is a good friend and holy priest.  He has been a much beloved part of our parish family for the past seven years and his presence will be sorely missed.  We will be saying farewell to Fr. Bob on May 23 at noon.

The good news is that Fr. Tamil Selvam, a young priest of the diocese of Sivagangai, will be joining us on April 21st.  He is a dear friend and will serve as our new parochial vicar.  I’ve also received word that Fr. Tim Williford, a young priest currently serving at St. Stephen Catholic Church in Riverview has been assigned to us as well.  He comes to us with a priestly heart full of love for God and His people.  He will begin his service here on July 1st.  Also, Fr. Eva Nnamene, our good friend from Nigeria, will be visiting us at the end of July for his summer vacation.

Transitions such as this are always difficult.  Please pray for Fr. Ambrose, Fr. Bob, Fr. Tamil, Fr. Tim, Fr. Eva, Fr. Peter and me.  Pray for our parish.  Pray for all those who are saddened by these transfers.  May God bless us all.  May we rise with Him, even as we are called to die to self.

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

To that end, Saint John Paul II granted a plenary indulgence to all those who 1) in a church this day; 2) pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy or a prayer to the merciful Lord Jesus (e.g. “Merciful Jesus, I trust in you!”) or perform an act of mercy; 3) go to Confession; 4) receive Holy Communion; 5) pray for the Holy Father’s intentions (Our Father, Hail Mary, and the Creed); and 6) renounce any attachment to sin, including venial sin.  You are also cordially invited to attend today’s celebration of Divine Mercy at 3:00pm in the Family Center(Remember, you are welcome to receive Communion twice in one day).

The Chaplet of Divine Mercy

1. Make the Sign of the Cross

2. Our Father

3. Hail Mary

4. The Apostle's Creed

5. On each of the Large Beads of the Rosary: “Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.”

6. On each of the 10 Small Beads of the Rosary: “For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”

7. Conclude with: “Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.” (Repeat three times!)

The Chaplet of Divine Mercy is also found on our webpage and the free Saint Paul Catholic Church app!  Today, let us immerse ourselves in God’s mercy.  You are in my prayers!

Growing together courageously as disciples of Christ!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 

April 4, 2021

Christ is Risen!

Happy Easter!

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

This has certainly been a year we will never forget!  The pandemic presented unique challenges to us and hopefully has taught us not to take for granted the blessings we have received, especially the gift of family and friends, and to be more attentive to the needs of others.  Many of us have suffered painful losses.  Know you are not alone.  Take solace in the Resurrected Lord.  He suffered, died, and rose from the dead to restore to us the promise of eternal life with Him in heaven!

As the pandemic passes, it is my prayer that we will never “go back to normal” but move forward, learning from this experience so that we may be more worthy of the name, Christian.  It is my hope that we, God willing, will work together to build a better world for ourselves, our children, and our children’s children.  Be open to His grace! 

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.  Every day this week, we will pray the Divine Novena and Chaplet at 3pm, the hour of mercy, in our beautiful Santo Niño Shrine.  The Novena will culminate next Sunday, Divine Mercy Sunday, with the Holy Mass at 3pm followed by the chaplet and consecration before the Eucharistic Lord.  Please be sure to come.  If you would like to receive the Plenary Indulgence, be sure that you have gone to confession within 20 days before or after April 11. For more information, please visit www.stpaulchurch.com or download our free St. Paul Catholic Church app.

I believe, with all my heart, that this Easter, our Lord is inviting us all to grow in faith.  If you aren’t already doing so, pray every day, fully participate in Mass at least every weekend, come to adoration as often as possible, faithfully and regularly meditate on God’s Word, and go to confession once a month.  Become involved in our parish.  Everyone should be involved in at least one ministry.  We are in special need of people to help with our liturgical ministries.  I think it would also be good to offer some discussion groups to help people process the challenges of the past year.  We also need more volunteers to assist with our youth ministry programs.  If you can help, please let us know. 

This is the year of St. Joseph, patron of the Church and homes, fathers and husbands, families and  workers, and of the dying.  May he pray for us and inspire us to grow ever closer to our Lord Jesus.  And on behalf of Fr. Bob, Fr. Ambrose, Fr. Peter, 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 in Christ,

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 


 



 

 

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