Father Liam's Letters

Here’s a Movie You Should See:

“Pope Francis – A Man of His Word”

Dear Friends,

I have always liked going to the movies.  Besides being able to work with and to serve the parishioners of OMGC, another reason I like living in Bryn Mawr is that I am within walking distance of one of the finest art house cinemas on the East Coast.

Tuesday afternoon I went to the Bryn Mawr Film Institute and saw Wim Wenders’ documentary, “Pope Francis – A Man of His Word.”  The movie is less than an hour and 40 minutes long, and presents a wonderful picture of Pope Francis. It begins with footage of Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio addressing a crowd of his people in Buenos Aires a number of years before he was elected Pope. In a very heartwarming way the movie portrays his humility, his warmth toward people, his engaging sense of humor, and his love for God, the Church, and all humanity.  It shows him interacting with poor immigrants and refugees, prison inmates, sick children, leaders of other religions and the heads of many nations. 

One of the things that attracted Wenders’ attention to Pope Francis was his concern for the well-being of all of God’s creation here on planet Earth, especially as expressed in his encyclical letter, Laudato Si’.  Pope Francis sat for eight hours of interviews with Wenders spread over four different sessions.  In the interviews he did not hesitate to respond to questions about recent scandals in the Church and some of the other hot-button issues.  And of course, about the love of God.

Emotionally, I found the movie very compelling in two different ways. Number one was the extraordinary warmth and compassion that seems to exude from him when he speaks with and interacts with people, either in crowds or one-on-one.  The tender way he expresses the love of Christ to people brought tears to my eyes more than once during the movie.  Secondly, the profound pastoral sensibility he expressed challenged me as a priest and pastor to be more caring, sensitive and loving in the work that I do. 

I encourage all of you who can to see the documentary, either at the BMFI or at another theater.  You will be edified. 

And let’s pray every day for Pope Francis and the important mission he has to live and to preach boldly the Gospel of Jesus, and to care for us, his flock. 

Peace,
Fr. Liam

http://focusfeatures.com/pope-francis-a-man-of-his-word/

Responding to Question about OMGC Membership Numbers

Dear Friends,

At our Parish-wide Meeting last month, there was one question for which I did not have a response.  I promised to research the question and get back to you all. The question asked about the change in the number of registered families and parishioners at OMGC over the past few years.

I asked Ms. Peggy Juhline, our parish office manager, to look through our annual reports to the Archdiocese over the past nine years.  With those numbers I produced the table and graph below.

As you can see, the numbers between 2009 and 2014 both for families and for individuals are fairly flat.  Between 2014 and 2016, under the direction of Fr. Denny, the OMGC staff carefully examined our membership database and removed from active status names of people reasonably understood to be not active for at least the previous 7 years.  This project resulted in 302 individuals and 172 families being reclassified as inactive, but still in our database. 

As you can see, the numbers between 2016 and 2018 (as of May 7) are also nearly flat (0% difference for persons, -1.6% for families).

I write to you today on the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord.  Before Jesus ascended to his Father in Heaven, He left this command for his disciples and for us:

“Go, therefore,and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

In 2018, spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ remains the primary mission of the Catholic Church.  We offer it both to those who have not heard it – AND – to those who heard it many years ago but have forgotten it, fallen away from it, or perhaps because of some real hurt have decided to stay away.  As we continue to work on our Parish Pastoral Plan, the section on goals and objectives for Evangelization will lead to concrete actions we can take it as a community.

Our thanks to all of you who have contributed suggestions and other input for the PPP at the April 26 meeting, through the online portal or through other means. 

There was a corollary question about our parish numbers and how they compared with trends in the rest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the United States.  Membership and Mass attendance both seem to be on the decline in most regions locally and nationally.  I have included links to two articles that might help to answer this question at least partially:

This first one is from CatholicPhilly.com from August of last year:

http://catholicphilly.com/2017/08/news/local-news/parish-mass-attendance-drops-again-but-cultural-diversity-surging/

This second, shorter article is from 2 years ago and talks about the US Catholic Church in general:

https://cruxnow.com/church/2015/05/12/pew-survey-percentage-of-us-catholics-drops-and-catholicism-is-losing-members-faster-than-any-denomination/

I hope this information is helpful. 

Peace, Fr. Liam

Parish-wide Meeting & Parish Pastoral Plan [Draft]

Dear Friends,

I’m looking forward to this Sunday’s (April 29) Parish-wide Meeting after the 11:15 Mass in the Social Center.  I look forward to sitting down for lunch with as many of you as can come, and discussing what’s going on in the parish.  As of this writing, fewer than 30 people have signed up.  We have to give a number to the caterer by Thursday at noon, so please call the office (610-525-0147) by Thursday morning if you plan to join us. 

The Parish Council has been developing a Parish Pastoral Plan for over a year now.  Based on input received from table discussions at last year’s Parish-wide Meeting (Sunday, March 26, 2018), a meeting of the PREP parents and other group gatherings, the council has been discussing and refining these materials into an organized list of Goals and Objectives. 

As we continue this process and refine this document, we again ask you for your comments and input.  Even if you can’t come to this year’s Parish-wide Meeting, you can be part of this process by reading the 3-page document online and comment on it. 

Please go to omgcparish.org/plan to access a PDF of the current draft of the Plan.  You will also find a link where you can give input. 

We intend to finalize these Goals and Objectives into a Parish Pastoral Plan before September 1.  This Parish Pastoral Plan will guide our priorities and activities for the next few years. 

God’s blessings on you and all your families!

Peace,
Fr. Liam

Discovering Christ, Lenten Penance Service, Holy Week

Dear Friends,

You may have seen the impressive poster and the brochures that Kevin Potts and the Discovering Christ team have put together with information about our program that will take place on seven Thursday evenings starting on April 12.  The team has been meeting every week since January 18 and we have received many blessings during this time of preparation.  Borrowing from the brochure: “Discovering Christ is a seven-week experience where anyone and everyone...is invited to hear the Good News and personally encounter Jesus Christ. Discovering Christ helps people enter into or renew a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, experience the love of God the Father, and be empowered by the Holy Spirit to live as God’s children.”

For more information please take home a brochure or go to http://omgcparish.org/DC.  Please continue to pray for the team and for those who sign up for the program!  

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a wonderful opportunity to encounter Christ’s overflowing mercy and forgiveness leading up to Holy Week and Easter.  Please join us for our Lenten Penance Service on Monday evening, March 19 at 7:30.  If you can’t attend this service, please try to come to Confession here at OMGC on a Saturday morning at 11:30 AM or at one of the neighboring parishes.  And if none of those times works for you, of course you can always call one of us priests at OMGC to make an appointment. 

Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday, March 25.  Please consider participating in some or all of the liturgies of the Sacred Pascal Triduum [Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday]. These liturgies have a richness and tradition that draw us deeper into the mystery of Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection.  They are well worth making the time and effort to attend and worship together.  At the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night (March 31) we will baptize Eva, Camille and Moira.  Then they will receive the sacraments of Confirmation and Holy Eucharist, completing the Sacraments of Initiation.  It’s always a thrill to welcome new members into the Christian community during the Vigil. 

Please pray for these young women during these final weeks of their preparation. 

Peace,
Fr. Liam

P.S.:
Here’s a message from Father John asking for volunteers for Hospitality Ministers (greeters) for our Easter liturgies.  I hope many of you will be able to help: 

THE EASTER MINISTRY NEEDS YOU

Each Sunday, we are warmly welcomed to our Eucharistic celebration by the lector.  On Easter Sunday 2017, we had more than 900 people celebrate Easter with us at Our Mother of Good Counsel.  We would like to offer that warm welcome to our visitors and the extended families of our parishioners by having Hospitality Ministers on Easter Sunday.

Job Description:  Come 15 minutes before Mass begins.  Stand at the doors of the church, opening the doors and expressing  warm welcome.  Help people find seats when it gets crowded or whatever their needs might be.  After Mass you will stand at the doors wishing them a Happy Easter and inviting them to come back again.  There is no age requirement.  If you are interested in this Easter Hospitality Ministry, contact Fr. John at 610-525-0147 x252 or FrJDeary@omgcparish.net.

Back from the Holy Land

Dear Friends,

Thank you all for your prayers while I was away. We had a wonderful pilgrimage to the Holy Land, filled with many special blessings, graces, and memories.

For me, one of the greatest blessings was the group with which I made the pilgrimage. It was a relatively small group, only eight men. Six Augustinian friars from the Villanova Province, and one each from the UK and Japan. All were serious about making this pilgrimage a profound spiritual experience. We prayed together multiple times each day.  Every day we celebrated Mass at one of the holy sites associated with Jesus’ life: the Annunciation in Nazareth, the place where Jesus greeted the disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee after his Resurrection, the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, in Bethlehem at the cave of the shepherds, in Bethany where formerly stood the house of Jesus’ friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus, in Jerusalem over the tomb where they laid Jesus’ body, and in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed after the Last Supper.

Besides these Masses, we spent many other prayerful moments together, such as the cave near the spot where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ prison cell in the house of Caiaphas, the high priest, the place by the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and called some of the first disciples, and in the Upper Room where Jesus and the disciples held the Last Supper.  

Our guide was Usama George Salman, Ph.D.  He is an Arab Christian who grew up in the Old City of Jerusalem, not far from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  He enriched our experience with many valuable insights into the religious, social and political environment of these places both in the time of Jesus and in 2018.  Many people we met told us he is the best guide in the Holy Land and I have no reason to doubt it. 

As I promised in my previous letter, I prayed for all of you at every holy site we stopped at on our journey.  

I look forward to sharing with you all many of the insights I gained during this pilgrimage in my future homilies.  

Sincerely,
Father Liam

PS, I have posted some of the photos of my trip HERE.  I’ll be adding more in the next few days.

FORMED.org

Don’t forget that we at OMGC have a subscription to FORMED.org.  Here are a couple of suggestions as we get ready for Lent.  Lent comes early this year – February 14th!

For Children: The Unforgiving Servant (10 minutes). Click HERE

For Adults: Confession (20 minutes). Click HERE.

My New Year’s Prayer for You

Dear Friends,

My prayer for you and your families is for good health and happiness this coming New Year of Our Lord 2018. On January 1st we will as always celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, but because it falls on a Monday this year, it will not be observed as a holy day of obligation. I do, however, invite you to join me in celebrating Mass together at 10:30 a.m. that day, to ask God’s blessing and protection on all of us throughout the New Year, relying on the intercession of our Blessed Mother, Mary.

An excellent opportunity has been given to me at the beginning of this New Year. On January 3rd I will embark on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, along with seven other friars of the Order of St. Augustine. Some from the United States, one each from the UK and Japan, and one more US Augustinian who works in Rome. 17 years ago I went to Israel on behalf of the company I was working for at the time. Because of circumstances, I spent nearly a week in Tel Aviv but I did not have the opportunity to see any of the holy sites. Since that time I have had a great desire to visit the Holy Land as a pilgrim. I feel especially privileged to be able to do this as part of an international group of Augustinian friars.

I am looking forward to visiting the places where Jesus walks, where he preached, where he healed, where he taught his disciples, where he prayed, where he suffered, where he died, where he rose from the dead. I am looking forward to visiting Bethlehem, Calvary, Jerusalem, Nazareth, the Jordan River, Capernaum, Bethany, the Sea of Galilee and many other places where He taught and prayed administered to the crowds.

This pilgrimage I anticipate to be a blessing for the seven other friars and me. And at the same time, I feel the responsibility to “bring along” all of you and a whole list of other friends. I have put together a list of individuals and groups of people I intend to pray for at each of these holy sites, especially where we friars offer Mass together. All of you reading this are on that list. I pray for you, the people of Our Mother of Good Counsel every day – multiple times a day. But expect that from January 4th to January 11th I will be praying for you from places made especially sacred by the presence of Jesus during the time that he physically lived on this earth.

Please pray for the seven others and me: for our safety and that this might indeed be a time of extraordinary grace for us.

Sincerely,
Father Liam

Christmas 2017

Dear Friends,

My wish and prayer for you this Christmas is that the gentle Lord Jesus, born on Christmas Day, may bring peace into your soul and abundant blessings into your home. I pray that every heart be opened to the Infant Prince of Peace by a fervent reception of the Sacraments of His love – the Holy Eucharist.

This Christmas we, the Augustinian Friars of OMGC, express our thanks for your very enthusiastic service and generous support of our parish community during the past year.

Again I thank you for the wonderful support you all were to me at the time of my Mother’s death this past September. Many out-of-town friends and relatives who came for Mom’s funeral Mass commented to me about the warmth of the people here at OMGC and the high quality of the liturgy. I told them how lucky I am to be pastor of a parish where community and striving for excellence in worship, liturgy and worship have been priorities for many years.

As we enter into 2018 we will begin a new ministry – Discovering Christ. You have heard me speak about it a few times in the past few months. As a parish, our mission is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to help one another to deepen our love for Him. Discovering Christ is a ministry has been very effective in doing this in many parishes, including my previous parish, Our Lady of Good Counsel in Staten Island. Please pray for our team as we prepare to launch in the Spring.

May the grace and peace of Jesus be felt in your family this Christmas and during the New Year.

Sincerely in Christ,
Father Liam

Collections, ChristLife, World Missions Sunday, Father Aldo

Dear Friends,

I am very happy to announce that Mr. Fran Novak of St. Rose of Lima Parish and North Wales, PA will come to speak at OMGC at 7 PM, Monday, October 30 about running a Discovering Christ program here at our parish. Fran and his team have led hundreds of people to a closer and deeper relationship with Jesus Christ through the ChristLife program over the past seven years at St. Rose of Lima. Fran is also chairman of ChristLife’s Board of Directors.

Until now we have held two meetings here at OMGC, but we are still very early in the organizational stage. If you think you might be interested in being part of the team for this very dynamic way of helping each other to grow in faith in Jesus Christ, please plan to join us for this important meeting.  Bring lots of questions!  We hope to start a pilot program soon just for the team and then open it up to the parish at large later on. 

You can find out more about ChristLife and Discovering Christ here: https://christlife.org

Collections. You know those “extra” envelopes you get along with your regular Sunday envelopes for special collections?  Today we finalized the list of those special collections for the Sundays of 2018 for the envelope company.  There are 20 spread over 12 months.  That’s a few more than we had in my previous parish in NYC.  I thank you for your generosity in giving to these special causes.  Most are set by the US Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) or by the Archdiocese.  I often get requests from various groups who do very worthwhile ministries, asking if they can come to OMGC to speak about their work and ask for donations - sometimes as many as three requests a week! Most of these I turned down automatically. For some others, I consult with the Parish Council and Finance Council.  I am very sensitive to that fact that none of us has very deep pockets. 

Some emergencies, though, you just can’t plan for. Hurricane Harvey hit Texas hard at the end of August. On August 29th the USCCB directed us to take up a collection for the people in the Houston area on the weekend of September 15 & 16.  Then Irma hit Florida on September 4, so that collection was for both Harvey and Irma.  Since then, as you know, Maria hit Puerto Rico on September 20, causing vast devastation.  The Archdiocese has again asked for our help on behalf of the Church in Puerto Rico.  That collection will take place on the weekend of October 29.  Please be as generous as your means allow.

This coming weekend we celebrate World Missions Sunday.  It is a day when we consider in a special way the worldwide universal brotherhood of Catholic believers all over the planet, and Jesus’ “Great Commission” to go forth to all nations to preach the Gospel of Christ's love and to baptize.  As you know, I spent 18 years of my life as a missionary in Japan. Therefore this day has a very special meaning for me personally, as I think about and pray for my fellow Augustinian missionaries and the parishioners of the parishes where I served in Tokyo, Nagasaki, and Nagoya.

Please pray for all missionaries working in all the nations of the world, including the United States.

Finally, you may remember that we at OMGC had the joy of hosting the ordination of Father Aldo Potencio, OSA back in August.  Click on this image below to view a lovely 3-minute video of Fr. Aldo’s reflection on his vocation and what happened that day:

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sPmsPBSVRw4)

God bless all of you! 

Peace,
Fr. Liam

Mom’s Funeral, Ministries, Storms, & Peace among the Nations

Dear Friends,

On behalf of my family, I thank you, the people of Our Mother of Good Counsel, for your prayers, Masses, kind words and thoughts at the recent passing of my mother, Kathleen Marie Quinn O'Doherty, and at her Funeral Mass here last Saturday. 

Mom was born in Chester, Pennsylvania. She grew up in Darby and raised us three kids there. Mom and Dad lived 34 years on Yale Road and Havertown and were parishioners at Annunciation BVM Parish.  One of Mom’s good friends was Mrs. Theresa Stanley, who worked as part of the OMGC staff in the 1980s, around the same time her son (Fr. Michael Stanley, OSA) and I were working together in Nagasaki.  I remember once or twice while visiting home from Japan, bringing Mom here to the Parish Center to meet Teresa so the three of us could go out to lunch together.  

Mom would’ve loved that funeral! Mom loved people, she loved the Augustinians, and she loved music!  All were of high quality and quantity here last Saturday. 

Thanks again for the wonderful send-off you helped us, her family, to give her. 

Liturgical Ministries.  This Sunday at the 9:30 Mass we will have our annual Blessing of Liturgical Ministers.  This weekend at the end of all Masses I plan to say a few words to invite those of you who might feel a call to volunteer as a lector, Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, altar server, cantor or choir member. Members of the liturgy committee will provide pamphlets after Mass with information about signing up for these ministries. If you have thought about serving the parish community in this way, please spend some time in prayer and ask the Holy Spirit’s direction. If you have any questions at all, please feel free to talk with me, Father John, or members of the parish who are already engaged in those ministries.

ChristLife/Discovering Christ. Recent popes and the American bishops often remind us that Evangelization needs to be the primary work of our parish communities. ChristLife/Discovering Christ is a wonderful tool for helping people both within the church and outside of it to experience the life-changing love and power of Jesus in their lives.

We will hold an explanatory/organizational meeting next Monday evening (9/25) at 7:30 PM in the Parish Center for those interested in forming a team for a possible Discovering Christ program to be held next spring. If you’re curious or interested, please come and join us.

Natural Disasters.  We have seen Harvey, Irma, Marie, the destructive monsoons in South Asia, fires in our western states, and now the earthquake in Mexico.  What an astounding amount of suffering these things have caused!  We need to pray and to act on behalf of those affected!  

Thank you for your generosity for those affected by Harvey and Irma last weekend.  Since then, of course we have had these other calamities as well. 

Peace among the Nations.  We need also to pray for peace - and to take action to when we can to preserve it.  The bishops assembled in Rome for the Second Vatican Council taught us in their “Constitution on the Church in the Modern World” [Gaudium et Spes]:

"Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities or of extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation."

Finally, let us pray for each other as we go forward as a parish community. 

Peace,
Fr. Liam

Harvey, Installation Mass & Other Things

Dear Friends,

We have all been praying for the people of Texas and Louisiana who are so adversely affected by Hurricane Harvey.  We pray for the souls of those who have lost their lives and for their loved ones.  We pray for those who have had to leave their homes to seek shelter, and for all their suffering.  We pray for the emergency and medical professionals, the volunteers, government workers and neighbors who are helping them.

Donations. The Archdiocese sent us notice about donations for hurricane relief.  They urge us to take up a special collection on the weekend of September 16-17 for the benefit of the victims.  “The devastation is widespread and the needs are immediate,” so we will accept donations before those dates as well.  You can either write a check payable to OMGC with the word “Hurricane” in the Memo line and place it in the collection, or put cash donations in one of the boxes we will place near the doors of the church.  We will send it off as soon as it comes in. 

Tomorrow (Friday, September 1) is World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.  Especially in light of the suffering that is going on our own Gulf Coast and in low-lying areas of South Asia this week, it’s appropriate for us to reflect on Pope Francis’ challenges to us in his encyclical letter, “Laudato Si’ – On Care of Our Common Home.”  I urge all of us to take a few moments tomorrow to pray this prayer and pledge to work together to renew and preserve the beauty of our planet – God’s own work of Creation.

Installation Mass.  On Sunday, September 10 at the 11:15 Mass, Bishop McIntyre will install me as pastor of OMGC.  Please pray that this be a time of blessing not only for me, but also for all the staff and all the people of our parish.  In the past 14 months I’ve gotten to know many of you and hope to get to know more of you.  I look forward us to work together more for the spiritual growth of all of our parish community and to help more and more people experience God’s love and healing through participation in parish life.  We especially need to work to make this parish a place where young people and families will experience Christ’s love for them. 

One thing I look forward to is to introduce you to some of my family and friends who will be at the Mass.  My siblings, some cousins, and some parishioners from OLGC in Staten Island also plan to attend.  

I ask you to continue to pray for me as your pastor.  I continue to pray daily for all of you. 

Discovering Christ.  You’ve heard me speak about ChristLife and Discovering Christ at the Parish-wide Meeting and a few other times.  It’s a wonderful tool for helping each other deepen our love for Jesus and to share that love with others.  I am hoping we can start this activity in the spring, but we need to organize a team for that purpose.  I will hold an introductory meeting sometime in September as soon as we can nail down a date.  Some parishioners expressed their interest at the Parish-wide meeting.  I have your names and will be in touch.  Anyone who would like to be part of this team, please contact me through the parish office or talk to me sometime after Mass.  You’ll find more information on the ChristLife website

See you at Mass!

Peace,
Fr. Liam

St. Maximilian Kolbe, the Nazis and Us

The following is an abridged version of the homily I preached last Monday evening on the Vigil of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. 

We have gathered here this evening to celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This Mass is celebrated on the vigil – the night before - therefore, today, the 14th is still the feast of St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe. 

Because of the great love that he had for the Virgin Mary – [indeed, he was proclaimed by JPII the “Apostle of Consecration to Mary”] it is appropriate that he was executed and entered the Kingdom on this date in 1941 at the Auschwitz concentration camp, and that the eve of her great Feast became his feast day.

St. Maximilian was an extraordinary human being:  

  • Extraordinary in his love for Jesus Christ and for his Mother Mary;
  • Extraordinary in his hard work and dedication;
  • Extraordinary in his skills and his talent – which he used for the sake of the Gospel;
  • Extraordinary in his talents as a leader of men.  

He was born in Poland 1894. His father was ethnic German; his Mother Polish.  

Kolbe entered the Franciscans at the age of 13. He studied in Rome.  He was ordained a priest at the age of 24 and by 25 had earned Ph.D.s in both philosophy and theology.  

While still a seminarian he established the Knights of the Immaculate, an organization dedicated to devotion to the Blessed Mother and to the conversion of those who oppose Christ, Christianity, and the Catholic Church.  

After studies in Rome returned to Poland and taught in the seminary in Krakow. 

In 1927, at the age of 33, he founded a new Franciscan monastery called Niepokalanów [City of the Immaculate Mother of God] near Warsaw, which became a major religious publishing center. Before the Second World War broke out, it was the largest monastery in the world, housing as many as 760 men. The town included printing presses, radio station, and was large enough to have a fire company. 

From 1931 to 1936 he established a monastery and printing press in Nagasaki, Japan.  He taught in the diocesan seminary there.  When I worked in Nagasaki in the 1980s, I knew some priests who had him as a professor and some of the elderly Polish friars he brought to Nagasaki.  

In 1936 he returned to Poland and Niepokalanów. The friars’ work there included ministering to marginalized people.  1939 saw the German invasion of Poland – the beginning of WWII.  Niepokalanów welcomed and sheltered refugees from Poland’s western front, including as many as 2000 Jews.

Kolbe refused to sign the Deutsche Volksliste, which would have given him rights similar to those of German citizens in exchange for recognizing his German ancestry.  He published some anti-Nazi publications, so the Gestapo finally shut down the monastery and arrested Kolbe and four other friars.  He was sent to the concentration camp at Auschwitz in May of 1941. 

During his months there he ministered tirelessly to the spiritual and physical needs of his fellow prisoners.

At the end of July 3 prisoners escaped.  The Nazi SS deputy camp commander picked 10 men to be starved to death in their stead.  When one of the selected men cried out, "My wife! My children!", Kolbe volunteered to take his place.

He continued to minister to the men condemned with him.  Finally, after two weeks he was the only one left alive and was executed by poison injection.  

It’s appropriate for us to think about St. Maximilian Kolbe tonight on the vigil of this feast of the Blessed Mother. 

  • This man who is such a wonderful example to us in his devotion to Christ, to his Mother, and to the Church.
  • Who is such a wonderful example to us in his sacrificial love for his fellow human beings.
  • Who is such a wonderful example to us in his resistance to the forces of hatred within society.  
    • Forces of hatred, bigotry and racial supremacy, embodied by the SS and the Nazis...
    • Forces that finally caused his execution and martyrdom.  

And the frightening thing is that last Saturday in Charlottesville, VA, we were reminded in a very graphic way that those forces of hatred and bigotry are still active within our own society, our own nation!    

Brothers and sisters, on this night and during these difficult days, 
let us call upon the intercession 
of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Maximilian Kolbe – 
and pray that the Lord grant us the abundant grace and guidance 
as individuals and as a society, 
not to give in to the forces of hatred, bigotry and racial supremacy, 
but to stand up and live as Christ teaches us, in unity, respect, harmony and charity with and for others.  

Follow-up on Parish-Wide Meeting

Dear Friends,

At the end of March, you may remember, we had our annual all Parish-Wide Meeting. I’m grateful to all of you who participated, and for the input you provided. After my presentation on the State of the Parish, we were led in some table discussions. Each table then shared suggestions and concerns that arose from their respective discussions.  Father John Deary then organized these 31 items according to five general categories:  Communications, Spiritual Groups, Youth, Peace and Justice, Social Activities, and Miscellaneous

We have been discussing these items at Parish Council meetings since then, and a committee of Council members and staff has been meeting during the summer to determine our next step.  

Many parishes have a Parish Pastoral Plan.  This is a written plan that lists the parish’s goals and objectives and acts as a guide in setting priorities for the activities of staff and parishioners.  Currently, OMGC does not have such a plan.  We feel it makes sense to use the input you provided at the March meeting to help craft such a Parish Pastoral Plan.  We have met with Evelyn Tarpey from the Office for Parish Service and Support at Archdiocese of Philadelphia, as she has substantial experience with parishes creating and updating Parish Pastoral Plans. 

This committee has recommended to me that OMGC spend the next several months preparing and finalizing a Parish Pastoral Plan, and I wholeheartedly agree.  Because the information from the Parish-Wide Meeting was so helpful, we believe that we have a great head start for the Plan.  The tentative timetable is for the Parish Council to draft the Plan in autumn months and then to present it to the parish members at another Parish Wide Meeting to be scheduled in early 2018.  The purpose of this meeting will be to obtain any comments and input from members of the parish, and the Plan should be finalized by March 2018. 

I am very optimistic that a formal Parish Pastoral Plan will help us focus our ministries and other activities in meeting our responsibility to provide parishioners with the welcoming, charitable, Jesus-centered community that we strive to be and empowering all parishioners to live the Gospel.

I will keep you advised of our progress and will let you know the date of the Parish-Wide Meeting as soon as we schedule it.

Peace,
Fr. Liam 

Jim’s Diaconate Ordination

Dear Friends,

Let me tell you about my friend, Deacon Jim Cowan. Seven years ago when I was assigned to our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Staten Island, Jim was the president of the Parish Council. He worked for nearly 4 decades for a top risk management/reinsurance company in Manhattan. He has always been very active in Catholic activities in the parish and in the broader Staten Island community. Jim and his wife, Pat, have been married for 43 years. Their children Jennifer, Allison and James, and five grandchildren live on Staten Island where the Cowans have been parishioners of OLGC for over 20 years. 

For a long time, Jim thought he might have a vocation to the permanent diaconate, but could not act on it because his job involved fairly frequent travel to visit clients in Japan. Then, just over 5 years ago upon his retirement, Jim began his journey toward the diaconate. During these years, it was my privilege to serve as his mentor. I invited him to take on more responsibility in the liturgical and sacramental life of our parish. Jim began instructing parents and godparents in preparation for Baptism. He became coordinator of the altar server ministry. Jim also took leadership responsibility for the regional Catholic schools board, and for the local cluster of parishes going through the process of strategic pastoral planning. We often discussed the classes that he was taking twice a week at St. Joseph Seminary in Yonkers and reviewed his term papers together.

Then on Saturday, this past June 18, Cardinal Dolan ordained him and 11 other men to the permanent diaconate at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan. It was a joy for me to participate in this ceremony, and to be the priest who vested Jim with deacon’s stole and dalmatic after the cardinal laid his hands on his head and ordained him. 

Cardinal Dolan, in his homily during that Mass, told us that he was ordaining these 12 men as deacons not because they were intelligent or holy or hard working (though he assumed and prayed that they are those thing) - but that he was ordaining them because of the tremendous love that Jesus has for His Church.

It is because of the great love that Jesus has for Jim and for those other 11 men, and because of the great love that Jesus has for all of us - his church - that he gave them the call. The call to consecrated service.

The next morning at OLGC was Jim’s Diaconal Mass of Thanksgiving – his first Mass where he could proclaim the Gospel and do the other duties of a deacon.  Bishop John O’Hara, the regional bishop, presided and I preached.  In my homily I praised the people of OLGC: 

“I commend you, the people of OLGC, because within one year you have produced two ordinations.  Father Joe Murray was ordained on this date last year.  And now yesterday, Jim Cowan.

Praying for vocations is very important, but vocations like Joe Murray Jim Cowan don’t come from nothing – they come from a community of faith and love, like this parish.

If you identify a young man you think might make a good priest or a good deacon or a good friar, or a young woman you think might be called to consecrated religious life, pray for them and then speak to them – encourage them to think about it and pray about it if they have not already – and then continue to pray for them.”

Just today I was very happy to find out that another OLGC young man, Kevin, a 2017 high school graduate will in August begin training for the priesthood at Saint John Paul II Seminary in Washington, DC for the Archdiocese of New York. 

Every Catholic and every parish needs to pray for vocations.  But that’s not all.  Every parish needs to become a community that nurtures vocations as well.  As I mentioned in my homily above to the people of my former parish in Staten Island, all of us need identify and to “draw out” those vocations. And to pray for them.  Let us here at OMGC in Bryn Mawr become that kind of nurturing community as well.   

Peace,
Father Liam

PS, for photos of Jim’s Deaconate Ordination and Mass of Thanksgiving, click here:
http://olgcsi.org/photoalbums/deacon-jim-cowans-ordination

 

Mass Intentions for 2018

The Mass intention book for 2018 will open on Tuesday, August 1, 2017.

As in the past, each parishioner may request intentions for up to four (4) Sunday Masses per year.  Likewise, in order to ensure fairness for persons at the back of the line, each parishioner may request intentions for up to twelve (12) weekday Masses at this time. Then on Tuesday, August 22 after everyone has had a chance to make their requests, all parishioners who have already secured 12 weekday Mass intentions will be free to request as many as they need.

Thank you very much for your understanding.

Peace,
Fr. Liam

Letter to Seth

Dear Friends,

A friend of mine, a young Evangelical pastor in Staten Island, invited me to look at a question on Facebook from a father faced with a decision.  Here’s the man’s question and my response:

"I'm looking for some advice on the christening of my daughter. Both my mother and my wife are trying very hard to convince me to go ahead with it, but we are not Christian. We don't attend a church. We do not practice any religion whatsoever, and I'm struggling to see the purpose in doing this."

- Life of Dad user, Seth H.

Dear Seth,

First of all, I commend you for at least being open enough to the possibility of baptizing (christening) your child that you would seek out to the opinion of others on the subject. I hope these following thoughts might help you in some small way.

If you and I were to sit down face-to-face and talk about it, there are many questions I would ask you. I would, of course, want to sit down both with you and your wife. I would start with these two:

Number one, I would ask you the age of your daughter. Is she if a few months old? Is she five or six? Is she 11 or 12? Her age will of course make a difference in how we approach the matter.

For the sake of our conversation, I’m going to assume that she’s probably under a year. If you want to, you can get back to me to correct me about that.

The second thing I would do is to ask which Christian denomination your wife belongs to. I am a Roman Catholic. And we are always ready to welcome into our community of faith anyone who expresses interest in joining us. If your wife was raised RC, we would invite her to re-engage in her faith and would help and support her in that. And certainly, we’d be happy to answer any questions about our faith that you may have. We would never force you to become a Roman Catholic as a condition for your child to be baptized. But your child needs to have at least one parent trying to live the faith in order to help your daughter to grow up in the faith and to model for her how to be a Catholic Christian.

If your wife was raised in another denomination, I would probably introduce you to a fellow Christian pastor of your wife’s denomination and entrust your family to his or her care.

Here’s the thing about baptism, Seth:
Baptism is much more than just a cultural/social milestone. I was baptized 68 years ago when I was three weeks old. The older I get as a Christian, the more and more I understand the astounding immensity of what happened to me, as a little baby that day in 1949. I am eternally grateful to my mother and father for making that decision on my behalf. Many other Christian denominations wait to baptize their children until they are old enough to understand what it’s about and chose for themselves. And that’s OK. Some Catholic parents make that same decision for their children for the same reason. I can understand that. Infant baptism is the norm in the RC tradition, and I am VERY glad that in my case it happened when and how it happened.

Through the pouring of the water and the words my pastor pronounced that day, I became permanently plugged into, permanently connected to the victory of the Cross of Jesus – His victory over death that resulted in the new life of His Resurrection. Through that connection with Jesus in baptism I am experiencing the fruits of His victory and of His new life here and now in an imperfect way, but I know that I will experience it fully when I enter into the Kingdom.

On that day 68 years ago, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God Himself came into me and made me His Temple. And despite my wrongheadedness and sinfulness and stupidity and selfishness, that Holy Spirit never gives up on me and always tries to guide me closer to the Father and to reveal to me the love of the Father’s Son, Jesus Christ.

When he poured the water, the pastor’s words were: “I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” From that moment on I became intimately attached to the ever-existing, everlasting community of love that is the Holy Trinity. What a gift that has been to me to know that God has loved me so much as to desire to share His dynamic and tremendous love for me through Baptism!

On that day I became a member of the Body of Christ, which is the Church – the worldwide community of all who believe in Him. Because of that, I have brothers and sisters all over this planet. Most of them I don’t know, of course, but I have been blessed to live and to serve with them in Japan (for 18 years) and in many other places.

Seth, I could go on and on about what happened to me that day 68 years ago and how it affects me in the here and now. I hope you *do* decide to baptize your daughter. Baptism is a tremendous gift from God. At the same time, I hope that both you and your wife will provide for her an environment to make that gift grow.

If this was a help and you would like to chat more, please feel free to IM me on FB. I will pray for you, Seth, and for your wife and daughter.

Pastor Teddy, thanks for drawing Seth’s question to my attention. Blessings on you, your family and your flock. 

Peace,
Fr. Liam

Your New Pastor

Dear Friends,

Although my arrival here at Our Mother of Good Counsel was during a time of sadness due to the loss of our beloved Father Jack Denny, I have been very happy here in Bryn Mawr these ten months.  As most of you know, I was born and raised about 10 miles away from here in Darby.  Since my ordination over 40 years ago I have served in many different locales: Albany, Tokyo, Nagasaki, Nagoya, Boston, North Carolina and New York City.  This is my first time serving as a priest in my own native area.  I enjoy working and living among you here in Bryn Mawr immensely.  Being geographically close to my aging mother and able to see her a couple times a week is also a wonderful thing. 

On July 1, 2016, I arrived here as Administrator pro tem.  A few days ago I received a letter from Archbishop Chaput informing me that as of Friday, May 5, I am officially pastor of OMGC.  There will be a simple installation Mass with Bishop McIntyre presiding sometime in the near future.  I’ll let you know when the details are nailed down. 

I look forward to our continued work together as a parish community for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.  Please pray for me.  I pray for all of you every day.  

Peace, 
Fr. Liam

OMGC Subscription to FORMED.org

Dear Friends,

Our parish has purchased a subscription to FORMED for every member of our parish, and for everyone who lives within our parish boundaries. 

FORMED is a wonderful website that has been called a “Catholic Netflix.” It has inspiring movies and study programs.   Many kinds of entertaining and instructive videos, audio presentations, e-books by some of the Church’s most compelling speakers and authors. 

Many of us have been using this site for a while and have been very impressed by the: 

  • Depth and breadth of content
  • Variety of types of media - videos, audio, e-books, feature-length motion pictures (about 100 of them with more on the way), and PDF download study guides, etc.
  • Variety of types of content - Scripture, stories, Catholic spirituality, apologetics, sacraments, Church history, the lives of the saints and much more.  
  • Variety of target groups - Young children, older grades, teens, young adults, parenting, families and more.
  • The very high production values that went into the videos and other media.  One example: In my previous parish we used Father (now Bishop) Robert Barron's "Catholicism" series one year.  It was exquisitely produced.  At OLGC we paid a few hundred dollars to purchase the "Catholicism" series material.  That entire series is just one of the many resources included in the access we have until the end of this month.

This Sunday I will give a short presentation about this resource at the end of each Mass.  At that time I will pass out the login information you will need to access this resource.  If you are unable to attend OMGC this weekend, the info is available at the parish office. 

Many families and individuals use “Opening Up the Word” [go to https://formed.org] for a 5-minute talk on the Gospel of the coming Sunday.  Good preparation for Sunday Mass!  And this one you can watch even without having to log in. 

I’ll give you more information when I see you on Sunday. 

Peace,
Fr. Liam

March 26, 2017

Lenten Communal Penance Service – April 4

Dear Friends,

You may have heard me tell this story of how my father, every five or six weeks used to load us up in the car on a Saturday afternoon and take us to BVM Church in Darby so that he and Mom and my brother and sister and I could all go to confession.  My father gave us a great gift. I am grateful to him for teaching me by example the importance of this wonderful sacrament!

Truly, the Lord showers so many graces on us through this sacrament. The most obvious Grace is, of course, the grace of forgiveness of our sins. But there are so many others as well! Through the sacrament of reconciliation, God gives us the grace of peace of heart, the grace of inner healing, the grace to struggle victoriously with temptations that come our way – and so many other graces as well. Repentance is a central element of our Lenten journey. As we come closer to the end of Lent, I urge you to celebrate this sacrament either individually, or at the parish communal penance service on Tuesday evening, April 4 at 7:30 p.m. in our Church. The communal celebration of the Sacrament is a very meaningful experience as we join together as a community in celebration of God’s ever-ready willingness to forgive, renew and strengthen our commitment to live more faithfully as disciples of Christ.

In Him,
Father Liam

Watch Pope Francis go to confession HERE

February 19, 2017

Online Access to Catholic Resources and Entertainment

Dear Parishioners of OMGC,

We have been offered temporary access to FORMED.org for everyone in the parish until the end of February. 

Mr. Rob Shea of the Augustine Institute visited OMGC this morning and demonstrated the portal to Karen Carey and me.  He explained to us the content of FORMED.org - an online portal for an astounding array of resources that can help Catholic individuals and communities to grow in knowledge of our faith and of the Bible and so deepen their faith in Jesus Christ.

Both of us were very impressed by the:

  • Depth and breadth of content
  • Variety of types of media - videos, audio, e-books, feature-length motion pictures (about 100 of them with more on the way), and PDF download study guides, etc.[G3] 
  • Variety of types of content - Scripture, stories, Catholic spirituality, apologetics, sacraments, Church history, the lives of the saints and much more.  
  • Variety of target groups - Young children, older grades, teens, young adults, parenting, families and more.
  • The very high production values that went into the videos and other media. One example: In my previous parish we used Father (now Bishop) Robert Barron's "Catholicism" series one year.  It was exquisitely produced.  At OLGC we paid a few hundred dollars to purchase the "Catholicism" series material.  That entire series is just one of the many resources included in the access we have until the end of this month.

Please feel free to share this log-in info with other members of OMGC.  Mr. Shea said that besides parish members we are free to share it with anyone at all who lives within the geographical boundaries of the parish whether they are parish members or not. 

So use the temporary log-in information below and see what's available.

Let me know what you think.

Peace,
Fr. Liam

Login information:

Website address:   www.formed.org

username: demo@formed.org
password: Beloved (case sensitive)

Note: this login info is good only until the end of February. 

January 29, 2017

What Happens at the Sanctus?

[a shorter version of this letter appears in this Sunday’s bulletin.]

Dear Friends,

All my life I have sung. As a family, we harmonized around our piano as my mother played. My brother and I sang Irish songs together. We both sang in the Glee Club all four years at Bonner. I sang with two different groups in Japan.

I enjoy singing as a member of a chorus. Since returning to the U.S. 21 years ago, I sang 15 years with classical community choruses in Massachusetts and New York. Many of our concerts were choral arrangements of the Latin prayers of the Catholic Mass. The "Mass in B minor" by JS Bach, the Verdi Requiem, the Faure Requiem, the Mozart Requiem, Rossini's "Petite Messe Solonnelle," as well as other Masses.

In all of these pieces, the "Sanctus" (the Holy Holy Holy) is one of the most dramatic and most challenging parts of the Mass. The composers know that these words come from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah and the vision he had of the Seraphim and the other angels of God, gathered around His throne and praising him. It is fascinating to see how every composer has his particular dramatic way of making the chorus sound like angels in a different way so that the people in the audience can almost imagine that they are in Heaven.

Here's the story: One day the prophet Isaiah was in the Temple in Jerusalem (chapter 6), and he experienced what it must be like to be in Heaven, to stand in front of the throne of God. Somehow, the wall or the veil that separates us from Heaven was opened, and he saw this dramatic scene:

In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, with the train of his garment filling the temple.

Seraphim were stationed above; each of them had six wings: with two they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they hovered.

One cried out to the other:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts!
All the earth is filled with his glory!”

At the sound of that cry, the frame of the door shook and the house was filled with smoke.

Curiously, few passages in the Bible portray what happens in Heaven. There is a similar place in the Book of Revelation, chapter 4. Here, instead of "Seraphim" they are called “living creatures":

The four living creatures...do not stop exclaiming: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come."

And every time we celebrate Mass, we pray almost the same words:

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts . . .

For many years now, the Sanctus has been a very pivotal part of the Mass for me. We sing the same words that the Seraphim and other angels and saints sing before the throne of God 24/7! Often when we sing or even say these words, I have the feeling similar to what Isaiah experienced or to what St. John experienced and recorded in the Book of Revelation. I have the feeling that, somehow, the wall or the veil that separates our reality in our church from the reality of what is happening in Heaven is opened or lifted. Somehow, either what we are doing in our church here in Bryn Mawr is joined to the angels and saints gathered before the throne of God, or that what is going on in Heaven, with the angels and saints glorifying God before his throne, is present to us as we glorify God here at OMGC. Somehow, that reality breaks through into our own reality here!

But what does this have to do with our daily lives?

The word “Holy” when applied to God has to do with his infinite Love, Grandeur, his immeasurable Mercy, his Might, his Majesty.

In our daily lives, each of us is called to be holy, but in our case the word “holy” has to do with how close we are to God, how intimate we are with God in our life of prayer and in the way we serve each other. Our holiness is measured in the way we have allowed our hearts, our lives and our behavior to be transformed by His Love.

The God we worship is God All-loving, God Almighty, God All-Holy. And we are called to grow closer to Him in holiness.

Let us take advantage of all the means and graces available to us in the sacraments, in worship, in community, and in growing in the knowledge of the Bible and our faith. Let us grow closer to him, to experience his Holiness, to experience his Love, and to show his love to others.

Peace,
Father Liam

January 8, 2017

New Years Resolutions. And Thanks.

Dear Friends,