Father Liam's Letters

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, Phil Ahr led us 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,

I pray that the New Year will be full of God's blessings peace and joy for you and for your families.

Many start off the New Year with Resolutions - promises to themselves that they are going to do or not do certain things in the New Year. I would like to encourage all of us to resolve to deepen our relationship with Jesus Christ during the next 12 months:

  • Let us resolve to pray every day.
  • Let us resolve to read the Sacred Scriptures and books on Catholic teaching more often.
  • Let us resolve to seek God’s mercy and forgiveness more often in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
  • If Sunday Mass has not been a priority for us, let us resolve to change that.
  • Let us resolve to be more kind and loving to the people around us and to those in need.

Related to these resolutions, click here for a short article by Father Kyle Doustou, a priest of the Diocese of Portland, Maine.  It should take no more than two minutes to read.

I thank everyone who worked so hard to make our celebration of Christmas so beautiful and prayerful. Thanks to Maryann and Paul and all those who helped to decorate the church. Thanks to Jo-Ann, the choir, and the musicians who led us all in our singing and worship. Thanks to all our liturgical ministers – altar servers, ushers, lectors, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion - and to Tom who coordinates them. Thanks to Karen, the PREP teachers, and the children who made our 6 PM Christmas Eve Mass Nativity Gospel pageant come alive. Thanks also to Father John and to Santa Claus! Thanks to Father Jim and Father David who helped us to celebrate. And to everyone I have forgotten to mention. 

Let us pray for Father David Cregan who will be away on sabbatical for the next six months. Let us welcome Father Tom Pohto.  Father Tom will join us in mid-January.

Sincerely,
Father Liam

December 25, 2016

Christmas 2016

Dear Parishioners,

May the gentle Lord Jesus, born on Christmas Day, bring peace into your soul and abundant blessings into your home. May every heart be opened to the Infant Prince of Peace by a fervent reception of the Sacraments of His love.

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.

As I mentioned in a recent letter to you all, 2016 has not been a typical year. We lost Fr. Jack Denny, your beloved pastor and my good friend. As a nation, we have gone through a difficult election season and have entered into a challenging time of transition. And many of us have gone through trying and difficult times on personal and family levels as well.

But there have been blessings too. Personally, I am happy to be back in the Philadelphia area after living and working in other regions for the past 44 years. I am glad to be assigned here with all of you at OMGC. I’m sure that for most of us there have been many reasons to offer thanks to God for His blessings during this past year.

The onslaught of so much advertising and commercialism makes it easy for us forget the true meaning of the holy season of Christmas. As a parish, I think we have done our best this Advent to assist each other in the spiritual preparation for His coming. Let us continue to pray and support each other in our walk with Christ in the coming year.

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

Sincerely in Christ,
Father Liam

December 11, 2016

What’s the Difference between Priest & Friar?

Dear Friends,

Many people ask me, what is the difference between a friar and a priest?  It’s a little bit complicated because a person can be:

  • a friar but not a priest,
  • a priest but not a friar, or
  • both priest and friar at the same time. 

Let me begin to explain by telling you about religious orders.

You have heard about the Jesuits, the Franciscans, the Benedictines and the Dominicans. These groups, plus the Augustinians, and many other groups are called “religious orders.” Usually, most of the members of men’s religious orders are priests, but many of them are brothers. They may never become priests, but they are full members of the order.  They are teachers, counselors, artists, administrators and many other professions.  All members of orders take religious vows.  Poverty, chastity and obedience are the three vows that most of the orders take.  All of them dedicate their lives to Jesus and to the Church.  Among the mendicant orders (Augustinians, Carmelites, Franciscans and Dominicans) all members are called “friars,” a term that comes from the Latin word “frater,” meaning “brother.”

Members of religious orders usually live in community. They pray together, eat together and very often they work and recreate together too. These religious orders have a special “charisms,” or characteristic. For the Franciscans, it’s poverty; for the Dominicans, it’s preaching. For the Benedictines, it is monastic life. For the Augustinians it’s community life, hospitality and a spirit of searching for God.

Religious orders report directly to the Pope, but they are also very much involved in serving the local church.  They can be sent to work almost anywhere.  For instance, I have worked in Troy, NY, Tokyo, Nagasaki, Boston, North Carolina, recently in Staten Island, NY and now here in Bryn Mawr.

The Catholic Church is divided up into regions.  Each region is called a diocese or an archdiocese.  Each of these regions is placed under the care of a bishop or archbishop.  Priests who belong to these regions aid their bishops in the care of the souls of the people of these regions.  They are called diocesan [or archdiocesan] priests. 

Diocesan priests also dedicate themselves to Jesus Christ and to His Church. Unlike members of religious orders, they do not take the three vows, but on the day of their ordination they promise to obey their bishops and make a promise of celibacy.  Most of them will work in parishes, high schools, or in special ministries in their own diocese for all of their life.  They “belong” to the diocese and they “belong” to the bishop. 

Some of you know Father James Sherlock who is pastor of Saint Colman Church in Ardmore.  Both Father Sherlock and I have the same boss.  Our boss is Archbishop Charles Chaput.  The difference is that besides working for Archbishop Chaput, Father Sherlock also “belongs” to Archbishop Chaput as a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  I work for Archbishop Chaput, but I “belong” to the Villanova Province of the Order of Saint Augustine. 

Put another way, Father Jim McBurney, Father John Deary, Brother Bill Harkin and I are all friars.  Fathers Jim, John and I are also priests.  Father Jim Sherlock “belongs” to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, so he is a diocesan priest.  But he is not a friar, since he does not belong to a religious order.   

Whether priest, friar or both, we all try to live lives dedicated to Jesus Christ and to the Church.  Please pray that we all have God’s grace to live out that commitment. 

I hope this letter answers the question in the title.  Please let me know if you have more questions about this topic. 

Peace,
Fr. Liam

Pope Francis Expands Priests’ Confessional Powers

Dear Friends,

In the past few days you have probably seen headlines like:

“Pope Francis allows all priests to forgive sin of abortion”

Just to put this into context, abortion has always been one of the "reserved sins" – very serious sins that were “reserved” for bishops only to forgive. 

Some of the others are:

  • physically attacking the pope
  • a priest absolving his accomplice in sexual sin
  • a bishop ordaining a bishop without papal approval
  • a priest directly breaking the seal of confession
  • an offense like throwing away or desecrating the Holy Eucharist.

The normal process for sins like these went like this: when they were confessed to a priest, the priest had to tell the penitent to come back to the same priest at a future date. In the meantime, the priest had to obtain from the local bishop the permission to absolve this penitent of this sin.

Personally, this restriction has never directly affected me.  By the ancient tradition and practice of the Church, Mendicant friars (Augustinians, Franciscans, Dominicans, Servites, Carmelites and a few others) have been “exempt” from this procedure and allowed to absolve these reserved sins without visiting the bishop.

When I was in Japan, the bishops there had already allowed ALL priests to absolve the sin of abortion. As long as I have been working here in the US, most if not all of the dioceses in the USA have given this authority to all priests who have permission to minister in their jurisdictions. I know that this was specifically the policy in the Archdiocese of NY when I was there and has been so in Philadelphia for a number of years.

Pope Francis had given that authority to all priests worldwide for the Year of Mercy, which ended last Sunday.  He has now expanded it to all priests even after the Holy Year.

This is a wonderful manifestation of God’s mercy!

Through the years it has been a privilege be part of this sacrament, which brings so much peace, healing, forgiveness, comfort and reconciliation to those who seek these things from our loving God.  Abortion has the potential to cause so much pain on so many levels of a person’s being.  Two (of many) reasons for this are the facts that (1) the act runs so much against the grain of the maternal instincts, and (2) it is within the human body that the act takes place.  Often the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the starting place - a very significant starting place – for healing toward wholeness that might take a long time.  As ministers of God’s forgiveness and healing, we priests need to bring the best of God’s mercy and human kindness and understanding to the penitent. 

One thing that has bothered me through the years is that nearly all the people who have come to me as a priest in Confession to seek God’s mercy and forgiveness have been the women whose child has been aborted.  Usually there is a man involved as well.  Most probably the father of the child, but not necessarily. A man who is part of the decision process.  Who perhaps helps make the arrangements.  Or perhaps it is another woman, a sister, cousin or best friend, or even a mother who helps make the decision and/or the arrangements. 

Yet most of the time it seems that it is the baby’s mother alone who is saddled with the heavy moral burden.  When the mother comes to the Sacrament of Reconciliation to seek healing, peace and forgiveness, I rejoice!  But I also worry about the husband, boyfriend, sister, cousin, best friend who also bear the burden of this sin but who perhaps don’t feel the need for healing and peace.  All of these participants need God’s love and mercy.  I could probably count on one hand the number of people who have confessed, “I helped my wife/girlfriend/sister/cousin obtain an abortion.”  I pray for all those who carry this weight and hope that they too seek God’s mercy in the sacrament. 

To sum up, I am happy that Pope Francis has expanded these permissions and hope that this act of his signals the huge expansiveness of God’s love and mercy to all of us sinners. 

Click here to read a recent article about this topic in CatholicPhilly.com. 

In Him,
Fr. Liam
Parochial Administrator