Father Liam's Letters

Roof Work Start Date Nov. 12

Dear Friends,

I am happy to report that the contract for replacing our church roof has been approved by the Archdiocese, by the contractor (Jim Miller, Inc.), and OMGC. Work will begin on or around November 12. Depending on the kind of weather we run into, the roof portion of the project will continue until sometime in February.

Be assured that despite the presence of scaffolding around the church, we have specified with the contractor that all entranceways into the church will remain perfectly accessible and perfectly safe, both on weekends and weekdays during the whole project. Accessibility to the parking lot and to most parking spaces will not be affected during the project.

I will keep you posted on news about the project as things progress. I apologize in advance for any inconveniences this project might entail, but we will try to keep them to a minimum.

The Campaign Committee (for the roof project and for stewardship in general) has been meeting since August.  They will have materials to present to the whole parish soon.  

Parish Conversation in Response to the Present Crisis in the Church. 

Two weeks ago, Dr. Patricia Kelly led us in a difficult but meaningful 2-hour conversation in our Social Center.  I think it helped us express the pain, confusion and frustration that we are feeling.  It helped us to listen to and try to support each other.  This crisis affects us deeply and in many different ways.  Nearly 60 people attended. 

At the end, 30 participants left their names and contact information, expressing a desire to do more about the crisis.  I am grateful to a group of parishioners who have asked Dr. Kelly to come back for another session, tentatively scheduled for the afternoon of Sunday, Dec. 2.  Please watch the bulletin and the Thursday evening email for details.

We continue to pray first of all for the victim-survivors, for each other and for the entire Catholic Church during this difficult time. 

In Him,
Fr. Liam

5 PM Mass Music and Other Things

Dear Friends,

Tonight I’m writing not about one theme but to update you on various things that have come up.

Music at the 5 PM Saturday Mass.  The “Sunset Liturgy” group has provided extraordinary, prayerful music on the first Sunday of each month at the 11:15 Mass for about 5 years.  The group has that name because they used to play at the Sunday Evening Mass until it was discontinued.  Because of family and professional obligations, the group is no longer able to accompany our worship on Sunday mornings but has offered to switch to the first Saturday of each month, for most months of the year.  They may still play on Sunday mornings a few times a year for special occasions.

Their first 5 PM Saturday Mass will be on October 6th.  Let’s show our appreciation for the wonderful music they provide us. 

October 7 – Parish Conversation in Response to PA Grand Jury Report and Cover-ups in the Hierarchy. 
Just a reminder: we have asked Dr. Patricia Kelly to moderate a Parish Conversation to enable all of us to express the pain that we are feeling and to listen to and support each other. Dr. Kelly is proficient in moderating these kinds of events. I hope that as many of you as are able will join us for this meeting. 

This event will take place from 1 PM to 3 PM on Sunday, October 7 in the Social Center.  Father John will lead us in a simple prayer service at the beginning. 

October 17 - Holy Hour.  Father John will lead a Holy Hour to pray for all those affected by clergy sexual abuse and the cover-up at 7 PM, Wednesday, October 17.  The Holy Hour will include Exposition and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the Rosary, and other prayers.  It will end with Benediction. 

Letter from Archbishop Chaput. Archbishop Chaput has sent a letter to all parishes to about the present crisis that he wants to be read at all Masses this Sunday.  You can view or download the letter by clicking HERE.  In the letter, the Archbishop speaks about the commitment of the bishops of Pennsylvania in developing programs to help abuse survivors.  He also urges all of us to pray the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel.  In a separate letter to priests, Archbishop Chaput directs us to recite this prayer after the dismissal of every Mass.  So we’ll do that after the dismissal and before the last hymn at Masses starting this Sunday. 

Letter from Joanne Crystle. Last Monday evening at the Liturgy Committee meeting, our organist, Joanne Crystle, shared with us a very thoughtful, prayerful, and at the same time hopeful letter.  She shares her thoughts about the recent crisis and our response to it.  You can view or download the letter by clicking Here. Thanks, Joanne!

Emergency Collection for Hurricane Florence Relief. The Archdiocese has asked us to take up a second collection for the victims of Hurricane Florence on the weekend of October 13-14.  Please be as generous as your means allow.  

Let us continue to pray for each other during this difficult time. 

In Him,
Fr. Liam

Plaster Chips in our Pews

Dear Friends,

Most of us carry around cameras in our pockets these days. Just over a week ago I walked into the Church a couple days after we had that terrible rainstorm. There were plaster chips all over the third and forth pews and surrounding floor on the railroad side of the church. I'm kind of kicking myself right now that I didn't pull out my camera/smartphone and take a few photos that I could have sent you with this letter. Paul Umaña was cleaning them up. There was probably enough to cover the bottom of his dustpan.

A few days later I climbed up between the ceiling and the roof of the church with our facilities manager, Joe Carey. It was my first time to visit that space. Joe climbed along the narrow spaces to get to the spot where the leak had occurred, to spread some plastic sheeting to prevent a repeat of this kind of damage. This, of course, is a temporary remedy. We as a parish have known for quite a while that our existing roof needs to be replaced.

Two weeks ago in this email, I sent you updates on three projects: The Social Center, the friary kitchen, and the church roof. The members of the Finance Council, the parish staff, Fr. John and I have been discussing the structure and makeup of the campaign committee to raise funds for the roof. We already have a few volunteers, and I will begin contacting parishioners to invite them to participate in that team in the next week.

In light of the publication of the grand jury report last week, some have wondered as to whether or not this is the best time to begin this campaign. People are justifiably angry, frustrated, and discouraged by the horrific stories recounted in the report, and the cover-up by church leaders that compounded and multiplied the crimes committed against the innocent. As you know, I addressed this scandalous situation last week’s email and at Mass on Sunday, as did Fr. John. We intend to speak out and respond to the situation as is necessary.

We need to work through our rightful anger, praying for and assisting the victims of abuse and their families, and urging structural changes in the institutional church. Archbishop Chaput has called for an evening of prayer and reparation on Friday, September 14. Please see the link below for more details.

Also, see Pope Francis's letter to us regarding the abuse and cover-up.

While doing this, we cannot neglect the physical needs of our church building, whereas a Christian community we offer our prayers and our love for God, and have done so for 120 years. The process is already well begun, and we are waiting for only one or two approvals before we give the go-ahead for the work to begin.

Please keep the committee and their work in your prayers.

In Him,
Fr. Liam

P.S.:

As mentioned last week, we will offer Masses for the Victims of Abuse this Sunday, August 26 at 9:30 AM and on Sunday, September 2 at 11:15 AM. Please pray for them in your daily prayers and rosaries as well.

A Prayer Vigil of Reparation and Petition – September 14:

http://archphila.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Have-Mercy-flyer.pdf

Letter of the Holy Father Francis to the People of God:

http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2018/08/20/180820a.html

If you are a victim-survivor in need of assistance, please contact someone at the Archdiocesan Office for Victim Assistance:
888.800.8780 • philavac@archphila.org

More information at:
https://childyouthprotection.org/index.php/victim-assistance/overview-of-services

August 23, 2018

The PA Grand Jury Report

Dear Friends,

“Gut-wrenching,” “heart-breaking,” “unspeakably awful,” “painful,” “horrific” – these are only some of the adjectives that come to mind when reading the stories of the victim-survivors spoken of in Tuesday’s Grand Jury Report.  They have suffered so much for so long!  And at the hands of men who knew better!  Wrong decisions, by church leaders whose priorities were so sorely misplaced, contributed to their continued suffering. 

Every time a new revelation surfaces, such as the McCarrick story in June and now this report, we are filled with sorrow for the victim-survivors.  At the same time we are heartsick over how this affects our fellow-Catholics and the majority of good, faithful priests we know.  Things like this can shake our confidence in the church and shatter trust in people we love and respect. 

Hard work and vigilance have brought about genuine progress in the protection of minors over the past 15 years in the US Catholic Church.  We must remain vigilant.  The vast majority of situations in the report were pre-2002.  Still, I believe the Church needs reform.  More laity (especially women) should be enlisted to help assess, evaluate and reform structures that allowed these tragic situations to exist and continue. 

Scripture shows us time and again that God can make good out of evil. My hope is that in this dark time God will help us to become a more loving, a more faithful church.  We need to work hard and to pray hard – for the victim-survivors and for the church! 

I invite you to offer Masses with me for the Victims of Abuse on Sunday, August 26 at 9:30 AM and on Sunday, September 2 at 11:15 AM.  Please pray for them in your daily prayers and rosaries as well. 

In Him,
Fr. Liam

If you are a victim-survivor in need of assistance, please contact someone at the Archdiocesan Office for Victim Assistance:
888.800.8780 • philavac@archphila.org

More information at:
https://childyouthprotection.org/index.php/victim-assistance/overview-of-services

August 16, 2018

Social Center, Rectory Kitchen, and Church Roof

Dear Friends,

At the Parish-wide meeting a few months ago, I spoke about three parish projects that were in progress or in planning. I’d like to update you on them today.

Social Center. Many of you have already seen the beautiful new windows in the Social Center. We installed new air conditioning and heating units. Most of the work on the new ADA compliant restrooms has been done, and they will be fully functional within a very short time. A shout-out to Joe Carey for the hard work and planning that he has put in on this project.

Rectory Kitchen. Since at least the 1950s very little work had been done on the friary (rectory) kitchen except for the occasional coat of paint and replacement of worn-out appliances. Since the beginning of June, Pine Street Carpenters has done an excellent job of modernizing the kitchen. They predict completion by this weekend. Many thanks to Fr. Jim McBurney for his leadership on this project!

Church Roof. 30 years ago, Fr. Jim Martinez and the OMGC parishioners did an excellent job of beautifying the interior of our church. Now it is our turn to pay due attention to the roof and exterior in order to preserve our church as the locus of our worship of God and our growth as a Catholic Christian community. We have a debt of gratitude toward the people who came before us and sacrificed so much for the parish. We have a responsibility toward each other in our present community and to our children, grandchildren and all who will come after us here at OMGC. These repairs will be an essential investment in our future. Most of you are aware that especially during severe storms, we sometimes have problems with leaks coming through the ceiling. Water damage, if ignored, can destroy a church.

Besides the roof, we need to make exterior repairs to stonework, copper work, and moldings around the stained glass windows.

With solid guidance from an expert consultant from the Archdiocese, we put the project out to bid to three companies and selected Miller Roofing in Ardmore to do the job. We are now in the process of getting the contract approved through the Archdiocese. If all goes according to plan, work should start early in the fall.

At the same time, we have been quietly soliciting donations for this project from among some of our parishioners and friends of the parish. Between your contributions to the annual appeal over the past four years, a generous gift from a deceased parishioner, and the donations mentioned above, we have raised $550,000 of our projected goal of $1,300,000.

At our Parish Finance Council meeting this past Monday evening, we decided to form a Campaign Committee to raise the rest of the funds we will need to pay for this critical project. We are currently recruiting members for this committee. The kick-off date for the campaign will probably be in early October. I will keep you informed.Please pray for the success of this very important work! 

In Him,
Fr. Liam

August 9, 2018

Looking Forward; Moving Forward

Dear Friends,

Monday evening the Parish Pastoral Council met for the first time after the summer recess.  We spent considerable time discussing the recent scandal and cover-up and the ways it affects us here at OMGC.  We also finalized and approved the Parish Pastoral Plan that we have been working on for over a year.  We will publish that for all to read before this time next week. 

October 7 – Parish Conversation in Response to PA Grand Jury Report and Cover-ups in the Hierarchy. 

As I said last week in this space, the revelations of abuse and cover-ups have left most of us very upset, confused, disillusioned, and angry.  As Fr. Denny did seven years ago in a similar situation, we have asked Dr. Patricia Kelly to moderate a Parish Conversation to enable all of us to express the pain that we are feeling and to listen to and support each other.

Dr. Kelly is proficient in moderating these kinds of events. I’m sure that many of you remember how helpful she was to the OMGC community the previous time she came.  I hope that as many of you as are able will join us for this meeting. 

This event will take place from 1 PM to 3 PM on Sunday, October 7 in the Social Center.  Father John will lead us in a simple prayer service at the beginning. 

Friday Evening, September 14 - Prayer Vigil of Reparation and Petition

Please consider attending the Prayer Vigil of Reparation and Petition at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral tomorrow evening to ask for God's mercy upon His Church in this moment of profound crisis.  Father John and I plan to attend at least part of this event.  Here’s the schedule:

5 PM - Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament
7 PM - Holy Hour of Reparation
12 AM - Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament

Please click below for more information: 

http://archphila.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/HaveMercyflyer.pdf

I mentioned in a recent homily that we might also want to observe next Wednesday, Friday and Saturday (Sept. 19, 21 and 22), the traditional Fall Ember Days, as days of fasting and prayer of petition and reparation for the healing of the survivors and the reform of our church.    

Let us continue to pray first of all for the victim-survivors, then for each other and for the entire Catholic Church during this difficult time.

In Him,
Fr. Liam

A Few Updates

Dear Friends,

I do not have one specific thing to address in tonight’s email, but I will update you on some things that are going on or are being planned for in the parish.

Town Hall Meeting/Listening Session.  The revelations of the past few weeks have left most of us very upset, confused, disillusioned, and angry. Many of you have shared with me your thoughts and feelings on these matters. As Fr. Denny did 7 years ago in a similar situation, we have decided to hold a town meeting-style listening session to enable all of us to express the pain that we are feeling, and to listen to each other. I have contacted a mental health professional who is proficient in moderating these kinds of events. As soon as we have the details of time and place nailed down, I will let you know what we are going to do. We want to hold this event soon - in the next two weeks or so. 

Parish Council. The council will hold its first meeting after our summer recess this coming Monday evening. Among the things that we will be discussing this month and in the near future are:

o    The impact of the recent scandals
o    Finalize the Parish Pastoral Plan
o    Address the revision of the current council by-laws
o    Spring 2019 elections for council some seats

The Roof.  Currently, we are awaiting one piece of documentation that is still needed by the archdiocese before work on the roof can begin. At the same time, we are organizing the campaign committee to raise funds for the roof. I thank all of you who have already generously contributed to this project, including the very generous anonymous donor whose check arrived today.

Let us continue to pray for each other during this difficult time. 

In Him,
Fr. Liam

P.S.: Please consider attending the Prayer Vigil of Reparation and Petition at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral on Friday evening, September 14th to ask for God's mercy upon His Church in this moment of profound crisis.  Please click below for more information: 

http://archphila.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/HaveMercyflyer.pdf

 

 

The PA Grand Jury Report

Dear Friends,

“Gut-wrenching,” “heart-breaking,” “unspeakably awful,” “painful,” “horrific” – these are only some of the adjectives that come to mind when reading the stories of the victim-survivors spoken of in Tuesday’s Grand Jury Report.  They have suffered so much for so long!  And at the hands of men who knew better!  Wrong decisions, by church leaders whose priorities were so sorely misplaced, contributed to their continued suffering. 

Every time a new revelation surfaces, such as the McCarrick story in June and now this report, we are filled with sorrow for the victim-survivors.  At the same time we are heartsick over how this affects our fellow-Catholics and the majority of good, faithful priests we know.  Things like this can shake our confidence in the church and shatter trust in people we love and respect. 

Hard work and vigilance have brought about genuine progress in the protection of minors over the past 15 years in the US Catholic Church.  We must remain vigilant.  The vast majority of situations in the report were pre-2002.  Still, I believe the Church needs reform.  More laity (especially women) should be enlisted to help assess, evaluate and reform structures that allowed these tragic situations to exist and continue. 

Scripture shows us time and again that God can make good out of evil. My hope is that in this dark time God will help us to become a more loving, a more faithful church.  We need to work hard and to pray hard – for the victim-survivors and for the church! 

I invite you to offer Masses with me for the Victims of Abuse on Sunday, August 26 at 9:30 AM and on Sunday, September 2 at 11:15 AM.  Please pray for them in your daily prayers and rosaries as well. 

In Him,
Fr. Liam

If you are a victim-survivor in need of assistance, please contact someone at the Archdiocesan Office for Victim Assistance:
888.800.8780 • philavac@archphila.org

More information at:
https://childyouthprotection.org/index.php/victim-assistance/overview-of-services

Statement from U.S. Bishops’ Conference on Failures of Judgment by Church Leaders

Dear Friends, 

I’m sure that most of you recently have read or heard about the accusations made against the former Cardinal McCarrick.  I had planned to write to you this week concerning this situation, but yesterday the president of the USCCB, Cardinal DiNardo published a statement (see below) that expresses very well the emotions of disappointment, shame and frustration that so many of us experience when thinking about these developments.  He also notes how bishops intend to determine their next steps. 

A small but very real consolation is that despite the present bad news, there has been real change in the past 17 years. 

Because of the consistent and thorough training and vigilance which has characterized the Catholic Church in the US since 2002, the Church and it’s related groups have become among the safest places for children to be in contemporary America. So much so, that many organizations that serve and minister to young people now look to the Catholic Church to find the tools and methods to protect them.

Cardinal DiNardo mentions four points at the end of his statement. All of them are important, especially the last one – that we all need to turn away from sin and seek the grace of spiritual conversion. The only thing I would add to that is to urge all of us to pray for healing and justice for the victims and to pray for the Church as a whole, that we may become more and more a place of healing and compassion for those who come to seek God’s presence.

In God’s peace,
Father Liam

President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Issues Statement on Course of Action Responding to Moral Failures of Judgment on the Part of Church Leaders

August 1, 2018

WASHINGTON—Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has issued the following statement noting the steps the U.S. Bishops Conference will take in addressing the failures of the Church in protecting the people of God.    

Cardinal DiNardo's full statement follows:

“The accusations against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick reveal a grievous moral failure within the Church. They cause bishops anger, sadness, and shame; I know they do in me. They compel bishops to ask, as I do, what more could have been done to protect the People of God.  Both the abuses themselves, and the fact that they have remained undisclosed for decades, have caused great harm to people’s lives and represent grave moral failures of judgment on the part of Church leaders.

These failures raise serious questions. Why weren’t these allegations of sins against chastity and human dignity disclosed when they were first brought to Church officials? Why wasn’t this egregious situation addressed decades sooner and with justice? What must our seminaries do to protect the freedom to discern a priestly vocation without being subject to misuse of power?

Archbishop McCarrick will rightly face the judgment of a canonical process at the Holy See regarding the allegations against him, but there are also steps we should be taking as the Church here in the United States. Having prayed about this, I have convened the USCCB Executive Committee.  This meeting was the first of many among bishops that will extend into our Administrative Committee meeting in September and our General Assembly in November. All of these discussions will be oriented toward discerning the right course of action for the USCCB. This work will take some time but allow me to stress these four points immediately.

First, I encourage my brother bishops as they stand ready in our local dioceses to respond with compassion and justice to anyone who has been sexually abused or harassed by anyone in the Church.  We should do whatever we can to accompany them.

Second, I would urge anyone who has experienced sexual assault or harassment by anyone in the Church to come forward.  Where the incident may rise to the level of a crime, please also contact local law enforcement.

Third, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will pursue the many questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick’s conduct to the full extent of its authority; and where that authority finds its limits, the Conference will advocate with those who do have the authority.  One way or the other, we are determined to find the truth in this matter.

Finally, we bishops recognize that a spiritual conversion is needed as we seek to restore the right relationship among us and with the Lord. Our Church is suffering from a crisis of sexual morality. The way forward must involve learning from past sins.

Let us pray for God’s wisdom and strength for renewal as we follow St. Paul’s instruction: ‘Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect’ (Romans 12:2).”

Beware of “Gift Card” Scam

Dear Friends,

The Archdiocese has advised us that there is a nationwide scam that has affected several parishes in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. This particular scam is titled the “Gift Card” scam.

In this scam, the parishioners of a parish are the targets. An unknown person creates an e-mail address account which contains the pastor’s name or the name of the church. An e-mail is then sent to the parishioners requesting them to purchase a gift card and proceeded to tell the unknown person the numbers off of the back of the cards. After the person received the numbers, they stopped sending emails.

Please beware of this or any other internet-based attempt by dishonest people to separate you from your hard-earned money. 

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