Saturday, May 30, 2009

An unusual ministry

I am often asked, "Fr. John, where is your parish?" People are often surprised when I tell them that I am not assigned to a parish, or a school, retreat center, etc. I am called to be a traveling or "itinerant" preacher. I have been doing that now for almost 22 years. I say that I am called because I now consider this role to be my "vocation within a vocation".
Since 1987, based in different locations, I have visited over 330 parishes in the US and Canada (20 US states and 3 Canadian provinces) to preach missions in both English and Spanish. I have also preached several retreats to sisters and a few to my brother priests.
More than anything else my travels and encounters with a wide range of people have given me a good perspective on the mystery that we call Church. So often we think of the Church as the hierarchy, the Vatican, the local bishop, etc. The leaders are indeed important and necessary but I have learned that Church is the good people who keep showing up, struggling to maintain faith and find meaning in their everyday lives amidst economic crises, health problems and tensions in marriages and families. I have been in wealthy places and poor,conservative and liberal, urban, suburban and rural parishes, and been in the midst of people of various cultures, races and languages. What they all have in common is a thirst for God and an assurance that God is with them in their everyday lives.
It is and has been a privilege and an enriching experience to serve in such a ministry and to do so with my brother friars and at times with Franciscan sister and with lay people. It is the oldest Franciscan ministry, along with service to the poor, and I hope to keep on with it until am no longer able.
Just thought you'd like to know what I'm about. My God give you Peace!

My Pentecost reflection can be heard on my podcast channel

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Dialogue--the way forward

Over the past weekend, while I attended the graduation of my niece from Salem State College, another graduation was going on--at Notre Dame University. While many, including a good number of our bishops, denounced the participation of President Obama in the ceremony because of his views on abortion, the president, as well as Fr. Jenkins, the Notre Dame president, took a wonderful step beyond the impasse. Neither of them compromised their own position, but both agreed to seek common ground. Fr. Jenkins made it clear that he stood with the Church on the issue and the president spoke of seeking common ground, of striving to have fewer abortions and making adoption less difficult. the issue was certainly not resolved but I think that progress was made. Can't we do this on so many other issues that face us rather than denouncing people and refusing to let them speak.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Back to the Future

I"m sitting in a room at St. Anthony Shrine in Boston in the middle of a two week journey north from St. Petersburg. It's a journey which began with a look to the past and will end with a look to the future.
This past Saturday, May 9, I was at St. Stephen's Church on E 82nd St. In NY to celebrate the 50th anniversary of preisthood of 7 of our friars, all of whom are still working. It was a wonderful celebration of the lives of men who have served God and God's people over a time when the whole landscape of Church and society went through a seismic shift. These guys, ordained in 1959, celebrated Mass in Latin for several years but then adapted to Vatican II, the sixties, the space age, computers, etc. All of them adapted and changed with the times yet were rooted in faith and the desire to serve God's people. And they're still going strong serving in parishes, preaching missions, working in the foriegn missions, reaching out to the poor. I'm grateful for all of them and for the blessing of serving with one of them--Fr. Rod Petrie, ofm.--for many years in the Ministry of the Word.
Tomorrow, May 16, I will attend the graduation of my niece Michelle from Salem State College, north of Boston. Like many of her peers Michelle has worked hard and fought through many challenges to arrive at this moment. She hopes to work with children and to write children's books. She and her classmates at Salem State and around the country are the future.
If many of them are like Michelle it is a bright future to which we look forward. Congratulations Michelle and my God grant you many happy and wonderful years.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

What is a parish mission

May the Lord give you Peace! Some folks who find there way to this blog and read my profile may wonder, "What is a parish mission?" Basically it is a special preaching event that takes place in Catholic parishes where an outside preacher(s) comes in and guides the parish through a time of spiritual renewal. In Protestant churches it is often called a revival.
The missions that I preach along with my brothers in the Franciscan Ministry of the Word (MOW) involve one or two of us coming to a parish and speaking at all the weekend Masses. On Monday through Wednesday we celebrate a morning Mass with a mission homily and have a one hour service in the evening with prayer, Scripture and presentations on various themes. During the day we may involve ourselves in different ministries of the parish such as religious faith formation of the youth or visitation of the sick. If anyone would like us top come to your parish please go to our website

Also check out my podcasts at

Please keep checking in with this brand new blog. A lot more will follow.

Fr. John

Moving Out and Moving Ahead Cautiosly