Friday, June 26, 2009

Getting focused

Over the past two months this blog has become a truly exciting adventure for me. As it has evolved and the viewer list keeps growing some questions have been raised in my mind regarding what direction, what focus will this blog take.

I received many positive e-mails on my Corpus Christi homily as well as some constructive criticism which I intend to put into practice. As people started asking me however if "next Sunday's homily will be onyour blog and YouTube page Fr. John,"I stopped and thought, "Is that what I want to do?" Though I was flattered by the desire to have my homilies available, I realized that at this time I was not in a position to that every week, or even almost every week.

What I have realized more clearly is that this blog is intended to be an extension of my ministry as a member of the Franciscan Ministry of the Word (MOW). What is it that we in the MOW try to do. While some of my brother friars my use different words to answer that question my way of answering it is this--We try to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ in such a way that people will come to see how God is involved in the nitty-gritty of their everyday lives.

With that in mind my entries on this blog will have that focus. I will post on YouTube some short versions of the talks presented on parish missions and hope to have some video clips from my brother friars as well as others who preach the Word. I will occasionally put up a Sunday homily and will comment on my own experience of meeting people and seeing how the good Lord is at work in their lives.

My first video reflection--A God of Tremendous love can be seen on my YouTube page

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Father's Day and calming the waters

Greetings to one and all from Eagle River, WI.

Tomorrow is Father's Day. I will be speaking of that in my Sunday homily. The Gospel text of the day is the story of Jesus calming the waters. MMmmmm. How do these two things fit together?

It's no secret that the role of fathers has changed. As I travel around I note that many men's rooms in roadside rest areas have baby changing areas--and they are used. Dads are doing many things that only mom did twenty or thirty years ago--cooking, cleaning, child care, etc. I think that is all for the good. There are also dads who are divorced or separated, but who still have contact with their kids and who are involved in their lives. Behind all of this there is one thing, I think, that good fathers have always done--teach their kids to get through difficult times. My father, who died in January of 2007, did that for me.

Let's take a look at today's gospel passage (Mark 4, 35-41). Mark has Jesus asleep on a cushion in the back of the boat (peculiar?) while the disciples are fighting the wind and the waves. They wake him in a panic and ask why he is not doing something about the situation. He promptly calms the seas but also rebukes the disciples for their lack of faith. What's that all about. Doesn't the fact that they call upon him indicate their faith? Not really. When we take a deeper look we realize that He has sent them and us the Spirit so that we can get through stormy waters without asking Him to do it. So often we look for the "divine bailout plan" instead of using the gifts that god gives us.

So it is with fathers and children. When we're young Dad and Mom do things for us. We need that. We're totally dependent on them. Like Jesus they little by little teach us how to navigate the stormy waters of life and give us the confidence that we can do so. That is the challenge to all fathers, of all types. That is what good dads have been doing for years.

Happy Father's Day to all the fathers who read this blog. Let us pray for strength and healing for those dads who struggle to do this. And let us thank God and remember in prayer our fathers and grandfathers who are now with God.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

On Being a Franciscan

Hello again dear friends,

Having just finished a reflection on priesthood a few e-mails asked for one on being a Franciscan. I will do one of my own on this topic later in the summer but for now thought I would share an article written by our vice-provincial, Dominic Monti, OFM in The Evangelist, the newspaper of the diocese of Albany, NY Just click and read

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Year of the priest--A personal reflection

Greetings to all. I am on the move this week and will arrive in Eagle River on Friday evening. Once I get there I will resume my YouTube videos.

Pope Benedict XVI has declared the coming year to be a year of the priesthood. He has asked for prayers for priests and has called us to be more holy, more truly men of prayer. There are many challenges for us priests today, e.g. a decrease of credibility and respect due to the sexual abuse scandals of recent years. There are also issues of who should be ordained--women, married people, etc. I will not address those in this reflection though they loom on the horizon and cannot be swept under the rug. What I will do instead is offer some thoughts on what 38 years of priestly ministry have meant to me.

Let me begin by saying that these 38 years have been rewarding and fulfilling beyond my wildest imagination. I entered the seminary in 1962, just as the Vatican council was opening and was ordained on May 22, 1971. During my years of formation I witnessed a profound change in the church and in society. I found myself questioning both my country and my Church, yet learned with the help of some great teachers to love both more deeply because I did question.

Upon ordination I was thrilled to celebrate the Eucharist, hear confessions and celebrate the other Sacraments as well. As I young priest I was amazed at the trust that people older and wiser than me put in me, opening their hearts and confiding their deepest secrets to me, simply because I was a priest. It was humbling to say the least and continues to be so as i witness God touching peoples lives not because of any skills of mine but because of His grace.

In 1975 I made a marriage encounter. What this experience for married couples gave me as a priest was a profound love and respect for the Sacrament of Matrimony and a realization that the priesthood was not to be defined by the functions I carried, but as a relationship of love with God's people. The functions--celebrating sacraments, providing pastoral care and leadership, flowed from that.

Since then, whether it has been serving in parishes, going to the missions in Bolivia, or preaching missions and retreats, which I have done for 21 years now, I have been continually blessed by contact with so many people who have become true friends and who while truly respecting my priesthood know me as a man, as a human being. I am a better priest because of this. they keep me grounded in the real world.

Along with all of the above has been the gift of not only serving the laity as a priest, but of ministering along with so many different women and men and discovering how our various gifts and roles compliment each other. As we move into the Church's future we need to embrace and empower lay people as ministers and most especially to call forth women to take their rightful place in the ministry of the Church.

Lastly, but most importantly, I personally could not have grown and thrived as a priest were I not a Franciscan. Our fraternal life as friars has given my life as a priest a dimension of being a brother to all as well as of support in my own life that I could not do without.

I do hope that all who read this will continue to pray for us priests and challenge us to move into the future of a Church which is truly open to all.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

YouTube Clip

Hello one and all,

I've added a homily for this Sunday's feast of Corpus Christi. Also some of you had trouble accessing YouTube. I think that if you click on the connection now it should go smoothly.

Fr. John

Monday, June 8, 2009

An Immigrant Church

I recently received an e-mail copy from an Eagle River parishioner of an article entitled Newark: Immigrant Church is its history and future. As I read the article which is about the archdioces of Newark, NJ, where I spent many years of my priestly ministry I was lead to reflect on my present experience as a traveling preacher. I speak Spanish and often find myself, along with the other friars on our Ministry of the Word team, preaching missions to Hispanic congregations in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. Most of the folks I meet are from Mexico and Central America, though in south Florida they are predominantly Cuban. There are a good number from South America as well. Besides the Spanish speaking peoples, with whom I am more familiar, I have met immigrants from Vietnam, the Phillipines and from various African countries.
What are we, as Catholics, to make of this contemporary immigrant experience? What can we learn from the immigrants? What challenges face us.
Since I am writing a blog entry and not an extensive article I will make some brief observations and hope that my readers might comment.
The folks I have met are mostly poor people with a deep and simple faith, even in the face of adversity, that quite frankly is humbling and inspiring for me. Simple though they are they are not naive and so are less easily scandalized by issues like abusive priests, though they are still troubled by this problem.
Their faith practice is more devotional, and in that sense more conservative. On the other hand they don't blindly accept everything that comes from leaders. They will speak up, though they are less likely to protest than we are. Many of them are illegal, undocumented. This can be a challenge for parishioners who look down on them for that, though I like to remind folks that if you are baptized you are a legal member of the Body of Christ.
Immigrants are arriving in large numbers (though less so with the slowing economy) and tend to have larger families and will shape, simply by their numbers, the future of our Church. Are we open to learning from them and welcoming them into our parishes as full members, not just as folks we allow to have Mass in their own language?
Finally, with the shortage of priests in our country, American priests are challenged to learn new languages and customs to serve them better. Also more foreign priests are being invited in to serve us here in this country. What are we to make of this?

You can check out the article to which I refer at

My Summer Ministry

Every year at this time I get my room here in St. Petersburg cleaned up well and start packing for my trip north to Wisconsin where I spend the summer months ministering at St. Peter the Fisherman parish in Eagle River, WI.
My time in Eagle River is enjoyable and gives me a taste of regular parish ministry. I also feel that I am fulfilling a real need there as the pastor, Fr. Bob Koszarek, has two other churches to attend to, in addition to St. Peter's. Eagle River is a great vacation spot for folks from southern Wisconsin and Illinois, as well as other neighboring states, and extra weekend Masses are called for during the summer months.
Most importantly the people of St. Peter's parish as well as St. Albert's in Land O'lakes and St. Mary's in Phelps have become a part of the fabris of my life. I look forward to seeing them, cathching upo on what's been going on in our lives, and joining in on the various special activities of each parish during the summer, not to mention the many invites I get to dinner and to boat rides on the chain of 28 lakes that is there.
During the last week of July I will sing in the POPS River Revival choir, an ecumenical choir at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, an event that now holds a special place in my heart. In August I will walk with the parish team in the American Cancer Society Relay for life as a grateful cancer survivor. I will post more about that when the time comes. I will also be conducting a 4 week adult faith formation series beginning in late July.
I am due there on June 19 and I can't wait.
You might want to check out the St. Peter's website at

Moving Out and Moving Ahead Cautiosly