2/1/2023 Wednesday Message
One of my favorite events of the year is being able to witness First Reconciliation. It is such a blessing to watch students go into the confessional nervous and come out at ease and almost shining with grace. I can remember feeling like that as a kid as well. Feeling lighter and almost giddy after going to confession. I didn’t know why; it just was the way it was. Children are so humble and receptive that I think God delights in filling them up with grace. They just come to him with open hands and receive his mercy so fully.
As adults, the simple acceptance of God’s love is sometimes more difficult and mistaken as something we need to earn or don’t deserve. The truth is that we will never deserve it, but that it is given to us nonetheless as a completely free gift. We just need to get over ourselves and accept it. Our feelings of shame stand in the way of our being open vessels to God’s mercy. We have to work harder at accepting the fact that our sin isn’t bigger than God’s love and that there is no price tag on God’s love. It’s open to everyone, at all times, no matter what we’ve done or who we are.
It took me a long time to realize this in my own life. As I’ve mentioned before, I fell away from the Church after high school. It took my own daughter receiving her First Reconciliation to get me to go back to the sacrament of reconciliation after 16 years. I dreaded it. I didn’t want to admit to all of the stupid things I had done in my young adulthood. In fact, I had convinced myself that my sin wasn’t that big of a deal and didn’t really affect me. After I finally went to confession, my life started to change. It was a slow change, but I can still point to that confession as when my life started to make change. My anxiety started to fade away, I was happier, my life started to make more sense, and I had a deep sense of peace starting to take root in my soul.
My challenge to everyone, including myself, is to try to receive God’s mercy in confession like a child does. Believe that you really are forgiven and live as if you’ve been given the most wonderful gift imaginable, because you have. God delights in filling you up with grace just as much as He desires you to run to him with open hands and receive His mercy.
1/25/2023 Wednesday Message
Praised be Jesus Christ! With a new year comes lots of new things. For myself, it seems like a lot of new appointments on my calendar, almost all of them wedding and baptism preparation meetings. What a joy! Some of my favorite things at the parish are helping couples prepare for marriage and prepare for a child’s baptism. The only thing better is actually doing the weddings and baptisms! I look at these two moments, the moment when a family is formed and when a family is increased, as profound opportunities for God to be especially present. Even if a couple has been far from the Church or simply fell away from practicing their faith, both marriage and baptism help to open their eyes to the great mystery of creation and God’s unconditional love for them. First, when a couple becomes one flesh, we see in a particular way God blessing a natural union, but more than a blessing, a sacrament. That is, in a unique way God elevates the love of a husband and wife to reflect the mystery of his love for us and the Church. Then God invites that same couple to participate in creation (even if a couple isn’t able to have a child, God still calls them to fruitfulness in some way). I don’t believe I have met a couple that hasn’t been humbled at the birth of their child; how they are called to sacrifice so much, but do it willingly out of love. In the greatest act of love, the couple, through their child’s baptism, gives their child entry into God’s covenant; God’s everlasting covenant, by which we have the opportunity for eternal life in heaven.
These are just some musings on the profound moments I’m blessed to accompany people in, but each of us is afforded these same opportunities to encounter God every day! In particular through our daily prayer, but profoundly in the healing and forgiveness offered in confession, but most profoundly in the Eucharist at Mass and in adoration. In all these ways and in many more, God calls each of us everyday into the depths of His love. He calls us to eternity.
Fr. Brandon Guenther
1/18/2023 Wednesday Message
Hello and happy new year!
With the new year comes new opportunities, new sorrows, new joys, new struggles, and new discoveries. These things we expect with the coming of the new year. They are inevitable. Many of us are also looking at new ways to live our lives with new year's resolutions like eating better, exercising more, or getting out of bad habits. In this new year, why not look for a new way to consistently choose to love God more? Especially the goodness that he has placed in you and in your life.
I think about many of our volunteers who are remarkable examples of this. A volunteer with artistic skills volunteering to decorate the church. A volunteer with leadership skills volunteering to help with a church project. A volunteer with administrative skills volunteering to coordinate other volunteers for Sojourner House, Agnes Table, SCRIP, or the Homebound Ministry. I don’t know if all of these volunteers have thought about this, but they have taken something that God has given them and are using it to give Him glory!
If you’re wondering what it would look like to find a new way to love God this year, there are Adoration hours available, needs for volunteers in different areas, and things you can do in your everyday life to love Him more. You could choose one song to listen to every morning and sing the Lord’s praises. You could give up drinking anything but water on one day of the week. St. Therese and her little way was all about looking to do ordinary things with extraordinary love; let that be a guide for you!
I hope you will also take me up on an invitation of self-discovery. Find something good that our good Father has placed in you. Give Him thanks for this gift and seek ways to love Him more by using this gift. If you are not sure how to use a gift, go ahead and call the parish office, or, if you are a Notre Dame parishioner, please just give me a call!
Let this year be a year of new discoveries! Discovery of God’s love for you and discovery of how you can love Him in return! Let me know how your journey with this is going, I’d be delighted to hear about it!
1/11/2023 Wednesday Message
Friends, in my time as a Catholic evangelist and catechist, I have observed two practices (in addition to a personal sacramental and prayer life, which are essential) in the life of a Christian disciple that are particularly impactful: (1) study of Sacred Scripture (2) and spiritual mentorship/accompaniment. I invite you to see what is happening in OLF Catholic Community below, and consider if you might be poised to encounter God in either or both of these areas.
1. Want to dive deeper into Sacred Scripture? Our Lady of the Falls is excited to be offering two new Bible Studies: on the Gospel of Matthew and the Salvation History. Both Bible Studies are offered during the week on Tuesday at 9:30am in the GREC.
The Gospel of Matthew: Just in time for the readings for the year C Mass readings, take a deep dive into the Gospel of Matthew and unlock the hidden treasures of the most famous synoptic Gospel! All are welcome to join this 16 week Bible Study, which begins January 3rd. If you are interested in joining this study group, email Deana at firstname.lastname@example.org
Salvation History: Does the "big picture" of the Bible confuse you? Buckle in for a fast paced journey through the Bible and witness the breathtaking harmony of God's plan to save his people! All are welcome to join this 14 week Bible Study, which begins January 10th. If you are interested in joining this study group, email John at email@example.com.
Note: Do you have experience leading a Bible Study small group or would you like to learn? Our Lady of the Falls is offering small group formation to equip all Catholics to understand and share Sacred Scripture though Bible Studies. For more info, contact John at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Spiritual mentorship and accompaniment goes hand in hand with following Christ in His Church. We are all in need of authentic friendship with other people who are running after Christ. (The alternative is what the Devil prefers: isolation and autonomous practice of our faith.) For example, those seeking to enter the Church in OCIA are urgent need of vibrant and joyful Catholics who are exciting about living and sharing their Catholic faith! As such, I invite you to consider: how is God calling you to share your faith with others, to "mentor" or "accompany" them spiritually in authentic friendships? While we are need of growing our team of OCIA sponsors as we look to the future, accompanying others in their faith journey is more fundamental that OCIA. It starts in our lives today, as God has currently arranged them. As such, I invite you explore what being a spiritual mentor/sponsor might look like for you: check out "Sponsor Formation Night" this Monday (1/16) at 6:25pm in the GREC Joseph Room. (We will meet in the Joseph room briefly before moving to a different room.) There will be a 90 minute session on the practicals of discipleship and how to walk with another person in the faith. There will also be plenty of time for questions and insights for getting started. For more info, contact John at email@example.com.
Know of my prayers for you!
1/4/2023 Wednesday Message
Evangelization is one of the most frightening words in Church for many of us. It is one of those things that we want “others” to do. However, evangelization is not the work of a few but is supposed to be the work of all us in the Church. I have always wanted to bring others to Christ, because my life with Him is sure better than it was without Him. But I felt that if I am just a good person and do churchy things then others will see that and come to want what I have in Christ. While that is a great start, it is often not enough. People most often need to be invited into the faith by someone they see living the faith. This is where I have so many times got hung up. I didn’t want to be that guy that pushed Jesus on people.
Recently though John Shakal has been helping me through a book that Focus ministries www.focus.org uses on college campuses called Foundations of Discipleship by Curtis Martin and Edward Sri. While we are in the early stages of this book study, I can already see places where I can evangelize that I have been missing. For example, when someone casually asks me how I am doing, I don’t have to give the canned answer of “fine”. Instead, I can share with them the joy I have due to Jesus being part of my life! I need to be ready and maybe even practice a bit, about how to respond to people that ask me why I am joyful. I also need to remind myself that if I am not radiating peace, joy and love then why would anyone want what I have in Jesus? Think twice the next time someone asks how you are doing, and be ready with an answer that gives witness to the joy in your life that is found in Jesus Christ!
Do you feel unprepared or nervous about sharing the Gospel (evangelizing)? Check out these simple evangelization tips from Fr. Mike Schmitz.
Deacon Kevin DeCook
12/28/2022 Wednesday Message
Good morning! You might be one of the people who is reading this email first thing in the morning - you wake up, grab your phone, and dive right into the business of the day. Whether you are an early riser or a slow starter, this message is for you!
What is the first thing you say when you wake up in the morning? What is the
first thing you do? Who is the first person you talk to? There is a healthy body of research that suggests our first moments, actions, and thoughts can dictate the direction of our entire waking day. Matthew Kelly, founder of Dynamic Catholic, describes it:
“Human thought is creative. What we think, becomes. You send your thoughts down one road, your actions are going to follow your thoughts. The actions of our lives are determined by our last most dominant thought.”
The Church recognizes this. The Church has prescribed texts for each day of the liturgical year, and the texts we have been talking about the most lately are the Entrance Antiphons, or ‘Introit’ in Latin. They are the ‘first thing’ we sing or say at Mass. Father Burrish alluded to this in his homily while wearing his flashy pink rose robes - throughout history the name, title, or reference of a particular day in the Church year becomes synonymous with first word or words from the Entrance Antiphon. The most recent example of this is the Third Sunday of Advent - Gaudete Sunday, from the first word of the Entrance Antiphon - “Rejoice”!
Now think back to when you woke up this morning, whether that was minutes ago or hours ago. What was the first thought you had? What was the first thing you did? If the title of your day was based on your first word or action, what would each day be called?
I know in my house we would be celebrating a lot of “A Kid is Sick Thursdays” and “Where Did the Weekend Go Mondays”. The modern culture has co-opted “Thank God It’s Friday”; how often have you used this prayer yourself?
My challenge for you this week: put a piece of paper or notepad by your bed. For seven days, write down the first thing you think or do each day. One week later, look back over your list and see what it tells you about the road your thoughts are taking you on.
Music Director, Notre Dame Parish
12/21/2022 Wednesday Message
Hello and happy Advent!
Today I’d like to give a special shout-out to all of the ushers for our parishes and to the new greeters who have been helping at Notre Dame. Greeting has been on my mind a lot lately, it’s a bit of an occupational hazard! As a reflect in this season of Advent, I have been specifically thinking about my own greeting to Christ in the Eucharist as I enter our church or the Adoration Chapel and of the importance of greeting others as they walk through our doors. The warmth and kindness you show when welcoming others is a way to let them know they have a place here, that we care, and that we are happy that they’ve come. I am grateful to all of those who make this happen. Our ushers and greeters in particular, but also those of you who make an effort to say hello to someone you do not recognize or who always send a quick smile to someone you’ve never seen before.
These things are especially important as we approach Christmas! With Christmas, we will have many visitors. People from out of town and people who may not come to church often. We do not know where they are in their spiritual journeys, but we can be assured of this, we each have Christ within us. I’d like to also add that we sometimes need to recognize Christ in others before they can recognize Him in themselves. Let us greet each other then, this Christmas and always, with warmth and kindness, knowing that we each have a place here in our Catholic community and that Christ is living among us!
I also want to encourage you to think about how you will greet your savior on Christmas day as you come in for Mass. John the Baptist leaped for joy to be near Jesus. The magi traveled hundreds of miles to humbly worship this small child. Simeon and Anna waited years to catch a glimpse of the Messiah. Can you imagine how they trembled as they saw him and could hold him in their arms? And we get to be even closer to him every time we go to Mass as we receive Him in the Eucharist! There are many little prayers we can say to get ready to greet Him. A simple one that I have been praying with this year is this, “Father, please remove any barrier that prevents me from jumping up to meet you. Remove any fear in me that prevents me from taking the journey that brings me to closer You. Remove any doubt that prevents me from trembling for joy as I draw near to You.” Let us get ready to greet each other and Our Lord with great joy this Christmas!
Volunteer & Hospitality Coordinator
Notre Dame Catholic Church
12/14/2022 Wednesday Message
As Advent is the start of a new liturgical year, characterized by the theological virtue of hope, this is also the time of year when we at MACS are already preparing diligently for the following school year. Enrollment opens on January 29, 2023, the first Sunday of Catholic Schools Week. We are excited to share that we we will be moving forward with renewing our preschool programming to provide whole-child, Catholic faith-based 3K and 4K to Chippewa area families. We intend to include school readiness attainments while also incorporating virtuous habit formation, outside exploration and play, Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) and more! We are also looking for individuals who are interested in becoming trained as CGS catechists, so please contact Mary Beth Pfeifer or Mary Huffcutt in our central office if you are interested at (715)723-0538. Please watch for upcoming dates for a parent informational meeting and registration event and pray for the success of our new program launch.
Harkening back to hope, the theological virtue most consonant with Advent: hope is what resonates with me both personally and as leader of our schools. Hope believes in the morning at midnight, sees the Resurrection in the crucifixion. Hope believes in the harvest at planting time, sees the future evangelist in the skeptical adolescent. Hope is what is needed more than anything else in this broken world, especially for our students. Even secular mental health experts will tell you that hopelessness is the true epidemic of our time. This is why the mission of our Catholic schools is absolutely essential! We must become a beacon of faith, hope, and love in our communities, especially with our young people who ARE the future of our Church. Here at MACS, we persevere in hope and trust in God's faithfulness. The Holy Spirit never fails, and hope does not disappoint us.
Blessings to you in gratitude for your support in this Advent and Christmas season. Come, Lord Jesus.
-Molly Bushman, MACS President
12/7/2022 Wednesday Message
For Advent, I am reading daily reflections by St. John Henry Newman. One of his reflections reminds us of the importance of wonder. Wonder abounds during the seasons of Advent and Christmas if we look with the eyes of a child. I am certain that one of the greatest blessings God has given me in working with youth (through RE, MACS, and with my own three children) is being able to witness their wonder. It is humbling and a challenge to grow in being child-like.
Below is an edited version of Newman’s reflection from “Waiting for Christ: Meditations for Advent and Christmas” (the full version is Newman’s Sermon 22: The Weapons of Saints). May we all rediscover wonder this Advent and Christmas and let it lead us to God and a deeper relationship with Him.
-Paula Hanson, DRE Our Lady of the Falls, teacher of 3-5 music and band at MACS
“We have most of us by nature longings more or less, and aspirations, after something greater than this world can give. Youth, especially, has a natural love of what is noble and heroic. We like to hear marvelous tales, which throw us out of things as they are, and introduce us to things that are not. We love to fancy ourselves involved in circumstances of danger or trial, and acquitting ourselves well under them. Or we imagine some perfection, such as earth has not, which we follow, and render it our homage and our heart. Such is the state more or less of young persons before the world alters them, before the world comes upon them, as it often does very soon, with its polluting, withering, debasing, deadening influence, before it breathes on them, and blights and parches, and strips off their green foliage, and leaves them, as dry and wintry trees without sap or sweetness. But before that time, they have desires after things above this world, which they embody in some form of this world, because they have no other way at all of realizing them. While their hearts are thus unsettled, Christ comes to them, if they will receive Him, and promises to satisfy their great need, this hunger and thirst which wearies them. He does not wait till they have learned to ridicule high feelings as mere romantic dreams: He comes to the young; He has them baptized betimes, and then promises them, and in a higher way, those unknown blessings which they yearn after. He seems to say, in the words of the Apostle, "What ye ignorantly worship, that declare I unto you." You are seeking what you see not, I give it you; you desire to be great, I will make you so; but observe how,—just in the reverse way to what you expect; the way to real glory is to become unknown and despised.
He says to the aspiring: "Whoever would be great among you must be your servant and whoever would be first among you must be your slave; even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve" [Matt. 20:26-28.] Here is our rule. The way to mount up is to go down. Every step we take downward, makes us higher in the kingdom of heaven. Do you desire to be great? Make yourselves little. There is a mysterious connection between real advancement and self-abasement. If you minister to the humble and despised, if you feed the hungry, tend the sick, succor the distressed; if you bear with the froward, submit to insult, endure ingratitude, render good for evil, you are, as by a divine charm, getting power over the world and rising among the creatures. God has established this law. Thus He does His wonderful works. His instruments are poor and despised; the world hardly knows their names, or not at all. They rise by falling. Plainly so, for no condescension can be so great as that of our Lord Himself. Now the more they abase themselves the more like they are to Him; and the more like they are to Him, the greater must be their power with Him.
Let us then, my brethren, understand our place, as the redeemed children of God. Some must be great in this world, but woe to those who make themselves great; woe to any who take one step out of their way with this object before them. Of course no one is safe from the intrusion of corrupt motives; but I speak of persons allowing themselves in such a motive, and acting mainly from such a motive. Let this be the settled view of all who would promote Christ's cause upon earth. If we are true to ourselves, nothing can really thwart us. Our warfare is not with carnal weapons, but with heavenly. The world does not understand what our real power is, and where it lies. And until we put ourselves into its hands of our own act, it can do nothing against us. Till we leave off patience, meekness, purity, resignation, and peace, it can do nothing against that Truth which is our birthright, that Cause which is ours, as it has been the cause of all saints before us.
This be our duty in the dark night, while we wait for the day; while we wait for Him who is our Day; while we wait for His coming, who is gone, who will return, and before whom all the tribes of the earth will mourn, but the sons of God will rejoice. “It does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” [1 John 3:2-3.] It is our blessedness to be made like the all-holy, all-gracious, long-suffering, and merciful God; who made and who redeemed us; in whose presence is perfect rest, and perfect peace; whom the Seraphim are harmoniously praising, and the Cherubim tranquilly contemplating, and Angels silently serving, and the Church thankfully worshipping. All is order, repose, love, and holiness in heaven. There is no anxiety, no ambition, no resentment, no discontent, no bitterness, no remorse, no tumult. "You keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you: because He trusts in you. Trust in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord is an everlasting rock." [Isa. 26: 3-4.]
11/30/2022 Wednesday Message
Earlier this Fall, I gave a tour of Notre Dame Church to OCIA candidates and catechumens of our three parishes. Spending some time walking through the church building with those considering becoming Catholic is insightful. They ask questions about the kinds of things we are always used to seeing and don’t really think about or may take for granted. I thought I would share with you today some of the main points I made in that tour. Perhaps we might look at our church buildings in a new or different light.
It’s been said that architecture is the built form of ideas. In other words, the way in which one builds a building conveys their values and what they believe about its intended purpose. Therefore, church architecture is the built form of theology, i.e., what we believe about God, or relationship with him, and how he is to be worshiped. The church building, in the Catholic view should be a “catechism in stone” that everyone can read. Catholic church architecture has developed over the centuries as such a catechism. Many churches constructed in recent decades have not always used the architectural vocabulary of that Catholic tradition and theology. Many older churches have also been significantly remodeled. What I explain below about the Catholic church interior, therefore, will be clearer in some churches than in others. Whatever the case, these are some things to contemplate when you enter a Catholic church.
The Catholic church building should not be seen as just a utilitarian gathering space, but a sacramental space, an occasion of grace, a place where heaven comes down to earth, literally. A traditional biblical image for the church interior is the “heavenly Jerusalem.” Jerusalem is where the Temple was built, the very dwelling place of God for the people of Israel. Because Jerusalem was the holy city, it became an image for heaven in which God dwelled with his people for eternity. The Catholic church building should, therefore, be like heaven or the heavenly Jerusalem. The statues, images, stained glass windows, and icons of saints should remind us of their presence among us in worship. They should all stir our imaginations to the transcendent. Another image for the church interior is the Garden of Eden, i.e., a return to the world before the Fall, or rather a renewal of the world at the Second Coming of Christ. The whole of the interior should be beautiful, like a garden.
One enters the church building in what is called the narthex, the place of transition from the world of sin to the Kingdom of God. At the narthex, before coming into the main nave of the church, one passes holy water stoops. As we bless ourselves and make the sign of the cross with the holy water, we are reminded of our baptism, our initiation into the life of grace when sin was washed away. While many of our churches today often have their baptismal fonts up near the sanctuary so that baptisms may be visible to the congregation, traditionally, these fonts were often near the narthex, or even in a separate baptistry room or building to be a clearer sign of the transition into the Kingdom of God from the world of sin. Also to make the transition, many older churches often had their confessionals toward the back near the narthex.
When one enters the nave, or main body of the church where the congregation worships, it should be like entering a vast cosmos compared to the more confined and dark narthex transition space. The word “nave” describing this part of the church comes from the Latin “navis,” meaning “ship.” A ship or boat is a great image for the whole Church as in the “ark of salvation” for the world, calling to mind the fact that Noah’s Ark served as a refuge from the flooded sinful world. Similarly, we are on a voyage of faith in the Church as we make our way through life to eternity. In all the movements of the Mass (kneeling in adoration, standing in praise, or sitting in contemplative attention), we are going somewhere. We are going to the place of encounter with God in the sanctuary at the altar.
Finally, at the sanctuary we reach the fulfillment of the Jewish Holy of Holies in the Temple, where the Ark of the Covenant was kept, the Presence of God. Today, this is the tabernacle, or during the Mass, the altar. Traditionally, the communion rail marked the transition into this space. At the altar, to where we are all journeying, Christ at Calvary is re-presented. The next time you walk into the Catholic church building, pay attention to the details. What reminds you and assists you on the journey to meet the Lord in eternity?
May God bless you!
Fr. Jesse Burish
11/23/2022 Wednesday Message
I hope this message finds you all well and full of God’s peace! As summer has definitely ended and fall seems to be coming to a close rather fast these days…winter is approaching (if it hasn’t already arrived as I look out my window at all the snow!).
During the winter months, I often like to go downhill skiing. And perhaps similar to my last Wednesday message, I’d like to make a kinda cheesy, but (hopefully!) relevant point. When you are skiing and want to slow down there is a temptation to lean back and away from the hill. This is a mistake and often leads to a tumble. Rather, you need to bravely lean down hill and use your skis in order to slow to a safe speed or stop. This is true in our life of faith. As we move along our journey of faith there are many temptations and many times where we will have difficulties and doubts in God’s plan for our lives. This is natural. Many of us suffer with great crosses and temptations; much less all that is happening in the world around us. Our response, however, isn’t to “lean back and away” from the life of faith; we don’t shy away from our crosses and difficulties. Rather, we bravely lean forward, taking a leap of faith. And we “use our skis;” that is, we use what the God has given us (especially through the Church). We take time for daily prayer, weekly (or more frequently!) Mass, and monthly confession. As we end this ordinary time and begin Advent, what is holding you back the most from truly leading the life God wants for you? Let’s shed ourselves of these things and bravely take a leap of faith!
Fr. Brandon Guenther
11/16/2022 Wednesday Message
Time and Talent, we all have both, even if our time to share these is somewhat limited. Notre Dame has just completed an official Time and Talent Sign-up, but both Holy Ghost and St. Bridget’s could use your Time and Talent as well. At Notre Dame, we wanted our sign-up to be an invitation, an invitation to our parishioners to join us in the ministries we have, in order to accomplish our mission and goal as a parish. Thank you to all of those who filled out our form! We were blessed to receive many responses, both from new volunteers and current volunteers.
Our goal as a parish is that we glorify God, strengthen relationships with Him, and bring others close to Him. What does it mean to be a part of this greater mission? It means that you have been given a role in something bigger, something bold and beautiful. If there is just one thing that I hope I can have you realize, it is this, that the role that you play has an impact on our mission and without YOU we will never reach the fullness of our potential.
I am not good at allowing myself to recognize the good things I am able to do for God’s greater glory. I think that some of you might be the same way. This is not right! We have given Him gifts through our lives, in service, and in prayer and we must rejoice with Him in the giving of these gifts! This week I’d like to challenge you to do this: take delight in the fact that in your life, in how you serve now, and, for some of you, in how you will be serving soon, by these things you can give God glory!
“Know, O Beautiful Soul, that you are the image of God. Know you are the glory of God.”
~ St Ambrose of Milan
11/9/2022 Wednesday Message
How did we do on the picnics/dinners this year?
I have often been asked how the Festival of the Falls combined city parishes events went this year. Having St. Charles, Holy Ghost and Notre Dame have their annual picnic/dinners on the same weekend was a great idea of the volunteers. After much collaboration and organizing a weekend was picked and the events were successfully accomplished. It was wonderful to see the parishes working together as they each decided to do what they do best. Personally, I had only ever gone to Notre Dame’s event. But with the new excitement of working together, I went to all three events, and it was great to see parishioners enjoying time together from all the parishes at each event.
Being on the finance councils I can tell you that both Holy Ghost and Notre Dame had increased profits from their events from prior years. I don’t know about St. Charles, but I heard from the person donating the pork for their dinner that he gave substantially more pork than they asked for this year, and they still ran out! While I could not make it to St. Bridget’s picnic this year, I did see their numbers and they also did considerably better than last year. A big thanks to all our volunteers who made this year a success!
What this says to me is we can do great work together when we put our mind to it. These community events are a lot of work, but they introduce our parishes to the wider community. I pray we will rejoice in this success and find new ways to bring our faith into the local community in ways that Jesus will be better known. When others see us working in union together it makes our faith that much more appealing and convincing that we have something worth having. This something being Christ!
Deacon Kevin DeCook
10/26/2022 Wednesday Message
Good morning! My name is Mike Renneke, and I write to you today as the music director at Notre Dame Parish. I’ve used my previous messages to talk about music and the Mass, and being the self-proclaimed “music guy” this certainly made some sense. Today, though, I’d like to reflect with you on the opposite of my professional work. We need to talk about silence.
Now, as the guy who is constantly putting notices in the bulletin to “join the choir”, talking about silence might seem a bit self-defeating. Silence also suffers from a bit of a public relations problem; too often we view it as a negative, or as the absence of something. If you turn on the TV and there's no sound, that is a problem. When the birds and bugs stop chirping at night, you know a storm is coming. Ask any parent with kids playing in the next room - silence is a bad thing!
Robert Cardinal Sarah wrote a book in 2016 called The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise. In this book he calls for a redefinition of what silence in our lives means:
"Silence is not an absence. On the contrary, it is the manifestation of a presence, the most intense of all presences. In modern society, silence has come into disrepute; this is the symptom of a serious, worrisome illness. The real questions of life are posed in silence. Our blood flows through our veins without making any noise, and we can hear our heartbeats only in silence."
It is in the quiet stillness of our hearts where we are able to begin to process the rhythm of our life; where we can begin to determine what is music and what is noise.
So, here comes the challenge for the week: can you embrace the moments of silence as opportunities to listen? Can you create more silence in your life? What is God saying to you in the silence?
The irony is not lost on me as I challenge you to be silent while my two kids are in the front pews making joyful noise. I also don’t want you to click away from this email thinking I’m suggesting you stop singing at Mass. God speaks in silence, as he did to Elijah in the Book of Kings (1 Kings 19:11-13). The noise of our modern culture suggests we say “Listen Lord, your servant is speaking”. Instead let us be like Samuel - “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”
10/19/2022 Wednesday Message
As MACS President, one of the fun things I get to do is host our MackChat podcast, in which I welcome and interview guests including Macks faculty, students, and community members to chat about all things MACS, from campus ministry to sports to the classroom, as well as connections to our parishes such as our August episode advertising the Festivals of the Falls. I invite you to follow our podcast either on the Eau Claire Hometown Media website, Spotify, or iTunes to keep up to date with the latest and greatest episodes. Our most recent episode was a "Meet Your Principal" episode featuring Mr. Jerry Smith and student Ryker M. Thanks be to God, we are excited to share that both Mr. Smith and Ryker are currently going through OCIA and OCIF classes and, God-willing, will be received into the Catholic Church this Easter. Please enjoy this episode, which also includes Ryker's musings on Fr. Guenther's chess game and the origin of Mr. Smith's southern accent. As always, thank you very much for our parishes' support of our Catholic schools, and pray that we would continue to grow as a living witness to the Catholic mission of evangelization. We are here to serve our parish families by providing all students with a rich Catholic Liberal Arts education and vibrant student life, preparing them for their vocations as disciples of Christ.
Molly Bushman, MACS President (and host of MackChat!)
10/12/2022 Wednesday Message
Did you know that you have a part to play that no one else can!
Just a few hours a month helping in one of the ministries at our parishes has an immense impact on your church. We have a vibrant faith community, achieved because of our dedicated volunteers who have given their gifts to see our parish thrive. Can you imagine the amazing things that could be done at our parish if all of our parishioners gave just one additional hour a month?
Volunteering is good for the parish. It is good for us as well. I will admit, growing up I wasn’t always a very willing volunteer; I could serve at a food stand all day but oh how I would drag my feet if we had to take up the gifts! However, in volunteering (or being voluntold) in different areas, I learned several beautiful things as a child that are now engrained in my memory. One, I got to recognize as an elementary and high school student one of the most freeing things imaginable, that not everything was about me and that I had the opportunity to be a part of something bigger. And two, it showed me that every person has their own unique skills to offer that can make efforts and ministries flourish because of them.
I’d like to encourage you to truly recognize that you have gifts to offer! For families, consider signing up to help with a ministry together. Dads, consider signing up for the same ministry as your son or daughter, or perhaps with buildings and grounds. Moms, consider helping your daughter or son with something like decorating the church or being a sacristan. There are many opportunities, and we are looking forward to getting you involved with them!
What a gift it is to be able to walk with Christ in these ministries and with each other!
10/5/2022 Wednesday Message
There have been many wonderful changes to our religious education and confirmation programs that I (Paula Hanson) would like to share with you this week. Our faith formation team consists of Fr. Guenther, Paula Hanson (Our Lady of the Falls DRE), Renee Zimerman (Our Lady of the Falls CRE), Alexis Pomietlo (St. Charles and St. Peter DRE), Erica Boehm (MACS Campus Minister and Chippewa Falls Youth Minister) and many wonderful volunteer catechists. The letter below is from all of us as well as Monsignor Gorman, Fr. Burish, and Fr. Hokamp.
As our religious education team reflected on the previous year, we wanted to clarify our goal; to answer the question: why do we exist and do what we do? The answer came simply, We are all here to help bring our families to Christ.
At baptism, parents promised to raise their child in the faith. The Church, for her part, promised to aid them on that journey. Parents are keeping that promise in making sure their children are receiving catechesis and we are here to assist them. However, we wanted to make sure we were doing our best. The clarification of our main goal, along with the opportunity to solve some scheduling difficulties and other challenges, helped us to make four principal changes this year.
The first exciting change is that the Chippewa Falls Area Catholic Community, including Notre Dame, Holy Ghost, St. Charles, St. Bridget, and St. Peter, have combined forces for grades 1-10 religious education and confirmation. Our hope is to have a greater Catholic unity and to use our resources more wisely to serve you better. We are calling our new combined programs “Goldsmith Religious Education” and “Goldsmith Confirmation.”
The second exciting change is adopting a “hybrid” teaching model for grades 1-8. In a nutshell, that means the program includes a family learning/teaching portion and a traditional classroom portion as well as a monthly all-family meal for building Catholic community. We didn’t make this decision lightly, knowing how demanding being a parent is. Our hope is to help families grow in faith, while still taking some of the catechesis load off during the traditional classroom time.
The third exciting change is to our sixth-eighth grade curriculum. We have decided to use “EDGE” from Life Teen. Edge is a Catholic middle school ministry program that presents Catholic teaching in a way that young people can understand. It provides a safe fun place for youth to find solid Catholic community, to get answers to their questions about faith, and, most importantly, to experience Jesus in a profound and personal way. Edge is designed for and speaks to middle school youth. A typical EDGE night consists of a welcoming activity, a full group teaching, breaking into small groups for discussion, and a “send” portion with prayer. We have an adult core team who lead small group discussions and assist in other portions of the session. In addition, we have teamed up with MACS campus minister Erica Boehm so that both religious education and MACS students are socializing and learning together.
The fourth exciting change is that we are moving to a two-year confirmation program. In year one of confirmation (public school students only) we are using the Youth Alpha Series and Life Teen’s “Purpose” confirmation program. Both programs focus on evangelizing youth and utilize small group discussion with a group of “core team” adults. In addition, Youth Alpha includes a retreat and Purpose has a portion focused on Lectio Divina and prayer. In year two, MACS students join the program, we finish out the “Purpose” confirmation program. Several other components are built into the year two program, but we will skip the detail at this time. It is exciting to focus on evangelizing youth and creating safe spaces for talking about faith while using relevant and engaging materials.
The foundation of the new Goldsmith Religious Education and Confirmation program, as with all things, is prayer. Would you please pray for us, our catechists, and our families, that we might be blessed with a wonderful and fruitful year of Religious Education and Confirmation?
9/28/2022 Wednesday Message
I hope this message finds you well and abundantly blessed in our Lord, Jesus Christ! Just a few weeks ago I was blessed to take a trip to Colorado to hunt Elk. Though I’m not a particularly good hunter, I love being outside in some beautiful areas both in our own state and, in this case, elsewhere. I remember, in particular, one long day. We began hiking up the mountain before the sun was up and spent nearly all day sitting behind our binoculars searching for elk. As the hours wore on without any action, I noticed I was just restless; I wanted to get an elk so bad! However, I was soon surprised by another thought: “What if I desired holiness this much?” What a humbling thought. Certainly I do desire holiness, but it is so easy to be distracted with so many things, even good things like hunting.
That being said the fall season is a great opportunity to re-center our desire for holiness. There are many opportunities at our parishes to help us on our journey to holiness: Religious Education, DTS, EPIC families gatherings, First Friday visits, and so much more. All of this along with our normal schedule of Masses, confessions, and adoration. Even in the midst of so many opportunities, we know that our Lord is always calling us to Himself ever more deeply in our daily prayer. We pray that the Lord would ever increase our desire for holiness!
Know of my prayers for you all!
Fr. Brandon Guenther
9/21/2022 Wednesday Message
I was listening to the most recent Ask Your Father video (see all episodes here) when one thing they said really struck me. While both fathers have much wisdom and insight in their discussions, the thing that struck me was John’s reminder of the devil’s response to God showing him His plan for humanity. Upon seeing God’s plan for the world Lucifer rebelled and said, “I will not serve”. In that reminder, I thought, with the devil’s resounding “No” let my own voice be a resounding “yes” to God’s call and His asking me to draw close to Him. With his declaration of “I will not serve” Lucifer lost his place in Heaven; let us gain ours by saying the exact opposite! When discouraged, tempted, tired, or frustrated we have the ability to work past those things and to say “yes”, and in this moment we choose not ourselves but Christ.
We had a beautiful example of this during the Festivals of the Falls that happened at Holy Ghost, Notre Dame, and St. Charles last week. I have no doubt that there are many examples of this during the St. Bridget’s picnic as well. I wish I could name all of the families and individuals who helped with these events. There is one family who put particular effort to make Laissez Faire at Notre Dame the beautiful event that it was. Another individual had a key role in putting the Holy Ghost picnic together and though I know she was probably very busy and perhaps a bit tired she still stopped to welcome me with the biggest smile and a hug. To those individuals and to everyone who helped with our festivals and picnics I would like to say Thank You! Thank you for your efforts and for the gifts that you bring to our parishes! The Festivals of the Falls are over, and the church picnics are done for the year, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a thousand other ways for you to say, “Yes, I will serve You!”.
We have a beautiful Adoration Chapel and not all of its hours are filled; will you serve? We have church cleanings scheduled and sometimes not enough people who come; will you serve? We have hundreds of people surrounding us each week just looking for a smile and a kind word; will you serve? You have gifts to give that no one else can offer. With these gifts how do you think God is calling you to serve Him?
9/14/2022 Wednesday Message
Today I wanted to share some great news about all three parishes of Our Lady of the Falls. Father Burish some time ago asked me to sit on all the finance councils of our three parishes due to my finance background. My “day job” that supports my family financially is working as a CFO at a local Eau Claire real-estate company.
Each year a budget is set for our parishes. Our fiscal year runs from July 1st through June 30th. When the estimated budgets for Notre Dame and Holy Ghost were set up last year, we were looking at a significant potential financial loss for the year just recently ended on June 30, 2022. Our finance councils were of course disturbed by this, as we never want to plan for a loss but there just wasn’t enough income to support the needed expenses. So, we came up with a plan to address it, as we felt all the expenses were necessary to run the parish in a way that would allow for not only maintenance but some growth as well.
Our plan to invite parishioners to actively address the problem had multiple steps which included informing parishioners of the need and inviting them to reconsider their financial giving.
I want to share with you, that our parishioners responded beyond our hopes and not only brought us out of our negative budgets but allowed our parishes to put a bit of money aside for future needs. Congratulations to all our parishes that have invested in our parishes to end the fiscal year June 30, 2022 in the black! I can personally assure you we are trying very hard to respect your giving. We are investing in the parishes in ways to help them maintain, as well as, look for new ways to grow in faith, discipleship, and outreach to not only our current parishioners but those who hopefully will join us in the future!
Deacon Kevin DeCook
9/7/2022 Wednesday Message
Christ's peace to you!
How often do you consider the power of your invitation?
When I was a freshman in college I was invited to join a Bible study. Believe it or not, I confidently declined the invitation to join not once or twice, but seven times. After I declined for the seventh time, my friend asked me a question that finally made my heart open up: "Have you truly and prayerfully considered coming to Bible study?" My interior walls and stubbornness finally fell, and I finally received the grace of my friends persistent and gentle invitations.
I was proud and overly self-reliant, but I, like every single person in the world, was craving relationship with Christ. As Catholics, we are offered the gift of relationship with Christ in the context of his Church. Think about it: since the Church brings holds ALL of the gifts and graces Christ wants to give his people, the life of Christ in His Church is the answer to all of the worlds problems. This Church is made up of imperfect people, but Christ still feeds us with His Body and Blood. So many people go without His nourishment, hungry and bereft of happiness. But what if we were more bold in our invitations? What if we were more prayerful and persistent in our proposals to others to encounter Christ, their one true happiness?
I encourage you to join me in praying for greater boldness and zeal, so that no one lives without the Joy of Gospel simply because we did not invite them. (Note: on average, a person must be invited 7 times to a ministry event before they agree to attend. Don't be surprised be a few "no" responses. My friend wasn't!)
In His Peace,
8/31/2022 Wednesday Message
Fr. Justin Kizewski, former pastor of Holy Ghost and St. Bridget, would sometimes joke that he wanted to get a t-shirt that read this on the front: “This is me on prayer.” In other words, “If you think I look bad now, just imagine what I’d look like if I didn’t have a lot of people praying for me!” It’s funny, and I laugh at it because feels true for me as well. Every one of us, of course, regardless of vocation, has their own unique crosses to bear. But the case may be made that our world today poses some greater challenges to priests and the priesthood than in previous generations. There is undoubtedly a spiritual war taking place, and Satan does not like priests. I know several priests just in our diocese alone who over the last few years have not simply aged out or retired, but left in the prime of their ministry due to poor health, physical injury, personal struggles, scandal, etc. I can’t think of any other reasonable explanation for this line up than a battle that is at its core a spiritual one. I love being a priest and I believe all that the Catholic Church teaches about the priesthood. But I’m also fully aware that the pressures and temptations are great, and I’m also truly grateful that I have so many that pray for me.
In times such as these we must continually re-commit to prayer, not only prayer for priests, but regular and consistent prayer in general. Prayer is simply putting ourselves in touch with reality by taking time to humbly place ourselves before the Lord and be open to his will. If you can sign up for an hour of Eucharistic adoration at the Goldsmith Chapel, please do so by calling Andy at 715-568-5243, and/or consider coming to adoration at Holy Ghost on Thursdays from 3-5pm. There is also a prayer group that meets every Monday at 9am in the Goldsmith Chapel that prays for our families, parishes, Church, nation, and world. The Rosary, Chaplet, and Litany of Trust are offered. Please join them! I also invite you to take part in our Bible studies. The updated schedule is in the bulletin. The more we grasp the Scriptures, the better we can pray with them. Finally, I’d like to express my gratitude to the seven women from our parishes who participate in the “Seven Sisters Apostolate.” They commit to an hour of prayer each week for both Fr. Guenther and me. To them I am truly grateful, and I don’t thank them enough.
Please remember to pray for me, Fr. Guenther, the other priests of our deanery and diocese. I’d like to recommend a great prayer written by St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus:
O Jesus, I pray for your faithful and fervent priests; for your unfaithful and tepid priests; for your priests laboring at home or abroad in distant mission fields; for your tempted priests; for your lonely and desolate priests; for your young priests; for your dying priests; for the souls of your priests in purgatory. But above all, I recommend to you the priests dearest to me: the priest who baptized me; the priests who absolved me from my sins; the priests at whose Masses I assisted and who gave me your Body and Blood in Holy Communion; the priests who taught and instructed me; all the priests to whom I am indebted in any other way (especially …). O Jesus, keep them all close to your heart, and bless them abundantly in time and in eternity. Amen.
8/17/2022 Wednesday Message
Hello to all of you!
All three of Our Lady of the Falls parishes have groups of volunteers who generously make and serve meals at a homeless shelter in Eau Claire. For months Notre Dame had been looking for a lead volunteer for Sojourner House. We had an amazing and dedicated volunteer, Joan Hosley, filling this position for many years. Joan did an incredible job keeping the group organized and informed. When she had to step down, we were not sure who we would find to fill her shoes. However, after much praying, searching, and asking, we have someone to fill this role! The first time I spoke to Kellie Wagner I got off the phone thinking how thankful I was of all the great people we have in our Catholic Community. I was also struck by how organized and kind she was. After getting the chance to meet with Kellie, I can say that those initial impressions certainly rang true! Kellie has generously stepped up to use her gifts as the Sojourner House Lead at Notre Dame!
Perhaps you are not called to serve Christ and His Church like Kellie is, and that’s okay! However, you do have many unique gifts that God is inviting you to use. The Church and the world will not be the same if you don't. Using these gifts and offering them to Him is especially pleasing to Him. Afterall, He gave you these gifts for a reason! If you are looking for ways to use your gifts and to serve our parish or community but aren’t sure how, I would encourage you to reach out to your parish and see what opportunities are available. What things bring you joy? Is there a way for you to do those things while serving others? We become better versions of ourselves when we use the unique gifts that God has given us. We miss out on so much joy and fulfillment when we let them remain untouched!
You have gifts that no one else can offer. How are you going to use them?"
8/10/2022 Wednesday Message
“I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” Luke 12:49
In this passage from St. Luke’s Gospel, one can almost hear the longing in Jesus’ voice. This begs a question: do you and I share His longing? Do we understand His desire for us to set a fire on this earth? Sharing the Gospel - lighting this spiritual “fire” - is evangelization. Evangelization is essential to Our Lady of the Falls’ mission to invite all people to encounter Christ and inspire them to become saints. However, many of you may not be aware that there is a Catholic evangelization team right here in Chippewa Falls!
I am happy to share that John Shakal, parish Director of Outreach and Evangelization, will be stepping up as leader of our local St. Paul Street Evangelization (SPSE) team. In 2017, I founded the team through Holy Ghost parish, with activities such as evangelizing at Irvine Park, OneFest, the Bridge to Wonderland Parade, and through prayer ministry at St. Francesca Resource Center. The team includes members from all of the city parishes and, thus, is a great example of the increased collaboration we all hope for. However, after beginning my work at MACS in 2019, I have not been able to devote very much time and energy to the team. Thus, I am so very grateful to John for stepping up to the call to team leadership, and excited to see what the Lord has in store.
You may be asking, what exactly is SPSE? Founded in 2012, SPSE’s mission is to train, equip, and mobilize Catholics for the urgent work of evangelization. Nationally, SPSE provides the tools and resources for Catholics to engage the culture in a simple, non-confrontational method of evangelization which involves making themselves available to the public to answer questions about the faith and to pray with those who request it. True evangelization begins with listening and authentic friendship, continuing with proclamation of the message of salvation (kerygma) and invitation to follow Jesus in His Church. Often this involves sharing sacramentals such as rosaries or Miraculous medals and praying with others. Believe it or not, in five years of evangelizing, not one person has refused me an offer to pray with them!
Joining our evangelization team is one way to live out the call to become a missionary disciple. As people in the pews, it is normal for each of us to be in a different place in our relationship with God. A beginning disciple has committed their life to Jesus and is just beginning to grow in habits of discipleship like prayer, fellowship, etc. An intentional disciple consciously lives the habits of discipleship and has a close relationship with God through His Church. Finally, missionary disciples are both inward and outward-focused in their faith, having embraced the mission to “set the earth on fire” with Jesus’ love. They have a strong desire to use their gifts to build up the Body of Christ.
I invite you to ask the Lord in prayer whether He might be calling you to missionary discipleship through involvement in our parishes’ SPSE apostolate. If you would like to learn more, please check out the team website at www.streetevangelization.com/chippewafalls or email our new team leader, John Shakal, at firstname.lastname@example.org
No matter what “phase” of discipleship you might find yourself, know that God sees you as you are, loves you as you are, and in that love is always calling you to more.
In Christ our hope,
7/27/2022 Wednesday Message
The morning of Friday, July 1st I was rushing in from Holy Ghost parking lot to make it to 8:30am Mass on time. I was thinking of how Fr. Burish always seems to start Mass early (not how I tended to be just on time or late). As I rounded the corner of the church and started to ascend the steps, I looked up and saw this. (For more info click here.) Everything stopped. What was I supposed to think of this?
As I sat through Mass, I tried to focus but my mind kept coming back to those two huge X marks on our church doors. I knew it had to be a protest against the over-turning of Roe v. Wade that happened a week prior, but my mind wasn’t focused on that, I was instead thinking about our cancel culture. It is very real that some in our culture want to cancel the Catholic Church. How do we respond to this?
Well, some thoughts from family and friends responding to the vandalism picture I texted them were helpful. One response was, “I’d rather have paint than the right to abortion.” Another, in response to the vandalism at Notre Dame, was, “Well, whenever I walk past that doorway at Notre Dame that says “no,” I’m making it my goal to say “yes” to God. Look at what is most profaned in the world, and you’ll find what is most sacred.” Another was, “Wow! So it begins.” What would your response be?
We, as a Church, are not strangers to persecution. If we are living the Christian life well, we are living as pilgrims, helping ourselves and each other to get home to heaven. This means that what we believe will appear strange and foreign to those who don’t know or fully believe in the Gospel. Persecution is good in the way that it makes us think about why we are Catholic and believe what we believe. It can be strengthening because we need to choose where we stand. Do we believe what Christ’s Church teaches will make us happy or do we believe what the world teaches will make us happy? Persecution, like the kind Peter encountered during the Lord’s Passion, asks us to give our “yes” or “no” to God. It makes it very difficult to stand on middle ground. Of course, there is always room for us to give a “no” and be forgiven, like Peter. But I challenge you to give your ”yes” to Jesus. Ask yourself, “Do I stand with Christ and His Church?” If your answer is "yes," are you helping others and not just yourself get home to heaven? This is the only way to combat cancel culture. If your answer is "no" what do you, like Peter, need to wrestle with in order to stand with Him and with Her?
I hope you all have a blessed August. I will be praying for you, please pray for me. -Paula Hanson
7/20/2022 Wednesday Message
I have a question for all of you! Do you have a patron saint?
In my work here as Volunteer and Hospitality Coordinator, I have chosen two patron saints. I chose St. (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta because of her magnificent example of service and of lifting people up (I’m sure I will have more to say about her in the future). I chose St Elizabeth, the cousin of Mary, because of her model of hospitality and for the joy and humility she had in welcoming Mary and our unborn savior.
It is with that same joy and humility that I hope to be able to greet those coming to Our Lady of the Falls’ New Parishioner Event on August 14th.
Our three parishes have close to 100 new families from the last 3 years who are invited! Look at those in the pews around you. Christ is living among us, wanting us to see Him in each other. I invite you to look for Him in your fellow parishioners. Consider connecting with someone you have never spoken to before. Attend Hospitality Sunday, it’s on the first Sunday of every month after the morning Masses, say hello to someone after Mass, or go to the Festival of the Falls on September 9th, 10th, and 11th! Some of us may not be ready to leap up to see Him, as St. John the Baptist did in his mother’s womb. We might not be willing to stretch out our arms as wide as St. Elizabeth, but what we should be ready for is to recognize Him; He is ever present in our tabernacles and in the faces of others. Let us be ready to great Him there!
7/13/2022 Wednesday Message
We are making a difference in the lives of people here at Notre Dame. I was greatly encouraged this last Sunday when visiting both Donut Sunday events after the 8am and 10am Masses. After the 8am Mass, I connected with a potential volunteer for our needed additional office staff and as well as an old friend. On my way to the second event, a couple of different parishioners mentioned how much they appreciated what is going on at Notre Dame and the rich beautiful Mass that day. That 10am chant choir just knocks it out of the park every time! Father Gunther’s impromptu incense storm added even more to the richness of what a Sunday Mass is meant to be.
At the donut social, there was a new large family that Kate Zweber had handed a new parishioner welcome packet to. This family had searched around the Chippewa Valley area for a parish that met their desires for a strong traditional Catholic environment that they found here at Notre Dame.
It is good to share this with you, as people are noticing we have good things going on here at our parish. As a side note, when Father Gunther was promoting donut Sunday, he said to save him a donut and I am happy to say we had a full house after the 10am Mass and so he barely got his donut. Please do join us next first Sunday of the month for some fellowship after Mass as it is a good way to meet people and connect with your fellow parishioners!
Deacon Kevin DeCook
7/6/2022 Wednesday Message
Why would a successful young dentist with a blossoming career leave that behind to become a.... Catholic priest? Check out what Notre Dame parishioner Dr. Michael Tupta, DDS says in his own words.
(See the video "description" for more info!) https://youtu.be/U6nSRO56sjo
Second, I want to draw your attention to some new terms that you might have heard (or will hear) in our parish community. As our family parish hones in on its identity and mission, we will find these terms like helpful guideposts.
The "habits of discipleship:" Referring to Acts 2:42, these are the signs of an "intentional disciple:" "And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers."
Seeker/inquirer: Someone who is curious and open to learning more about the Good News of Christ and His Catholic Church
Intentional Disciple: Someone who has consciously and faithfully decided to follow Christ in the context of His Church with daily prayer, Weekly (or more!) Mass participation, engagement in parish fellowship, and seeking to learn more about the richness of the Catholic Faith.
Missionary Disciple: Someone who is not only faithful to Christ and the Church (re: intentional disciple) but who actively seeks to be fruitful in living and sharing their faith as their deepest life Mission. This person (lay persons, as they are able!) devotes their time and energy to living the "Mission of the Christ and His Church" in word and deed through evangelization, volunteering, deeper prayer, and total surrender to God.
Spiritual gifts/charisms: Supernatural gifts or abilities that every baptized person receives by virtue of their baptism into the Spirit of Christ. These charisms are Divine in origin (not human skill), and exist to build up the Church and benefit other people. These gifts/charisms often need to be prayerfully discerned and exercised to be understood by the individual and benefit the community.
Gifts of the Holy Spirit: The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit exist to benefit each Christian individual in their discipleship with Christ. These are given at Baptism and strengthened in Confirmation: wisdom, piety, understanding, fortitude, fear of the Lord, and counsel.
Thoughts, questions, or feedback? I am always happy to hear from you! email@example.com.
In His Peace,
6/29/2022 Wednesday Message
You haven’t heard from me in these weekly Wednesday messages for a while. I hope regularly hearing from several others who work and serve our parishes has afforded you the opportunity to get to know them better and the great work they do. The vitality of this Catholic community has been a great encouragement to me, and I hope for you as well. We are now at the one-year anniversary of having our parishes united under one pastor.
Many great things have happened over the past year for which I’m grateful to God. First, I’m grateful for the presence and ministry of Fr. Guenther. Instead of receiving the preaching, pastoral gifts, and charisms of just one priest, we get two. Father is approachable, sensible, witty, and he rides a motorcycle, which makes him a lot cooler than the pastor. Second, I’m grateful for the ways the staff of our parishes have been working together. We all meet weekly and some of them efficiently share/exchange duties. Third, I’m grateful for how you as parishioners have adapted to the changes of the past year, seeing ourselves as a united community with the common mission of inviting all people to encounter Christ and inspiring them to become saints. When I look at our bulletin and other communications, I see a lot happening in different areas of parish life. There are many opportunities for growth in discipleship and to serve. Just by way of example, I’ve been edified in the last couple of months by how many people stepped forward to be trained as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion for the purpose of visiting and bringing the Eucharist to our many elderly and homebound parishioners. Thank you!
As you think about our Catholic community, how are you being spiritually fed and growing as a disciple of Christ? How are you serving and/or being called to serve? What are the gifts that God has given you for the building up of the Church? What do you see as needs for ministry and the outreach of our parishes? What is the weak spot in our organization or ministry that God is calling you to strengthen with your time and talent? This might be in one of our pastoral or faith formation ministries, or in office administration, or helping with buildings and grounds, or with service to the dignity of the Liturgy. If there is something on your heart, let us know. May God bless you!
Fr. Jesse Burish
6/22/2022 Wednesday Message
Hello! My name is Mike Renneke and I am the part-time music director at Notre Dame Parish. As a ‘music guy’ - my day job sees me as a high school music teacher - I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about music and the Mass. The two really go hand in hand, and I’d like to challenge your perspective ever so gently.
Christians have sung in sacred liturgy since the Church’s earliest days. Before them, the Jewish people have sung praise to God, in the context of holy worship, for thousands of years. The Psalms are the record of the liturgical song-prayers of the Jewish people. When we sing in the context of Holy Mass we join a tradition of sacred worship that goes back to at least the time of King David himself. “Let us come before him with a song of praise,” wrote King David, “joyfully sing out our psalms.”
Sung prayer reaches its high point in the sacred liturgy, the public worship of the Church. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is made more beautiful by the singing of every Catholic who is called to active participation—through sung prayer, especially—in the Mass.
With such a high value and sanctity placed on singing the Mass, it can be easy for our Midwestern sensibilities to overcome us as we allow those seated around us to carry the tune. My challenge for you is to increase your ‘active participation’. Have you considered sharing your musical gifts with your parish?
We often think of musical gifts as only being a ‘good voice’, but it can be so much more than that! Volunteer as a cantor or accompanist. Join the choir at Christmas or Easter. Offer to help sort music and organize files. Dust the piano 😀
As the folk singer-songwriter Bill Staines said, “All God’s creatures have a place in the choir”. I pray that your active participation, both musical and otherwise, grows each time you join the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
6/15/2022 Wednesday Message
Hello Everyone! I hope you are all doing well and enjoying your summer! With many of us going on vacations and trips I wanted to reflect a little on our homes.
Sir Walter Scott wrote a poem called Breathes There a Man. The poem reflects on the home and how the amount of value a person has for their home shows their character. The poem made me think of my own home and the fondness and comfort I found in it and of the warmth and joy felt returning to it.
Today I thought of that poem, but in a different context. I thought of our spiritual homes that are our churches; the spiritual home we have that is in the Church. What makes a house a home? It's the people! Who is in every Catholic church around the world? Who is there waiting for you; longing for you to come close to Him? Our Lord in the Eucharist!
Is your church, or even a church that you are just visiting, a place that you find joy in coming to? Psalm 69:10, “Zeal for my house will consume me”, comes to mind as well as John 2:14, where Jesus drives out the merchants and money-changers from the Temple. Are our churches places to inspire such zeal? They should be! Our church is the house of Our Lord, present in the Eucharist and thus the place for our souls to find peace and rest. Do we always look at it in that way though? I often take our church for granted, coming with my mind totally occupied with the things going on outside of the church walls. I do not spend time to think about where I am or to be grateful for the home that I can find there.
Today I would like to invite you to join me in a challenge. The challenge to strive for greater zeal towards our spiritual homes that are our churches. Wait in joyful anticipation, count down the days, until you get to come back to church and to the Mass. Think of other ways grow in fondness towards your spiritual home. We also have many ways in which we can physically show our zeal for the Father's house. We are looking for more people to help with church cleaning once a month or people to take care of flowers or the grounds. Think about ways in which you can grow your own zeal for the Church and be grateful for the gift that we have in all the churches throughout the world.
Yours in Christ,
6/8/2022 Wednesday Message
Woohoo! Summer is here! If any of you remember your school days, you remember that sentiment well. God has carried us through another year of graces and for that we are thankful. I ask for the prayers of our parishioners that our students and teachers would have a safe and rejuvenating summer break. In particular, please pray for our students and staff who are participating in campus ministry events such as Adventure Camp, Steubenville Rochester, Totus Tuus, OneFest, and Wednesday fun nights.
Summer also kicked off with a leadership team retreat in Hayward to reflect on the year and begin to set Spirit-led goals for the coming year. We continue to look for increasing collaboration to work as a ministry of our parishes in the religious education of all parish youth. I also ask your prayers that the Lord would inspire our leaders with the gifts we need to know and do His will, and to be protected from all evil and division.
Finally, we continue to look for a choral director for our middle and high school. Please refer a friend and pray we'll find someone to lift our community's minds and hearts to the Lord through music!
Know of my prayers for all parishioners, as well. Our Lady of the Falls, pray for us!
6/1/2022 Wednesday Message
In college, my trumpet professor always used to tell us to practice with other people because everyone has different strengths that you can learn from to improve your own playing. He also said we should listen to recordings of master trumpet players and strive to imitate them. Through doing so, we would eventually develop our own style of playing.
This advice applies to our faith lives as well. We are the Body of Christ and everyone around us has different gifts given by God from which we can learn. When we recognize other’s gifts and our own gifts, we can use them effectively build up Christ’s Church.
We can also look to the masters of the faith, the Saints, and strive to imitate them. Through doing so, we can discover our own unique paths to holiness. The Saints have been wonderful guides for me, and I invite you to begin reading and learning about the Saints today.
Some books recommendations are below. If you are not a reader, you can find Saint movies and audio media on formed.org Our parishes have a subscription, so it’s free to you.
If you like things short, check out Franciscan Media’s Saint of the Day
“The Story of a Soul” by St. Therese of Lisieux
“The Confessions” by St. Augustine (I mentioned this last time I wrote)
“Interior Castle,” by St. Teresa of Avila
“A Simple Path,” by St. Teresa of Calcutta
“33 days to Morning Glory” by Fr. Michael Gaitley
Thanks for your time and happy discovering!
5/25/2022 Wednesday Message
I hope this message finds you well and in the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ. The time is surely flying by and it is hard to believe I have been with you for nearly a whole year. As an interesting fact, often I just refer to myself as the “associate pastor” of our three parishes, but my official title is “parochial vicar,” which is an interesting title, especially since “vicar” really just means a “representative” or a “deputy.” So really my job is to help Fr. Burish by being where he can't be; to represent him in the care for you all and your spiritual well being. As I often like to joke, this means I get to do a lot of the “fun” stuff, like sacramental preparation, religious education, etc., while Fr. Burish heroically does a lot of the important administration. I certainly am spoiled to so concretely help others spiritually and sacramentally with the priesthood God has given me.
Some new things we have begun or restarted this year include (but are not limited to!) EPIC families, Order of Christian Initiation for families, young adult ministry, and so much more! I am constantly amazed and grateful at the wonderful staff at our parishes who work hard to build God’s kingdom through teaching, building community, volunteering, and sacramental preparation. Sometimes I can admittedly get caught up in the day to day stress and minutia, but it is worth "zooming out,” so to speak, every now and then; to reflect on all the good work God has done over this past year. God is present in so many ways in our community softening hearts to his Word and showing us his plans for our lives, especially in the grace of the sacraments. If you have a chance in the coming days and weeks, take some time yourself to reflect on where you see God acting in your life, your family, and your community. What are the areas that God wants to be more present? How can we continue the good work God has begun in our midst and in our hearts?
Please know of my prayers for you all, especially at the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Fr. Brandon Guenther
5/18/2022 Wednesday Message
I would like to first thank all of you who have been praying for me as I prepared to become a deacon. On Saturday May 7th after five years of preparation, our bishop ordained me to the order of deacon! I pray I live up to that title by serving you and our community especially at Notre Dame where I am officially assigned.
Today, I feel compelled to tell you about Eucharistic Adoration (see this link for more information!) where my vocation was quietly nurtured over many years of being a weekly adorer at our Goldsmith Adoration Chapel connected to Notre Dame. If you have not yet visited this chapel where Jesus is physically present and waiting for you to come visit Him, please take a moment to stop by sometime in the next week or two.
While Mass is the spiritual highlight of my week, adoration is just behind it. I strongly encourage you to be one of the many adorers who make a weekly commitment to visit Jesus in our Goldsmith chapel for one hour each week. When you get “your weekly hour” set up for the same time every week, you will be changed even if it takes months or years. This is like having coffee with a good friend every week. You can’t help but to get to know them better and look forward to your time with them.
The biggest hurdle most of us have is we know we can’t make it every week because life is busy. Don’t let that be your reason for not signing up as we have an easy method for filling in a sub when you can’t be there. Many hours are looking for a second committed adorer to sign up with someone who already has that hour. When we have two scheduled adorers for the same hour, we call each other “prayer partners”. I remember when I lost my first regular prayer partner who I had for years due to her mobility issues. How I missed seeing her every week. She is like a grandma to me.
The second hurdle you might have is not enough time to commit weekly. I don’t have enough time either! But I have found when you give Jesus the time, you will see you have more time than you think. Ask Jesus to show you where you have overcommitted, then make the change to spend more with Him.
Please, just give it a try. If you don’t know what to do in silence for an hour at adoration, that is ok I didn’t either when I started. Stop in for a visit a few times and if you have any questions I would be more than happy to answer them. After your visit send me an email to get signed up or let me know what is holding you back.
Jesus, I trust in You!
Deacon Kevin DeCook
5/11/2022 Wednesday Message
Happy Easter! This Easter is an especially joyous one for my family and I as we are also fast approaching the day of my brother John’s ordination as a transitional deacon!
It has been a special blessing for me to be able to witness the last 7 years of my brother’s formation, and to see John now as he is taking one more big step to becoming the man that God has asked him to be; a Catholic priest for the Church which He Himself established.
This gift of self, isn’t it beautiful? Some of you reading this might think, “that’s great”, but then move on; thinking that this kind of commitment to God’s will is only for the most holy people. However, I am going to tell you, as only a sister would, that my brother is not perfect, and I know that he would be the first to agree with me! However, he is trying.
That is all God really asks of any of us; to try! If you think my brother and what he is about to do is a bit radical, let me ask you a few questions. How might God be calling you to serve Him?
Maybe we aren’t called to serve God as my brother is. That is okay! What is not okay is thinking that the only calling in life is that of a religious priest or sister. One of the greatest saints of the Church says, “Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, or even at their difficulty, as at the love with which we do them”. (St. Therese) In our everyday lives we are called to do little things with great love and great joy. Being the person God is calling you to be does not start with just the external, but the internal as well. Draw closer to God in your heart and mind. Think of Him during the daily struggles of life, both large and small, and try to go through them joyfully for Him. Another way to draw closer to Him is to strive to live a life of gratitude. Fr. Guenther suggested in a homily to pick three things to be grateful for as you lay down to sleep at night.
No matter what path you take and where God has put you, he is always asking you, longing for you, to draw closer to Him. And as you draw closer to Him you are drawing closer to being the person He is calling to you be.
5/4/2022 Wednesday Message
Praise be the Risen Lord! As we find ourselves in the midst of the Easter season, which celebrates the best news in the history of humanity, let us take a moment in our day to move beyond “going through the motions” of the Christian Faith, and rather be shocked and startled by how earth shattering it is! This is not just “the good news” we’re talking about; it is the best news that we could possibly be told! (Take a minute to check out the links attached below.)
Recently I was talking with a group of High School students about Jesus and Catholicism and I asked them if they perceived that being a practicing Catholic was actually “good news” to them? Many of them warily shook their heads and spoke of the Church’s rules, laws, obligations to go to Mass and Reconciliation. In short, these individuals viewed Jesus Christ and His Church as bad news, as an inconvenient imposition on their lives. Do you know anyone that feels this way? I know that I used to (perhaps a universal high school experience!), until I encountered the Risen Lord really and truly present in the Eucharist.
This week, our daily Mass readings are drawn from the famous “Bread of Life Discourse” from chapter 6 of John’s Gospel, in which Jesus unequivocally teaches that He is literally and truly present in the Eucharistic bread: His body, blood, soul, and divinity. Though a central tenet of the Catholic Faith, recent research shows that only nearly seven-in-ten Catholics (69%) say they personally believe that during Catholic Mass, the bread and wine used in Communion “are symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.” Just one-third of U.S. Catholics (31%) say they believe that “during Catholic Mass, the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus.” Why do you think this is the case? Jesus’ words are clear, and it is indeed the best news we could imagine: that He is risen and still with us in the Eucharist.
If you would like to clarify and strengthen your belief on whether Jesus historically rose from the dead, or in His Real Presence in the consecrated host, I warmly encourage you to read an excellent book like “Why We’re Catholic” (and while you're at it, share it with a friend!) or make some time for weekly Eucharistic Adoration. There are several hours in need of Adorers, and is there anything better than spending time with Jesus?
Finally, if you know someone who is away from the Catholic Faith, I encourage you to invite them back. They need Jesus, just like we do. Or, if you know someone who is not Catholic who is open to hearing more, invite them to check out Search for God.
Know of my prayers for you.
4/13/2022 Wednesday Message
As a parishioner of Holy Ghost, wife, and mother of four children ages 9-19, I am blessed to be serving in my third year as President of McDonell Area Catholic Schools. Catholic schools are an incredibly important apostolate of the Church, partnering with parents to educate children in the Catholic faith. As the culture becomes more difficult to navigate and at times hostile to our student's faith, our job becomes even more demanding: we must not only provide religious education but truly focus on forming intentional disciples. At MACS, we have recommitted to integrating the faith throughout our curriculum, prioritizing the hiring and formation of faithful teachers, and providing robust campus ministry.
At the moment, I am most encouraged by the conversations starting in the parishes to help provide more effective family ministry. Why? Because we can do all the right things at school, but if the students' parents are not making faith a priority at home, our job becomes extraordinarily difficult. Parishioners, parents, friends, we CAN do this together, and by God's grace! Let's raise up a generation (or two, or three...) to claim the faith as their own and continue to build on the only foundation that will last: Jesus Christ.
May all of us humbly receive the graces of this Easter Triduum as we participate in our own salvation in the days ahead.
In gratitude and hope,
4/6/2022 Wednesday Message
I hope this email finds you enjoying the last days of lent. I am not sure that you all know who I am, so I’ll start by introducing myself. I am Paula Hanson, Director of Religious Education for Holy Ghost, Faith Formation coordinator at St. Bridget, and Faith Formation Coordinator at MACS. I am not a Chippewa Falls daughter, although I’ve been here long enough that I hope I am adopted. I’ve lived in Chippewa Falls for 19 years. My husband is Sean Hanson (band director at McDonell and Notre Dame) and I have three children in the MACS system. Megan (junior), Jack (8th grade), and Caroline (5th grade).
I began my ministry in Chippewa Falls by teaching band at McDonell and Notre Dame for five years. I then moved to Holy Ghost School and taught general music and band part-time for ten years. Sometime in there, I became the part-time coordinator of religious education for Holy Ghost Parish. As time went on, I felt the Lord calling me towards parish work. I felt I was needed there more than at the school. So, three years ago, I resigned from by music position and began to work for St. Bridget and Holy Ghost parish and help with teacher formation at MACS.
I could elaborate more on my work, but I think the main point that I want to focus on is that it took me a long time to be able to hear and listen to the voice of the Lord and how he was working in my life. Like so many others, I am a cradle Catholic who strayed from the Church in my college and young adult years. While I still called myself a Catholic, I was far from practicing my faith. There came a time that I became disenchanted with my life. I had a wonderful family and a great job, but I kept waking up with an empty feeling, wondering if there was more. Nothing ever really satisfied me. In 2015, when I answered the call to become the coordinator of religious education at Holy Ghost, God began working on me. I really had no business saying yes to being a CRE. I was poorly formed and still not consistently practicing my faith, but I said “yes” anyway. The Lord did a lot with that “yes.” He knew me with all my faults and inadequacies but called me to serve anyway. My heart became on fire with wanting to learn all that I could about the faith. I read the Catechism of the Catholic Church, numerous Saint books (including St. Augustine’s Confessions and I fell in love with my new/old patron Saint Augustine) and really any book about the faith that I could find. My husband and I watched the Symbolon series together and would hit pause and look at each other in amazement as we learned about our faith through adult eyes. We began to go to Mass every Sunday and went to confession regularly. We began to pray daily and for the first time in my life I didn’t feel empty or like I was searching anymore. I had found God and He was all I needed.
My life and my family changed. We finally knew who we were and who we belonged to. It made life easier, and we have found happiness on a deep unshakable level. We still have disagreements, and our lives are far from perfect, but we discovered real faith, hope, and love and that changed everything.
So, there’s my introduction. I hope that it gives you hope. We all have those in our lives who are far from the Faith. It’s painful to see them struggle. But the Lord is near them, and he is working even if we can’t see it. What’s most important to remember is that we can always work on ourselves. The Lord wants first us, and then to work through us. Open yourself to the Lord. Learn more about your Faith. Pray. Go to Mass and confession. You can’t change others, that’s God’s job. You can change yourself and become a conduit for God’s love. Let him work on others through you.
3/30/2022 Wednesday Message
For those of you who do not know me, my name is Kate Zweber and it is my joy to be serving Notre Dame as their Volunteer and Hospitality Coordinator.
As I was preparing to take this job last July, I thought about all the reasons why this job was important and of my own journey, not only as an individual about to take a new job, but also as a Catholic. I think we all know what it is like to feel that we really are not the person that we could be, that we are not living up to who we are supposed to be. This uneasiness comes and goes, but it is no small coincidence, for myself at least, that this feeling was always connected to how much of a priority I allowed my faith to take in my life. We can go through the motions, attend Mass on Sundays, say our prayers, and repeat. We might think we are doing what we are supposed to, but the confusion and the frustration that comes from not being who you are meant to be is still there. It is easy to say that faith has nothing to do with this and blame it on something else that is much easier to deal with. Being Catholic does not and should not mean just attending Mass and saying the prayers. God calls us to more than this. He asks us to let our faith be more than a thing we do; He asks us to let it be a part of who we are, part of our very identity.
My hope and my prayer in this position is to help those looking for ways to make their faith a part of who they are. My particular focus is in two areas. The first being volunteerism; serving the Lord by serving in His Church and by serving others. The second being hospitality; welcoming others to their spiritual home and into their spiritual family as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Much of who we are can be seen in our habits and in how we choose to use our time. It also shows to others and ourselves the things that we see as being the most important. Christ’s love is ever-present in the lives of each of us, in our unique gifts and in the unsurpassable gift of Himself in the Eucharist. He asks us to take on our identity in a new way and to its fullness. He asks us not to let His gifts to us be wasted!
As Fr. Mike Schmitz likes to say, “I am praying for you. Please pray for me!”. Thank you and God Bless!
Yours in Christ,
3/23/2022 Wednesday Message
“To invite all people to encounter Christ and inspire them to become saints.” This is our mission statement, but perhaps we can ask the question: What is a mission statement? It seems that every company and every entity spends a lot of time and effort crafting just the right mission statement. If we look to a simple internet search you might find an answer that defines a mission statement as: “an action-based statement that declares the purpose of an organization and how they serve their customers.” This is still a bit nebulous, but gets us on the right path. First, a mission statement is action-based, it is indeed a mission, literally “a sending;” the thing we are sent out to do. But perhaps what makes the Catholic Church unique is the origin and the content of our mission. Our origin is in Christ, the Son of God; sent to redeem us from original sin and death. The content of our mission is salvation. Our mission then is solemn; ours and others eternal life hangs in the balance. We don’t serve customers as many business will, we serve souls. Therefore, though our mission as a parish is defined, each of our particular missions will be different; God will call each of us differently in accord with our strengths and weaknesses (and sometimes in spite of them!). We are all called to invite and to inspire. Really we see here both a skill, something we can learn to do well, and an art, something that arises from our own personal relationship with Christ. So as we continue to reflect on how God is calling our parish to respond to our mission in general, we each, in our own prayer and relationship with God, seek to respond to this great mission: “To invite all people to encounter Christ and inspire them to become saints.”
Fr. Brandon Guenther
3/16/2022 Wednesday Message
Hello, this is Kevin DeCook, one of the many dedicated volunteers at Notre Dame.
This is the first and last time I will likely be writing to you as a lay person. God willing, I am to be ordained a deacon this coming May 7th and will begin to serve you in a new capacity as an ordained clergy. Two days after this column is published, I begin my 5-day canonical retreat as a final big push for discernment before ordination. Please pray that I may do God’s will!
I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you a bit to the permanent diaconate. Many of you long-time Notre Dame parishioners may remember Deacon Mark Arnold who served this parish as well as Sacred Heart in Jim Falls where he resided with his wife and only son at that parish rectory. While he was a full-time paid deacon, most of the deacons in our diocese are volunteers and continue to have secular jobs for their financial support, as do I. As much as I would love to dedicate 40 plus hours to serving my fellow parishioners, with my work requirements and being the father of 11 children, I will be only able to serve less than half of that until my other responsibilities naturally reduce over time.
You might be wondering, “Why does the church have deacons?” While deacons were present in the early Church, they mostly disappeared except men who were transitional deacons on their way to the priesthood. The permanent diaconate was restored to the hierarchy of the Church after Vatican II in recognition that this office is an important link to connect laity to the clergy since most deacons are married and work or have worked in secular jobs as do much of the laity. This connection, hopefully, will help them relate in a way that gives them insight to effective evangelization to the world.
Your second question is likely to be, “Well then, what do they do?” While they are often like the laity in the married state with a secular job, their ordained sacramental character is to be in the person of Jesus Christ the servant. Deacons can solemnly administer baptism and do weddings without Mass in the name of the Church. They are ordinary Eucharistic ministers. They are the proper readers of the gospel at Mass and can give a homily. They also officiate at funerals without a Mass. While they assist priests and bishops, they do NOT do confessions, act as presider at Mass, administer anointing of the sick, or other things proper to the bishop such as confirmation and ordinations.
That is the short class on what the diaconate is about because this is supposed to be a short column. If you would like to know more, please track me down and I would be happy to tell you more and get to know you as well.
3/9/2022 Wednesday Message
How RCIA Invites all of us to Deeper Conversion
"In all things, may the Name of the Lord be praised! Last September, we were blessed to start up a city-wide RCIA group for all who were seeking full entry to Christ's Church. Truth be told, I was not sure what to expect since this RCIA group was starting up on the heels of the pandemic and limited our ability to promote and invite. The RCIA leadership team was hoping for 3 to 4 participants. But the Lord had different plans, as 7 people came forward to join RCIA! This group has 5 Candidates (baptized, seeking full communion with the Church) and 2 Catechumens (unbaptized, seeking Baptism, first Communion, and Confirmation) and has been energetic and courageous throughout the entire process.In fact, they just returned from a weekend trip to the Diocese for the Rite of Election. Please congratulate them and introduce yourself!
Witnessing their growing trust in God is a compelling lesson for each one of us. Conversion is difficult, especially as an adult. Sometimes we question whether conversion really happens, that people actually join the Church rather than leave it behind. But true and thorough conversion is possible; moreover, it is the fundamental interior event(s) that "converts" us from our ego-drama to God's Theo-drama. These 7 persons journeying through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults invite all of us to examine our hearts this Lenten season: do we live and practice our Faith with our gaze on Christ or on ourselves? Are we ready and willing to follow Jesus wherever he goes as His disciple, or do we stick to the status quo or our "spiritual comfort zone"? May we run after the Lord, letting no grace go to waste!
In His Peace, John Shakal
P.S. Do you know anyone who is interested in hearing more about Catholicism or desires to become Catholic? Search for God, a group geared to introducing people to Jesus, His Catholic Church, and RCIA begins after Easter. Please spread the news, invite them, and contact me with any questions!"
3/2/2022 Wednesday Message
A blessed Ash Wednesday and Lenten season to you all! For over a year now, you have been receiving a Wednesday message from me as pastor in which I have often reflected on the day’s Mass readings or saint. Today, with the change of season in the Church, I’d like to announce something a little different. With the help of some of our staff and volunteers, we will be taking these weekly messages in a new direction.
Many of you have heard me mention in homilies and in other contexts the mission of Our Lady of the Falls Catholic Community, i.e., our mission: To invite all people to encounter Christ and inspire them to become saints.
It’s important for us as Catholics and as members of our parishes to be focused on that mission and considering whether we are indeed working to accomplish it. Are we growing as disciples of Christ? Are we winning more souls for his kingdom? While you will still hear from me in this weekly message on occasion, going forward you will also get to hear several other voices in our community of parishes. Each week we will be attempting to share with you more clearly our mission in action. You will likely hear of opportunities for growth in discipleship, new ministries, personal stories of conversion and faith from those you see in the pew next to you on Sunday. You will become better acquainted with the various persons who work for our parishes, and those who give of their time as volunteers. You will also become updated on special community events and other exciting news.
As we journey together as disciples on mission, I hope you will find this shift in focus informative and inspiring.
May God bless you!
Fr. Jesse Burish
2/23/2022 Wednesday Message
Today is the memorial of St. Polycarp, a bishop of the early Church. He was one of the great Apostolic Fathers who are links to the age of the apostles themselves. It is said that he was a disciple of St. John the apostle.
We can only imagine how thrilling it must’ve been for him to listen to the stories about and teachings of Jesus from somebody who was there and had been personally called by the Lord. The precious testimony of an eyewitness to the great events of the world’s redemption must’ve been a profoundly moving experience that created in Polycarp a strong faith.
He led and guided the Church in a place called Smyrna (today, Izmir, Turkey). We know few details about his life, but we know a great deal about his death. He was betrayed as a Christian by a servant of his. Polycarp was at this time about 90 years old. He was slated for martyrdom during a persecution. He was evidently a man of immense personal dignity and was ordered to deny Christ as his Lord.
Polycarp refused and said that for over 80 years he had been Christ’s servant and he was not about to deny Christ as his life came to an end. He was faithful to the Lord in his life and would continue to be so in death. He was ordered to be burned at the stake. The way he died was a powerful witness to his faith and the courage he received from the Holy Spirit. He was not tied down but stood in the flames. It is said that the flames did not kill him and so he was stabbed to death. Polycarp’s courage was not a “last minute grace.” It flowed from a life of union with the Lord. “We die as we live.” If our life is one of fidelity, that fidelity will not leave us as we face death. The graces of perseverance in faith and trust in Christ will be ours.
None of our lives are free of misunderstanding, hostility, opposition, and even ridicule for our faith. Polycarp shows us how to remain people of dignity and grace even when others fail to show the same. As Polycarp kept his dignity even surrounded by flames, we can keep our Christian dignity in any crisis.
May God bless you,
Fr. Jesse Burish