Consecrated to the Heart of the Redeemer under the patronage of the Theotokos and Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

21 October 2016


On 4 October I became the Administrator of Saint Michael the Archangel Parish in Minersville (Schuylkill County, Diocese of Allentown, PA). "Administrator" is a euphemism for"Probationary Pastor." Contrary to one friend's supposition, I do not wear an ankle bracelet, even though I'm on probation! With good behavior, eventually I will be named Pastor, though I know not the day nor the hour.

One of the perks of being the head of a Parish is the opportunity to have one's own bulletin column. Readers of "The Shipwrack-Harvest" have noticed my parsimonious posting in the past couple of years.  I am happy to say that my bulletin column and other writings will make their way here, starting with the first three weekly columns below (With slight modifications--Ed.).

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9 October 2016

Dear Family, 

At our Baptism, the priest or deacon smeared the crown of our heads with Sacred Chrism, one of three oils that the diocesan bishop annually blesses for use in the appropriate sacraments. Before the anointing he says, “As Christ was anointed priest, prophet, and king, so may you live always as a member of His Body, sharing everlasting life.” Thus each baptized person participates as priest, by offering the Lord’s saving sacrifice, as prophet, proclaiming His saving Word, and as king, extending care and direction to those in need. Our fidelity to this threefold calling enables us to cooperate in the salvation of others and ourselves. 

What Our Lord accomplishes among all the baptized, happens in a unique manner through the actions and words of His ordained priests. That mystical endeavor began in my life just over thirteen years ago, when Bishop Cullen ordained me a priest of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church in the Diocese of Allentown. Thankful for the confidence of Bishop Barres, on Tuesday I officially began my sixth priestly assignment as Administrator of Saint Michael the Archangel Parish. 

Having served most of my time in Berks County parishes, today I come to you from my hometown of Saint Clair, where I have lived for two years in service to the local hospital and nursing home population (which I will continue to do part-time), with weekend ministry to Saint Clare of Assisi and other county parishes as needed. In June, I assumed additional responsibilities as Assistant Pastor at Saint Clare of Assisi, with the hopes that Msgr. Glosser might help prepare me for eventual appointment to a parish. Let’s just say it came sooner than both of us expected! 

Our founding pastor, Father Adam Sedar, has helped to bring together three parishes of venerable history in Minersville and Heckscherville. My friendship with Father Adam dates back to our time at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, with three highlights: In 1998 I was privileged to play the organ for his first Mass. In 2004 I succeeded him as Chaplain of Reading Central Catholic High School. Now, in 2016, I shall endeavor to continue the good work he has begun among you. 

The Church’s Thursday Night Prayer contains a line that impressed me from my first recitation of it: “The lot marked out for me is my delight; welcome indeed the heritage that falls to me” (Ps 16:6). I want to carry that attitude into every offering of sacrifice, proclamation of the Gospel, and exercise of pastoral care. In turn, I will gain strength from your fidelity to worship and service, as members of Christ’s Mystical Body in union with their Head. We will provide each other many opportunities to grow in holiness, virtue, and joy. May Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, and Michael, our fearless patron among the heavenly hosts, unceasingly come to our aid!

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16 October 2016

Dear Family,

Several trusted priest advisors have challenged me to devise a “vision” for the parish. What direction ought we go? Who and what are our most valued resources and how shall we harness them? What are our most crucial needs and how do they invite us to change and grow?

While I am not even fully unpacked, it seems vital for all of us together to unpack these and other very important concerns if I am to serve you as you deserve. My words from last week provide a sufficient foundation for any pastoral activity: the people of God, by virtue of our Baptism, are priests of common and personal sacrifice, prophets of faithful and enthusiastic witness, and kings (or ‘shepherds’, if you will) of just and merciful treatment. All worthy parochial endeavors will somehow fall under these categories.

I would like to meet all parishioners involved in the liturgical and temporal aspects of parish life (e.g. Advisory Council, Lectors, Catechists), to find out what is already going on, how I can “plug into” it, and what improvements may seem appropriate. Check this column for more information in the coming weeks.

One aspect of parish life—a very important one, from my vantage point and many others’ as well— merits immediate change in view of my personal health and wellness, also considering my diverse responsibilities to Lehigh Valley Medical Center-Schuylkill and various nursing facilities, assistance to the Federal Correctional Institute- Schuylkill, and the county’s Hispanic Apostolate. I wish to

change the Daily Liturgical Schedule to the following, effective the week of 30 October. Monday: Mass at 5:30pm, preceded by Confessions at 5pm Tuesday: Mass at 8:00am (except for any CCD Masses at 6pm) Wednesday: Mass at 8:00am Thursday: Mass at 8:00am, followed by Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament until Benediction, Night Prayer, and Miraculous Medal Novena at 6:00pm
Friday: Mass at 5:30pm, preceded by Confessions at 5pm.

I hope that the earlier time of the evening Masses is helpful for those who don’t care to be out too late in the evening, even as those who don’t consider that a problem could make the time for the Lord’s Supper before dinner and other family concerns. I realize that team sports are one such concern, and perhaps even these changes will not be very helpful for families to participate. I thank you in advance for your patience and understanding, and realize that further consideration and modification of this schedule might be necessary.

You will notice that I have added an extra slot for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. If I could envision one concrete positive change for our parish “right out the gate,” it would be an increase in the conscientious celebration of the Sacrament of Penance. I want to make available to all of you, in print and virtual media, a helpful guide to making a good Confession. As a priest, I don’t like to let a few months go by without participating in the sacrament as a penitent, and I firmly believe (on good authority!) that every member of Christ’s Mystical Body should do likewise.

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23 October 2016

Dear Family,

In my inaugural column I specified the three “offices” of Prophet, Priest, and Shepherd-King that Our Lord fulfilled as the Anointed One (Heb, mashiach; Gk. Christos). How do we carry out those roles as they come to us through our baptismal anointing?

As Priest we are hard-wired for sacrifice. The priests of the First Covenant offered grain and animals to God in atonement for sin, in thanksgiving for God’s blessings. Our Church’s Catechism quotes an early Christian author who said, “Mankind is a beggar before God.” We cannot help but declare our dependence on God as “giver of breath and bread” (G. M.Hopkins, Wreck of the Deutschland).

According to the early understanding that persists into our day, God gives everything—good and evil. We will say with greater nuance that God permits evil, but we still experience many bad things as “happening to” us. Before the omnipotent Creator of all things we declare our need for repair and redress, our need to persevere in life amid our trials.

We offer the sacrifices of our private prayers of adoration, thanksgiving, contrition, and supplication (“ACTS”). But above all, we priests participate in the sacrifice of the Church’s commonest common prayer: the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. If we’re not doing that, we’re simply not firing on all cylinders.

Our sacrifice of praise includes the confession, or acknowledgment, of our sins! That’s about the most original thing we can offer Him, for our good works come from His inspiration and direction, even though we may not perceive it. But those works truly become ours. We cooperate with God in carrying them out. “Confession” means acknowledgment: acknowledgment above all of the goodness of our God, Whose love for us extends even unto the forgiveness of our sins and restoration to friendship with Him and our neighbor. If we’re not doing that, we’re simply not firing on all cylinders.