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Good News for January 4th

Over the past few weeks, I have been talking about transitions. I spoke about this topic from my perspective. I also wrote about it from the point of view of Archbishop Nelson Perez. I wanted to present what the Archbishop is considering as he continues his transition as the Archbishop of Philadelphia.

I haven’t been here quite a month, but I would like to offer some ideas about what I'm thinking so far. Let me begin by doing a little vision casting. I'd like to offer some ideas on the general direction of the parish. This includes presenting a couple of big bucket areas that we may be able to focus on over the next couple of months.

The first area involves defining the parish vision. Who are we? What are we? What are we supposed to be doing? A few years ago, a few parishioners worked together with the Parish Staff and Fr. Chris to begin formulating some parish priorities for St. Raymond Parish. Prayer was at the top of the list. Outreach to the poor and those in need was a second area. The third area involved leadership and discipleship. Over the next few weeks, I will meet with the parish staff and a number of parishioners to revisit those priorities. Are they still the right ones? Do they need to be revisited? What concrete action items or goals line up with those parish priorities?

The second big bucket area involves staff definition and staff development. The Parish Staff supports me in the implementation of the parish priorities. I will be meeting with the staff to examine their "Key Responsibility Areas" (or KRAs). What SMART Goals are associated with those KRAs to address the parish priorities? We started working on this over the past week.

The third area involves the parish facilities. I have been walking around the grounds and buildings. I have noticed a need for some serious deep cleaning and decluttering. There is a need for minor repairs and a fresh coat of paint in some areas. The St. Raymond Parish Staff is dedicating time, work, and effort for the sake of the mission. The workspace in which they are operating is not only ineffective. It is an aesthetically unpleasant workspace. It needs an uplift.

We need to reorganize the rectory area. We should probably look at the way the Sacristy is organized and the gathering space in the back of the church. We have lovely, wonderful buildings. What might we do to just clean up a little and organize some items?

There are two things that quickly and thoroughly destroy a parish's mission. One is any unforeseen, unplanned, breakdowns in parish buildings or infrastructure. The second is unforeseen, unexpected, financial challenges. These are about stewardship of parish resources. These resources are provided by the good people of St. Raymond for the sake of the mission. How well are we stewarding these resources?

We need to work together to do a thorough analysis of the state of the parish building and grounds. What is in good working order? What items are working well? What equipment is functioning but approaching the end of life? What items are broken or need immediate maintenance?

To do this, I propose forming a Facilities Committee. This group of qualified men and women would help perform this analysis. They would determine priorities. They would do the financial analysis. They would develop a long-range, maintenance facilities and grounds plan.

There has been discussion about renovating the old school space under the church. I have heard an idea of using this space for a new parish center. It's a great idea. I would add a facelift to the meeting space under the rectory to the project. The danger would be a major, unforeseen infrastructure/facilities breakdown in the midst of the renovation. This would kill momentum. It undermines parish morale. The renovation should be part of the larger, parish facilities and grounds plan. A coordinated Facilities Committee-Finance Council could help coordinate this marvelous dream.

The next area is finances and the Finance Council. This is critical. I have no "go-to" person or people with whom I can discuss the financial aspects of the parish. Thus, I recently reached out to parishioners who had functioned as a Finance Council in the past. I invited them to consider continuing in that capacity. We hold the next Finance Council meeting later this month.

We are currently finding larger, more complex, financial aspects of running St. Raymond. Again, this goes to stewardship of financial resources. One particularly important challenge in this area involves personnel. We need a part-time Accountant/Financial Director. We have a qualified bookkeeper. She is helping me and the parish with general bookkeeping activities. This is only a temporary solution. We need someone with a robust résumé and experience to help address these challenges over the long term.

I’ve laid out some large areas in which I am looking to move over the next couple of months. What comes next? I have been delighted and encouraged by the number of people who have spoken to me. They have a joyful and optimistic view of the parish. Several have said, “Father, if you need something, let me know."

We will need people with particular charisms (gifts). This would include the charisms of administration, organization, craftsmanship, small group leadership, and envisioning. Perhaps you’re feeling a call in your heart from God to step forward and allow your charism to shine. If that is the case, let me know. The Parish Staff and I will be looking to have discussions with such people. My support team and I wish to discern how to best match the talents of parishioners to the needs of the parish.

In closing, let me ask for your continued prayers. Pray for me, the staff, and the wonderful people who serve our parish. Pray for insight and wisdom. Pray that we properly discern God's call for us and fulfill the mission of the Great Parish of Saint Raymond.

Fr. Charles

Some gentle, personal requests from the new guy….

There are two areas where I could use some help. First, I enjoy cooking. I do my own cooking and dishes myself. However, I really dislike food shopping. I could use someone (or a few people) willing to grab some groceries for me - probably weekly or every week-and-a-half. I developed a grocery list from previous assignments that can help to let you know what I need.

Second, the rectory has zero storage space. We don’t have a basement. However, we have 4 suites upstairs in the rectory - the only one which is being used (by guess who?). I’d like to utilize one for personal storage. I need someone to help me build some shelving to store personal items, storage bins, and books. Does anybody want to help me choose and install some wall slots and shelving brackets?

Let me know. Fr. Z

"We had a beautiful Watch Hour to start the New Year! We took Some time to look back and some time to look ahead. We reflected on overcoming obstacles and letting go of our “security blanket”. We also reflected on how to use our gifts for the good of others. Prayer and reflection in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament and Mass was an excellent way to ring in the New Year 2023.

Watch Hour 2022 Handout
Download PDF • 248KB

1/2/23 Memorial of Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church. They were among the most devoted defenders of the faith in the fourth century. Both were bishops and both are now saints and doctors of the Church. These two men met while studying in Caesarea Cappadocia and strengthened their tight friendship in Athens. After Basil’s death, Gregory wrote of their bond, “We seemed to have one soul, inhabiting two bodies” (Orationes of Saint Gregory 43:20).

Both saints came from families of saints. Basil’s maternal grandmother was a martyr; his paternal grandmother, his parents, and three of his siblings are also saints. Gregory’s father was converted to Catholicism by his wife. After his conversion, he was ordained a priest and then consecrated as Bishop of Nazianzen. He served as bishop for about 45 years, living into his 90s. These saintly parents had three children, all of whom became saints.

At the time that Saints Gregory and Basil lived, the Church, the body of Christ, was suffering from the pandemic of Arianism, a heresy that denied the divinity of Christ. This heresy was like a disease infecting the Church. Arianism entered the bloodstream of Christ’s body and weakened every limb and muscle, causing convulsions, violent outbursts, and deep divisions among both bishops and the faithful. The clear teaching and brave episcopal leadership of Saints Basil and Gregory helped the Church to heal, eradicate this heresy, and to restore the unity of faith in the East. But not all warmly welcomed their efforts. They both suffered greatly. From the emperor, many bishops, and other clergy and laity, they received many abuses, calumnies, physical attacks, and threats. Through it all, they remained faithful to their preaching and calm and focused in their resolve, restoring a deeper and more ancient unity to Christ’s faithful. Today, their voluminous writings are among the most inspiring, insightful, and convincing teachings of the early Church, particularly as they pertain to Christ’s divinity and the Most Holy Trinity. These two men did not become saints simply because they were smart. They were also holy. And their holiness came from a life of deep prayer. After they both received an excellent education at the finest universities, they mutually sought to live as hermits, with Basil leading the way by forming what would become the model for monasticism in the East. They both spent years in solitude and prayer at different stages of their lives. Their interior communion with God through prayer, more than anything else, prepared them for their common mission.

1/4/23 Memorial of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton. Born two years before the American Revolution, Elizabeth grew up in the upper class of New York society. She was a prolific reader and read everything from the Bible to contemporary novels. In spite of her high social background, Elizabeth's early life was quiet, simple, and often lonely. As she grew a little older, the Bible was to become her continual instruction, support, and comfort -and she would continue to love the Scriptures for the rest of her life. In 1794, Elizabeth married the wealthy young William Seton, with whom she was deeply in love. The first years of their marriage were happy and prosperous. Elizabeth wrote in her diary at first autumn, "My own home at twenty-the world-that and heaven too-quite impossible."

This time of Elizabeth's life was to be a brief moment of earthly happiness before the many deaths and partings she was to suffer. Within four years, William's father died, leaving the young couple in charge of William's seven half brothers and sisters, as well as the family's importing business. Events moved quickly from there with devastating effect. Both William's business and health failed. He was finally forced to file a petition of bankruptcy and, in a final attempt to save William's health, the Setons sailed for Italy, where William had business friends. Unfortunately, William died of tuberculosis while in Italy. Elizabeth's one consolation was that he had recently awakened to the things of God.

The many enforced separations from dear ones by death and distance served to draw Elizabeth's heart to God and eternity. The accepting and embracing of God's will - "The Will," as she called it - would be a keynote in her spiritual life. Elizabeth's deep concern for the spiritual welfare of her family and friends eventually led her to the Catholic Church. In Italy, Elizabeth captivated everyone by her kindness, patience, good sense, wit, and courtesy. During this time Elizabeth became interested in the Catholic Faith and, over a period of months, her Italian friends guided her in Catholic instruction.

Elizabeth's desire for the Bread of Life was to be a strong force leading her to the Catholic Church. Having lost her mother at an early age, Elizabeth felt great comfort in the idea that the Blessed Virgin was truly her mother. She asked the Blessed Virgin to guide her to True Faith and officially joined the Catholic Church in 1805. At the suggestion of the president of St. Mary's College in Baltimore, Maryland, Elizabeth started a school in that city. The school had originally been secular but once news of her entrance to Catholicism spread, several girls were removed from her school. It was then Seton, and two other young women who helped her in her work, began plans for a Sisterhood. They established the first free Catholic school in America. When the young community adopted their rule, they made provisions for Elizabeth to continue raising her children.

On March 25, 1809, Elizabeth Seton pronounced her vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, binding for one year. From that time she was called Mother Seton. Although Mother Seton became afflicted with tuberculosis, she continued to guide her children. The Rule of the Sisterhood was formally ratified in 1812. It was based upon the Rule St. Vincent de Paul had written for his Daughters of Charity in France. By 1818, in addition to their first school, the sisters had established two orphanages and another school. Today, six groups of sisters can trace their origins to Mother Seton's initial foundation.

Seton's favorite prayer was the 23rd Psalm and she developed a deep devotion to the Eucharist, Sacred Scripture, and the Virgin Mary. For the last three years of her life, Elizabeth felt that God was getting ready to call her, and this gave her great joy. Mother Seton died in 1821 at the age of 46, only sixteen years after becoming a Catholic. She was beatified by Pope John XXIII on March 17, 1963, and was canonized on September 14, 1975, by Pope Paul VI.

1/5/23 Memorial of Saint John Neumann, Bishop. This American saint was born in Bohemia in 1811. He was looking forward to being ordained in 1835 when the bishop decided there would be no more ordinations. It is difficult for us to imagine now, but Bohemia was overstocked with priests. John wrote to bishops all over Europe but the story was the same everywhere no one wanted any more priests. John was sure he was called to be a priest but all the doors to follow that vocation seemed to close in his face.

But John didn't give up. He had learned English by working in a factory with English-speaking workers so he wrote to the bishops in America. Finally, the bishop in New York agreed to ordain him. In order to follow God's call to the priesthood John would have to leave his home forever and travel across the ocean to a new and rugged land.

In New York, John was one of 36 priests for 200,000 Catholics. John's parish in western New York stretched from Lake Ontario to Pennsylvania. His church had no steeple or floor but that didn't matter because John spent most of his time traveling from village to village, climbing mountains to visit the sick, staying in garrets and taverns to teach, and celebrating the Mass at kitchen tables. Because of the work and the isolation of his parish, John longed for community and so joined the Redemptorists, a congregation of priests and brothers dedicated to helping the poor and most abandoned.

John was appointed bishop of Philadelphia in 1852. As bishop, he was the first to organize a diocesan Catholic school system. A founder of Catholic education in this country, he increased the number of Catholic schools in his diocese from two to 100.

John never lost his love and concern for the people -- something that may have bothered the elite of Philadelphia. On one visit to a rural parish, the parish priest picked him up in a manure wagon. Seated on a plank stretched over the wagon's contents, John joked, "Have you ever seen such an entourage for a bishop!"

The ability to learn languages that had brought him to America led him to learn Spanish, French, Italian, and Dutch so he could hear confessions in at least six languages. When Irish immigration started, he learned Gaelic so well that one Irish woman remarked, "Isn't it grand that we have an Irish bishop!"

Once on a visit to Germany, he came back to the house he was staying in soaked by rain. When his host suggested he change his shoes, John remarked, "The only way I could change my shoes is by putting the left one on the right foot and the right one on the left foot. This is the only pair I own." John died on January 5, 1860, at the age of 48.

1/6/23 Optional Memorial of Saint André Bessette, When Alfred Bessette came to the Holy Cross Brothers in 1870, he carried with him a note from his pastor saying, "I am sending you a saint." The Brothers found that difficult to believe. Chronic stomach pains had made it impossible for Alfred to hold a job very long and since he was a boy he had wandered from shop to shop, farm to farm, in his native Canada and in the United States, staying only until his employers found out how little work he could do. The Holy Cross Brothers were teachers and, at 25, Alfred still did not know how to read and write. It seemed as if Alfred approached the religious order out of desperation, not vocation.

Alfred was desperate, but he was also prayerful and deeply devoted to God and Saint Joseph. He may have had no place left to go, but he believed that was because this was the place he felt he should have been all along.

The Holy Cross Brothers took him into the novitiate but soon found out what others had learned -- as hard as Alfred, now Brother Andre, wanted to work, he simply wasn't strong enough. They asked him to leave the order, but Andre, out of desperation again, appealed to a visiting bishop who promised him that Andre would stay and take his vows.

After his vows, Brother Andre was sent to Notre Dame College in Montreal (a school for boys age seven to twelve) as a porter. There his responsibilities were to answer the door, to welcome guests, find the people they were visiting, wake up those in the school, and deliver mail. Brother Andre joked later, "At the end of my novitiate, my superiors showed me the door, and I stayed there for forty years."

In 1904, he surprised the Archbishop of Montreal if he could, by requesting permission to, build a chapel to Saint Joseph on the mountain near the college. The Archbishop refused to go into debt and would only give permission for Brother Andre to build what he had money for. What money did Brother Andre have? Nickels he had collected as donations for Saint Joseph from haircuts he gave the boys. Nickels and dimes from a small dish he had kept in a picnic shelter on top of the mountain near a statue of St. Joseph with a sign "Donations for St. Joseph." He had collected this change for years but he still had only a few hundred dollars. Who would start a chapel now with so little funding?

Andre took his few hundred dollars and built what he could ... a small wood shelter only fifteen feet by eighteen feet. He kept collecting money and went back three years later to request more building. The wary Archbishop asked him, "Are you having visions of Saint Joseph telling you to build a church for him?" Brother Andre reassured him. "I have only my great devotion to St. Joseph to guide me."

The Archbishop granted him permission to keep building as long as he didn't go into debt. He started by adding a roof so that all the people who were coming to hear Mass at the shrine wouldn't have to stand out in the rain and the wind. Then came walls, heating, a paved road up the mountain, a shelter for pilgrims, and finally a place where Brother Andre and others could live and take care of the shrine -- and the pilgrims who came - full-time. Through kindness, caring, and devotion, Brother Andre helped many souls experience healing and renewal on the mountaintop. There were even cases of physical healing. But for everything, Brother Andre thanked St. Joseph.

Despite financial troubles, Brother Andre never lost faith or devotion. He had started to build a basilica on the mountain but the Depression had interfered. At ninety-years old he told his co-workers to place a statue of St. Joseph in the unfinished, unroofed basilica. He was so ill he had to be carried up the mountain to see the statue in its new home. Brother Andre died soon after on January 6 and didn't live to see the work on the basilica completed. But in Brother Andre's mind, it never would be completed because he always saw more ways to express his devotion and to heal others. As long as he lived, the man who had trouble keeping work for himself would never have stopped working for God. On December 19, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI promulgated a decree recognizing a second miracle at Blessed André's intercession and on October 17, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI formally declared sainthood for Blessed Andre.

St. Raymond of Pennafort, Patron Saint of Canonists (Feast day - January 7) Born in Spain, St. Raymond was a relative of the King of Aragon. From childhood, he had a tender love and devotion to the Blessed Mother. A contemporary of Saint Thomas Aquinas, he inspired the theologian to write the “Summa Contra Gentiles” for the conversion of non-Catholics. At least 10,000 Muslims reportedly converted due to St. Raymond’s evangelistic labors.

Descended from a noble family with ties to the royal house of Aragon, Raymond of Penafort was born in 1175 in the Catalonian region of modern-day Spain near Barcelona.

He advanced quickly in his studies, showing such a gift for philosophy that he was appointed to teach the subject in Barcelona by age 20. As a teacher, the young man worked to harmonize reason with the profession and practice of Catholic faith and morals. This included a notable concern for the poor and suffering.

Around age 30 the Spanish scholar went to study secular and Church law at Bologna in Italy. He earned his doctorate and taught there until 1219 when the Bishop of Barcelona gave him an official position in the diocese. In 1222, the 47-year-old Raymond joined the Dominican order, in which he would spend the next 53 years of his remarkably long life.



Congress XIII (2023)

Announcing the Congress Theme — “Write the Vision:

A Prophetic Call to Thrive”

July 20-23, 2023

The Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center

201 Waterfront Street, National Harbor, MD 20745

Attention! Attention!

Men of St. Raymond

Save the Date March 4, 2023

Man Up Philly 2023 will be here before you know it. Please reserve the date on your calendar. More Information to follow in the months to come.

Let's bring people back to the pews.

We ask parishioners to sign up to answer a question about their faith and why they worship at St. Raymond. After the interview, we would like to post it on Social Media and play it before Mass.

Can you help?

Does it sound like something you can do?

Call the office and let us know.

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