Category: From the Pastor

First Down (July 15, 2018)

Dear Friends,

To think critically or to be critical of an organization or person can be seen in two ways. Either it is given or received in a negative way such as a threat or making one feel their views or way of life is threatened. Or, it can be said in love, wanting the group or person to be their best, and received with love knowing that the words invite a change or review that will bring about a better way of being. In my lifetime I have seen both ways practiced yet today I find the first way of receiving criticism as a negative, to be more common at the moment.

There are people in many types of groups who demand a loyalty of others that can bring about perceived pressure to not say or do anything that would be critical of the group thinking or way of being. If one were to be critical it could be met with anger and threats that make people not free to question the thought of the group or organization. In other words, think like we do or you are not on our side. And yes even our Church has a history of such practices. Why? Well, I suppose we are human beings and there are things in our lives that we look for certainty and we could be free from growing or meeting challenges in being part of humanity. It is easier to think we can make everyone be on the same page by simply demanding this from others.

I propose that Christianity at its best is when its people think critically of what our faith believes and does. To live the life of Christ by simply raising our hands and saying, ‘This is the way it has always been, why change it?’ If we take our faith seriously we know that all we do needs to be based on love of God and of neighbor. So if we speak with love in calling forth the best in others/ groups, then the hope is our better selves will shine forth.

You know where I see this working the best? In parents, yes parents. I love seeing parents who have to constantly correct, teach, be patient, pay attention, explain, endure, be disappointed, be proud of growth and help develop skills in their children that need improvement over time. They offer words that can be seen as critical yet done with great love. Most parents really practice these things well or as best they can. No wonder all you parents look tired at Mass! Yet, we know there are other parents who really struggle in setting strong expectations that help their children grow, from being for example, selfish, not caring for others, not being responsible or dependable and blaming others for things not going well. Parents voices that can be critical or received as critical, when done out of real love for their family, can really bring out the best in their families.

I love my Church, I really do. In fact, I have given my life to serve God’s people, the Church. Yet, I do not hesitate to also see and call out our shadow side. At the core of any critical statement of the Church or this flock that I shepherd, is one of deep love. I do not want God’s people to settle for mediocre faith living. I want God’s people to be at their best. Just a parent’s words are either received well or seen as bad, so a Pastor’s words are received in the same way. As for me, I love God’s people, and when I see his people grow and not remain the same then I experience great joy in my ministry.

Be critical of what is not right, and make sure love is at the core of what we say.

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Eric

First Down (July 8, 2018)

Dear Friends,

God listens to every person’s prayers. Prayer is not simply trying to change God’s mind, rather prayer changes us. It can allow us to be open to the Spirit of courage, hope and peace in the midst of dealing with a heavy situation or simply asking for direction about a decision that needs to be made. God honors all prayer. It helps when we practice prayer, meaning that we make time to simply listen and/or converse with God. Pope Francis reminded us the other day that every person who follows Christ, needs to pray. He goes on to say that prayer does not have to be lengthy or emotional. It can be simple. I hope that every person can see that prayer is something we can all do.

Whenever I receive a call to go and visit a sick person in the hospital or at their home, I might be greeted by family members and friends. Ready to celebrate the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, I always enjoy the family joining in praying for their loved ones. There is such power in people gathered to pray for another. I get disheartened when family members call to have a visit for their loved one, but they see no need for their presence. It can feel like the priest should go do their thing over their loved one. I enjoy when the family has called to arrange for a time when everyone can gather to pray for their loved one. Now there might be serious reasons why the family cannot be present, but I am talking about the times when it seems there is no real desire by family members to be present.

I am moved at the times when family or friends who are present are either of a different faith tradition, have not practiced their faith in years or do not really express a faith experience and decide to join us in prayer. That is so powerful. Their love for the person is shown in their desire to ask God, a higher power, or a desire for a healing or peace to come upon their loved one. I am saddened at the times when they choose to excuse themselves from prayer, either feeling they do not belong or just not wanting to be present at that time. Now again there might be circumstances that might be going on that may cause some pain, I am speaking about the times that a decision is made just to not be present at prayer.

To show love for another person is the willingness to pray on their behalf to God. In other words, being their advocate. Every one of us by our baptism is called to be an advocate for others. I loved what the Pope said, our prayer does not have to be lengthy or emotional, just simply making an effort to speak and listen to God.

The day the Priest comes into your place, I invite you to feel free to join in prayer for your loved one and invite those present to join us, even if not of our faith tradition.

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Eric

First Down (July 1, 2018)

Dear Friends,

This Wednesday is the 4th of July, Independence Day. It is a day of picnics, fireworks, grilling and celebrating. I always enjoy the excitement of people of all ages who look forward to seeing a fireworks show. It is loud, colorful and it lights up the sky. People gather at designated places to see the show and law enforcement makes sure that people do not stop on the freeways to see the fireworks. There is something about fireworks that captures our attention.

I hope this holiday will allow our attention to focus on the great gift of freedom. Our lives in this country can be overwhelming with much to do, some things that are important and responsible and other things we choose that takes our attention. These things can cause us to forget the gift of freedom that many of us have and the responsibility we all have to preserve this freedom.

We often see an attitude in people believing they are free to act in any way, as if actions are simply our own and have little regard on how it may affect others. Some choose to ignore the consequences of one’s own actions. Freedom is a gift that first of all comes from God, he desires all humanity to live in freedom: Freedom from fear, hate, lacking basic human needs among other things. We remember the many men and women throughout human history who bravely serve humanity to have freedom, to ensure its gift, and to keep it working for all people. Freedom comes with responsibility. One cannot simply go around and expect freedom to simply happen or think one has rights and there should be no cost in having those rights.

We might want to recall the courage that this country’s first leaders showed in working through the idea that this country will work to honor, defend and preserve this gift of freedom.

In being responsible with our freedom, we can practice making sure our language towards others is kind, compassionate and caring. We can be responsible by driving in a way that is patient, driving safely and courteous. Being responsible is praying for all our elected officials who need the Holy Spirit to guide and protect them from things that do not serve the common good. Being responsible with our freedom is opening our hearts towards those who lack the gift of freedom within our own country and even those from countries who abuse power towards its people.

As our attention turns towards another fireworks show, I hope our attention also turns towards our actions that honor the gift of freedom. May God protect our country and our freedom so that we may model to all humanity what responsible freedom looks like.

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Eric

First Down (August 24, 2018)

Dear Friends,

In a recent First Down, I shared with the community a reflection of having to say goodbye to some important staff members as they enter their retirement. These four women have served the people of God with their gifts: Maggie Seliga, Tricia Hoyt, Diane Gilles and Margie Heckman are women who have given their lives to serve God and to support the work of His people, the Church. Our lives have been enriched either by knowing these women personally, or seeing the fruit of their work.

The Church is filled with men and women with great gifts and we announce that we have hired three outstanding people to serve the community. We welcome John Konicek who will take on the position of Director of Adult Formation and Parish Spirituality. John brings with him a background of some of the best Catholic education that Jesuits offer and experiences in many different ministries. Our parishioners will be amazed of his knowledge, his teaching style and his forward thinking of the Church that is central to St. Patrick formation.

We welcome Brian Cannon to the position of Director of Evangelization and Family Life. Brian’s last position was with OLPH parish in Scottsdale. He and his wife Mary and their two young children bring an understanding of being a young family. Brian has the Vatican II, forward thinking that is vital to living our Catholic faith at St. Patrick. He will oversee a variety of ministries in the parish.

We welcome a familiar person back to our parish staff, Megan Popa. She served as Coordinator of our Edge Middle School program a number of years ago. She left to minister in the Dominican Republic and then ran her own food truck. Megan is a young adult who will also bring us great experience of ministry and an understanding of the needs of our young adults and families. She brings also a Vatican II forward thinking to our parish. She will be the Coordinator of Baptism, Ministry of Care and Hospitality.

We have moved Kevin McGloin to a new position of overseeing our entire Children’s/Youth Formation. Kevin is known for being the Director of Liturgy and Youth Formation. This new area will give Kevin a renewal to share his wisdom and knowledge for continuing to grow our outreach to children, youth and especially the parents.

It’s a big staff in terms of numbers. There is a lot of work happening here at St. Patrick, and with over 130+ ministries it takes a lot of hard work to keep going. Ministries outside the parish grounds into the community cannot be measured, there is so much happening. These four people mentioned here, joining with a busy staff, are people who are on the cutting edge of faith development. In time, parishioners who encounter these new staff members will understand better, the words I keep using, “forward thinking.” They join our current staff which also looks for new ways to bring Jesus into the lives of people everywhere.

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Eric

First Down (June 17, 2018)

Dear Friends,

When we are young we think we have so much time before us, that what we are doing and are all about will last forever. As we get older our views on life change, we begin to realize our time of doing what we want to do is limited. Then that day comes when we say it is time to put a past way of life behind, and enter a new stage of life. This time has come for four parish staff members as they are entering into a new phase of life, retirement.

I want to offer my heartfelt thanks to four people who have been part of our parish family for many years and to express gratitude for the gifts that each one brought to our community.

We say thank you to Maggie Seliga. I knew Maggie at my first assignment at St. Maria Goretti. Maggie is a woman with so many ideas for ministry. Maggie is creative and she adapts. She is filled with so many experiences of raising her own children and is able to use them to reach out to other families. Maggie expanded her role from Children’s Formation to Adult Christian Initiation and Ministry of Care among other ministries over her many years of service.

We say thank you to Tricia Hoyt. She is a woman whose gift of ministry and scholarly work on Scriptures has greatly blessed so many here. Tricia feeds our deep intellectual curiosity of God and the Church. Her ability to tell stories, to relate experiences and break open the Word of God has been a blessing. Over the many years she has helped develop skills with ministers who have gone out to the Church at large and shared their gifts with others.

We say thank you to Diane Gilles. Diane has been with our parish for over 20+years. Working behind the scenes Diane has worked with different Formation Directors and Coordinators to make sure events and preparations were completed. She has seen our parish grow from one small building into what we have become today. She has been able to adjust from the needs of a smaller parish to one that places great demands on our resources and time.

We thank Margie Heckman. Margie has helped our technology support grow over the many years. At the time she arrived to start helping, she helped the parish navigate from simple beginnings with our computers/technology to one that is still growing to meet the demands of our staff and buildings. For IT people who work in the background, it is difficult for some people to see how things come about and grow. As for Margie, she helped solve some big challenges for us.

We honored each one of the ladies at a dinner on Friday, but I wanted to express my gratitude and thanksgiving for all they have done for our parish family and for the many years of service. I hope each one continues to know they are still part of our family as they go on new paths in their own lives.

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Eric

First Down (June 10, 2018)

Dear Friends,

The early Church faced persecution from the Roman authorities. One of the reasons was the way that early Christians treated women with honor and respect. The Romans could not understand why they were treated in such a way. That was the history of our Church. For today’s Church it would be important to capture again a way of life that raised women to a status of equals, status of honor and dignity.

The perception by some in the world is that the Church has a strong voice in protecting the life in the womb. And the question we can ask ourselves, is this enough? What language and ideas can we express that help women know they can be empowered to make a decision to honor the life within their womb?

The Church’s position could be strengthened if we became stronger advocates for a better commitment of healthcare for women. Research, funding and the resources that give women some of the best healthcare would give women the confidence that they deserve the best this field can give them. Could the Church be stronger and give women the economic strength of better pay, and not settle to give wages that are less than just? Would women be free to feel they have support to choose life because they can support themselves financially? What if the Church looked for ways to share authority/power in the Church which would send a clear message that their gifts are valued and do contribute to the Kingdom of God?

The point I am making is, what if women could count on the Church as a more powerful support, that goes way beyond what is being offered now, so that their concern goes from thinking they are alone to one of saying Christians have our backs?

I feel disappointment about the recent historic vote in Ireland which now makes possible abortion for the women of Ireland. Rather than blame women and men for voting in such a way, how about we look at the way we tell the story of life, dignity, respect and real support.

It is the history of our Catholic faith. We once were the leaders of the world in how women were raised up, honored and treated. We were once persecuted for such practices. We can be that type of Church again that goes beyond what is happening right now. To speak advocacy on behalf of women, giving them the support that often is missing from our social make up and really seeing women as our equal, which by the way, is the teaching of our faith. Just something to reflect on: We should never tire from telling our story in new and different ways. When we do, hearts can be touched and changed and then the courage of doing the right thing can be done by many when they know they are supported and loved.

Peace in Christ, Fr. Eric

First Down (June 3, 2018)

Dear Friends,

The life of Jesus shown in the scriptures has many times given me some comfort and insights into real human life. My spirit is uplifted when Jesus takes time to rest, not being busy with activities at every moment. When His disciples are looking for him because there are many people to heal and see, Jesus is found by himself praying and resting. The humanity of Jesus is something I hope that every one of us can learn from. Humanity needs rest, time for one to recharge, be renewed and live a balanced life.

The summer time in the Valley finds people changing their schedule and routine. Some are able to have the gift of traveling to see new places and to get away for a vacation. Some leave to be with family members, while others have another place to escape for weekends or some extended time away. I hope that everyone knows that it is a holy time to rest, to get away and/ or change one’s routine.

As Americans our surveys say we take the least amount of time away from work for vacation time. Work can be a gift from God, as we can be productive and hopefully see our work as contributing to the common good. It could be helpful if we recognized that vacation time could be used to reconnect with relationships that could use some attention. This might be family or friends who live some distance from us that we do not get to see often. Or, it might even be family members that live under the same roof. Sometimes busy activities can cause important relationships to suffer. Vacations, time away and break from routines are all paths that God gives to us to rest and make better the relationships that need our attention.

Now if getting away is a good and holy thing we all need to know that it is important to give thanks to God for giving us this gift. The relationship with God also needs our attention. Getting away from here should not neglect our relationship with God. When traveling to other places it might be good to experience Mass at different places. When Mass is not nearby, taking some time to pray, to read the Sunday scriptures or to spend some time on the Sabbath to praise God are all good things to do.

To simply decide to skip Mass, prayer and the Sabbath all together is not using the gift of rest wisely. One simply does not “earn” time to vacation, we Christians know that it is a gift from God.

Some families might struggle to change the mindset of not going to Mass or setting time aside for God. How about planning with the family some time for God? Getting away from our everyday activities are good things, but it should not include taking a break from God.

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Eric

First Down (May 27, 2018)

Dear Friends,

The last Monday in May is Memorial Day. Our country has this day to call its citizens to remember the men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice of their lives to serve this country and protect the freedoms that we are suppose to have. Sometimes thoughts turn towards the idea of the official start to summer, picnics, sales and having a three day weekend. Not all bad if we do these things with the remembrance of what Memorial Day is to be.

As a boy I remember conversations with my parents about what freedoms we had as American citizens. I lived during the Cold War, and Communism in many countries, was something that was seen as a danger. The biggest lesson was that in living in this country you had freedom to speak and do what you wanted to do with your lives. This was secured by people who were killed in service to their country. People would jump walls, crawl under fences; seek ways to escape a life with no freedom towards a life where freedom was present. To honor their deaths we were reminded to live responsibly this freedom given to us.

I think during these times we may have forgotten this gift of freedom of speech. Often in the news people are upset by what others have reportedly said. There seems to be forced apologies by well known people who are advised to say they are sorry, and word it in ways that makes it seem they are sincere. There is anger that is present when disagreements happen. A force can develop, even from good people who seek to attack people for their speech by placing people in categories, name calling, and really not engaging in listening to seek understanding of what one might really be trying say.

We used to mock governments who sought to control free speech. And it seems like a number of our citizens seek ways to silence people of opposing views. The freedom of speech won for us by those who have served our country means we also have the freedom to disagree, to enter into dialogue, to remember those words I may not agree with you but I will defend the right for the other to say their opinion.

Pope Francis has reminded the church leadership and others that respectful dialogue can happen in our discussions of faith. He stated that one should not say, “You should not say such a thing”, rather, he encourages us to speak what is true and do so with respect. Even our Catholic faith has struggled with trying to silence people who speak with voices that displease those with authority.

This Memorial Day I would hope that you can join me in reflection of the great gift of freedom by speaking one’s mind with charity, listening to other voices, even when it breaks our hearts or hurts our senses. Better for people to speak what is true in their minds rather than hide behind lies which only mask what one really believes.

We say thank you this Monday for those who preserved the precious gift of freedom. That is something the Gospel of Jesus Christ also gives to us.

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Eric