Category: From the Staff

Easter Surprise (by Paul Hillebrand)

You know how sometimes you find yourself telling a story of something that happened in the past? You say something like, “It was amazing!”, “a couple of years ago, there were so many people here and it was standing room only, people were over flowing out of the room!” or “well you just wouldn’t believe
what it used to be like.” or “It was the Best ever!”

Well, I thought that was the story I would always tell about how it used to be at St. Patrick’s on Easter, but then came this year. I was genuinely surprised on Easter!!! The wonderful large crowds of people that came to worship. We had so many people here that it was once again standing room only in the church and a full Mass in the Fenlon Hospitality Center and we had 100 people in the Daily Mass Chapel watching the Mass on the new screen being shown from the live feed from the church.

All in all it was about 2,200 people at each of the two Easter morning Masses!!!

I really thought that that was going to be a memory that those who come now, post COVID, would never experience. I am overjoyed to say I was taken aback in seeing so many people we haven’t seen for a good while. There is nothing quite like the feeling of a full church with everyone praying and singing together.

So, a huge thank you to all the people who decided to come and celebrate Jesus?rising from the dead. It was so refreshing, heartening and inspiring. May we continue to grow in the number of people who join us for Liturgy each week, and maybe we all can be a little braver in inviting people to join us on a more regular basis. (Or maybe just remind ourselves to come!)

Paul Hillebrand, Director of Music

P.S. A huge thank you to all the ministers who helped make Holy Week such a beautiful experience for the community gathered. It is an honor to work with you all! He is Risen!

My Easter Triduum. (by John Seliga)

It was Good Friday.

I was in a dark, silent cell with thirty other prisoners, in a foriegn country, and I did not speak the language.

Earlier we had been in front of the big gates to the stockade which was an old fortress. An armed guard was at each side of the gate holding a weapon with a bayonet at the tip that looked three feet long. With a bandolier of bullets crisscrossing the guards’ chest, it looked very grim.

The gates swung open, and in we went. In the moonlight I could see that it was a large square with cells all around the inside edge of the walls. I was taken to a cell and they opened the door and I was urged in. It was dark, but before the door was slammed shut, I could make out dozens of people, laying on the floor, crunched against the wall, and one just sprawled on top of a bench not too far from the door. As the door quickly closed, I stumbled to the floor right away and rolled under the bench.

In the darkness of the silent cell, I was so tired, drifting in and out of sleep. There were bugs crawling around and an occasional fury thing too. Eventually, I did fall asleep. Then I woke up!

I thirst.

My mouth and tongue were so dry. I needed a drink so bad. I could hear some dripping and trickling of water way in the back of the dark cell. Rolling out on one knee, I could just make out the other prisoners. Not wanting to disturb anyone, I slowly made my way to where that water might be. I found it at a stand pipe and cupped the drops in my hand. I gulped and sipped the water. The rest of the night I spent back under the bench I found earlier.

The next morning some special people got a few of us out of the place and to a safe place. Later that Saturday, I found myself in a chapel. I was not feeling well at all, and as I sat there, someone came and sat next to me. He said, “You look like —”. I interrupted him before he could finish and I said, “I know”.

He was a priest.

We talked about many things, every thing, the things that were right, the things that were wrong. It was a long conversation about everything, and so sorry for all of it. Reconciliation, confession, repentance call it what you want, but the next morning was the dawning of a new day, a new beginning. It seemed better somehow, a sign of Hope.

It was Easter Sunday

Palms, Passion and Accepting Love. (by Brian Cannon)

The love that Jesus gives is not always the love that I want. You might be like me. I’ve had plenty of times in my life where I’ve tried to tell God what to do. After all, I am the world’s premier expert on my own life. But, what I am beginning to realize is that in a true relationship of love, that love must be free. I think that loving freely is far and away the most difficult aspect of love because it means giving permission to the other to love you as they are capable of, not as you would like to be loved.

This is the permission that God gives us time and again. I offer God my imperfect and sometimes misguided love which God faithfully and perpetually accepts freely. I think of the adulation that Jesus received on Palm Sunday as he rode into Jerusalem. He accepts the “hosannas” though he knows they’re only skin deep. He accepts the waving branches and following crowds though I suspect he wishes they would follow him in a different way.

The love that God offers me is perfect love – but not always the love that I want. Were I there, I’d probably be one of the voices telling him not to go to Jerusalem; that it doesn’t have to be this way. I’d prefer my path of following him to not involve the passion and cross. My challenge as a disciple is to freely accept God’s love knowing that it is sometimes wrapped in suffering, but confident that suffering is not meaningless. Resurrection is on my horizon, and then my love will be perfect just like his.

Fish Fry and our Lenten Journey (by Megan Popa)

Even though I know Lent calls us to focus on prayer, fasting and almsgiving, what is usually on the forefront of my mind each Lent is…FISH FRY! We’ve had another great season here at St. Patrick and I’m so grateful for all the amazing people that come together each year to make it happen. (THANK YOU!! – You know who you are!) Ever since spending my summers in college working at a fish and chips shop up in No. Michigan, I’ve loved the idea of a fish fry! However, I’m not going to lie, while I’ve always known Catholics can eat fish, rather than meat, on Fridays during Lent, I’ve never actually known why, so I decided to do some research…

I thought I’d discover some deep spiritual meaning, or even maybe a connection to the fact that some of the apostles were fishermen, but my quick Google search revealed a much less meaningful history. The Church originally called its people to abstain from eating meat on certain days as a simple exercise to aid in our spiritual development, the sacrifice commemorating the sacrifice Jesus made for us. Meat is generally considered to be the flesh of warm-blooded land animals, and so looking for a technicality, people began consuming the flesh of fish on days of abstinence, claiming it was a cold-blooded, water-dwelling creature and therefore not meat. Thus, humans looking for a loophole is really what began this tradition that lives on even today!

So based on that history, I can’t now write about some deep and meaningful connection between the Fish Fry and our Lenten journey, but I think there’s still something to be learned about abstinence and fasting. Fasting, or any sacrifice, teaches us about self-discipline, about resisting temptation, and about what it means to offer up our pain, suffering, or discomfort in union with the one who sacrificed so much for us. But, I think fasting also opens up space for new things to grow. When we say no to one thing, there is room for something else to take its place (Just like the fish!).

I gave up TV for Lent this year, and it’s opened up time to read some of the many books that have been sitting unopened on my shelf. Giving up shopping could free up some money that could be used to donate to a good cause. Giving up social media apps could free up space for more meaningful, real-life human interactions. Giving up chocolate might lead to a delicious new cookie recipe that we would never have tried had we not given up chocolate. Sometimes there isn’t room for anything new until we let go of something and free up that space.

Fasting can seem restrictive, but it’s also freeing. It opens up the opportunity for change, for growth, for new ways of doing things. When people replaced meat with fish on days of abstinence, it not only started a long-lasting tradition, but it actually slowly led to some pretty significant economic and cultural changes in society, especially as it related to the fishing industry! (Do a google search to learn more about it!) Sometimes it’s kind of crazy to think how small changes in our own lives can have a significant impact on not only us, but those around us, and even society at large!

It’s human nature to fill the voids in our lives. Lent gives us the opportunity to open up spaces so they can be filled, hopefully with something better, something life-giving, and something we might not have thought of had that space been filled with something else. Reflecting back on your own sacrifices this Lenten season, how has God opened up space for something new in your life?

– Megan

Ablaze with Light (by Nic Cortez)

An ocean of darkness fills the room, still with anticipation; a sea of people sitting in near silence, waiting with bated breath to see what will happen. Suddenly, a massive candle towers high in the darkness, its faint light penetrating the expanse of shadows. A booming voice echoes across the room.

“The Light of Christ!”

Roused from our trance, all respond, “Thanks be to God!”

And then it begins.

The flame from the towering candle begins to spread, just a few sparks at first. Then it begins to spread more rapidly.

“The Light of Christ!”

“Thanks be to God!”

The void of night is pierced by bolts of light all around. The faint light has now become a radiant glow, such that scarcely a corner of the room is touched by darkness. Faces of wonder can be seen all around. Filled with a new hope, the hearts of all present have set ablaze with light.
I’ll never forget my first experiences at the Easter Vigil when I was younger. Up until then I had only thought of church as being pretty much the same week to week with a few minor seasonal differences. The year that I finally attended the Easter Vigil for the first time may have been the first time I came to appreciate just how amazingly beautiful our liturgies can be.

The rite I’ve described above is part of what’s called the Lucenarium, a part of the Easter Vigil liturgy in which the newly lit Paschal candle is brought into the church. The church starts in darkness that evening, and when the candle is brought in, it is the only light that can be seen. The people closest to the candle light their candles from the Easter candle, and then light the candles of the people next to them from their own candles. This goes on and on until the entire church is ablaze with light, not the electric light of any bulbs, but with the light of Christ.
This is just one of the many inspiring and hopeful aspects of the liturgy you will experience at the Easter Vigil. If you’ve never experienced this ritual before, I invite you to consider attending the Easter Vigil liturgy this year. It’s unlike any other liturgy you will attend throughout the year, and yet it certainly fits well into the sacred rituals of the liturgical year. I hope that someday soon it will be your face that I see glowing with the light of Christ amidst the darkness.

– Nic

It is not too late to reclaim the Lenten Season! (by Gerri Porteous)

Perhaps it is a sign of the times that we live in, a time filled with all sorts of demands on personal time and activities, or perhaps it is just the human condition; but for whatever reason, we often seem unprepared when Ash Wednesday is suddenly upon us!

Why would we want to spend 40 more days living Lent when we have been doing so for the past two years? Our society has had to continually grapple with death that is premature and having to isolate from others, especially our loved ones.

For the past couple of years much of our world entered some sort of lockdown or quarantine (and in some places, never really left that state), a time of most hardcore sacrifice. We sacrificed much more than even our Lenten practices asked of us. Instead of coming out of the tomb with Christ at Easter, we continued in the most un-ordinary of Ordinary Time.

We are seeing the brokenness of the world firsthand. This world and our humanity are not as God created them to be. We may still be in a period of darkness and suffering, yet we know of the rebirth into new life coming this Easter. We hope that we will come out of the tomb with Christ.

Let’s make this the year we decide to observe Lent and not let it pass us by in a blur! Lent is a very personal journey along a path of spiritual growth. As we were marked with ashes on Ash Wednesday, we were showing our desire to take on a life of penance for the sake of the Gospel and an imitation of Christ’s time of prayer in the desert. Lent should be a time of conversion, a chance to examine our lives through prayer, fasting, and charitable acts, conforming ourselves to the life of Christ. Let us behold our God, who has died for our love; see his arms extended to embrace us, his head bowed down to give us the kiss of peace, his side opened to give us access to his heart!
If only we could love him as much as he loves us.

– Gerri.

Glory Revealed (by Adam Stein)

How has God revealed his glory to you?

The season of Lent is not just about ashes, sacrifice, suffering, turning away from sin, and the crucifixion. This season of prayer, penance and almsgiving should help us reflect on the entire Paschal Mystery. The Paschal Mystery does not end with the cross, but with the resurrection. In this weekend’s Gospel, Jesus gives us a glimpse of what is to come at the end of the mystery… Jesus’ transfiguration is a “revelation” of God, after resurrection.

A revelation is more than an observation. It is a life-changing realization of something new. When we experience one, we are changed and can’t go back.

I was a youth minister for a while… so that meant that I was a part of A LOT of retreats. Before that, I went on a lot of them! Retreats are amazing and I would encourage everyone to go on one as often as they can. Each retreat I went on offered a unique revelation. They were transfiguration opportunities. Retreats reveal God to us in a new way and the hope is that we “come down from the mountain” changed.
The story of today’s Gospel can be used to sum up the retreat experience. We witness a transfiguration moment. God is revealed in a new way. This revelation changes us. With this change, just as the Apostles witnessed and heard, comes a clear instruction to “Listen.” When we get away from the noise (retreat), it is easier to “hear” (transfiguration and revelation). The challenge is continuing to “listen” beyond that, back in the noise (showing how we are changed).

The even better news… Jesus isn’t alone during this experience and we are not alone now! Jesus is with two other people who heard God, listened to God, and allowed God to change them. God used Moses and Elijah as part of the revelation of who Jesus is to the Apostles at the Transfiguration. Together they reveal God’s glory. In other words, we get to bring our friends along and make new ones on the way! This is how we build the Kingdom of God. We don’t hold this experience in, only for ourselves. We listen for God, calling us to share his glory with the world around us.

How has God revealed his glory to you? How are we revealing God’s glory to others? The glory of the Lord shines around us!


PS – I should mention this… you don’t have to “go away” to have a retreat! Do that if you can. But, there are many resources to help you experience a retreat even at home! We can use this time of Lent as a retreat as well. Let’s let it change us to experience the whole Paschal Mystery.

Let’s Do It!!! (by Torri Winn)

The first Sunday of Lent. As a kid, I never really wanted to hear about Lent because it meant, in my family, as in most Catholic families, we had to “give up something for Lent.” I invariably gave up candy and chips, and all through Lent all I thought about was what was going to be in my Easter basket at the end of this ritual we were always asked to observe. Did I think about doing it so I could grow closer to Jesus? Nope! It was just a thing we did for Lent.

When I left home for the first time, and Lent came around, I was still giving something up, but not really sure what I was doing it for. I was feeling like it really didn’t make a difference to my Lenten experience one way or another, so my adherence to the ritual was spotty at best.

But one Lent, I was challenged to something different, something that might deepen my relationship with Jesus. I was challenged to actually DO SOMETHING FOR LENT, instead of giving up something. I had never really thought of DOING something, and it intrigued me because the giving up stuff really wasn’t changing anything within me, and at that point in my life, on my own and facing more of the harsh realities of life, I really did want a deeper spiritual experience during Lent. So, I made up my mind to get up earlier and go to daily Mass. Full disclosure, I failed so many times trying to keep my resolution. Almost every morning, I was tempted to push the snooze button one too many times and was either late for Mass or I missed it altogether. Once I got there, I was tempted to go down my laundry list of what I needed to get done that day. However, I kept at it and by the end of Lent, I was looking forward to daily Mass everyday.

After Lent, as I reflected on the weeks that I had made the effort to go to daily Mass, I slowly began to recognize how my mornings with the Lord had changed my days. The day seemed to start out better during those weeks, my worries didn’t overwhelm me as much, I came to know more people at that church, and every other church where I have attended daily Mass since that time, and the most extraordinary thing of all, I really loved going to Mass every day. Since that Lent, daily Mass has been something I’ve incorporated into my life all the time, instead of just for Lent. And it has indeed deepened my relationship with both Jesus and those I worship alongside.

But lately, since COVID, it has fallen by the wayside. So this year, I will go back to the Lenten resolution that deepened my relationship with Jesus and with all the other sojourners on the Way, and get up earlier and make my way to daily Mass. If you feel like you’d like to DO SOMETHING this Lent instead of giving up something, maybe daily Mass might be just the thing. If so, I’ll see you there!

– Torri

Journey (by Richard DiCarlo)

Journey: My all-time favorite band….I must have liked them because I saw them five times in concert! Originally known as the Golden Gate Rhythm Section, this Bay Area band struggled to get air time on the radio. Their songs were limited to long, instrumental solos with few words. In order to be heard in a wider span, they needed spirited inspiration with a breath of renewed energy. There was resistance from some of the band members to pivot. Yet, one of the founding band members and the group’s manager both were willing to take a risk and……LISTEN. They listened and listened….to demo after demo until…a voice was heard. A spirited voice that became one of the most unique, iconic, and identifiable voices in rock history. Steve Perry. A person himself who at first thought he had nothing to share, yet became the band’s lead vocalist that set the band on a renewed pathway. His voice provided vibrant energy not just in the band, but for their audiences.

Journey: My favorite word in the English vocabulary. For me, it is not a defining word, but a word with such a wide definition. Journeys span the path of wonder, mystery, opportunity, and eclectic pathways. This word projects a certain amount of vulnerability, reminding me to trust and allow myself to relent to the unknown of what is ahead. Journey implies to me that I sometimes have to rely on others to keep me uplifted and motivated for my current path. The vulnerability comes when realizing I cannot do all things alone, and that I must LISTEN to those who walk the life-journey with me towards continual spiritual growth. Vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness. It is trust that listening about shared experiences from others can help make me stronger and more resilient. Someone is always with me on any journey of life. Yet, I also have a voice.

Journey: One word that best describes the meaning of the word synod. Pope Francis is venturing into new ground by asking our Catholic Church leaders to LISTEN with humility and vulnerability. To listen to our shared experiences from all in the secular area of family and social life. The Pope is asking us, the people who make up the Church, to express themselves, and to share the joys and difficulties of life without worrying about judgmental listening-ears or fear of rejection. Come and share both your joys and crises of faith. The Pope is asking church leaders to stop showing resistance towards hearing that unique and identifiable voice that sings to us on this journey we call Church. You and whoever you would like to invite are invited to this new journey called Synod of Synodality. Synod (“journeying together”) of Synodality (a way of being Church).

Like Steve Perry, we all have a unique voice to share!!

A Historic Synod on Synodality for Our Church (by Fernando Gomez)

Let’s get ready St. Patrick – The 2021-2023 Synod is a 2-year process taking place in the Catholic Church. It started in October, 2021 and it will culminate with the final Synod gathering of Bishops in Rome in October, 2023.

In church history, many synods (“assembly of bishops and other church officials”) have occurred; however, this is the first time that the laity and specifically those that have been on the sidelines for a while will be invited, engaged, and listened to. Synodality from the Greek “Journey Together” couldn’t be more appropriate for our current time and as an active response to our Holy Father’s call for support and fraternal collaboration among us all.

It truly is an invitation for us, as Catholics, to “walk together” and every member of the Church has the right to speak, be listened to and the obligation to allow those charged with the work of discernment the freedom to do so.

Pope Francis has called this moment in human history: “A Time of Reckoning”. He also reminds us, through his book, “Let Us Dream” – that we must come to a time of “respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas”.

These last words are at the heart of the process – in the next few weeks, we will be revealing more details about our approach and extending an opportunity for you to get involved and invite others from whom we haven’t heard in a while.

The three dimensions the Synod will be expanding into are Communion, Participation & Mission.

  • Communion – Bringing the people together as communities in the local Church begins this prayerful insight into the ways of the Holy Spirit.
  • Participation – The reflection and gentle call to the full practice of Catholic life, with the Eucharist at the center of all the Church does, is an integral part of the “journeying together”.
  • Mission – The renewal of our life to be rooted in the daily exercise of individual and collective prophetic voice.
    May the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Virgin Mary inspire us and guide us through this process.

St. Patrick, pray for us!

– Fernando.