School is starting on Tuesday. As I walk around the middle school building and look at the classrooms still in disarray, it is hard not to feel a little bit of added stress. There are lots of changes happening here and for reasons out of my control, the school year will not start as I would like. But it is exciting to see the new windows in the classrooms. Framing in the new office area is starting soon and it will be fun to watch that transformation as well. As I sit here thinking about all of the chaos and stress, I can’t help but to reflect on what is really important. We are growing and improving our facilities. We have 106 students, seventeen of which are in first grade that will walk through the doors on Tuesday. This will be the first time the school has had over 100 students since I started this job thirteen years ago. That is a great feeling. The school is making improvements to its facilities. The new windows in the middle school building add extra natural light to the classrooms and will be more energy efficient as well. We will be adding a conference room – our first ever. We will also be able to give the staff an actual teachers’ lounge and work area instead of having to use a classroom. Some of the improvements will take time to get completed but at least they are underway. The students and staff can eagerly watch with anticipation as the project progresses throughout the school year. These things are all exciting and will make for a wonderful facility, but at the end of the day what makes the school a great place to learn and work are the people that come through the door. We have top notch staff members that will teach the students no matter what the rest of the building looks like. We have wonderful students who come from great families that will all show great patience as we continue our improvements. The two most important parts of our school are the staff and the students. We are blessed in both of those areas. This year we are doing something a bit different as we start school. On Thursday, August 29, after the 8:15 a.m. Mass, Father Dennis will lead the students and staff in praying over each other. Then he will lead us in a procession over to the school where he will bless each classroom. Anyone is welcome to join us for this special event. I can’t think of a better way to start off the year than asking God for his special blessings and graces upon our students, staff, and the rooms where they will spend so much of their day. If you are unable to join us, please join us in prayer. God is always listening.
Raising a family is such a gift. To be entrusted to care for five beautiful children is not something I take for granted. Our children’s ages are 9, 8, 6, 4, and almost 2. I try to pray daily for guidance from God to help me raise these children I’ve been given. That I may lead them to God, and I with his grace help them reach heaven on day. We have a family statement we’ve adopted “Become A Saint.” This is our ultimate goal, and so we like to remind our children of this frequently. As parents we have a responsibility to teach our children the faith and help form them. This can seem overwhelming, and very demanding at times. A simple way we can work toward obtaining holiness and teaching our children is to pray with them. Praying as a family is one of the ways we work towards our goal.
When the children were smaller we would bless them each night before bed. We would trace the sign of the cross on their forehead and say “God bless you and keep you safe.” We would pray together before meals as well. As they grew in age we would teach them the formal prayers, like the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be. Along the way came up with our own family prayer that we say each night now before bed. “I love you Jesus. Thank you for today. Thank you for dying on the cross and saving me from my sins. Amen” When the children were young and had short attention spans we really kept things simple. To create a habit of prayer we simply made sure each night before bed we would bless them and say our family prayer.
As the kids grew older we would add to our prayer time. I loved learning new and different ways to share more with the kids. I was always looking for new things to do as a family, different prayers we could teach them. New traditions we could create as a family. I’ve found lots of new and fun ways to teach the kids about the Catholic faith from other mom’s, by reading blogs, and other media resources.. Here are some things we have done together as a family. Please note I did not come up with all these ideas on my own, I’m not that creative!
Celebrate the faith! All of our children’s middle names were chosen after a Saint. On the feast day of that Saint our children get to pick their favorite meal to have with dinner and a dessert. We use this time to teach them about that Saint and pray for their intercession. We like to highlight other church feast days as well. Having a special meal to highlight feast days or Holy Days of Obligation are so much fun. On the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary we make a rosary out of food. As a family we pray the rosary and the kids get to follow along and eat a yummy snack. Again younger kids have short attention spans, so we like to find ways to make living out the faith fun!
Establish a prayer routine. This is so important. We tried lots of different ways to pray all together as a family. We’ve prayed all together in the living room before bedtime. We’ve prayed in their bedrooms before bed. We’ve tired praying with each kid separately. There is no one way to pray. It looks differently for each family, and ours tends to change based on our season of life. Don’t put pressure on yourself. Start simple, create a habit, and stick with it! Once you have created a habit of prayer, don’t be afraid to try new prayers. Last year for lent we wanted to explore different forms of prayer with the kids and expose them to things we hadn’t done before. We came up with a list of things we wanted to try and each week we focused on that prayer. I’ll share a few of those ideas with your: reading a bible story, divine mercy chaplet, praying a novena, meditation, and journaling. Learning different prayer styles was really fun to do together as a family.
What’s really been exciting is being able to attend things at the Church and bring the kids along. Taking the older kids with us to the monthly Heart of Jesus Holy Hour and our Holy Spirit Encounters. It has been amazing to share these encounter opportunities with them. Sharing with them God’s love is huge and for them to experience His love is so cool!
Our September Heart of Jesus Holy Hour is going to be geared towards families. This is an opportunity to spend time in prayer together as a family. This event is open to everyone, but we are encouraging parents to bring their children. There will be Adoration, music, confession, and prayer teams available. If you have never done this before as a family this is a great time to try it. This will be a great opportunity to start the new school year off together. Spending time before the Lord in Adoration is so powerful. Pray for your spouse, your kids. Pray for guidance, understanding, or courage. Being able to cover your family in prayer is so important, Having your children witness you spend time with God is huge. Share you faith, but letting your kids see you live it out.
Dear friends in Christ,
Of all the religions of the world, none insists on the dignity of the human person more than Christianity. We believe that we are created in the image and likeness of God. Not only that, Christianity takes it a stage further and says that every baptized person is also a beloved child of God the Father, a temple of the Holy Spirit and co-heir of Christ. Christians hold that this amazing inheritance as sons and daughters of God is enjoyed by us already in the present but that its full benefits will be enjoyed in a future preserved for us by God.
Thus, when we look at the dogma of the Assumption, it becomes clear: “Because of this great love and her faith in Jesus, Mary’s life and destiny were united to His. As she shared in his life and suffering on earth, so she shared in his glory in heaven that he won for her and for all. Mary’s Assumption means that at the end of her earthly life, by the power of her Son’s resurrection, she was fully united to God in the totality of her existence, body and soul. In her we see a woman of faith who has reached the destiny promised her by God where her whole existence is radiant with God’s light in the glory of heaven. In Mary we see the great plan of the Father fulfilled where Christ was raised from the dead and would be joined in that new life by all who believe in him. As St Paul teaches, this coming to new life in Christ would take place ‘all in their proper order…Christ the first-fruits and next, at his coming, all who belong to him’ (1 Cor. 15:23-24). From ‘all who belong to him’ Mary holds first place as the first disciple and mother of the Lord. So it is fitting that she should be the first to share fully in the resurrection of her Son in body and soul.” (Fr Billy Swan)
This is a sign of hope for all humanity. At Vatican II, the teaching on Mary found itself within the Constitution on the Church, emphasizing that she is one of the Church and a type of the Church. This means that we look to her in hope for our future destiny in God and with God. Where she has gone, we hope to follow. Her present is tied to our future. In the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: ‘In the glory of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity…the Church is awaited by the one she venerates as Mother of her Lord and as her own mother’ (CCC 972).
On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII issued Munificentissimus Deus, an Apostolic Constitution, which officially proclaimed the Assumption as a Dogma:
“By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a revealed dogma that the Immaculate Mother of God ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”
In St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 6 he tells us: “Draw your strength from the mighty power of the Lord, put on the armor of God by holding the truth of the Faith as shield, clothe ourselves with righteousness as our breastplate, stay grounded with readiness for the gospel of peace, and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
This Solemnity of Mary’s Assumption cries out to us – draw you strength from Jesus and be like His disciple Mary, filled with faith and confidence in God’s love.
Here is your future and your fulfillment. Never take your eyes off your destiny.
God bless, Fr. Dennis
Another successful Parish Festival is in the books! A big thank you to all of the people who volunteered countless hours to make it happen! All weekend long, I kept hearing compliments on how much all of our work was appreciated. It’s funny how there is always a sense of dread as the weekend gets closer, just because there is always some pressure since I want things to go well. But then as the week goes on, things just start to fall in place and it really is a lot of fun. I’m always amazed after everything is done, how many people I saw and how many great conversations I had. Whether that’s with people who I see every Sunday at Mass or only see once a year at the Festival, it’s just great to have an event that brings everyone together. I’m so grateful that we continue to have it each year!
A few of the conversations this weekend brought back some memories that I had as a kid going to the festival. I remember being so excited about the whole day, whether I was young and playing the games (that ball and paddle I won was so great until it broke later in the day!), playing in the Little League All Star game, or waking up early for the 3-on-3, there was always something to look forward to. Shoot, I can even remember waiting around at the end of the night, feeling exhausted after everything was done just waiting for my parents to finish whatever it was that they were doing so we could go home. Even in that moment there was an excitement about it being a special day, which was the highlight of the summer for a lot of us.
It’s hard to tell whether the festival is as memorable today for kids as it was back then for me. A lot has changed since then and we’ve simplified a lot of things, but people continue to show up. In fact, the 3-on-3 this year was the largest turnout in recent memory! I really want to thank Greg and Katie Halfmann, Kameron Riley, and Tim and Therese Andros for all of their work putting the tournament on the last few years. Part of the reason the main tent looks a little more empty each year is because Maple Street is packed with people watching basketball! The 3-on-3 continues to bring in a lot of people each year, and it wouldn’t be possible without our chairs.
And really, after four years of chairing this event, I’m even more convinced that bringing people together is what it’s all about! Sure, we make some money for the parish (which, I’m definitely grateful for all of the people who said something along the lines of, “Ahh, it’s for the church!” before spending more money throughout the weekend!), but in a day and age where churches struggle more and more to get people to come to events, the festival is something that we can count on every year to draw a big crowd. And providing a great event where people can come together is a step in the right direction of bringing them closer to God through our community.
So thanks again for all of your support in making this festival another success! Whether you chaired an event, worked a shift (or two!), bought/sold raffle tickets, donated baked goods, donated to the Fancy Booth, donated to children’s game prizes, or donated in some other way, THANK YOU! It all plays a part in making this weekend special, and we greatly appreciate it!