Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ladies of Charity - next generation

My name is April Lucey and I am a parishioner at St. Benedict’s in Amherst. I am a mom, wife, sister, friend, & neighbor….and I work full time. My days consist of changing diapers, meeting with clients and spending time with friends and family (not to mention house cleaning and laundry). It sometimes seems like there isn’t enough time in the day to accomplish everything on my list.

Then I stop and think about those who have no home, no clothing, no shelter and I am reminded of my duty to be an active member of my community. I have made a commitment to spend a few hours a month volunteering. Where? I’ve got lots of choices. I’m asking YOU to make the same commitment!

I am inviting all moms, wives, daughters, sisters, & friends to join me and the Ladies of Charity in developing a new generation of volunteers. The current members have built a solid platform for change. Let’s join together and help them to carry out the mission of inspiring and encouraging each other to help create change in our community. Please contact me if you are interested in joining me and other young women in changing our community. Who knows, you might even make some new friends! or 837-1559

I look forward to meeting you!
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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Stewards of the Mysteries of God

We began this essay last summer (in the archives for August 2010 and November 2010) with a consideration of mystery as manifested in the Trinity. This year’s unusually-long pre-Lenten season presented us with St. Paul’s reflections on “God’s secret plan.” On the feast of the Epiphany, we heard a reading from Ephesians 3, in which Paul discovers that the mystery of Christ is that all people of whatever origin share equally in the promise of salvation.

This mystery is obviously still working itself out today. Does it open our eyes to the gifts that every race, culture and language bring to our worship? And we worshipers are “stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4). We wait as God “brings to light what is hidden in darkness,” because “God’s folly is wiser than all of us, and his weakness more powerful.” God demands time: there are no instant answers. Sr. Joan Chittister writes: “So mystery, the notion that something wonderful can happen at any time if we will only allow space for it, takes us into a whole new awareness of the immanence of God in time. God comes, we learn now, when we least expect it. Maybe most likely of all when we least expect it.” Can God surprise us during worship? Can we freely give him the time and space to? Or do we hold worship prisoner to our preconceived notions of how long worship should be? Or what Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter are all about? Do we need to keep liturgy on a leash, lest it lead someplace we haven’t been before?

So we come to another celebration of the Trinity, our gateway into the parables of the kingdom as recounted in Matthew’s gospel. In Matthew 13, Jesus quotes Psalm 78: “I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation of the world.” He uses imagery to appeal directly to our imagination and get around our hard-hearted obstinacy and left-brain cynicism. Alluding to Isaiah, Jesus says of his audience that they “hardly hear with their ears,” they “close their eyes, lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn back to God, and be healed” (Isaiah 6:9). In the words of Psalm 95, which we will hear on September 4: “If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.” Worship in Spirit and in truth requires unstopped ears, open eyes and an eager heart. Attentive listening trumps “seeing is believing.” As Thomas Aquinas wrote of the Blessed Sacrament in the hymn Adoro te devote, “Sight, touch and taste are each deceived; the ear alone most safely is believed.” Perhaps Aquinas was conscious of his namesake apostle when he wrote those words. Faith is more a matter of listening than reading.

What does it mean to be “stewards of the mysteries of God”? James exhorts us: “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1: 22) We enflesh the Word by our action, in our worship and in the world. Recall that one sense of mysterion was sacramentum, the outward sign of an inner reality. As the doers of liturgy, we will have an opportunity to grow when changes to the text of the Mass take effect this Advent. We might see this opportunity, to use another parable (Luke 13), as a fig tree being cultivated in an effort to stimulate it to bear fruit. Practically speaking, the changes to the sung refrain of the Gloria and Holy, Holy are minor. The verses of the Gloria are structured differently from what we have become accustomed to, so these will require more attention on the part of the choir and cantors, and from the congregation when the Gloria is recited. There is some debate among liturgists over whether it will be easier to use a familiar musical setting which has been revised, or a setting which has been expressly composed for the new text. We will begin practicing a new memorial acclamation in November. On occasions when worshippers from many communities may be present, such as funerals and weddings, the music will need to be familiar and as intuitive as possible. A call-and-response form of the memorial acclamation might be the most natural approach to this situation.

A greater challenge is presented by the vision of liturgy laid out in Sing to the Lord, the American bishops’ document on music in worship, and the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), which is the preface to the Missal. These documents place great importance on the singing of the dialogues, particularly before the Preface (“The Lord be with you . . . ”); the penitential rite, which Deacon Bill often does; and the opening and closing prayers. The new Missal also emphasizes singing the Lord’s Prayer. This places the ball squarely in our court. How much energy and time are we willing to invest to lend a sense of mystery to our worship? Undoubtedly part of the attraction of the Tridentine rite (sometimes called “extraordinary form”) is the chanted prayers and responses. There is no reason that these sung dialogues cannot be part of our regular worship. It certainly takes no more time to sing them than to recite them. It just takes that little push of energy to elevate a spoken acclamation to a sung one. Again, it’s a matter of attitude: are we always looking for the easy way out, the short form, “liturgy-express”?

The GIRM has this to say about our stewardship of the mysteries of God: “In the celebration of Mass the faithful form a holy people, a people whom God has made his own, a royal priesthood, so that they may give thanks to God and offer the spotless Victim not only through the hands of the priest but also together with him, and so that they may learn to offer themselves. They should, moreover, endeavor to make this clear by their deep religious sense and their charity toward brothers and sisters who participate with them in the same celebration. Thus, they are to shun any appearance of individualism or division, keeping before their eyes that they have only one Father in heaven and accordingly are all brothers and sisters to each other. Indeed, they form one body, whether by hearing the word of God, or by joining in the prayers and the singing, or above all by the common offering of sacrifice and by a common partaking at the Lord’s table. This unity is beautifully apparent from the gestures and postures observed in common by the faithful. The faithful, moreover, should not refuse to serve the People of God gladly whenever they are asked to perform some particular ministry or function in the celebration.”

Our stewardship might be seen in terms of the parables of the sower and the seed growing by itself. The energy and time we invest now are the seeds of the church of the future. Our children will reap the harvest of what we sow today (John 4: 37–38). And, once the crop has been planted, the fate of the harvest is in God’s hands (Mark 4: 26–29). We have no way of knowing if the seed has landed on good soil, on the rocks, among the thorns or will become food for the birds. Time will tell, the ultimate mystery. One of the lessons of life is the wisdom of letting go. When children grow up, parents must allow them to find their own way. When relatives or friends become old and die, we must let go of them. When we begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel, it is time to let go of “stuff” and have a garage sale. The same lesson applies to music. “Sons of God” and “Here We Are,” so meaningful when Mass was first celebrated in English, were supplanted by the scripture-based music of the 70s. The music of Weston Priory seemed fresh and reminded many of the experiences they had at retreats in Vermont, but the texts did not age well (“All I Ask of You”) and often did not respect the natural rhythm of English (“Bread That Was Sown”). Composers like Joe Wise, Ray Repp, Jack Miffleton, Carey Landry, and Tom Conry all had their moment, and many of the songs we hold precious today may no longer adequately express the faith of the mid-21st century.

One approach to music claims it doesn’t matter what we sing as long as we sing. Another theory is that whatever we sing should connect with the themes of the readings for that day. The former usually leads to singing “what we know” and the latter demands time spent with the scripture to discern what God’s message for this parish is today. That message evolves over time, and taking it home in music demands growth. Everyone who has taken biology knows that whatever isn’t growing is dead. In Bob Dylan’s words, “If you’re not busy being born, you’re busy dying.” We can never rest on our laurels. There is no end to the search for the pearl of great price, the field with the hidden treasure, sorting out the treasure from the trash or weeding out the garden (Matthew 13). As long as we have the leaven of the Spirit, the dough keeps rising and the bread is fresh.

Glenn Hufnagel
this is the third part of an essay
see Part I
see Part II 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Harvesting Love - Isidore's Garden

In the Gospels, Jesus often uses agricultural imagery. We hear about water, seeds, soil conditions, roots, sun, thorns, plants that grow well and yield a rich harvest, and plants that wither and die. Both our individual role as Christians and our collective mission as Church are compared to plant life in parables by Jesus. Here are some biblical passages to meditate upon: Mt 13:1-23, Mt 13:24-43, Is 55:10-11, Ps 65:10, 11, 12-13,14, Rom 8:18-23.

The parish Salt & Light group and the St. Vincent de Paul Society invite you to join us in an ongoing meditation on these teachings of Sacred Scripture through a project we are calling “Isidore's Garden: Harvesting Love”

St. Isidore is the patron saint of farmers. He embodied the Benedictine spirituality of work and prayer, and shared food he grew with the poor. St. Isidore's garden need not be limited to a patch of land in Madrid, Spain in the twelfth century, "Isidore's Garden" could spread to backyards, gardens, window boxes, orchards and farms around the world.

We invite all parishioners of St. Benedict's, and all people of goodwill, to follow St. Isidore’s beautiful example and dedicate a small patch of garden to grow fresh produce for those in need.

We invite you to bring the fruits of your labor to Mass on Sunday (bring your tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, peppers, etc.) to be presented with the gifts during our liturgy and then the St. Vincent de Paul Conference, our Salt & Light group and our deacon will ensure that this fresh produce reaches people in need.

Simply bring the food you grow to the back vestibule of the church, where canned goods are dropped off for our monthly food drive.

If you join our effort, please email us and let us know (write to Deacon Bill at We would like to post pictures and share stories on our blog in order to support one another, learn from one another and encourage others to join us.

Won't you help? Turn you garden into holy ground!
Together, let us reap a harvest of love!
Take the St. Francis Pledge here.

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Salt and Light Group - Catholic Social Teaching

Perhaps no one has as clearly and beautifully stated the purpose of our Salt & Light group as Pope Francis in a letter to British Prime Minister David Cameron, MP (15 June 2013) - (click for full text)

...the goal of economics and politics is to serve humanity, beginning with the poorest and most vulnerable wherever they may be, even in their mothers' wombs. Every economic and political theory or action must set about providing each inhabitant of the planet with the minimum wherewithal to live in dignity and freedom, with the possibility of supporting a family, educating children, praising God and developing one's own human potential. This is the main thing; in the absence of such a vision, all economic activity is meaningless.

In this sense, the various grave economic and political challenges facing today's world require a courageous change of attitude that will restore to the end (the human person) and to the means (economics and politics) their proper place. Money and other political and economic means must serve, not rule, bearing in mind that, in a seemingly paradoxical way, free and disinterested solidarity is the key to the smooth functioning of the global economy.

Our Salt & Light group takes its name from the sayings of Jesus in Matthew 5:13-14: "You are the salt of the earth...You are the light of the world..." We are called to imitate Christ Jesus by serving others. The image to the right shows Jesus washing the feet of His apostles. He instructs them to do the same. As Jesus' disciples today, we carry out His mandate to become servants of peace and justice.

The dignity of the human person and the common good are key elements of our work and prayer.

The Salt & Light group of St. Benedict's Parish strives to make Catholic Social Teaching (CST) a reality. It is open to anyone interested in Peace and Justice issues. Examples include: life issues and bioethics (we work closely with our Respect Life Ministry on these), care for the environment, immigration, economic justice, global poverty, human trafficking, and unemployment/underemployment. With the charitable organizations of our parish, we attempt to focus on root causes of injustice, Catholic advocacy and education.

We usually meet once a month for approximately one hour. Our meetings begin with a reading from the Gospel, we introduce ourselves, receive an update on the progress of current projects, take some time to study and discuss part of a papal social encyclical or a document of the US Catholic Bishops, have an open discussion, ask for new ideas, and close with a simple prayer. We communicate often via email on current projects. Members receive periodic e-mailings from the Diocese of Buffalo on CST issues as well.

We would love to have you take part in our Salt & Light group. For information, please contact or simply attend a meeting.

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Thoughts on the Lord's Prayer - M. Smith

Knowing a Prayer Backwards + Forwards
by Matthew R. Smith

I am a self-diagnosed dyslectic:
I am a terrible speller, slow reader,
I am always inverting letters and numbers, and it seems like
I am always getting things backwards;
but I am not complaining,
these problems also have there pluses and perks.

It is helpful to read scripture, philosophy, poetry,
theology, and other scholarly writing, slowly...
(and these are all genres I enjoy),
and sometimes I find that by turning things around
I can see things in new, important and meaningful ways.

The Lord's Prayer is a good example, it is
so familiar,
so central to the Christian faith, and repeated
so many times throughout the life of a Christian,
that I think all Christians would say they know that prayer
"backwards and forwards"...
but have you ever actually read the prayer backwards?

I have.

I think such an exercise is beneficial,
but before I explain why,
I have to turn you around and take you back in time,
back to the "Old" Testament (which would have
been the primary Sacred Scriptures for Jesus and the first disciples),
the book of Exodus takes central stage in the story of
the Hebrew people and the Jewish faith.

It is in the story of the book of Exodus we read:
that Moses encounters God in the burning bush,
that Moses receives the Ten Commandments
(the core teachings of the faith),
that Moses leads an enslaved people to freedom.

It is in the book of Exodus that an oppressed, estranged and persecuted
people are freed from bondage and formed into a people
under God's direction in search for the promised land.

The Exodus experience lays at the heart of the Jewish faith.

Could it be that, just as The Last Supper is a recapitulation of
the Passover (also part of Exodus), that the Lord's Prayer is
a recapitulation, a retelling, a re-imagining of the whole Exodus

Exodus and the Lord's Prayer
Jesus was a Jew. Jesus was a Rabbi.
Jesus was steeped in Scripture (the "Old" Testament).
Jesus would have used the Hebrew Scripture just as Christians focus on the
New Testament. When Jesus prayed, the stories of the Sacred Scripture
would have been part of his religious world view. The Exodus experience
would have been part of his "religious DNA." To get inside the Lord's
Prayer, to pray as Jesus did, we need to think like a Jew, we need to
think like a Rabbi.

Who ends a prayer with the word "evil"? Jesus did.
Evil is a reality that most people would rather ignore (or mask),
but every time we pray the Our Father
we are asking to escape (and really be free of) this reality.
Is there evil in your life which you need deliverance from?
If you can not answer that question, then this prayer might not speak
strongly to you just now.

If you were a slave, if you were in bondage, if you were persecuted, if you did not have enough to eat,
if you were controlled and your life was not your own (of if you love someone who is suffering in this way)
then I think a prayer for deliverance would be more meaningful to you.

Israel, the promised land, was occupied
and ruled by the Roman Empire when Jesus
first taught the disciples how to pray.
The story of Exodus is the story of deliverance
from the evil of slavery in Egypt.
Exodus means "exit"... to leave.
The Hebrew people left evil and learned to
walk with God.

As miraculous as it was for the Hebrew people to get out of Egypt,
perhaps the bigger miracle is that they did not go back on their of their own free will.
The wandering in the wilderness was difficult, even harder than being a slave
in some ways. Even Jesus was tempted in the wilderness.
The Hebrew people found their time in the desert filled with temptation,
and many times they gave into their desires.
At one point they worshiped other gods so that they might once again
have some of the comforts they once enjoyed.

The road from slavery to liberty was difficult and crooked;
they got lost and turned from God from time to time and needed forgiveness.

Because the Hebrew people were redeemed slaves, making sure other
people would not befall the same fate became part of their ethic.
Forgiveness of debt is expounded upon in the book of Leviticus
in the concept of Jubilee.
If we ask God to free us, we must be willing to free others.
Much of the world is in bondage and servitude today due to third world debt.
The Lord's Prayer is also a prayer of liberation.

While the Hebrews were wandering in the wilderness God
gave them mana from heaven each day. A key way that the Hebrew
people made it to the promised land was they learned to rely on God
for their needs.

Freedom from Pharaoh did not mean the Hebrew people were free to
do what ever they wanted. The Exodus story is also about receiving the
Ten Commandments. Pharaoh's laws brought slavery and death, God's
laws bring true freedom and life. In the last decade there has been a
lot of talk about "regime change" whether it be Libya, Egypt, Afghanistan or
Iraq. The Exodus story is about regime change too... this time God is in charge.

The hope of the freed people of Egypt was to find the promised land.
They sought Jerusalem "the abode of peace"... they sought to return to Eden
where once again there would be harmony and peace with God, neighbor and nature.

Among the Ten Commandment, the first four speak of the priority of God in life.
The third commandment specifically warns against the misuse of God's name.
This line of the Lord's Prayer also evokes the Epiphany, Moses' encounter
with God in the burning bush, where Moses learns the divine name as
he stands on holy ground.

God is both transcendent, beyond our realm of understand and also intimately related to us,
and cares for us, like a loving parent. God, according to the
Exodus story, hears the cry of the poor and intervenes in history bringing justice
and peace. God saves.

Now let's look at the Lord's prayer forward again.
The name "Jesus" means "Yahweh saves" or "God saves." When we pray the "Our Father" we become like our Savior, we are acknowledging that we are a child of God, like the Son of God, who seeks to bring the whole world to freedom, liberation and salvation.

Thanks for listening as I turned things upside down.
Sometimes by going backwards (like going on a retreat), it can help us to move forward.
In going back and seeing the importance of Exodus I believe we
can see the Lord's Prayer as a call for a new liberation
in our hearts and the world.

Further Reading: [I thought I may have been on to an original idea
so I googled "Exodus and the Lord's Prayer" and found someone beat
me to the idea over ten years ago... here is a very good paper].

Monday, July 4, 2011

Director of Youth Ministry

St. Benedict’s Parish
1317 Eggert Road
Amherst, NY 14226

email -
Address to Ms. Denise Karpinski

website -


TITLE - Director of Youth Ministry & Religious Education
FULL TIME POSITION – 40 hours     $25 to 30+ K
[depending on experience and/or education, the title may be “Coordinator” instead of “Director.”]
The services of a secretary are included in this position.
We have approximately 1500 registered families.

1. General Description
The Director of Youth Ministry & Religious Education (“DYM”) coordinates all parish efforts in ministry to young people. This includes catechesis, activities, and all preparation for the sacraments of First Reconciliation, First Communion and Confirmation. The DYM must be self-motivated and open to creative approaches to catechesis and youth ministry.. We desire an integrated, comprehensive youth ministry, modeled on the1997 USCCB document, Renewing The Vision: A Framework for Catholic Youth Ministry.

2. Accountability
The DYM reports directly to the pastor or his delegate.

3. Responsibilities
The DYM general responsibilities include:
• Attend and participate in staff meetings
• Communicate often to parish staff, and seek their input, when planning youth ministry.
• Be a resource person to parish staff and parish council on issues related to catechesis and youth ministry
• Remain personally in compliance with the diocesan “Protecting God’s Children” requirements and continually monitor compliance of ALL volunteers in our youth program.
• Continual education in Catholic theology, catechesis, and early childhood/adolescent development.
• Most importantly, spiritual growth through constant prayer and participation in the sacramental life of the Church.

The DYM’s program responsibilities include:
• Initiating and Facilitating a Parish Youth Leadership Team(s), responsible for planning, implementing, and evaluating a comprehensive youth ministry program. Receptivity and creativity in ministry is encouraged.
• Staffing, training, evaluating and directing catechists. Evaluating and expanding present catechesis.
• Recruiting, training, supporting, and evaluating all volunteers in the entire youth ministry program.
• Utilizing standard and emerging forms of communication with youth – social media platforms, email, parish website, etc. The Recommended Technology Guidelines for Pastoral Work with Young People from the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry, 2010 is to be adhered to. Also, fostering creative apostolates that utilize modern forms of communication
• Coordinating the Confirmation program and exhorting our young parishioners to participate in the sacramental life of the Church, especially through Sunday Mass involvement.
• Being routinely present at our weekend and holyday liturgies.
• Fostering the involvement of young people in the life of the parish. We expect that there will be at least one active adolescent participant on the Parish Council and one on all parish committees.
• Coordinating the outreach to and evangelization of all young people in the parish.
• Faith in Action components - Service projects and mission trips are to be given high priority. We expect that some of our youth will participate in the annual Diocesan Youth Convention, Young Christians at Work, and papal World Youth days.
• Providing appropriate catechesis for, and frequent communication to, parents.
• Serving as the liaison with the diocesan offices of religious education and youth ministry.

4. Relationships – we pledge our assistance along the way.
• Pastor, other parish clergy (priests and deacons), the principal of the school, school religion teachers, catechists, volunteers.
• Parish Council–attend meetings regularly and provide a youth ministry report
• Parish Committees–communicate and collaborate with appropriate committees, i.e., liturgy, social justice, evangelization, technology, etc.
• Parents and Parishioners–regular two-way communication and frequent updates in parish media.

Program Goals and Objectives
Goals - Youth ministry is based on the USCCB document, Renewing the Vision: A Framework for Catholic Youth Ministry. The goals of youth ministry are to:

• Call young people to be disciples of Jesus Christ

• Draw young people into the life, work, and mission of the faith community

• Foster the total personal and spiritual growth of young people

Objectives - Specifically, youth ministry has the following objectives:

• To enable young people to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ

• To connect young people with the life of the parish community and to make them more visible in parish life

• To enable young people to know and understand the teachings, traditions and practices of the Catholic Church, deepening their Catholic identity

• To connect young people with caring, believing adult role models

• To provide young people with service opportunities

• To provide a safe environment and a place where young people share and grow together in faith, learning more about being Catholic

• To develop an outreach to uninvolved and unchurched youth

• To involve young people in prayer and worship

• To enable our young people to become happy, healthy and holy adults.