Saturday, February 25, 2012

Mardi Gras-- Mission Style

The rising of baby Jesus "El Nino"
Lent has begun but I do wish to share Mardi Gras--or our version of it-- here in Eastern Tennessee.  It was unique and delightful.
Breakfast is served

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Catholic Mission held a pancake breakfast for our last feast before Lent.  Since we now have two Masses, one in English at 9 and the other in Spanish at 11, we held the breakfast at 10 and started the Spanish Mass a little be later.  (Had to have time for the fast.)  This was a great way for the two language groups to come together to build community.  Our students know each other because of Wednesday night faith formation, but our adults do not.  Our pancake makers and flippers were wonderful.  Everyone seems happy and "fat"--- get it "Fat Tuesday", but of course it was Sunday.
Pancake flippers

At Blessed John Paul II Catholic Mission it was not really Mardi Gras, but it was a party!!!  A family asked if they could celebrate "Levante El Nino"-- the rising of the baby Jesus.  I have seen the tradition once many years ago at someone's home in Mexico, but it was the first time for the request here in the United States.  I wonder if the feast normally is done earlier after Christmas, but we were happy to do it last Sunday.

Tiny baby Jesus be reverenced
The tradition was that after Mass, one boy and one girl each took an image of the child Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes and dressed him.  Jesus is no longer a baby, but a child who can walk.  It was beautiful to watch the care in which this was done.  Then these two baby Jesus' were processed throughout the church and everyone kissed the image.
The larger child Jesus be reverenced

Then we ate and ate.  It was a huge feast and delightful time.  We had about 125 people in attendance, which is the largest in the worship space to date.  Truly it was a joy and wonderful to celebrate before moving into the Lenten time.
Waiting for the feast to begin

So we ended ordinary time with a great celebration of God's love with food and fellowship.  Now we slow down and begin the Lenten journey of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  The rejoicing will begin again in just 40 days.  Hope your journey of Lent leads you to the joy of Easter.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Scouts Honor

Our Scouts at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
For the last few weeks it has been salvation through meetings.  Some might use a different phrase for that.  In January I participated in an electronic conference, a deanery pastoral conference, three days of priest study days and last weekend, the Glenmary District Days.  So as much as meetings are helpful and the experience with other priests, brothers and religious is inspiring, it still is good to be back to the routine of mission life with the local communities.

It would not be Scout Sunday without food
February 12 will mark six months since our arrival here in Union and Grainger Counties.  In some ways, so much has happened and in other ways, we are not even started.  That is a strange feeling, but very true.

At Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Catholic Mission we have the worship space and office space in good shape.  I have three fantastic volunteers helping out in the administration of the parish.  We now have a Mass in English and a Mass in Spanish.  We have faith formation for k through adult, including Adult studies in both languages.  We even celebrated our first Scout Sunday on the 5th of Febuary.  So we are up and running.  Yet, we still do not have a formal list of membership, we are still trying to get to learn each others names and we still need to do significant reflection on what it means to be disciples of Christ in Union County.  These early steps have been great, but they are just a small beginning of what is to come.

Head Scout, Kim with Br. Craig
At Blessed John Paul II Catholic Mission in Grainger County we got started later.  Yet, this community is already larger than Blessed Teresa in Maynardville.  Our English community is small, but the Latino community is growing rapidly.  Whereas we average about 20 for English Mass we are averaging close to 80 for the Spanish Mass, even through we only have 70 chairs.  Yet, we still do not have the building completed in terms of redesigning it for worship and have yet to hold our open house.  Despite, that new people are finding us and our presence is becoming visible.  Furthermore, our building will host commodity distribution next week.  Commodities is government food for those of low income.  Last time Grainger County gave out 480 baskets.  They had to relocate and thus, we are, for now, the new distribution center.  Good things are happening, but we are not even started.

Every meeting with Glenmarians and the diocese is helpful and gives me both support and important information.  Yet,  the routine of daily life in the mission is where the joy is.  In six months, we really are just getting started!!  Praise God for all the graces received and all the graces to come.