Friday, December 28, 2012

December Celebrations

I had hoped to blog several times during the month of December, but what can you expect from a priest still hoping to finish mailing his Christmas cards as he sits in front of his computer on the feast of the Holy Innocents?

Home Altar for Rosary in preparation for Guadalupe
December was a month full of joy and celebrations at both churches in both counties.  At Blessed John Paul II Catholic Mission we began the joy of Advent with nine days of rosaries before the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Between 50 and 100 gathered every night until the 12 of December at various homes or in the church to pray and prepare for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Those who received people in their home also provided a meal for all who attended.

Cast of Our Lady of Guadalupe Drama
Dancers from St. Mary's during the Procession
 On December 7th a unique situation happened:  We celebrated three titles of Mary at one Mass.  We  held the vigil for the Immaculate Conception, we held the rosary for Our Lady of Guadalupe, and it was the night to remember the the Virgen of Juquila, important to the people of Oaxaca, Mexico.  We anticipated the feast of our Lady of Guadalupe with a full celebration the Sunday before,  and held our first Mananitas on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe at Blessed John Paul II and the Mass was held at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta in Maynardville.

Dance of los viejos at BTC

Live display of the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe at BTC

After Guadalupe, we moved into our advent communal soup and penance services and the nine days of the posadas.  Soup and Penance has been a terrific experience at both churches.  Coming together to enjoy savory soups, fresh bread and fellowship before reconciling ourselves to one another and God is fast becoming a new tradition.  The Posadas again took place for nine days in various homes and in the churches prior to Christmas.

Fr. Aaron and friends at Soup and Penance
The two highlights of the Posadas was on the 19th in Maynardville and the 23 at Blessed John Paul II in Rutledge.  On the 19th one group of folks went out caroling and another stayed at the church for the Las Posadas.  The Posadas is a Latino tradition where one sings an ancient song about Mary and Joseph trying to find a place to stay.   On the final verse they enter into the final home.  We pray the rosary and then there are treats for everyone and candy for the kids.  At Blessed Teresa of Calcutta we concluded with the pinata and at Blessed John  Paul II on the 23 we held a Nativity play.
Godfrey and others in the cast of the Nativity Play at JP II

Christmas celebrations were filled with joy.  With the help of Fr. Aaron, we held Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Masses in both places.   All Masses were well attended, but we were surprised by 102 folks to celebrate the birth of our Lord for the Christmas Eve Mass at Blessed Teresa in Maynardville.

Fr. Steve with this year's "baby Jesus"
So as we approach the New Year with one more Sunday of joy in  2012, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to each and every reader.  May your December end with as many blessings as I have witnessed every day this month.  As Tiny Tim would say, "God Bless you, everyone."
Godfrey, Fr. Steve, Fr. Bruce and Fr. Aaron wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A child shall lead them ...

Fr. Aaron signing Amanda and McKenzie
On the feast of Christ the King, five individuals between the ages of 12 -17 where signed with the cross in making their pledge to prepare for initiation into the Catholic Church.  On the first Sunday of Advent three children recieved the grace of the sacrament of Baptism.  Therefore, we closed the liturgical year and opened the new one with signs of new life for Blessed John Paul II and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Catholic Missions.

Fr. Steve blessing the two new catechumens
What is happening with the two individuals in Rutledge at Blessed John Paul II Catholic Mission is unique and amazing.  Last Lent during our first youth retreat, McKenzie and her grandmother stopped by surprised to find a Catholic Church in Rutledge.  It had been a number of years since her grandmother had been to church.  So while I spoke to her grandmother, McKenzie joined the youth retreat.  When I had finished visiting with her grandmother, McKenzie asked to stay for the day.  At the end of the day she asked about becoming baptized as a Catholic.  This fall, with the arrival of Fr. Aaron as youth minister and director of faith formation, McKenzie began bringing friends to the church and to classes.  On the last Sunday of November, the feast of Christ the King, McKenzie and Amanda, both 17 years old, took the next step towards Baptism.  Amanda's sister is also very interested in joining as is another teenager.  All of these individuals grew up in Grainger county as well as their families.  This is a wonderful blessing.
Welcoming Alonzo into the Catechuminate

In Maynardville at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Catholic Mission, Alonzo, whose father as a Baptist desires his children to be older before making their decision on religion, and Lydia and Houston, whose grandmother is a member of our church, are also preparing to be recieved into the church at the Easter Vigil.  Along with these three youth, two spouses of Catholics will also be confirmed into the Catholic Faith.  What great gifts of faith we are recieving here in our small missions.

Welcoming Lydia and Houston
Finally, on the first Sunday of Easter three children were baptized as their parents have recently returned to active practice of their faith. 
Our Three New Members and their families

All of this reminds me of the Isaiah verse used so often during Advent: 

"Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion shall browse together with a little child to guide them"(Is 11:6).