Monday, February 25, 2013

Br. Joe the Carpenter

Br. Joe working in his shop
If you see someone in the winter wearing wool socks, a sweater and shorts, carry a hammer, you most liking are seeing Brother Joe Steen.  Br. Joe is a very valuable member of our mission team applying both his humor and hammer to building the Reign of God in Union and Grainger County.

Baptismal Stand designed and built by Br. Joe
Br. Joe helped with the redesign of both mission store front churches.  Yet, most recently he has been responsible for a number of special projects at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta that have improved our sanctuary and welcome area.  These small tasks demonstrate a great skill in carpentry, but also are works of faith.   There is prayer and reflection polished into each edge and corner.  Each object helps our prayer experience and creates a beautiful area to praise God.

Liturgical Book Rank for BTC
Besides these projects, Br. Joe is out and about doing home repair for others in Union and Grainger County.  He has installed toilets, fix roofs, and build handicapped ramps.   Usually he asks the people to donate towards the material if they are able and he provides the labor for free.  Recently a Glenmary donor has begun to contribute to his ministry allowing him to take on some projects where it would not  have been financial possible before.

One of the houses Br. Joe is repairing
Yet, Br. Joe's skills at construction and woodworking are really just a gate way to his true ministry.  He is "brother" to many.  He has a wit and sense of humor that is almost none stop.  He makes people laugh!!  Rather it is a silly knock knock  joke or a biblical joke.  An example of one of his Biblical jokes, is did you know that baseball is in the bible?  It is in the very first book in the first line, "In the Big -Inning".  He also is great with puns and the twist of phrases.  My favorite being "Whenever two or three people are together there is ... tension."

This ability to put people at ease and feel at home where ever he is, is his way of sharing faith.  He can sit and visit with folks for a long peaceful time as long as he has a cup of tea.  If you do not have the tea, do not worry.  He brings his own!

Underneath all these skills is a deep and profound faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, a commitment to the Holy Eucharist, and concern for the poor around the world.  In many ways he reminds me of a Son of another  carpenter many centuries ago whose father shared the same name.

Tabernacle built by Br. Joe

Our mission is stronger, happier and more beautiful for the mission ministry of Br. Joe the Carpenter.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

End of the Ordinary

Today Pope Benedict XVI ended the ordinary time with the announcement of his resignation.  The time between Christmas and Lent was short this year, yet, many events of an extraordinary nature occured. 

Among the extraordinary events at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta were three funerals.  For a small mission parish this is very unusual.  Each of these funerals represents various aspects of ministry and all demonstrate the grace of God working through our small church.

Loretta suffered from mental illness her entire life, yet loved her children and her husband very much.  After her husband passed away in the fall, the mission team assisted Loretta with rides to Mass, to the grocery store and to the doctors.  She was very lonely without her husband and I believe she died of a lonely heart.  Her funeral was a simple and beautiful celebration of her life with her children coming from around the world (literally) to honor her.

Three weeks later, Loretta's sister, Virginia passed away.  Now Virginia called the church frequently from the moment we opened the mission here.  For various reasons there were unresolved issues among her children and many of them are no longer practicing the faith.  Yet, Virginia had a very strong faith centered on devotions.  She suffered from cancer over the last few months of her life, but was delighted to return to the sacraments.  The last time I gave her communion she smiled, said a private prayer and was at peace.   Both of these woman would not have received the blessed sacrament as frequently without the new mission church being here, if at all.  Also, Br. Craig, Godfrey, and Fr. Aaron gave them a great deal of moral and spiritual support.  The entire community of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta found small ways to support them through prayer, visits and calls.

There funerals were also a witness of the Catholic Faith to the boarder community.  There were workers at the local food store who thanked us for helping Loretta shop for groceries and even gave the church a memorial gift in her name.

Because of snow, only few boy scouts made it for Scout Sunday.
The third funeral was Mr. Bob Freeh, one of my daily Mass goers.  His death effected the whole community more since they were very active from the very beginning of our foundation here.  The first major event I did once here was to celebrate his fiftith wedding anniversary.  Yet, the faith of him, his wife and adult daughter were evident with the peace and grace they accepted his cancer and its consequences.  Though he is missed by everyone at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, he was a wonderful witness of the power of prayer and the belief in the resurrection of Jesus and eternal life.  Now every Tuesday when we have adoration,  we will remember him as the new monstrance was purchased in his memory.

These deaths and encounters with the families, have been extraordinary events in this ordinary time.  So too, was last Sunday's reflection on marriage. Many couples stayed to reflect on their relationship and for some it is the first step towards receiving the sacrament of marriage.

Marriage Reflection Retreat
Sharing Scripture together
So as we thank Pope Benedict XVI for his eight years of extraordinary service, we end this ordinary time and launch into Lent with our Ash Wednesday services.