Monday, September 30, 2013

Time zooms

Over the last three weeks I planned three different blogs, none of them completed because time zooms in the mission.   I wake up and it is the 1st of September and go to bed and it is the first of October.  It amazes me ... thus, I think a life of infinity in heaven with God will be anything but boring.   Time passes this fast now, how joyfully will it be to sit in heaven drinking ice tea with our Lord, His mother Mary and the saints.
Heaven or North Carolina Beach?

Novice William and Senior Member Fr. Pete
Priest Assembly
In this zooming time meetings swarmed my reality for awhile.  In one week I had a meeting every day and only one was in the parish boundaries.  In a missioners life, meetings are a huge part of one's obligations.   As a member of Glenmary and a priest serving in the diocese of Knoxville, I have monthly meetings with my brother Glenmarians, and almost monthly meetings with the fraternity of fellow priests.  Besides these meetings, there are council meetings, financial meetings, food pantry meetings, ICare meetings and so forth and so forth.   Yet, these too, are a part of doing God's will.

We had a huge event in September with over 80 people from both of these missions attending the Eucharistic Congress.  This event was in celebration of the Diocese of Knoxville's 25th anniversary and we were among 5,000 people.   Our people were renewed in their faith and were able to meet many national speakers including Cardinal Dolan of New York.
Early Morning Bus Ride to the Eucharistic Congress

Yet, what gives me the greatest joy is the interaction with the members of Blessed John Paul II and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta whether we are praying for immigration reform, celebrating first communion or welcoming friends from Iowa.   These regular interactions filled with the Holy Spirit is why time zooms.  The Spirit of the Lord flows in these faithful followers of Jesus.  Spending time with them fills my time with joy and a day is gone before I know it.  Praise the Lord for His love and mercy!!
Mis Amigas of BTC
First Communion at JP II
After Mass Wisdom -- Nortre Dame lost and Alabama won
Iowa Visitors, thanks for your support!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Not every thing is a success

So often I write about all the success of starting these two Catholic Missions.   Yet, not everything is a success.   There are many challenges.  Yet the joy of this ministry and the many surprise blessings often overshadow those challenges.

For instance, at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Catholic Mission we have been blessed with very high attendance over the summer.   We have been numbering over 90 people for English Mass and over 75 for the Spanish Mass.  This is a huge blessing.

Likewise, we have a large number of people in our RCIA classes.   This includes two families, one teenager, and two other adults.   This growth is all blessing and the work of the Holy Spirit.
Part of RCIA Class

At Blessed John Paul II Catholic Mission we had another confirmation and our English speaking community continues to grow.   We also have one person in the RCIA.
Confirmation at JP II

May 2012 JPII First, First communion Class

Yet, where as these three worshipping communities are growing, this is not true of the Spanish Speaking Community at Blessed John Paul II.   When we arrived here two years ago, this community was gathering occasionally for Saturday evening Mass about once a month.   An average of 45 people would attend.   In the first year, we had a sudden growth.   This included a large Guadalupe festival, many first communions and many confirmations.   Last year the religious formation was not well attended, but the Mass attendance stayed steady.   Yet over the summer it began to drop.

First Guadalupe Celebration at JP II, 2011
We had more people attend Mass during August 2012 than August 2013.   There are many reasons for this.  First among this is that in the summer many people are involved with the tomato farms.   They work six and sometimes seven days a week.   Since this work is seasonal, there is a strong sense that they need to work hard, long hours and save their money for the winter months when work is few.
Sr. Marianna visiting the tomato farms

 Besides this practical challenge, the other is most more challenging.   In Mexico many places only have Mass once a month, thus a every Sunday worship practice is not always possible.  Then prior to our coming here, many had to drive 40 minutes to church in one direction.  Thus a many had the routine of going to church only occasionally.  Again regular church attendance was difficult.   This however does not mean that these hard workers are without faith.   Their home devotions and prayer are very strong.  During Guadalupe or Christmas, many will participate in nightly rosaries sponsored at one another's home.   They are very faithful people and believers in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Guadalupe  Posadas, JP II, 2012

So the challenge is how do I and my mission team help lead them deeper into a Eucharistic Spirituality so coming to church on Sunday is something that fulfills their life and  the Real Presence of Jesus Christ becomes the center of their life?  There are no easy answers.

Yet, one Thursday we held a Mass to pray for all those Catholics and other folks not attending Mass.  Then we divided out into three teams and visited many homes inviting them to begin this fall with our new faith formation.   Who will respond to this invitation is not yet known.  Yet, the invitation from one member of the church to another is very powerful.  Many expressed their joy in receiving members of the visiting teams.
Home visits with Fr. Aaron
Welcome at the door
So not everything is successful, but we keep moving forward in hope.