Monday, November 11, 2013

The Mission Team after 2 years

Br. Joe and Br. Craig at early  planning meeting
Vocation Prospects visiting (now Jeremy is a student!!)
Our first year as a mission team involved Br. Craig, Br Joe and myself.   Occasionally we had Glenmary vocation prospects and students.   Then last September we added Fr. Aaron Wessman,  a newly ordained priest.   Last year and this year we have also had novices who serve for about five months in the mission with us.   Then in May of 2013 we welcomed Joe Grosek and his family.  Joe is the director of volunteers and in launching the new site on "Toppa Joppa" as we like to call it.  This increase of Glenmary missioners has a large impact on the two communities we aim to serve.
Welcome Fr. Aaron and Godfrey

The first six months of Fr. Aaron's time here was for all of us to get to know each other and figure out each others gifts and talents.   Also, every student brings a set of gifts and limitations which require another dimension of learning and adapting.   Now we have hit our stride and a certain rhythm has developed.
Joe's Housing Ministry

Joe at work
Br. Joe Steen  after a year of waiting on the Spirit has found his home repair ministry to be in full swing.   His ministry, also, includes caring for the emergency calls for help.   This ministry is greatly aided by a generous donor who funds his ministry.   He has been able to help numerous individuals with medicine, rent, food and utilities.   Also, he has fixed floors, repaired bathrooms, built handicapped ramps, and improved general housing conditions for several families.   He has been working on a long term project for a individual where my car can not make it to the top of the mountain.   His truck struggles to make the climb.  Br. Joe also serves on the board for the Narrow Ridge Community in the Hogskin area of Grainger County.   This community is committed to trying to live with nature and respecting many aspects of "green" living.  They are also reaching out and helping their neighbors in any way that might be able.

Br. Craig visiting
Not standing on his head, just in a banana suit
Br. Craig Digmann has visited over 90 homes of Catholics, both inactive and active.  Furthermore, he has visited more than 30 other Christian churches in the last year. He is also very deeply rooted in the local events and pace of people in both counties. He is a greeter at the High School every Monday morning.   Br. Craig volunteers with most of the Senior Citizen Centers and Nursing homes in both counties.  Recently he began serving on Grainger County Senior Citizen Board.  Yet, he is best known for being a good friend, visiting with the local people and once in a while, standing on his head!!

Fr. Aaron Wessman has taken on three large responsibilities, he is conducting faith formation K- adult in both missions, directing the RCIA program and helping with music and musicians for four Mass hours. ( I will touch more on our faith formation programs in next week's blog.)   One of the opportunities Fr. Aaron created last year was eating lunch at Grainger County High School in Rutledge one day a week.   This ministry of presence allowed for some deep faith sharing with teachers, staff and students.   Unfortunately, with a change of Principles it was not possible this year.   However, this has not stopped him.   He now is making arrangements to volunteer at the Maynardville or Union County Middle School, most likely using his Math skills to tutor students.  His youthfulness, his reflective homilies and his deep spirituality are a great gift.
Fr. Aaron after a Baptism
Hanging out

Guitar lessons
Godfrey, last year's novice, and this William, this year's novice, provide other opportunities of mission presence.   Both of these students have been involved with Kingswood Home for Children--   A great ministry that allows children and teenagers a safe place to overcome various home challenges.   They too visit many of our homebound and volunteer with a number of civic and service oriented organizations and businesses.   Both of these men came from Africa --- Uganda and Kenya-- specifically.   Sharing their culture, demonstrating the mission spirit, and seeking understanding of our American ways brings another level of joy and depth to these two missions over the last year.

Novice William with friends
Finally, Joe Grosek, with wife Laura and his two children bring a new dimension to our area.   This summer Joe organized the volunteers to help with a day camp, a weekly lunch program, and several repair projects.   He personally has gotten involved with two local food distribution programs.   I am confident that as the winter and spring programs begin, he will continue to expand the mission effort of establishing the reign of God in Union and Grainger Counties guided and aided by the Holy Spirit.

Joe Grosek with the other Joe
Setting up for Summer Camp
I guess, I do a few things around here too.   Yet, I am amazed and blessed with such a faith-filled missionary team.   These men are only part of the story.   There is another great group of parishioners involved in the mission effort as well.   Wait until you hear their stories.
Yo, enjoying food (the work of the pastor is never done!)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Happy 2nd Anniversary

2nd Anniversary Brunch BTC
This weekend both Blessed John Paul II and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta celebrated our second anniversary.   For Blessed John Paul II the weekend following all Saints day November 2011 was our first Sunday Mass in our current location and for Blessed Teresa of Calcutta it was November 1, 2011.

2nd Anniversary Brunch BTC
A lot has happened in this short time.   Over the next few weeks, I hope to reflect on these changes in greater detail.   Here, however, are a few facts.

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta began with 26 people for Mass under my carport.   Now we have two Masses every Sunday; one in English and one in Spanish with 95 registered households.   Blessed Teresa of Calcutta has expanded twice our current location.   We now have an office for Fr. Aaron which also serves as an extra classroom and counseling space.   In the eyes of our landlord we are renting seven storage units (three which we have personal converted into a sanctuary, kitchen, and classroom.   We are also in the process of purchasing land for our future buildings.

Heritage Festival Fund Raiser

We have had many social activities, fund raisers, and a strong faith formation program.  Besides the four Glenmarains serving here, we usually have a student and four wonderful office volunteers during the week.   We have been organizing our internal structures and now have a Mission Advisorary Team, Mission Resource Team,  a social committee, a  prayer committee and  Evangelization Committee.

Fried Food for Building Fund
Br. Joe is busy with home repair ministry and serving with the Narrow Ridge Community.  Br. Craig is involved with many Senior Citizens organizations, a Greeter at School and more.   Fr. Aaron works with your faith formation, RCIA, and youth. Our church help support two food pantries in Union County.  We are also involved with I-Care, a drug prevention program.

We will be sponsoring our third Thanksgiving service and hosting it here at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta this November.  These are but a few signs of the Holy Spirit working here.

JP II 2nd Anniversary Dinner
Blessed John Paul II moves at a different pace than Blessed Teresa.   Yet, many good things are happening there as well.   We have grown from 11 English speakers at our first English Mass to over 30 and sometimes over 40 with a registration of  92 households. Our Spanish speaking community continues to celebrate new life with a baptism almost every weekend since September with a slow down finally in December.  Also we have celebrated two Quinceaneas (15th year old birthday parties for girls) and have wedding happening at the end of the month.

The Glenmary Volunteer Program has moved into the property on Joppa Mountain and this year sponsored a successful summer program.   Rutledge Methodist and Rutledge Baptist and their pastors continue to be great friends of ours.   The joint food pantry, sponsored by the three churches is now fully stocked and we will be giving out turkeys for some families for Thanksgiving.  We are planning a joint revival in the Spring and continue to search for ways for our communities to be supportive of each other.
Just before Baptism - JP II
First Communion-- JP II
Quinceanera JP II

Blessed John Paul II is also planning to purchase land with a closing before the end of the year.

Hopefully these few tidbits let you know that the Holy Spirt is moving here.  Come on back to this blog for more reflections on our second anniversary next year. 
Vocation Prospect with Br. Craig