From the Deacon’s Desk

From the Deacon’s Desk

Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord - April 21, 2019

From the Deacon’s Desk……………..

Easter blessings to all of you. We now begin our celebration, with joy and exultation, of the Easter Season, the fifty days between Easter Sunday and Pentecost (June 9). Fifty days of dwelling in the paschal mystery, surrendering in joyful faith and love as the Spirit of God takes possession of our lives. An invitation to awaken our memory of God’s presence and power in our lives. (paraphrased from the Ordo).

Much in the news about abortion but not about the new movie Unplanned. Lots of chatter on social media about Unplanned, I saw it and I recommend you do too (good blog on it here https://www.patheos.com/blogs/deaconsbench/2019/04/unplanned-becomes-the-latest-battleground-in-the-culture-wars/ ). On the political front, states seem to be trying to outdo the other in terms of legislation regarding abortion. On one extreme there are states like New York that now allows full-term abortions and on the other extreme there are states like Missouri where lawmakers have proposed bills to further limit or almost completely ban abortions including a constitutional amendment to define life as beginning at conception (what we Catholics believe see CCC 2270 - 2274). In Illinois our lawmakers are proposing legislation that our Bishops are asking us to take a stand against: Senate and House bills (S.B. 1942 and 1594 and H.B. 2495 and 2467) which would expand abortion rights and increase abortions. In the text of S.B. 1942 are clauses that “(provide) that a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent rights under the laws of this state” and clauses that “repeal the Abortion Performance Refusal Act,” current law allows physicians to opt-out of providing abortions provided they have moral objections. For more information see https://www.osvnews.com/2019/03/29/bishops-condemn-bills-to-expand-abortion-repeal-conscience-protection/ and https://www.diobelle.org/our-bishop/news/1334-bishop-braxton-s-letter-on-the-catholic-church-and-new-house-bills-expanding-abortion-rights-2 . For how to contact our lawmakers and voice your opposition, go to the Catholic Conference of Illinois website https://www.ilcatholic.org/ . We are planning to host a panel discussion regarding these Illinois bills after the Masses on May 19, keep an eye out for announcements and bulletins notices and plan to attend.

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March 17, 2019

From the Deacon’s Desk……………..

Thanks to all of you who shared with me, Dawn, and our family, your condolences, thoughts, prayers, sympathy cards, and your presence at the visitation and funeral Mass for my father; we are truly blessed to have all of you in our lives and have your support at that time of loss. We were blessed to have dad in our lives for almost 96 years and are comforted by our hope in eternal life and that – now he knows. On this second Sunday of Lent, I would also encourage you as a part of your Lenten prayer to read and reflect on the weekday readings (they are listed in the bulletin every week). Paraphrasing from the ORDO - In the cycle of weekday readings, Lent falls into two parts, the first part, runs through Saturday of the 3rd week of Lent. In these 3-1/2 weeks, the Gospel texts are taken from the Synoptics and the Old Testament readings are chosen accordingly. The message running throughout these 3-1/2 weeks is a call to a life of Gospel conversion. The pericopes speak of beginning anew, of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving; of conversion; of mutual forgiveness; of hardness of heart; of love of enemies; of absolute claims of justice and love over ritual and cult; of the call to holiness, and so forth. The readings from the second half of Lent are taken from the Gospel of John. It is clear that these readings from John do not constitute a kind of “crash course’ in the life e of Jesus, so much as a presentation of the mystery of Jesus Christ, of whom John says that all who believe in him will have eternal life.

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February 17, 2019

Dawn and I were away on vacation in January so this is the first From the Deacon’s Desk since December 16, so lots to cover here. On Dec. 19 Fr. Osang, Fr. Sebastian and I hosted our Clergy Abuse Crisis Listening Session, it was very insightful to hear the perspectives of the half dozen or so parishioners who attended, thank you for your participation. Here are a few recent updates regarding this. Bishops from across the United States attended a spiritual retreat January 2 to 8 to pause in prayer as the Church seeks to respond to the signs of the times. There were two events in Washington: a lawyers' panel at the Catholic Information Center, sponsored by the Thomas More Society Jan. 31; and, the Leadership Roundtable's Catholic Partnership Summit Feb. 1 - 2. The summit, which included bishops, cardinals, university and college presidents and canon lawyers representing 43 dioceses, is expected to issue a document with recommendations in a couple of weeks. Pope Francis convenes the Presidents of all the Episcopal Conferences of the world for a meeting in Rome Feb. 21 – 24 to discuss the prevention of abuse of minors and vulnerable adults. Regarding this meeting, Pope Francis recently stated “First: they must become conscious of this. Second: they must know what they must do — the procedure, because often the Bishop doesn’t know what to do. … What must the Bishop do, what must the Archbishop do, who is the Metropolitan, what must the President of the Episcopal Conference do. But so that it is clear,  … protocols that are clear. This is the main <thing>. … I permit myself to say that I have perceived a bit an inflated expectation.” (Full text here https://zenit.org/articles/holy-fathers-in-flight-discussion-with-reporters-full-text/ ) Please pray for these Bishops as they gather this week, and all those affected by clergy abuse.  As we heard today in our first reading from Jeremiah, “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is in the Lord.” Have hope and be faithful.

Changing gears a bit, Bishop Braxton has authored many documents. One of the most recent is - The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: What if he were still alive today?  It can be found here   https://www.diobelle.org/our-bishop/writings  or I can provide you a copy.  I suggest that you take the time to read this document. Once you have, I would be interested in what you think about it. Please let me know via email thelfrich@ssppcc.org or I’d be happy to discuss it with you over the phone 618.939.6426 ext. 26 or in person.

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December 16, 2018

We are midway thru Advent, hence the Rose (pink) vestments. From the ORDO – “Advent has a two-fold character, for it is a time of preparation for the Solemnities of Christmas, in which the First Coming of the Son of God to humanity is remembered, and likewise a time when, by remembrance of this, minds and hearts are led to look forward to Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time. For these two reasons, Advent is a period of devout and expectant delight.” Hopefully your Advent preparations are progressing well. There are lots of ways to do this: maybe The Word Among Us – Daily mediations for Advent books that were available at the exits of Church; or Dynamic Catholics, Best Advent Ever; or Bishop Barron’s Advent Gospel Reflections; maybe an occasional Mass on a weekday; reconciliation; or any one of the many other ways we can prepare. One that I saw posted on Facebook, which I tried and failed to keep up with, was to read one chapter of the Gospel of Luke every day beginning December 1st . There are 24 chapters in Luke so by doing that you would get through the entire life of Jesus according to Luke by Christmas. Too late now, but If you started reading one chapter a day now, you would at least finish during the Christmas Season which will extend through January 13, 2019. If I can help with your preparations, let me know, (939.6426 ext. 26 or thelfrich@ssppcc.org ). Please consider joining us this Wednesday evening for our Clergy Abuse Crisis Listening Session. We do not have the answers to those burning questions that all of us have; however, we are interested in your ideas, thoughts and feelings. We do occasionally have the ear of Bishop Braxton so who knows, one of you may have ideas or thoughts that can help bring about meaningful change that is so desperately needed.

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November 18, 2018

As we celebrate Thanksgiving, give thanks for all that we have, and enjoy some time with friends and family. The Church suggests that in these days ahead of Thanksgiving we set aside some time for deeds of charity, penance, and prayer. Pray for those who are less fortunate. Some have asked if we can pray the Prayer to St. Michael after Mass. We discussed this at our worship/liturgy commission meeting and it was discussed on retreat with the Deacons of the Diocese. Even though this is a practice that some have seen elsewhere and it is a beautiful prayer, we are not going to pray it together as a community after our Masses; however, as with any private prayer, you are welcome to stay in church after Mass and privately pray the Prayer to St. Michael. It is not liturgically appropriate to pray as a community after Mass because at the end of Mass Father or I say Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord (or one of the other dismissals) and that is what we are to do, to go, to go forth and live out our Baptismal call to evangelize and spread the good news. Also, the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life (CCC 1324), to stay after the celebration of the Eucharist and pray as a congregation infers that the Eucharist in inadequate or inferior in some way, and that there is something more important that we now need to stay and do. The US Bishops met from November 12-16 to (amongst other agenda items) make important decisions in response to the abuse crisis. As you read this on November 17/18 you may well know the outcome. We will host a listening session regarding the clergy abuse in the coming weeks to listen to your concerns, feelings, ideas, etc. Keep an eye out for the announcements.

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October 19, 2018

Rest assured, I have not been reassigned to another Parish, Dawn and I just haven’t been around the Parish on the weekends for several weeks. We have been traveling a lot on these beautiful Fall weekends and we will be through the end of this month.  October 26 – 28 we will be on retreat with all of the Deacons and their wives from the Diocese, please keep us in your prayers that we might be renewed and refreshed in our call to serve, especially in these trying times for our Church and all those affected by sexual abuse. As you read this, on October 21, the Deacons of the Diocese will be meeting with Bishop Braxton and the sex abuse crisis will be the topic of discussion. I’ll update you on that in the coming weeks. In the meantime, if you have not seen some of the more recent actions by our Church leaders, here are some:

I won’t take the space to summarize these here but the links to all of these documents is provided in this column posted on our Parish website here  http://www.ssppcc.org/from-the-deacon-s-desk so that you can read these at your leisure. PS – my letter to Bishop Braxton regarding the sex abuse crisis is also posted below in case you’d like to read that; just scroll down and you will see it.

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September 30, 2018 

For those of you who may have missed it, yesterday was the Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, Archangels. Here's a portion of a message sent to our prayer chain, join me in praying the prayer to St. Michael often, especially with all of our current struggles …………………...

GETTING TO KNOW OUR ANGELS

The liturgy celebrates the feast of these three archangels who are venerated in the tradition of the Church. Michael (Who is like God?) was the archangel who fought against Satan and all his evil angels, defending all the friends of God. He is the protector of all humanity from the snares of the devil. Gabriel (Strength of God) announced to Zachariah the forthcoming birth of John the Baptist, and to Mary, the birth of Jesus. His greeting to the Virgin, "Hail, full of grace," is one of the most familiar and frequent prayers of the Christian people. Raphael (Medicine of God) is the archangel who took care of Tobias on his journey.   https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/calendar/day.cfm?date=2014-09-29

 

Friends in prayer, because of free will, we MUST ASK our angels to help us in time of need for them to rush to our aid.  We need their protection, their guidance and strength, and their help in healing so very often!!!!  We certainly could use their support for the needs of our country right now.

 

I LOVE this prayer of protection!!!  What a perfect prayer for our PRAYER WARRIORS!!!!   On this precious feast day (and every day you feel called), let us pray for each other, for our loved ones, for our country (especially as we face such trying times with the appointment of a new Supreme Court Justice), and for our beloved Church (because we know why).

 

Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel

Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.

Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.

May God rebuke him we humbly pray;

and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host,

by the Power of God,

cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits,

who prowl through the world seeking the ruin of souls.  Amen.

 

Thank you, God, for such Heavenly protection.

 

 

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As promised in From The Deacons Desk on September 16 (see below), my letter to Bishop Braxton et. al. submitted today via email...………

September 21, 2018

 

Via email and First Class US Mail

 

Bishop Edward K. Braxton

Diocese of Belleville

222 South Third Street

Belleville, Illinois 62220

 

Dear Bishop Braxton:

 

I, like many Catholics, have been struggling with the sexual abuse crisis that, as Cardinal DiNardo put it after his meeting with Pope Francis, "... the body of Christ is lacerated by the evil of sexual abuse."  So I am writing to share some of my thoughts with you in hope that you might provide some direction, guidance, and use this input in any way that you can to prevent future abuses by our ordained leaders (i.e. Deacons, Priests, Bishops, Cardinals and the Pope).

 

One thing we continue to hear is - pray! The diocese and the USCCB have made prayer resources available to us for that. But how do we fix the problem? Here’s a response I received from one parishioners – “Hint – it won’t be through prayer.” I agree, prayer will not fix the problem, but I have continued to tell our parishioners it won’t hurt, it will help, so don’t give up on prayer. I feel the same frustrations that other Catholics (laity and clergy). We want to do something more than pray. We want to help. I have been asking myself for the past few weeks – How? What do we do? How do we help? How do we express our concerns and our opinions? Do we wait to see what the reaction of the Church will be? I recommended to our parishioners and anyone who follows me on Twitter and Facebook, don’t be silent. Express your concerns. Share your ideas. Write to me, to Fr. Osang, to you Bishop Braxton, to Cardinal DiNardo, and to the USCCB National Review Board.  If the people of God don’t tell us, we will not know. And I told them I’ll go first, I am making this letter available to them and encouraging them to write their own letters.

 

In one of Cardinal DiNardo’s statements, he stated that the solution would in part “… working in concert with a national lay commission granted independent authority, to seek the truth.” Cardinal DiNardo’s words are encouraging but I would take it one step further and suggest not only to seek the truth, but to police and monitor the activities of the Bishops, Cardinals, and the Pope to prevent sexual abuse, and abuse of power from happening again. We must involve the laity and the survivors in the solution to prevent future abuses by our ordained leaders. And not laity and survivors handpicked by the Bishops, Cardinals and Pope, but instead laity and survivors selected by independent parties such as the USCCB National Review Board.

 

The framework laid out by Cardinal DiNardo in his August 16 statement also appears to be headed in the right direction; however, what progress has been made towards achieving the goals he established [(1) an investigation into the questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick; (2) an opening of new and confidential channels for reporting complaints against bishops; and (3) advocacy for more effective resolution of future complaints. These goals will be pursued according to three criteria: proper independence, sufficient authority, and substantial leadership by laity.]? That was over a month ago and I have not seen any tangible progress towards achieving the goals using the criteria that Cardinal DiNardo laid out in that statement (except as noted below in the September 19 statement from the Administrative Committee of the USCCB). I would add that the third goal Cardinal DiNardo established must involve the laity and the survivors selected by the people of God not selected by the Bishops or Cardinals themselves. And the third criterion identified by Cardinal DiNardo is spot on – “substantial involvement of the laity.  Lay people bring expertise in areas of investigation, law enforcement, psychology and other relevant disciplines, and their presence reinforces commitment to the first criterion of independence.”  This is exactly what I am hearing from our parishioners, things such as “Men in collars make the rules in the Catholic Church and until there is a change in how they operate we will be susceptible to future abuses of power. How do we as the laity get them to change?”  and  “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” and “Still do not see any thoughtful discourse about how to avoid future abuses of power by church leadership. The old boys club needs to be broken up for future reform to occur.” Once again, I would add that this third criterion that Cardinal DiNardo established must involve the laity and the survivors selected by the people of God, not selected by the Bishops or Cardinals themselves.

 

It is my understanding that in the past few weeks you have met with our Diocese Presbyteral Council and the cabinet to discuss actions related to sexual abuse by clergy, and that you were also at a meeting of the Committee for the Protection of Children. From those meetings what tangible actions can we share with our parishioners that we are doing in the diocese, or at the state, or national level to involve the laity and prevent future sexual abuse by our clergy and hold our Priests, Bishops and Cardinals accountable?

 

I recently read these encouraging words from Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, "Bringing the voice of survivors to leadership of the church is crucial if people are going to have an understanding of how important it is for the church to respond quickly and correctly anytime a situation of abuse may arise, … This must be the priority that we concentrate on right now."  What is the USCCB and the Holy See doing to hear the voices and involve the survivors to prevent future sexual abuse by our clergy and hold our Priests, Bishops, and Cardinals accountable?

 

And most recently, as I was preparing this letter, on September 19, the Administrative Committee of the USCCB issued a statement and took the following actions: 1. approved the establishment of a third-party reporting system that will … 2. Instructed the USCCB Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance to develop proposals for policies addressing … 3. Initiated the process of developing a Code of Conduct for bishops regarding … and, 4. Supported a full investigation into the situation surrounding Archbishop McCarrick, including … Again all very encouraging but I would reiterate that we must Involve the laity and the survivors in the solution to prevent future abuses by our ordained leaders. And not laity and survivors hand-picked by the Bishops, Cardinals, and Pope, but instead laity and survivors selected by independent parties such as the USCCB National Review Board

 

How do we tell the people of God that they can get involved in the process? What do we tell our parishioners that they can do other than pray? I am willing to help in any way that I can and would like any direction that you can provide in that regard, or as well as what direction we can provide to our parishioners if they want to do something. It is frustrating when the only thing we can tell them is to pray.  We need something more tangible to tell them and to guide and direct them to if they want to do something in addition to praying. How can I help and how can they help?

 

Respectfully submitted

Rev. Mr. Thomas J. Helfrich

Permanent Deacon

 

cc:           Deacon Robert Lanter

Father Osang Idagbo, CM

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

Congregation for Bishops

Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, Chair of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Children

Cardinal DiNardo, President of USCCB

USCCB National Review Board

 

 

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September 16, 2018

4 Sundays ago when I wrote this column, Dawn and I had just returned from the 2018 National Diaconate Congress after spending time with 2800 Deacons, spouses, etc. from around the country along with Priests, Bishops, Cardinals, and the Papal Nuncio; it was an emotional and spiritual high of sorts. As I write this, on September 11, things are drastically different in our Church from 4 weeks ago, an emotional and spiritual low of sorts, similar to how things changed for us on this day in 2001, oh my, how things can change in 4 short weeks. Here’s an excerpt from a letter by a Priest to his parish in NY – “Let us be honest, Satan loves this crisis. He rejoices when a priest sins, especially against a child. When something or someone consecrated to God is used for evil, Satan accomplishes his goal – turning souls away from Christ and His Church.” I’d like to take this opportunity to share with you my thoughts and what I am hearing from the media sources I follow. The last I saw from USCCB was from Cardinal DiNardo in his statement on August 27    http://www.usccb.org/news/2018/18-143.cfm      which included this - “On August 16th, I called for an Apostolic Visitation, working in concert with a national lay commission granted independent authority, to seek the truth.” Involving the laity, that encouraged me, but I wondered how to we the people of God get involved in that process? In the past few weeks Bishop Braxton has met with our Diocese Presbyteral Council and the cabinet to discuss actions. He was also was at a meeting of the Committee for the Protection of Children within the past 2 weeks. From those meetings may come additional suggestions for responding to the current crisis, we shall see. Will it involve the laity? Today I saw this reported in the Catholic Reporter, https://www.catholicregister.org/home/international/item/27966-church-must-make-urgent-clear-response-to-abuse-crisis-cardinal-o-malley-says  these encouraging words from Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, president of the Vatican's Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. "Bringing the voice of survivors to leadership of the church is crucial if people are going to have an understanding of how important it is for the church to respond quickly and correctly anytime a situation of abuse may arise,"  "if the church is unable to respond wholeheartedly and make this a priority, all of our other activities of evangelization, works of mercy, education are all going to suffer. This must be the priority that we concentrate on right now." And finally, an article published in America Magazine – ‘Why the Catholic Church can’t move on from the sex abuse crisis’ that I found interesting because it cites, statistics, dates, numbers, etc. and it helped me put things in perspective, you might want to read it https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2018/09/10/why-catholic-church-cant-move-sex-abuse-crisis  In the meantime, what do we continue to hear?  Pray!  The diocese and the USCCB have made prayer resource available to us for that. But how do we fix the problem? Here’s a response I heard to that – “Hint – it won’t be through prayer.” I agree, prayer will not fix the problem, but it won’t hurt, it will help, so don’t give up on prayer. I feel the same frustration that you do. We want to do something. We want to help. Many of you know and listen to Fr. Mike Schmitz. He gave a very emotional YouTube video on this topic https://youtu.be/AdR8eyaDCHg  A great presentation, but I struggled with his closing – Are you going to leave or lead?  I like many of you, won’t leave, I want to lead. But I have been asking myself for the past few weeks – How? What do we do? How do we help? How do we express our concerns and our opinions? Do we wait to see what the reaction of the Church will be? I recommend don’t be silent. Express your concerns. Share your ideas. Write to me, to Fr. Osang, to Bishop Braxton, to Archbishop Cupich, to Cardinal DiNardo, and to the USCCB National Review Board.  If you don’t tell us, we will not know. And I’ll go first, I have my letter drafted and will make it available to you when I finish it this week. I encourage you to do the same. In the meantime, we wait, we pray, we hope, we don’t give up, we have faith. Let me know if I can help (939.6426 ext. 26 or thelfrich@ssppcc.org ).