Missionaries Coming To Town

On two weekends in June, we will have missionaries here at this parish to promote support for the Church around the world.

On June 16 and 17, Father George Kintiba will be celebrating Mass and giving homilies for Cross Catholic Outreach, whose priests have given presentations here during the last two years.

On June 23 and 24 Father Kwadwo Angyekm from the Diocese of Obuasi in Ghana will be celebrating Mass and describing the specific situation of the Church in Ghana and the west coast of Africa. Fr. Collins will also be taking up a second collection to support the church in his diocese. Fr. Kintiba is from Congo and is a priest for the Society of the Divine Word, a rapidly growing missionary order that currently has 6000 priests and brothers sent to all parts of the earth.

That Society is an example the Church’s creative response to difficult situations. When the German government forcibly closed many seminaries and religious institutions in the late 19th century, one of the exiled priests Saint Arnold Janssen moved to the Netherlands and united many priests, seminarians and religious brothers into the new Society of the Divine Word, which has since then supported missions that are based heavily upon a reverence for God’s revelation through the Bible and through nature.

Soon, two women’s religious orders arose from the same inspiration: the Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters, which carries on active missionary work in 49 countries and the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters, contemplatives who now pray for the missions in their 22 convents around the world.

Fr. Kintiba, sent from this order, will be speaking about the efforts of Cross Catholic Outreach, a lay ministry run by American Catholic nonprofit that helps poorer communities in their efforts both to recover from natural and manmade disasters and to develop dignified and prosperous lives for the future. Likewise promoting an understanding of the universal Church.

Fr. Collins will be speaking about the Church in Ghana and the west coast of Africa. Ghana became independent in 1957 when the British withdrew from the so-called Gold Coast of Africa, ending almost five centuries of European colonial control. The country is mostly Christian and about 10 percent Catholic.

The Catholic Church in Ghana has strongly supported human rights, the culture of life and family, and protection of the environment. Her defense of rights of the people incurred the oppression of the government for many years. But the situation has improved somewhat and the country’s 3 million Catholics are served by about 850 priests and about 1000 religious sisters.

By uniting our efforts in the West and the Church in other lands, we are bringing the nations together in the grace and truth of Christ and building hope for a better future.

Plans For A New Church Hall

As most of you know, we have been planning on using about half or a little more of our $1 million savings on building a new church hall to provide more space for meals and parish gatherings and for the religious education classes and parish groups to meet.

Our initial budget for the project was about $600,000. And, after interviewing several architects, we settled on one of them last September and thought that we would move forward soon. However, he and the Diocesan Office of Planning, Construction and Facilities then made a proposal that was vastly above our budget.

The Pastoral Council and Finance Council responded creatively with a number of cost saving ideas; and we started looking into local builders. We have consulted some construction companies and considered some other options that would bring the cost back into our budget range.

One of the possibilities is adding onto the current church annex, instead of building a new structure. Either that plan or a new building would provide space for a hall that is about twice the size of the current church annex, expand the kitchen, and make about four rooms available for religious education classes and other meetings.

I will get back to the parishioners soon about the plans on going forward, and I certainly welcome any ideas that people have. While we are working out plans for the future, I would ask everyone to join me in making a 30 day Novena of prayers to ask for the intercession of Saint Joseph, the patron saint of builders, for this project. The novena will start on March 19, the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, and the novena prayer is described on the flyer in the bulletin.

A novena is a devotion that involves offering a particular prayer each day for a certain number of days. The tradition of praying novenas goes back at least to the early Middle Ages and has received official Church approval many times. The most common novenas involve praying a certain prayer for nine days; and in fact the tern “novena” is derived from the Latin word “novem,” for “nine.” However, some novenas have been extended to longer periods of time, including novenas for 30 or 40 days. The faithful commonly pray novenas for a deceased person, in preparation for a feast day (such as the Immaculate Conception or Pentecost), to emphasize a devotion (such as Divine Mercy or devotion to Mary) or for a particular intention, such as the success of our building project. Novenas unite the prayers of many people and many days, joining the power of heaven to our prayers and efforts so that we may together build up the Church to reflect the love of God on earth

Preparing the Way of the Lord

We hear in this Sunday’s Gospel about the call to prepare the way of the Lord. In this context, it is helpful to ask how we can, as a practical matter, make our parish and the world around us a place where Jesus Christ is welcomed upon earth.

I thank the parish staff, with our Deacon, secretary and youth and religious education directors, and all the volunteers who are building up this parish in so many ways, as catechists and in youth ministry, as sacristans, ushers, lectors, and in music ministry, in maintaining the website, cleaning the liturgical cloths, in the Ladies Council and the Knights who provide so much service in this parish. And I would like to ask the people who have time to do so to consider how we can make this parish even better.

Regarding liturgies, we are down to four lectors now, and we should have six. Lectors provide the readings, announcements, and intercessions for Masses, and are meant to develop a love of Sacred Scripture.

We would also benefit from two more catechists or catechist assistants for our religious education program, which meets at 10 on Sundays. We currently have six catechists for the four classes; it would be very helpful to have two catechists or assistants per class. One does not need specialized training for this role, the calling is for a solid faith and willingness to make the effort to share it with children.

We would also very much appreciate the help of more sacristans; Barbara Hiler fills this role, but it is a bit much for one person.

The youth of the parish are encouraged to join the youth group and/or the youth choir; they meet on alternating Thursday evenings. The youth group helps develop faith, prayer and good friendship together, and the youth choir will be providing more beauty to our Masses. High schoolers can also be lectors at Mass.

Regarding parish groups, we currently have the Ladies Council, which meets on the third Wednesday of each month; they keep the church and the grounds up and arrange for many of the parish events, as well as assist each other with community and prayer.

The Monsignor Heller Council of the Knights of Columbus joins together Catholic men of this parish for prayer and good works for the benefit of the Church and the nation, and to be good examples to a world desperately in need of them.

In January, we will also be forming a new Marian devotional group that will probably meet weekly for prayer, education and beneficial works in this area.

I would encourage everyone to consider these, or other initiatives that you can think of, to make this parish fulfill the call of Jesus to be the light of the world, the salt of the earth and a city set upon a hill. See Matt. 5:13-16

The Grace-Filled Response to Failures

Now that we have had some tine to assess the recent reports of scandals in the Church, including those surrounding Theodore McCarrick, the Pennsylvania grand jury report, and accounts from seminaries in Honduras and Chile, it is time to give a response.

I can only say a few words here, but I will hold a meeting with the parish on Saturday, September 1 at noon in order to discuss the matter more fully. I also encourage people to express their views in letters, whether to the bishops, the papal nuncio (ambassador) in Washington or to the Vatican. Such letters should be well thought, prayerfully written out and consider positive recommendations for the future.

Righteous anger is a fitting response on such occasions, but reason and faith should also guide our path toward the future. Responses that are based upon prayer, faith, careful thought, and positive vision like those of Church reformers (e.g., St. Francis, St. Dominic, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Pope Pius V, and St. Frances Xavier Cabrini) or for that matter, like that of the founding fathers of this country, are what lead to lasting results and a better future.

Mere anger alone (even very justified anger) without faith, prayer and reason, tend to result in more division and destruction, as was the case with the French and Russian revolutions. Regarding specifics, I would say five things now.

First, as Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the president of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops pointed out, there should be a thorough independent investigation surrounding the rise of McCarrick and the condition of some seminaries here and around the world, along with the removal of those officials who have been very negligent.

Second, as Cardinal DiNardo also recommended, there should be a publically accountable, independent process for investigating allegations against bishops and Church officials in the future.

Third, a thorough investigation is needed, not only to discover who is to blame, but also to acquit those who are innocent and to outline positively how the truth did come out, including the courage of people who recounted their experiences and the investigation that was rightfully launched by Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

Fourth, for all of the troubles, we should remember that the vast majority of seminarians, seminary faculty, and clergy are trying to be prayerful, faithful and hardworking in serving the Church. I would note, for example, that my own experience at Mount Saint Mary Seminary and the North American College was very positive.

While there were disagreements over policy, the faculty were doing their best for the Church and the seminarians were generally highly qualified and devout. And fifth, as God has guided His Church through so many troubles (internal and external) in the past, so He will guide us still into the future.

Review and Plans for the Future

In this week’s bulletin, there is the financial report for the last fiscal year, which ended on June 30.

(The Diocese’s accounting year starts on July 1, due in part to the school year, and in part to the fact that clergy transfers are usually effective in late June.)

As the report says, we had income of about $212,100 and expenses of $176,900. However, both of those figures included extraordinary items. In particular, we received a $50,000 inheritance from the estate of Frances Hannah, who with her late husband had been a parishioner almost from the beginning of this parish.

In addition, we spent about $25,200 on the new Stations of the Cross walk and on the new landscaping, $9300 of which was offset by donations for those projects. Outside of these extraordinary matters, the ordinary income was about $152,800 and the expenses other than additions were about $151,700.

or this next year, the we are planning on building a new church hall, which will give us more space for such things as parish events, religious education and adult education classes, and gatherings of parish groups. It will enable us to get together more often, and have more room for these events, as well as make parish receptions easier to arrange and audio-visual equipment easier to use. In addition, there will be a larger kitchen and more modern handicapped accessible bathrooms. And we will be able to make the church annex a regular part of the church, with pews and a proper confessional. We are expecting this project to cost about $500,000 – $600,000, including the cost of adding parking spaces to make up for the ones that the hall would take up.

We have about $1 million in savings, and so we can move forward now. However, we will lose the interest on the portion of our savings that will go to the project. We will hopefully make up some of that lost income by increased interest rates on the remainder of our savings, and with about $3000 a year that should come in from Christendom College due to some help I give them.

However, to offset some of the costs so that we will keep more interest income for the future, we will be conducting a fundraising drive in the fall season to ask for 3 or 5 year pledges dedicated to this project. I will soon be giving further updates on the status of this expansion for our parish.

Recent Ordinations and the Promotion of Vocations

Please welcome Fr. Michael Isenberg for the Masses this weekend and Monday. Fr. Isenberg is the new Vocations Director for the Arlington Diocese, a position that involves both recruiting and evaluating seminarians for the diocese and helping people discern their vocations in general. It is thus a good opportunity to address the promotion of vocations to the priesthood. We will address vocations to religious orders in the near future.

As the Vatican II Council said in its decree on the training of priests Optatam Totius (Latin for “the desired of the whole), “The duty of fostering vocations falls on the whole Christian community.” That document goes on to describe central ways of promoting vocations to priesthood. (Perfectae Caritatis, the decree on religious life, has similar encouragement for promoting vocations to religious orders.)

The decree begins by stating that the most important place where vocations develop is faithful and prayerful families. Also crucial for the promotion of vocations are parishes “in whose abundant life young people actively take part.” The decree says that teachers should train their students to discern divine callings and have the courage to carry them out. It then calls upon priests to work with “apostolic zeal” and provide good examples of “humble, hardworking and happy lives.” The decree encourages the establishment of groups that promote vocations, a call that this Diocese has responded to with the Quo Vadis groups for boys, the Fiat Group for girls, and vocations retreats for men and women. For all of the faithful, the decree states that steadfast prayer, works of penance and continual instruction in the faith are also very important in promoting vocations.

Bishops coordinate the Church’s efforts, promote vocations and evaluate the seminarians as they advance. But the bishop alone can only do so much; he needs the help of all of the people to encourage more workers in the vineyard of the Lord.

We thus encourage all young people to think and pray carefully about their vocations and to be involved in the life of the parish. We have here altar boys, a youth choir, and a youth lector and a youth usher; we would welcome more. If anyone is interested in promoting a youth group, that would be a valuable addition. And when people see a young man who may be called to priesthood, or a youth called to religious life,we can encourage them along that path. In so many ways, it is important to promote vocations as part of our
efforts to bring about a new springtime of grace in this area, the nation and around the world.

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Confirmation at Our Lady of the Valley Luray VA

Enjoy a few photos from the 2017 Confirmation Class at Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Church in Luray VA. Bishop Michael Burbridge conducted the confirmation services.

MAY 2017 FIRST COMMUNION

First Communion was held on Mother’s Day, May 14. After the Mass, the annual May Crowning was held outside. We had a beautiful day for the event.

The parish had 4 Communicants: Emily Czolba, Carl Czolba, Luke Natalie and Lyndsey Nikirk.

RENEWAL AT THE LOCAL LEVEL

September has been a month of renewal and progress in this parish.

  • Last Sunday our catechists renewed their oath of fidelity and received a blessing for the new year.
  • The Knights of Columbus likewise installed the new officers who took or renewed their promised to carry out their duties faithfully and to the best of their abilities.
  • We have a new Director of Religious Education, three new catechists, and at least two men who are planning on joining are Knights Council soon.
  • Last Wednesday, the Ladies’ Council renewed their meetings for the fall season, with several more women expressing interest in joining.
  • And the Sunday before last, we celebrated our annual parish picnic, which was put together by the Knights and the Ladies’ Council.

With regard to parish groups, during September our new youth group met for its first meetings, celebrating with Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, games, movies, dinners, a Bible study and discussions together.

Our Legion of Mary continues its unified prayers together, put into action with visits to the sick and consecrations of homes with the Pilgrim Virgin statue and related prayers.  And the environment of the church has been improved by the new flooring and enhanced lighting, which was installed in time for a wedding that took place last weekend, and another wedding that will take place next weekend.  With regard to the liturgy, we also have music at all the Masses, and are looking to have cantors for the Sunday morning Masses as well.

When one reads newspapers, watches television, or consults the most popular internet sites, there may be a temptation to become cynical about the way politics, culture and the world at large are going.  However, one should remember that popular culture usually misses about 90 percent of the things that are most important and lasting.  When the early Christians were establishing new churches throughout the Roman Empire, most people viewed them as an annoying side show.

When missionaries such as St. Patrick, St. Boniface, and St. Augustine of Canterbury were establishing the faith in what would become the nations of Europe, very few except the wise realized their importance.  The same was true when half of Africa entered the light of Christianity in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  As Jesus made clear in the parable of the mustard seed, the kingdom