From the Pastor’s Desk

News and Information from St. Francis Parish
Issue 11

Dear St. Francis of Assisi Parishioners,

I begin this week with a confession: with the ever-improving weather I find that isolation is becoming a hardship. It is not good for Canadians to weather the cold and darkness of long winter days and nights, not to mention the loneliness that winter brings upon us, and then not celebrate the warmth and brightness of spring/summer on the beaches, in the parks, around a BBQ, all in close proximity to family and friends. Yes I can enjoy the sun with a nice socially distancing walk. Yes I can enjoy the budding trees, the growing flowers and the singing birds all by myself. But is not as fulfilling as in years past! Spring and summer is always more enjoyable when shared with family and friends – it is human interaction that is missing. This causes me to remember those who find this experience to be too much to bear. Those who find the weight of loneliness taxing them mentally, spiritually and physically. My need for human interaction reminds me to pray for those who struggle with this in greater measure than I do, to reach out to them in whatever way I can to assure them they are not alone. Perhaps this will be the take-away from this pandemic experience, we will learn the great value community holds for us. This experience will hopefully remind us that we need one another, that we are stronger together, and that we are called to be one.

Parish news is somewhat limited this week. The one item of note this that our parish picnic scheduled for June has sadly been cancelled. It is unfortunate we had to cancel the picnic because last years picnic was a great success, with lots of children participating, and we had hoped to improve on it this year.

Father Raph is still awaiting the day when he can get his hair cut – I hope it comes very soon!

Needless to say the parish staff is anxiously awaiting the day when the church reopens. It is hoped that the guidelines for reopening from the Ontario Bishops will be received this coming week so we can begin in earnest to prepare for the doors of the church to swing open.

A sincere word of thanks to parishioners who have continued their financial Sunday giving

during this time of pandemic. Your generosity, along with the wage subsidy from the federal government, has allowed us to continue to pay our bills, and more importantly, to not have to lay off any staff. Thank you!

Ascension of the Lord:

This weekend we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord, a feast day that brings us to the pinnacle of hope. For several weeks now our Sunday readings have been underlying this theme of hope – we have heard it repeatedly throughout Easter in the Acts of the Apostles, in the letters from Paul, and in the many passages from the Gospels. The Sunday readings have spoken repeatedly to us during this time of pandemic, calling us to look forward with encouragement, an encouragement rooted in hope. We have been called to wait in anticipation for the graces which will be revealed to us in the readings next Sunday when we celebrate Pentecost. Hope will explode next Sunday as we witness the birth of the Church. Hope will grace us with the profound awareness that God is truly with us – that God has walked with us in the pandemic, bringing us now to the awareness that it is only through God’s grace that the world will be healed. The Ascension calls us to make ourselves ready to see our hopes fulfilled in the celebration of Pentecost. In the Ascension Jesus promises us we will not be left orphaned, that he will indeed be with us always even as he ascends into heaven taking his place on his glorious throne. Let us pray during this celebration of the Ascension that God will find us ready and worthy to welcome the fullness of the kingdom into our hearts, both now and at the end of time.

Parking Lot Services:

On May 19th the government of Ontario issued an exemption to the emergency order as it relates to religious gatherings for worship. The exemption would permit “drive-in religious services” under certain conditions: one vehicle per household, with passengers all from the same household; vehicles must be parked a minimum two meters apart from each other; people are not permitted to leave their vehicles; a maximum of five people can conduct the religious service; and those leading the service cannot come within two meters of the parked vehicles. While this approach may work for some places of worship, for Catholic worship this approach is neither practical nor workable. For Catholics a “drive-in religious service” does not permit for the full active and conscious participation of the faithful – a hallmark of Catholic Eucharistic celebrations. The requirement that those leading the service not come within two meters of vehicles makes the distribution of communion impossible. Central to our understanding of sacraments is our belief that they are not just simply “dispensed” like a drive through window at the local MacDonald’s. Sacraments are first and foremost a celebration of God’s Word and Sacrament, all within the context of some sort of communal prayer and celebration. Sacraments are the life-blood of the Catholic Church and any action that lessens their importance and value is to be avoided. While I realize that people are hungry to gather as a worshipping community and receive the sacraments, we ought not to allow this hunger to cause us to devalue the sacraments in such a way so as to cheapen the grace that God graciously pours upon us in great abundance through the sacraments. We will not be offering any “drive-in religious” services here at St. Francis, a decision supported by Bishop Crosby, who this week issued an order that “drive-in religious” services not take place in the Hamilton Diocese.

A Good Laugh is Always Healthy:

Haircuts in time of pandemic.

All things in balance, or at least properly pair the wine with the correct food

May the blessings of God continue to rest upon you bringing you both health and happiness.

Father Tim, C.R,


News and Information from St. Francis Parish
Issue 10

Dear St. Francis of Assisi Parishioners,

It probably did not surprise anyone this week when the emergency closings were extended to June 2nd. We still anticipate reopening the parish office during phase two of province reopening, and the church during phase three. When asked during one of this weeks press conferences a date for reopening of places of worship, the Premier said the date of that is unknown at this time. So we continue to patiently wait in hope for the day when we can publicly worship in our church once again.

As I mentioned last week the Ontario Bishops are preparing guidelines for the reopening of churches, and we have been told to anticipate the arrival of those guidelines within the next couple of weeks. These guidelines will primarily focus upon liturgical issues while the Ontario government guidelines will focus upon issues concerning gathering of groups in such a way so as to avoid as much as possible the spread of the virus. Meanwhile the parish staff and I are looking at issues of reopening that pertain directly to St. Francis, such as: various seating arrangements in the church depending upon how many people will be permitted to gather (the number has not yet been given to us); what will be involved in sanitizing the church after each Mass, and how many people will be needed to do it; what ministers during liturgy can we reduce so as to ensure social distancing while at the same time not negatively effecting the liturgical celebration itself; and even discussions about which washrooms can be used; and so on. None of this was ever taught in the seminary.

On a lighter note some good news regarding what services will be available in the Province beginning Tuesday. For those who are stressed over their hair, and the inability to go to a hair dresser or barber, Premier Ford humorously suggested that dog groomers will be open on Tuesday. Father Raph was not impressed when I pointed that out to him.

Celebrating the Word:

“Celebrating the Word” is a weekly publication of the Congregation of the Resurrection. It is a tool designed for small groups to discuss and reflect upon the readings for the up-coming Sunday. There are six authors for this publication, each writing an issue every six weeks, I am one of those authors. I recently prepared the issue for Pentecost Sunday, which will be celebrated on May 31st. As an introduction to the issue I wrote:

As I write this issue we still find ourselves in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are in a time of isolation, social distancing, the wearing of masks and gloves, standing in lines to enter stores, etc. Our world is no longer the same – we now live in what many are calling the “new reality”. We hunger for the return to “normal”, while at the same time realizing even normal will no longer be the same. Could this be our time of Pentecost?

The disciples faced a “new reality” knowing that normal would never again be the same. Their “pandemic” was the Resurrection, an event that impacted and changed the entire world. They too had  to adjust their lives in radical ways because of this “new reality”.

I invite you as you break open God’s Word in celebration of Pentecost to find inspiration and strength from the disciples as they encountered a new world, a world that would never again be the same, a world that was transformed in such a radical fashion that the Resurrection touched the entire face of the earth. The disciples found great hope and promise in their new world, but only after they went through the isolation of the upper room in which they hid in fear. Isolation was not the end for them, it was but one step along the way. Our experience of isolation will hopefully be but one step for us towards a new world where the Resurrection will once again renew the face of the earth.

Good News:

At a time when good news is longed for, some good news for the parish. In the mail Friday we received our first Government of Canada check for the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy, a check in excess of $11,000.00. This program is designed for those businesses/services that continue to pay their staff during this time of pandemic, allowing us to apply for up to a 75% subsidy of what we are currently paying in salaries in order to compensate for loss of income. This subsidy was for March. We are eligible to apply for the next two wage subsidy periods, which we will certainly do. And the Prime Minister announced this week that the Wage Subsidy Program would continue at least into June – all very good news for us.

Prayer:

Let us not forget the power of prayer to bring healing, comfort and joy into our lives, especially during these trying times. This coming week, if you are not already doing so, please add the following requests to your daily prayer:

  • For doctors, nurses, all healthcare workers and support staff. In thanksgiving for all that they so selflessly do for us. May God also bless their families who long to see them more often, and who miss them so very much.
  • For those who feel isolated and alone, those who hunger for more human interaction, may God’s presence bring them hope and comfort.
  • For those who suffer with the virus, may the healing hands of God embrace them.
  • For children who struggle to understand what is happening, who long for and need the comfort of a hug, and who simply desire to see and play with their friends, for God’s light to shine upon them with warmth and love.
  • For all teachers who face the challenges of teaching in a new and different way, may God inspire them and bless them for their dedication and service.
  • For ourselves, may God supply us with the strength and hope we need during this time of pandemic.
  • For all who have died, may they experience life eternal with God.

Father Raph and I continue to celebrate Mass for the intentions of all the members of St. Francis Parish. As much as I enjoy Father Raph’s companionship, and praying together with him, there remains a void that only the parishioners of St. Francis can fill – I pray that it will be filled soon.

Remembering that Canada has been consecrated to Mary, pray to her, asking that she might bring her maternal healing to our country, and the comfort we so very much need, comfort that only a mother can bestow.

Laughter is Good Medicine Indeed:

As a Leafs fan I cannot help but point out the best face mask on the market!

Does it not seem like “Breaking News” is a phrase being misused?

Continued blessings and health upon you all.

Father Tim, C.R.,
Pastor.


News and Information from St. Francis Parish
Issue 9

Dear St. Francis of Assisi Parishioners,

It has now been since March 15th that the last public Mass was celebrated in St. Francis Church. This Sunday, the 8th Sunday with no Mass, will mark 56 days without Mass. We so often speak of the Catholic Church as a “Eucharistic Community”. Due to the current situation, which results in the absence of Eucharist, we can safely but sadly say that the hunger pains for Eucharist are growing among the faithful – there is a profound longing to once again be a “Eucharistic Community”.

When I say a hunger for Eucharist I am speaking about more than the reception of communion itself – there is a hunger to be once again immersed in the sacramental life of the church; there is a hunger to enter the church building to experience the transforming comfort it affords us; there is a hunger to be fed by both sacrament and God’s word; there is a hunger to be surrounded by family and friends as we speak and sing praises to God; there is a hunger to see those familiar faces that make us smile and feel so very good to be in their presence; there is a hunger to be embraced fully in God’s love.

While we might perceive this hunger to be something negative it does not necessarily have to be that way. Hunger pains remind us physically that we need the nourishment food gives us in order to live. Our hunger pains for Eucharist remind us that we need God in order to fully live, to be fully human. Thus we know that it is only Eucharist that will fill, nourish and satisfy us completely. Fasting has long been a valued discipline in the spiritual life. We fast for 40 days of Lent in order to eat fully the Good News of the Resurrection. Think of this time of Eucharistic absence as our time of fasting in order to eat fully of the Eucharist when Mass resumes. Just as a glorious meal tastes so amazing when we fasted all day long in anticipation of eating the meal, so too with Eucharist – image how glorious it will be to receive Eucharist after our long fast. It will taste so good! Or imagine mornings when you awake to the smell of fresh coffee brewing, or better still the heavenly aroma and sound of bacon and eggs cooking. As you lay in bed your anticipation grows, your hunger grows. No matter how tired you may still be the aroma lifts you out of bed. That first sip of coffee, that first bite of bacon and eggs, you are in heaven! I promise you when you once again approach the Table of Lord for Eucharist it will be your “coffee moment”, your “bacon and eggs moment”, you will find yourself blissfully in heaven. Eucharist will never before have tasted so good. You will be satisfied; you will have your fill; you will be nourished; you will once again be fully embraced in God’s all consuming love.

The Virtue of Hope:

In almost every newsletter I have written since Covid-19 so dramatically changed our lives I have exhorted you to seek the virtue of hope, a virtue that can be found even in these dark days of isolation, loneliness, illness and even death – simply look to the healthcare professionals and their amazing support staff and you will find hope in great abundance. But what exactly do I mean by hope? First, what I do not mean. In the secular world hope is all too often defined as a “wish”, the strength of which rests in the strength of the person making the wish. Oh how I hope the Toronto Maple Leafs win the next Stanley Cup – this is not an example of hope, it is simply a wish (one which many of you tell me is far-fetched). Oh how I hope I pass the exam – again this is not hope, it is a wish. Oh how I hope it does not rain tomorrow – again not hope, a wish.

Within biblical understanding hope is the confident expectation of what God has promised, the strength of which is found in God’s faithfulness to us. I hope to one day experience the fullness of the resurrection and eternal life with God – I expect this to happen (unless I mess it up)! God’s unending faithfulness to humanity moves this understanding of the resurrection from wish to hope, from a longing that something might happen the way I wish, to an expectation that it will happen the way I hope.

God will never abandoned us – I expect this to be true because God promised, this is hope! God will never place on our shoulders more than we can bear – I expect this to be true because God promised, this is hope! God will never allow darkness to overcome us – I expect this to be true because God promised, this is hope! God will not allow enemies to overcome us – I expect this to be true because God promised, this is hope! This leads me to the point of saying that Covid-19 and its darkness will not overcome me. Covid-19 an “enemy” to humanity will not defeat me. The weight of Covid-19 will not be more than I can bear. Covid-19 will not lead me to turn my back on God in an act of abandonment. This is my hope – I expect it to be true because God promised. The world and its people will once again experience joy, for “the hope of the righteous brings joy” (Proverbs 10:28).

Video Collage:

We would like to put together a video collage with music for our parish web page. The primary purpose of the collage is to connect us more as members of St. Francis Parish during this time of isolation. The collage would be a collection of pictures made from photos submitted by parishioners. These photos could simply be pictures of you and your family, pictures that reveal an element of hope, or perhaps pictures of your favourite memories of St. Francis Parish – pictures that will help lift up all our spirits! Pictures that will allow us to see the many beautiful faces of St. Francis Parish, those faces we anxiously long to see live and in person very soon. Send us your pictures to the parish email address: stfranciskitchener@hamiltondiocese.com

Alice Soeder has graciously offered to produce the collage and then post it on our web page. Please note that by submitting pictures for display on our web page they become part of the public domain. Also, when submitting pictures please indicate in the email if we can use your first name only to help indicate who is in the picture, or if you  prefer that no name be used, both options are perfectly acceptable. Please submit within the next week.

Update on Church Opening:

There is really nothing new of significance to report since last weeks newsletter. The Ontario government is beginning to put their three phase reopening of the Province into action, while at the same time extending the closing of non-essential businesses to May 19th. As I mentioned last week church offices, if they meet all criteria, will reopen during the second phase of reopening the Province, while churches, if they meet all the criteria, will reopen during phase three. Exact dates for all this remains unknown as we wait to see how things unfold during phase one of the reopening.

The Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops have been meeting with representatives of the Ontario government in order to establish norms and guidelines for the reopening of churches. There is much that needs to be in place before churches reopen and the bishops are working to ensure all is ready when we are told we can reopen.

While no one can say with certainty what the reopening of churches will look like it is still nonetheless important that we prepare ourselves spiritually and emotionally for what will unfold. For instance:

  • It is pretty safe to say that when we reopen communion will only be distributed in the hand, and the cup most likely will not be distributed to the congregation.
  • There will be no holy water at the entrances to the church, but lots of hand sanitizer.
  • You will probably find no song books or missals in the pews, with music for singing projected on a screen.
  • You will notice fewer ministers participating in the sanctuary in order to limit possible spread.
  • Sadly, ministers of hospitality at the doors may not be permitted.
  • Entry to the church will likely be limited to only one door in order to control numbers and allow for some sort of assessment of people before they enter.
  • Number of people permitted in the church at any one time may be limited. Seating in the church may be controlled (= you may not be able to sit in the pew you have sat in all your life).
  • At the conclusion of Mass people will be expected to depart immediately, no socializing. This will also allow time for sanitizing the church before the next Mass.
  • Children’s Liturgy will only resume once school has reopened, and even then we may need to implement changes to how our Sunday Children’s Program is done.
  • How baptisms take place will need to be re-evaluated.
  • In order for people to depart before the next group arrives for Mass, and to permit time to clean the church, Mass times may need to be altered.

Laughter is Good Medicine Indeed:

We will be returning to Church once again: (Sent to me by parishioner Sherri Levair)

 

Beware of some of the possible side-effects of Covid-19 Quarantine: (Found On-Line)

I continue to pray for your good health.

Father Tim, C.R.,
Pastor.


News and Information from St. Francis Parish
Issue 8

Dear St. Francis of Assisi Parishioners,

Another week has come and gone, and we are about to have the 7th Sunday without public Mass – who would have thought this would last so long. And is it just my imagination that peoples hair seems to be a little more unkempt than normal, and in some cases a different colour than usual? Perhaps just the musings of a bald man. Regardless, life has certainly changed dramatically in a relatively short period of time. In the midst of all this let us not forget to pray daily for those who find isolation and distancing a heavy burden; for those who feel helpless as they watch those they love suffer alone; for those who place their life at risk everyday they go to work; for those who simply long for human interaction – the list of those in need of our prayers is long, let us continue to hold them in our prayers.

However, even in the midst of the virus there continues to be signs of hope. As the weather begins to change we experience hope in the magical sound of birds singing, in the wonderful colour and aroma of flowers beginning to bloom, in the amazing brightness and warmth of the sun, in the joyful sounds of children laughing and playing outside, in the loud and joyful sounds of a drive-by birthday greeting, in the sirens blaring in recognition and thanks for healthcare workers – hope can be found. These signs of hope will carry us through the virus! Tomorrow if you identify one element of hope, and another the following day, and so on and so on, I assure you hope will overcome the darkness of the virus! Let us be people of hope.

New Pastor:

As I mentioned last week in this newsletter Father Murray McDermott, C.R., has been named the new pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish. He will officially begin his ministry as pastor on September 1st following a brief time of vacation as he leaves his current ministry and begins at St. Francis. Father Murray will bring with him his many gifts and talents that I am certain will serve the parish well. From his many years of experience living and ministering within Larche (the community for the mentally challenged), to his over 25 years in ministry with Children’s Aid, to his experience meeting the spiritual and sacramental needs of students at St. Jerome’s University, to his experience in leadership as Provincial Superior within my religious community, Father Murray has much to offer the people of St. Francis. I am certain you will grow to love Father Murray and appreciate all he has to offer.

My last day as pastor will be on June 30th, and the following day I will be installed as Provincial Superior of my religious community. Now it does not take a math expert to realize there are two months between my departure and Father Murray’s arrival. During the months of July and August the parish will be left in the very capable hands of Father Raph (who by the way will continue to minister at St. Francis when Father Murray arrives). I am confident Father Raph will serve the parish well for July and August so long as he obediently follows the very competent and professional directions of Alice Soeder, the parish administrative assistant. As we all know she is in charge – something I learned very quickly after I arrived at St. Francis. Alice made me look like a good pastor, something she will offer to Father Murray when he arrives. Also, the countless years of experience Ruthann Fisher brings with her will be of great assistance to Father Raph during July and August. I will leave St. Francis at the end of June confident that the parish is in good hands.

Sadly, it is becoming increasingly clear that the church is not likely to reopen before I depart from St. Francis. This is certainly not how I wanted to leave the parish, but as with so many others things, Covid-19 is in charge of how we currently function. I would hope that after things return to some sense of normal I will have an opportunity to return for a proper goodbye and some words of thanks for the many graces and blesses I received while at St. Francis. Besides I will not be far, my office will be just across the border in Waterloo.

Mothers Day:

Sunday, May 10th is the day we set aside to honour all Mother’s, both living and deceased. A special heads-up to all Fathers – your children will not be making Mother’s Day gifts in school this year so it is up to you to ensure your children do something to honour their mother. What a wonderful opportunity for Daddy-Child bonding as you create something for Mother’s Day.

As part of your Mother’s Day celebrations take some time to bestow a blessing upon your Mother. You can pray this blessing for your Mother in person, over the phone, using electronic media, through the glass window at the Retirement Home, in your own private moment of prayer, or even at her grave:

Holy God,
you compared your own love for your people
to the love of a mother for her children.
Look with kindness on our mother
who has shared in your creating love
by the gift of her children.

We thank you for the joys and sorrows of her life,
the giving and sharing,
and, especially for your love
that has formed us in your image.

Listen to our prayers
and bless the mother
who has nurtured and sustained us (me).
Give her patience in abundance
and let her find joy and satisfaction in all that she does.

Glory and praise to you, loving God,
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who was born of the Virgin Mary,
and who reigns with you in the glory of heaven,
for ever and ever. Amen.

See what our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has to say about Mother’s Day https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oq46iwkQJp4

Here is a suggestion families might wish to consider for Mother’s Day. Prepare a nice Mother’s Day dinner, use the best dishes, cloth napkins, candles and flowers on the table, etc. For dinner everyone dress up in formal dress. After dinner, as everyone is so nicely dressed, take some family photos.

News Regarding Re-Opening of Churches:

The Catholic Register has an excellent article that provides a good overview regarding how Covid-19 will be effecting the re-opening of churches across Canada. Check out the article:

https://www.catholicregister.org/item/31508-long-road-to-churches-re-opening

On Thursday of this week all the priests of Hamilton Diocese met electronically with Bishop Crosby to talk about the current situation and begin remote planning for the reopening of churches. The reopening of churches will follow the directives and guidelines of the Ontario government in terms of when we will reopen and under what conditions, while following the directives and guidelines of the Diocese in terms of how we will function (liturgically) once reopened.

The Ontario government has prepared a three stage process for reopening the Province, however, no actual dates are set in terms of when the process will begin. They predict that there will be from 2 – 4 weeks between each stage of reopening.

In stage one a limited number of non-essential businesses and services will reopen – churches and their offices are not part of stage one, thus, will remain closed. In stage two more non-essential businesses and services will reopen. It is anticipated that church offices will reopen in stage two, but NOT the church itself. In stage three all remaining non-essential businesses and services will reopen so long as they are able to meet all the directives for reopening (things such as ability to sanitize facilities after each use, social distancing, etc). Churches are part of stage three – however, how members of the church gather might be very different than before the virus. In a perfect world, and if all goes as planned within each stage of reopening, the earliest date for reopening churches would be approximately mid-July. However, I caution you not to hold fast to that date. Why? How the virus has acted thus far, and how effectively people follow guidelines intended to limit the spread, are all unknown variables, anything could happen that would throw all predicted dates for reopening out the window.

Once reopen the Diocese will provide guidelines and directives on everything from how to distribute communion, how many people can be in the church at any one time, use of hymn books, whether or not there will be a need for smaller Masses in terms of attendance but yet more Masses offered on a Sunday in order to accommodate everyone, and so forth. These guidelines and directives will not be completed until after the Ontario government presents their guidelines and directives so we can adhere to them as well.

Another discussion concerned memorial Masses for those who have died during Covid-19 and were unable to have a Catholic Funeral Mass. Those families wishing to have a memorial Mass for their deceased loved one will receive first priority once the church reopens. All other events and activities will take secondary place in terms of scheduling the church for a memorial Mass. Simply said, it is the least we can do in terms of helping people to grieve the death of those they loved.

The question was raised regarding the current status of the “One Heart, One Soul” campaign – we were about to begin that campaign here at St. Francis when the virus changed everything. The Bishop responded by saying the campaign has been “delayed”. When asked what that means the priests were told that when/if the campaign resumes its focus will most likely change. The company assisting with the campaign has been asked to develop a strategy for parishes to increase the number of parishioners whose Sunday giving is donated through direct deposit. We will need to wait and see when/if campaign restarts or if it takes on a new strategy.

There were a number of other items discussed during the meeting with the Bishop, most of which did not directly pertain to our parish. The meeting itself was very helpful in terms of being with my brother priests, all be it electronically. It was a time to reconnect and offer encouragement to one another. There are some fine priests ministering in the Diocese of Hamilton.

Catholic Education Week:

Catholic Education Week in Ontario, which is intended to highlight the partnership that exists between school and parish, runs from Sunday, May 3 – Friday, May 8 this year. The theme for this week is “Igniting Hope”. Obviously some of the events which normally mark Catholic Education Week are not possible this year due to Covid-19. Take some time and view the video message from Bishop Crosby (it can be viewed in either English or French): https://hamiltondiocese.com/cew-2020

You might also wish to pray the on-line Mass for Catholic Education Week. This year the Mass will be at St. Patrick Church, Hamilton, with Bishop Crosby as celebrant, on Friday, May 8th at 11:00 am https://stpats.online.church

Laughter is Good Medicine Indeed:

In my last newsletter I shared a few humorous stories in an attempt to lift people up from the stress of quarantine. Since then numerous parishioners have forwarded to me some very delightful humorous accounts. While some of the stories can not be repeated here, many can. Here is a sampling of some quarantine humour provided this week by Mary and Joan Novak:

The world has turned upside down; old folks are sneaking out of the house, and their kids are yelling at them to stay indoors.

This virus has done what no woman has been able to do … cancel all sports, shut down all bars and keep men at home.

Day 7 at home and the dog is looking at me like, “See? This is why I chew the furniture!”

Homeschooling is going well, 2 students suspended for fighting and 1 teacher fired for drinking on the job.

Day 6 of homeschooling: My child just said “I hope I don’t have the same teacher next year”.

So, after this quarantine … will the producers of My 600 Pound Life just find me or do I find them?

Prayer:

I encourage you to continue to pray for yourself and for the needs of others, most especially for all the members of St. Francis of Assisi Parish. I remind you that our Holy Father invited us to pray the rosary each day. The Canadian Bishops, who consecrated Canada to Mary on May 1st, invite us to turn to Mary in prayer seeking her intercession and help during this pandemic. Bishop Crosby strongly encouraged us to make a spiritual communion by watching and praying daily Mass on TV or on-line. Hold your family and friends in your prayers.

May God continue to watch over you and give you good health.

Father Tim, C.R.
Pastor.


News and Information from St. Francis Parish
Issue 7

Dear St. Francis of Assisi Parishioners,

I am clearly stating the obvious when I point out that the church and office still remain closed. We find ourselves in the second month of isolation, social distancing, the wearing of masks and gloves, standing in lines in order to enter stores, businesses who will only accept credit or debit transactions, Plexiglas separating us from cashiers, directional arrows telling us how to grocery shop, increased use of zoom and other internet tools, weight gain from lack of movement, and so on. Yet we have also experienced increase concern for our neighbours, the comfort that family provides us, a greater stillness from the busy pre-virus lifestyle, a recognition that silence can be life-giving, that faith is still alive without a physical church, that the joy of Easter resurrection was still revealed even in the midst of the virus, the realization of what “hero or idol” truly means, that hope is still alive, and so on. I urge you to focus on the positive, upon those hope-filled signs that remind us that God is still alive and by our side. See the goodness of humanity, embrace the moments of grace in your life, and in those quiet and peaceful moments this new reality makes possible, turn to God in prayer. Do not allow the negativity of political fighting over who did or did not do what consume you – try and go one day without watching the news, especially the news from our friends to the south. Perhaps watch a comedy instead, or a family movie together, or go for a walk and enjoy God’s incredible creation.

Some Parish News:

Earlier this week the parish staff met live and in person for the very first time since early March. I can assure you we followed all the proper social distancing guidelines and there was, as Prime Minister Trudeau said, no “moist speaking” taking place. It was nice not to have a computer screen between us. After taking some time to catch up and share how we were all dealing with this new reality we talked about the parish.

We identified the three major ways we have been attempting to keep in contact with the members of the parish: phone network, emails and the parish web page.

Phone networking is primarily focused upon those who are living alone, elderly and perhaps not in good health. While this has proven to be successful and much appreciated and comforting to those receiving a phone call, we are concerned that some who would benefit from a call are not known by the staff. The staff also agreed that phone networking ought to continue as part of the regular ministry of the parish after “normal” returns. If so, parishioners will be recruited to help in this very new and valuable ministry.

Emails have been sent out weekly, such as this one, to just over 300 parish households. This form of communication has received some very positive feedback and is a very simple way to communicate. It was a little rocky when emailing parishioners first began in March. We recognized that a very limited number of households had provided the office with email addresses, and there were a significant number of email addresses no longer being used or had changed. It took some time to get the email list to where it is today. Once “normal” returns there will be a effort made to have every parish household with internet provide the office with an email address.

The parish web page has also proven to be a great communication tool. Our records indicate that the web page is receiving lots of visitors. This has reminded us that the web page should be used even more going forward.

The issue still requiring more discussion in the future is how best to communicate with those parishioners who do not use computers.

Part of the discussion at the staff meeting included the transition of pastors. I will share what was discussed in the next email.

Non-Essential Services Permitted to Open: When & How?:

Churches and other houses of faith have been included on the list of non-essential services. To be included on this list does not mean that religious faith, or its practice, is deemed somehow non-essential for day-to-day living, nothing could be further from the truth! To be on the list of non-essential services is not some anti-religious action on the part of our government, nor some attempt to strip away our religious freedom. Churches were included on this list because of the fear of communal spreading of the virus. So we are deemed non-essential, not because we have nothing of value to offer to people, but because what we offer is so popular that it attracts crowds of people. It is within crowds that the virus has the greatest potential to spread.

The Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops agreed to follow the restrictions placed upon non-essential services because of a profound desire to protect life. The Bishops agreed that to permit large crowds of people to gather would be irresponsible, and not in keeping with church teachings that speak about our responsibility to do all we can to protect as sacred all that God has created – most especially human life. Thus, churches are closed.

Now talk has begun concerning reopening the country. What will this reopening look like for the church? A response to this question is purely speculative at this point because of the many unanswered questions. Here are some of the questions church leadership now needs to look at in light of reopening. First, will the reopening of non-essential services still require social distancing? If so, this would limit the number of people who could enter a church at one time, where they can sit and how closely they sit to one another. Second, will limitations on how many people can gather in one space continue at the current level of five people? Or even increase to 30 or 50 people? If so, it would not be possible to have much of a “communal” celebration of Mass. Third, is the distribution of communion possible if social distancing is still required? If so, how can communion be safely distributed – safe for both the one receiving and the one distributing? Fourth, what adaptations are necessary in order to safely celebrate public Mass? Adaptations would need to address everything from the obvious one of no sign of peace to some of the less obvious, such as the use of hymn books. Fifth, what kind of security would be necessary to ensure all those entering the church are healthy enough to do so? Would taking peoples temperature before entering be necessary? Would people be required to be masked and gloved? Sixth, there has now surfaced the question of the virus spreading through air conditioning or forced air heating. Our heating is not forced air so no problem there, but it may require that the church not be air conditioned or the ceiling fans used. There are many questions and issues yet to be addressed. I do not cite all these questions in order to scare you or depress you, but rather to point out that reopening entails more than simply unlocking the doors of the church.

So when will St. Francis Church reopen? The only answer at this point is, no one knows for certain! The church office may reopen along with other offices deemed non-essential, but the church itself could still remain closed due to social distancing and limitations on numbers of people permitted to gather. Our response to all of this? Pray … pray … pray! Pray that God will continue to guide us and walk with us during this time of uncertainty.

A Little Light-Hearted News:

I am a profound believer in the power of humour to heal, to enliven people, and to lift people out of despair. Humour can afford us the opportunity to find light in darkness, hope in the midst of distress, and understanding in the face of doubt. So a few examples of humour which I hope will bring a smile to your face, and some joy, if but briefly, to life in the midst of covid-19.

An historical event has recently taken place, sadly little or no attention was given to this great and significant event. The Toronto Maple Leafs have gone undefeated since early March – their longest undefeated stretch in team history. See, miracles can indeed happen!

Some of you may recall that shortly after my arrival at St. Francis as pastor I gave a homily where I talked about myself. I did this in an attempt to allow people to get to know me a little better. I told a story about two mistakes I believe God made during creation, two mistakes that revealed something about who I am and what I believe. I said that in creation the two mistakes God made were: one, country music, and two, brussell sprouts. I am not a fan of country music, and brussell sprouts are just rotten little underdeveloped cabbages that are, putting it mildly, distasteful.

If somehow brussell sprouts become a cure for coronavirus I am in trouble. I am not sure that even coronavirus can get me to eat brussell sprouts. My niece as a young girl once responded to her father who came home one night with brussell sprouts: you bought them, you cook them, you eat them!

And finally, one more light-hearted comment on Covid-19.
Even Noah tried to hoard toilet paper in the midst of global distress.

Consecration to Mary:

This coming Friday, May 1st the Canadian Bishops will formally consecrate the church of Canada to Mary, Mother of the Church. Why? This formal consecration will be done in order to seek the protection of Mary during this time of pandemic. Canada will be joined in this action/prayer of consecration with the Bishops of the United States.The United States Bishops will consecrate the church of the United States to Mary on the same day, and at the same time, thus making it a more meaningful and powerful intercession throughout all of North America. Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us.

Prayer:

I invite you to add this prayer by Pope Francis to your list of prayers.

O Mary,
you shine continuously on our journey as a sign of salvation and hope.
We entrust ourselves to you and seek health for the sick.
At the foot of the cross you participated in Jesus’ pain with steadfast faith.
You know what we need.
We are certain that you will provide, so that,
as you did at Cana in Galilee,
joy and feasting might return after this moment of trial.
Help us, Mother of divine love,
to conform ourselves to the will of God
and to do what Jesus tells us:
He who took our sufferings upon himself,
and bore our sorrows to bring us,
through the cross, to the joy of the resurrection.
Amen.

May God continue to bless you and afford you good health.

Father Tim, CR
Pastor.


News and Information from St. Francis Parish
Issue 6

Dear St. Francis of Assisi Parishioners,

Hard to believe that an entire month has gone by since the doors of the church were last opened. It was on Sunday, March 15th that our faith community last gathered to worship on the 3rd Sunday of Lent. Since then the Season of Lent concluded with the 4th and 5th Sundays of Lent, and Passion (Palm) Sunday on April 5th. The Holy Week celebrations came and went without any public celebrations, and Easter morning dawned with our church still closed and empty. The Easter Season is a time to celebrate new life in Christ, to renew our commitment to be people of faith who boldly follow our Risen Lord. This life of faith is rooted in hope, hope that the promises made to us by God will in fact come to fulfillment – that we will come to experience the full hope and promise of the resurrection. If we cannot currently experience this hope within the walls of our church we must look somewhere else to find signs of hope. Where have we experienced hope this past month? I invite you to open your eyes of faith to the countless signs of hope still very much present in our world.

Signs of Hope:

As the weight of isolation takes its toil upon us, as the loneliness deepens our despair, and as the unknown nature of the future causes fear to grow and take hold within us, let us look for signs of hope to counter the damage and distress the virus is causing. Hope is ever-present, all we need to do is look and we will find hope. Here are a number of elements of hope I have witnessed during this time of covid-19:

In this time when fear can cause people to think only of themselves I see evidence that this is not true for many parishioners of St. Francis Parish. I have been deeply touched by the significant number of parishioners who have contacted the parish office, or members of the parish staff directly, to offer whatever assistance they can for people in need. Whether it is going grocery shopping for someone, or contacting them regularly just so they know someone cares, acts of kindness and love are being extended in countless ways. If you are aware of anyone in need of assistance, or if you yourself are in need, PLEASE contact any member of the parish staff and we will do all we can to provide the necessary help. This care for others in need is certainly a sign of hope.

While we have heard this many times already, it deserves yet another recognition – what an amazing sign of hope the medical professionals and their support staff have been, and continue to be for us! Here at St. Francis Parish we seem to have a significant number of health professionals who are members of our parish, those who daily put their lives at risk in order to care for others. I like to think of them as people who embody the true meaning of “martyr” – those willing to place the needs of another before their own needs, even if it might result in their own death. During this Easter season when we focus upon the gift Christ has given us in his passion, death and resurrection we have health professionals visibly and concretely putting the power of the resurrection into action each and every day. This is indeed a sign of great hope for the world.

Clearly virtual family gatherings have become very popular of late. I find it fascinating to hear people tell me that their family has gathered virtually more in the past few weeks than they gathered live and in person for the entire previous year. I suppose I should not be surprised that in times of distress family members turn to one another for comfort, and rightly so! In some odd way perhaps this new reality we find ourselves in may actually be strengthening family bonds. Evidence suggests that families who currently find themselves in isolation are playing board games together, going for walks together, preparing meals together, and talking together more than ever before. Is this not what family is suppose to be? Another sign of hope for our world.

In pre-virus days I must confess that when someone asked me “how are you?” I was never sure if they actually meant it, nor were even interested in any response I might give to that question (some may even have feared that I might actually answer the question with more than just “okay”). Now I sense there is a genuine desire to actually know how others are doing. There is an honest desire to hear others respond to the question as to how they are. Humanity is coming together in this regard, coming together in the sense that we care for one another. We are becoming more like the “one body” Christ invited us to be. Again, this is a sign of hope for our world.

These examples are some of the signs of hope I have witnessed in the past few weeks. What can you add to the list?

Closure Extended:

As you are all no doubt aware, on Monday, April 13th the Ontario government extended the emergency orders regarding the closure of all non-essential services to May 12th – a four week extension. Both the church itself, and the church offices are deemed non-essential services, therefore remain closed. While this is sad, and for many this new reality brings about a sense of spiritual distress, we need to remind ourselves that this is a good thing that we remain closed – we must do all we can to “flatten the curve” of this horrible virus. Gathering together in a crowd, even a crowd of worshipping faithful, is not a good thing to do because of the communal spread of the virus that can result. The bottom line: remaining closed saves lives! (I still pray earnestly each day that we re-open soon.)

Happy Governmental News:

How often have you heard: “good news from the government today”? Well there is indeed some good news for our parish from the federal government. On April 11th the federal government passed “The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy” (or CEWS). The federal government is offering a 75% wage subsidy for those businesses/services whose gross revenue has dropped significantly due to Covid-19, while at the same time staff continue to work and receive pay. As a registered charity our parish is eligible to apply for the wage subsidy. To qualify we must be able to show that our parish has lost gross revenue as a direct result of Covid-19 – we have been able to produce that financial evidence. For the first period the wage subsidy is available we had to produce evidence that our gross revenue dropped by 15% or more from March 15 – April 11. Our revenue dropped by 30% in that time period, thus we are eligible for a wage subsidy of just under $13,000.00 for that period. Many thanks to my Administrative Assistant, Alice Soeder, for all the work she did preparing the subsidy application. The program will continue with two more periods. The second period is from April 12 – May 9th, and to qualify for a wage subsidy in this period our gross revenues need to have dropped by 30% or more. The third period is from May 10 – June 6, and again to qualify we must show a gross revenue drop of 30% or more. We anticipate qualifying for all three of the wage subsidy periods being offered by the federal government.

Continue to Pray:

May our lives continue to be marked daily with moments of prayer, even in the midst of Covid-19. Pray the rosary daily, make your daily spiritual communion by watching Mass on TV or the internet, take some quiet moments of prayer and solitude each day just for yourself, pray grace at meal times, pray before going to bed, etc. Most importantly, in your prayer remember the needs of others, especially our heath professionals.

May God continue to watch over you. May God continue to protect you from all harm. May the love of the Risen Lord continue to shine upon you. Alleluia, Alleluia!

Father Tim, C.R.,
Pastor.


News and Information from St. Francis Parish
Issue 5

Dear St. Francis of Assisi Parishioners,

As I awoke this morning there was a clear sense that something was very different! As I looked out my bedroom window to greet the new day I again sensed that something was very different! As I went into the church hearing … well nothing … I again felt that something was very different! As I looked forward to Easter dinner … without the company of family and friends … I once again felt something was very different! You might be surprised, but I pray you are not, when I say that the sense of something different had nothing to do with Covid 19, had nothing to do with the isolation in which we find ourselves, had nothing to do with the fear of death from the virus, and had nothing to do with the closed sign on the doors of the church. It was all about this:

“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. … But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet…. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, Mary Magdalene said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’” (John 20).

Mary Magdalene was alone, afraid and outside in the world with no companion(s) by her side. Mary knew something was very different, however, it was not until Jesus called her by name that she saw what was in fact different – THE LORD HAD RISEN FROM THE DEAD! Or as she herself said so forcefully: “I have seen the Lord!” (John 20:18).This amazing woman, this first disciple of the Risen Lord, changed the course of history when she went and proclaimed to others that Jesus was risen. Even in her own “covid 19 experience”, one of isolation, fear and not knowing what the future held, she experienced the reality and the power of the resurrection. There was no gathered community of faith at the tomb – Mary went there alone. There was no grand cathedral in which to pray – Mary stood in a cemetery. There were no angelic choirs singing – Mary stood in silence. There was no great banquet table of rich food and drink – Mary was hungering for the Lord.

As I stood in the silent church I became profoundly aware that if not for Mary Magdalene my life would have been profoundly different. She did not let fear control her or stop her; she did not let the unknown hold her back; she did not allow a “virus” to control her life of faith – she continued to seek the Lord. For this amazing bravery Mary Magdalene was rewarded with an encounter with the Risen Lord like no other. Yet, her bravery continued even further. After her encounter she went and proclaimed the Good News knowing that as a woman in her culture she would most likely not be taken seriously. Mary Magdalene … the first to proclaim the resurrection.

Join with me and pray: “Lord, do not let my fear of the virus stop me; do not let my emptiness from being in isolation stop me; do not let the pain I feel as I fast from a sacramental encounter with the Risen Lord stop me; and do not let the unknown future stop me! Give me the courage and bravery of Mary Magdalene to seek out the Lord, to find the Lord, to experience the Risen Lord, and to proclaim the resurrection to the world.”

Wherever you find yourself this Easter season, the Risen Lord is there. Whether in a cemetery or a grand cathedral, whether alone or with a community of faith, and whether with angelic voices singing or in the silence of your heart, the Risen Lord is there! Alleluia, the Lord has Risen, let us be glad and rejoice.

Fifty Days of Easter:

The catholic church celebrates Easter as one continuous un-ending celebration from now until Pentecost. We look upon the fifty days of Easter as one Sunday celebration of the resurrection. Why? Because the message of the resurrection is so powerful, is so important to our lives of faith, that we need fifty days of joyous celebration to mark its place in our lives. One of the things we do each Sunday of the Easter season is to renew our baptismal promises. We make this renewal for two very important reasons: one, to remind ourselves of what we are called to believe; and two, to recognize that through baptism we have become for ever and always one of God’s children. I invite you to reflect upon the renewal of baptismal promises throughout the Easter Season – for this is our faith, this is what makes us unique children of God.

  • Do you renounce sin, so as to live in the freedom of the children of God? I DO!
  • Do you renounce the lure of evil, so that sin may have no mastery over you? I DO!
  • Do you renounce Satan, the author and prince of sin? I DO!
  • Do you believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth? I DO!
  • Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin
    Mary, suffered death and was buried, rose again from the dead and is seated at the right hand of God?
    I DO!
  • Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?
    I DO!

Financial Matters:

Since we ceased regular operations of the parish when the office closed at the end of the day on March 16th I have not yet spoken to parishioners about finances. Perhaps it was my naive hope that “normal” would return and I would not have to speak about money – sadly, we are still some time off before normal returns. This reality calls for me to now address the finances of St. Francis parish.

The first reality we must face, as do all home-owners, is that even though we are not using our facility as usual expenses are still incurred and require payment. The boiler in the church has been shut down, all unnecessary electronics turned off, and the outside lighting has been reduced, leaving only what is necessary for security. Any planned projects to improve the facility are now on hold, and we are doing all we can to only have expenses meant to maintain our facility. However, we still have utility and other costs for both the church and rectory.

The second reality is that salaries and benefits are the largest single expense in the parish. The lay pastoral staff is still working, all be it remotely from their homes, and me and Father Raph continue to work – thus, salaries and benefits continue to be paid. In the midst of this virus the work of the parish continues, perhaps not in the usual fashion, but continue it does. If our closure continues for an extended period of time the question of laying off staff may need to be addressed, however, I pray that will not come to be. We are currently looking into whether or not we will qualify for the government wage subsidy being offered in light of covid 19, please pray we qualify, for it would help immensely,

The third reality concerns revenue. Our primary source of revenue comes from Sunday collections. Sunday collection monies are normally received in two ways: one, in the collection basket on Sunday’s; and two, direct deposit from parishioners bank accounts to the parish bank account (direct deposit accounts for only a small amount of collection money, as few people avail themselves of this form of giving).

During the month of March, when we operated for only half the month, our monthly revenues were down 40% as compared to 2019 and what we anticipated in our budget for 2020. April will be far worse if the current trend continues. Not only will April be a complete month without the usual Sunday collections, but April includes our Easter collection – the largest single collection of the year, one that we depend upon to cover many of our expenses.

As you can no doubt see I can no longer remain silent on this issue of finances, sound and just stewardship calls me to take action. I am therefore calling upon parishioners to continue their regular Sunday offering to the parish. However, and this is very important, if you now find yourself laid off from work along with one million other Canadians who applied for unemployment assistance this past week, or you now face reduced hours that do not meet your financial needs, or perhaps no income of any kind, please see to your financial needs and that of your family FIRST! Food on your table, and a roof over your head, ought to be your first priority – and I strongly support you in that choice.

There still remains those parishioners whose income has not been affected, or perhaps only in minor ways, who I am turning to for help. I am asking you to continue your Sunday offering, even if it is a reduced giving. I need your help to continue to cover the expenses of the parish.  I thank those who, while not involved in direct deposit, have nonetheless sent their Sunday offering to the parish office – I encourage others to do the same.

With social distancing how can you make your Sunday offering?

Option one, drop a check, made out to St. Francis Parish, in the mail.

Option two, if you happen to live near the church office, and you are out for a walk to get some sun-light, and while maintaining social distancing, drop your collection envelope in the mail slot in the front door of the office – it goes directly into the building so security is not an issue.

Option three, the Hamilton Diocese has come to our assistance. Here at St. Francis we are not able to receive payments by credit card, the Hamilton Diocese is able to do this. You can go to the Diocesan link and use your credit card to make a donation to St. Francis – the diocese will then forward the entire donation to St. Francis. (Your income tax receipt for donations made in this way will come directly from the Diocese itself and not St. Francis). When making a donation using this method please be sure you check St. Francis of Assisi, Kitchener, so the money comes to us. Click on this link to make a donation using your credit card: https://hamiltondiocese.com/give/  If link does not open properly, place cursor on the link, and press the right button on your mouse and when the selection box appears, select “Open Hyperlink” using the left button on your mouse.

Option four, become a member of the parish direct deposit club. This method has money, the amount of which you select, being transferred from your bank account to the parish bank account to be received as Sunday collection. If this is an option for you please contact my Administrative Assistant, Alice Soeder by email: stfranciskitchener@hamiltondiocese.com and she will assist you with setting this up. (Please do not call the office, Alice is working remotely and can only be contacted by email).

There are those who have thought to themselves, ‘I will catch up with my Sunday offering when I return to church’. While this is a very thoughtful and considerate response, and one that takes responsibility for membership in the parish, it does not help the parish in the immediate moment. The parish cannot respond to bills that are due, or salaries to be paid, by saying ‘you will receive your money when church reopens’, they must be paid now. For this to happen money is needed. Please do give all that I have said about your Sunday offering some serious thought and prayer. Please know that I would not ask if it were not absolutely necessary.

Breaking News:

Earlier this week the new pastor of St. Francis Parish was named. Your new pastor will be Father Murray McDermott, C.R.. The original date of transition, my leaving and Father Murray coming, has changed due to covid 19. I will keep you informed as to my departure date and the arrival of Father Murray. And for those wondering, yes Father Raph will continue at St. Francis.

May God continue to watch over you and your family, and give you health. May the Easter season be an experience of the power of the resurrection in your life. God Bless.

Father Tim, C.R.,
Pastor.


News and Information from St. Francis Parish
Issue 4

Dear St. Francis of Assisi Parishioners,

We are once again called to ready ourselves to announce to the world that the Lord has Risen, but what a different world we now face. In the midst of this pandemic we are called to announce the resurrection with the same boldness and joy as we always have! Now the question becomes: how are we to make this announcement?

We make the announcement of the resurrection by the way we live our lives in this current reality. The care and assistance we offer our neighbour who is alone and isolated, proclaims the resurrection. The way in which we adhere to social distancing regulations and staying home as much as possible, proclaims the resurrection. The way we hold healthcare workers and support staff in our thoughts and prayers, proclaims the resurrection. The way we pray for the dead, proclaims the resurrection. The way in which we communicate, often electronically, with family and friends who in the past we have not communicated with as often as we should, proclaims the resurrection. There are countless ways to proclaim the resurrection. Remember a pandemic cannot stop the news of the resurrection!

Confession and Mercy:

In the April 1st issue of “From the Pastors Desk” (which you can find on the parish web site www.stfranciskw.ca) I spoke about the Sacrament of Confession and how with the pandemic the sacrament cannot be celebrated. I pointed out that God’s mercy cannot be limited solely to the Sacrament of Confession, mercy from God can come in many forms. This week Cardinal Piacenza, the head of the Apostolic Penitentiary in the Vatican, spoke very forcefully about how God’s mercy does not cease – not even when the Sacrament of Confession cannot be celebrated because of the pandemic. The Cardinal said: “where the ordinary celebration of the sacrament is impossible, we are committed to pray, to console, to present souls to divine mercy, …”. While this message was primarily directed to priest-confessors, it applies equally to all the members of the church, we are all called to pray for mercy for ourselves and others, to offer consolation to others with the message of God’s mercy, and to place ourselves and others before God’s divine mercy. Myself and Father Raph do this every time we celebrate Mass during this time of pandemic for the intentions of all the parishioners of St. Francis. This mercy is revealed even with only the two of us present, for Mass is the ultimate sign of God’s divine mercy – from Mass every grace flows for the church. For those who find themselves in spiritual distress, unable to celebrate confession in preparation for Easter, know that you are receiving God’s mercy from the Masses me and Father Raph celebrate, while not sacramental mercy, most certainly it is the fullness of God’s mercy. You can pray for God’s mercy to rest upon you – confess your need for God’s forgiveness, make an act of contrition, and then commit to go to confession once “normal” returns.

School is Back – Sort of:

The formal education of our young people resumed this week. It was done with the realization that we have the technology and skills to find new and exciting ways to educate students, and with the notion that there is a profound obligation to continue to educate the young. I would like to suggest that the adults join in with our young students and turn to technology to educate and renew our knowledge about our faith. In the last newsletter I said I would offer you some ideas as to how to celebrate Easter, with this in mind I offer you an education plan:

Session One: Religious/Theological Studies

I invite to begin session one of your education plan by opening the video youtube link, click on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdrPhxqRP9I

This is a short three minute video entitled “Holy Week in Three Minutes”. This is a wonderful little video that helps us understand what Holy Week is all about. There is a reminder in this short video that Holy Week is about prayer and preparation for the resurrection; Holy Week is a time of contemplation and waiting for the news of the resurrection. In the midst of this pandemic we find ourselves better able to do something our busy lives sometimes makes impossible, pray! Pray and contemplate upon the events of Holy Week from Holy Thursday’s focus upon Eucharist and service – to Good Friday’s revelation about how far our God is willing to go to show how much we are loved – to Holy Saturday’s waiting in hope for the news to be revealed – to Easter Sunday when the resurrection becomes a reality.

Session Two: Religious/Theological Studies Part Two

I invite you to begin session two of your education plan by opening the video youtube link, click on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rs6UeOzaKe8

Again this is a short video entitled “Understanding Holy Week”. In this video you will explore in a slightly deeper fashion what Holy Week is intended to be. Like the previous video this one also focuses upon pray as being at the core of Holy Week, but then adds a new dynamic. In our Holy Week prayer we are called to renew ourselves, to become new creations as the result of the resurrection.

Session Three: Liturgy

I invite you to begin session three of your education plan by opening the video youtube link, click on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvDFvw-z5nE

This short video is entitled “50 Days: Easter & Pentecost”. This video will very clearly explain Easter and the Easter season leading to Pentecost. The simplicity and the clarity with which the Easter Season and Pentecost are explained, is well worth watching this video a number of times so as to absorb its full message.

Session Four: Tradition

I invite you to begin session four of your education plan by opening the video youtube link, click on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qnu_dyxiR14

This video is entitled “What are Catholic Easter Traditions?”. This video offers some Easter traditions that we may have forgotten, or have fallen into disuse. Take note of the focus upon family and food as central to our Easter traditions. Franciscan Friar Roger Lopez reminds us that it is when we are together as family that we experience love, and he challenges us to make new traditions for Easter. In the midst of this pandemic what new traditions are you going to introduce this year?

Session Five: Join in Prayer

This pandemic actually affords us the opportunity to do something never before done. For the first time ever we have the opportunity for the entire Hamilton Diocese to celebrate Easter Mass together. On Easter Sunday, at 1:00 pm, turn to CHCH TV (which is channel 10 in our local Rogers package) for Easter Mass with Bishop Crosby. Be part of this historic event.

Reminders:

  • Remember to keep up to date by checking the parish web site (www.stfranciskw.ca).
  • Remember to pause weekdays at 11:00 am and Sunday’s at 11:30 am to offer a prayer for the parish community – this is the time when me and Father Raph celebrate Mass together for the intentions of all the members of the parish.
  • Remember that we are invited by the Holy Father to pray the rosary daily. I have encouraged members of the parish to pray the rosary at either 9:00 am, 4:00 pm or 7:00 pm knowing that other members of the parish are praying at that very same time.
  • Remember to check the parish web page for times when Mass is broadcast on TV.
  • Remember to pray for healthcare workers and support staff.
  • Remember to pray for the sick, and most especially for those who have died.
  • Remember Easter Mass may be cancelled, but Easter itself is not cancelled.

May the healing hand of God continue to watch over you and your loved ones. May the consoling presence of Jesus our Risen Lord bring you hope. May the Holy Spirit inspire you and continue to ignite the fire of faith within your soul. May our community of faith soon be reunited so as to offer our praise to God with one voice. Health and happiness upon you all.

Father Tim, C.R.
Pastor.


News and Information from St. Francis Parish
Issue 3

Dear St. Francis of Assisi Parishioners,

As our time of social/physical-distancing and isolation continues it is important to stay in communication with one another, to not allow the loneliness that can result from isolation to turn us into hermits or recluses. We are still a community of faith called to be one. Keep in touch with one another, call to just say hello, send an email or text, use zoom and other such tools to virtually gather, remind others that they are not alone. We need to stay connected! This newsletter is just one small attempt to keep us all connected, to remind us that we are not facing this pandemic alone, we are here for one another.

Prayer:

As we enter the holiest of weeks in the liturgical calendar and find ourselves unable to gather together in the church to mark such powerful events as Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil, and Easter Sunday, we are nonetheless still called to continue to pray. Now more than ever we are called to pray not only for ourselves but  for all of God’s creation. Below is a wonderful prayer I came across that is very fitting for Holy Week – a week in which our prayer is to reach out to the world, a world in need.

Prayer for a Pandemic

By: Cameron Bell   www.canadianfoodgrainsbank.ca

May we who are merely inconvenienced

remember those whose lives are at stake.

May we who have no risk factors

remember those most vulnerable.

May we who have the luxury of working from home

remember those who must choose between preserving their health or making their rent,

May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close

remember those who have no options.

May we who have to cancel our trips

remember those who have no safe place to go.

May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market

remember those who have no margin at all.

May we who settle in for a quarantine at home

remember those who have no home.

As fear grips our country,

let us choose love.

During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other,

let us find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbours.

 

Another prayer that you may wish to use during this time of pandemic is the opening prayer for “Mass in Time of Pandemic”, just recently approved for use by Pope Francis:

Mass in Time of Pandemic

Almighty and eternal God,

our refuge in every danger,

to whom we turn in our distress;

in faith we pray look with compassion on the afflicted,

grant eternal rest to the dead, comfort to mourners,

healing to the sick, peace to the dying,

strength to healthcare workers, wisdom to our leaders

and the courage to reach out to all in love,

so that together we may give glory to your holy name.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Holy Thursday:

Holy Thursday will begin for us the celebration of the Easter Triduum. It is normally during the Holy Thursday Mass that a number of things take place: the Holy Oils that were blessed and consecrated by the Bishop at the Chrism Mass (which this year took place privately last week) are presented to the parish; there is the washing of the feet; the gifts of food presented for the poor; the institution of the Eucharist; and adoration of the Eucharist.

The institution of the Eucharist is where Jesus asked us “to do this in memory of him”, to celebrate Mass, to receive the bread of life. Even though we are unable to receive the bread of life at Holy Thursday Mass this year there is actually something that can be done to remind ourselves of the bread of life. I encourage you on Holy Thursday (April 9th) to bake bread in your home. There is something profound, soothing, comforting, and life-giving about preparing bread dough. Watching the dough rise before you bake it. Oh, and the aroma of fresh bread baking in the oven! All of our senses are exploding with anticipation as we hunger to consume this incredible bread. This is the very experience we can have as we anticipate receiving Eucharist, communion. After you remove the bread from the oven to let it cool, do not let it cool completely. While still warm, cut a piece for everyone in your household, cover it in butter, and eat. This is what Holy Thursday is suppose to smell like, feel like, taste like – Holy Thursday in your home.

The other day while shopping I noticed there was no dry yeast left on the shelf. Have no fear bread can be made without dry yeast. Head to the internet and type in “Beer Bread Recipes”. While there is no dry yeast, the wet yeast of beer will do the trick. For those who do not want beer, nor do you want it for your children, check out “non yeast bread recipes”. If you are one of the lucky ones with dry yeast, your possibilities are endless for bread recipes.

Families with children. Let your children make the bread with you. Let them prepare the dough. Do not worry about flour all over your kitchen, you have little else to do, so you have lots of time to clean later.

Good Friday:

On this day “when Christ became our paschal sacrifice” we as church are invited to reflect upon the passion of Jesus Christ. To reflect upon the passion of Jesus Christ is in its very essence a two-fold act: one, to prayerfully read the passion account of Jesus Christ; and two, after reading the passion to reflect by asking the all important question – how does the passion of Jesus Christ impact my life? In other words how has the passion shaped and molded me into the person of faith I am today? Do I feel God’s love for me in the passion? How have I responded to this gift from God?

Traditionally 3:00 pm is the time when, under normal circumstances, people would gather to pray and reflect upon the passion account of Jesus Christ. At 3:00 pm I would encourage you to read the passion account of Jesus Christ, either by yourself or with others in your household. The passion account is from the Gospel of John, chapter 18, verse 1 to chapter 19, verse 42. Then after reading spend some time reflecting on the questions I mentioned earlier.

Easter:

Later in the week I am hoping to send out some suggestions about how we can celebrate Easter in our homes during this time of pandemic.

Reminder:

Remember to check on a regular basis our parish web site (www.stfranciskw.ca) so as to keep up on the latest news from the Diocese and the Vatican. You will also find on our web site a listing of the TV stations and times when Mass will be broadcast. Easter Sunday Mass with Bishop Crosby will be broadcast Easter Sunday at 1:00 pm on CHCH TV (Channel 10 on local cable). Check out the Hamilton Diocese web site as well (www.hamiltondiocese.com). Here you will find all kinds of information such as some prayer services you can celebrate in your home.

As to when church doors will again re-open, that is not yet known. Sadly, we have had to postpone first communion until sometime in the future; cancel all public baptisms until sometime in the future; move weddings to a future date; and our parish office remains closed. Please continue to pray for all those who are being impacted by the pandemic, most especially all healthcare workers and their support staff.

You continue to be in my prayers and that of Father Raph as each day we gather to celebrate Mass for your intentions.

Father Tim Uniac, C.R
Pastor


News and Information from St. Francis Parish
Issue 2

Office and Staff:

It was on Monday, March 16th at the close of the day that I sent the parish staff home to work remotely from their homes and closed the office to the public. This was done out of an abundance of caution and with the awareness that with today’s technology office work could in fact continue from the comfort of home. It was not until the following week, March 23rd that the Provincial government ordered that all non-essential business/offices close until further notice (for a minimum of 2 weeks). Our church and office was designated non-essential, thus closed until further notice.

Please know that if you are contacted by a member of the staff they are doing so from their home, it does not mean the office is open. Myself and Father Raph monitor incoming phone calls, but do not answer the phone when it rings. Because our office is closed by Provincial law we return emergency calls only at this time.

Some parishioners have asked why they cannot quickly stop into the office to pick something up, or drop something off, because me and Father Raph are here. It is precisely because we are here that you cannot stop around the office, this is our home, and we would prefer to limit the possibility of communal spread of the virus within our home.

Church:

Just like the parish office our church is closed to the public. This necessitated the cancelling of all parish events, and all events for outside groups using our facility. In answer to the question: when will the church re-open? That is not clear at this time, and we cannot re-open until Bishop Crosby gives the go ahead. I fear it might be sometime yet before our doors will once again be open.

Web Page:

Even with all the various methods of communicating today it is still a challenge to effectively get information to those who need to hear it. Our major method of communicating information at this time is the parish web page (www.stfranciskw.ca). I cannot encourage you enough to check this web site on a regular basis. Currently it has all the decrees issued by the Bishop and Pope Francis in light of Covid 19; information on how blessed palms will be distributed once “normal” returns; a beautiful stations of the cross to pray with; a listing of all the TV stations and times when Mass is offered; the “Pastors Desk” has moved from the bulletin to the web page (check out the latest “Pastors Desk” concerning confession), etc, etc. Keep informed and encourage others to do the same.

Live Streaming:

Many have asked if we will be live streaming Me and Father Raph celebrating Mass. Unfortunately this will not be possible as we have no internet service in the church itself, and besides we do not have the necessary equipment to make it work, even with a “hot spot”. It was decided that to purchase equipment to make this work, or to increase data on a cell phone, was not money well spent when Mass can be viewed on live stream from countless other churches or watched on TV. Yes, I know you all want to see our lovely faces, and to hear our incredible homilies, but just think, the anticipation of all that happening the first Sunday back in church should hold you over.

Who Needs our Prayers?:

With no public celebrations permitted in the church this has effected people, some in very negative ways. Please pray for those who have died since this all began, luckily no one from St. Francis of whom I am aware. In their last moments of life they were all too often alone, with family and friends unable to gather at their bedside because of issues of isolation, nor able to receive the last rites of the church. Grief is hard enough in “normal” situations, but this makes it doubly difficult and painful for those who can not be with their loved one as they die. Added to this, funerals are not permitted at this time. These people need our on-going prayers.

Please pray also for:

  • Health workers and support staff.
  • Essential service staff (eg. the clerk at the grocery store, police, firefighters, paramedics, etc).
  • Those isolated and alone.
  • Those working for a cure.
  • The sick and the dying.
  • All the members of St. Francis Parish.

Palm (Passion) Sunday:

This weekend is Palm Sunday. Further attachments to this “News and Information” are two prayer services. One is for those who will find themselves alone on Sunday, and the other for families/households to pray together this Sunday.

Easter:

While the public celebration of Easter is not possible please remember above all else one important thing: even though Easter Mass is cancelled, Easter itself has NOT been cancelled!

Blessings:

May the blessings of God rest upon you. May God’s healing hands touch those in need. May the comforting presence of God be with the isolated and alone. May the love of God enrich, bless and strengthen us all in this our time of need.

Yours in the Risen Lord,
Father Tim Uniac, C.R.


April 1, 2020

Without question the way we function as “church” has very radically and quickly changed in very short order. Apart from the obvious of churches and parish offices being closed, it is the sacramental life of the church that has taken a profound shift. In essence the sacramental life of the church, at least in the public forum, is now in a period of Lent – we are fasting from the public celebration of the sacraments. It would be foolish to think that this fasting from the sacraments has not put many people into an experience of spiritual distress. The emptiness and hunger for the sacraments can have a profound and lasting impact upon our lives of faith. What are we to do?

Clearly we need to develop new ways of being church, new ways of celebrating our relationship with God. Let us look at the Sacrament of Confession as an example. As you may or may not be aware, during this time of COVID-19 priests are not permitted to hear confessions unless the person is at the point of death. This decree is to ensure that both the penitent and the priest are not placed in a position of coming into contact with, or spreading, the virus. Confession calls for people to be in close proximity with each other, this is not in keeping with the social distancing we are striving to maintain. Yet, we find ourselves at the time of year when for countless generations Catholics have been encouraged to make an Easter confession. What response is there to all of this?

First, it needs to be stated that as incredible and powerful as the experience is of God’s forgiveness and mercy within the Sacrament of Confession, it is not the only way we can experience God’s mercy and forgiveness. To somehow believe that confession is the only source of mercy and forgiveness is to limit our God. There is NO limit that can be placed upon how we experience God’s mercy, there is NO limit that can be placed upon how we experience God’s forgiveness, and there is NO limit that can be placed upon how we experience God’s love for us! Thank goodness this is true, otherwise in this time of global distress we would be deprived of God’s amazing love for all of creation.

If you are in need of a healing dose of God’s mercy – simply ask for it in prayer. If you are in need of a healing dose of God’s forgiveness – simply ask for it in prayer. If you are in need of a healing dose of God’s love – simply ask for it in prayer. Remind yourself that there are no limits we can place upon God.

I would be remiss if I did not instruct you as to how to make your Easter confession. In your prayer-communication with God make a confession of your sins, then make an act of contrition followed by a commitment to go to confession at the next opportunity in order to receive penance and absolution. God’s mercy and forgiveness cannot be stopped by a virus.

Father Tim, C.R.


March 25, 2020

As we find our world being turned upside down. As we experience the powerful grip of fear. As we long for understanding. As we grieve the death of far too many of God’s children. As we feel the longing for a human embrace. As we feel the hunger for God’s sacraments, where are we to turn? My friends, we turn to the God who has not abandoned us and who continues to stand by our side, we turn to the God of Hope!

During this time of uncertainty let us not allow the virtue of hope to become a forgotten virtue. Our faith tells us first and foremost that in the time of need we ought to turn to God in prayer. Why? Because God has promised to listen to our cry, to never allow us to carry a burden too hard to bear – God promises us hope! Hope is the profound and genuine desire for something good rooted in the expectation of receiving that which we seek. We pray because we desire goodness for ourselves and all God’s creation, and our desire is communicated to God through prayer because we expect, we believe, God can in fact make it a reality – this is the virtue of hope. Hope is not a wish such as we make as we blow out birthday candles. Hope is not a dream that our favourite team wins the championship, or we win a million dollars in the lottery. Hope is the act of dwelling in the possibilities, for once you embrace hope everything becomes possible.

In order for the possibilities we hope for to become possible we must act, for our choices reflect that which we believe. We can not just be passive in this moment of uncertainty, others must witness our acts of hope. Prayer is without question the greatest witness of hope we can offer ourselves and world in this time of need. Yes, it would be much better if we could gather as a community of faith united in prayer, but that is not yet possible even as I live in the hope it will soon be a reality again. We can still pray together as the community of St. Francis of Assisi.

Each day Father Raph and myself come together at 11:00 am to offer Mass for the people of St. Francis parish – join us in spirit at that time. At 11:00 am each day I invite you to stop whatever you are doing and pray. Pray in particular for the health of all the members of St. Francis, and for those health professionals who place their own health at risk in order to care for us. Let us send an overwhelming, loud and united voice of prayer to the God of hope. The 100’s of voices from St. Parish parish, united to prayer at one moment in time, will surely be heard by our God.

Our Holy Father has asked the world to turn in prayer to Mary, the Mother of God. Each day to pray the rosary for the intercession of Mary. While this is an individual act of prayer it can also be a communal time of prayer. I would invite all the members of St. Francis parish to pray the rosary daily at specific times if possible. Let us set aside three times during the day when you would select one of those times to pray the rosary, knowing that other members of the parish are praying at the exact same time. I would suggest if you are praying the rosary to pray it at either 9:00 am, 4:00 pm or 7:00 pm. Again we become a united voice of prayer to God.

My prayer is that the protection of God will rest upon you and all who are dear to you. As St. Paul so often said, I long to see you again, to embrace you and join with you in celebrating the greatness of our God.

Father Tim, C.R.