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10 Great Ways to Make Your Priest’s Father’s Day ROCK!

10 Great Ways to Make Your Priest's Father's Day ROCK!
Josie and Father Jonathan go all the way back! When Father Jonathan left St. William, she, at age 2 – along with her siblings – worked on their interviews for Father J. This made such an impression on him that he taped this up on the wall of his office at his next parish assignment!

You’ve probably got Father’s Day all cinched up right now (hey, I’m just tryna be positive ūüėČ ), but what about your parish priest? You know, the fella on the altar who consecrates the bread and wine into Jesus – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. What about that guy? He’s your spiritual father! Today, we’re going to cover some quick and easy ways to help your priest feel loved on Father’s Day. Let’s get started! Don’t forget to take a listen (at the bottom of this post) to the Father’s Day homily by Father Michael Sullivan, given on Father’s Day 2016 at my home parish, St. William Catholic Church in Round Rock, Texas. 

  1. Find him before or after Mass and tell him Happy Father’s Day! 
  2. Mail or hand deliver an actual Father’s Day card to your parish priest/s. Be sure to let them know you are praying for him and his work in building up the Kingdom.
  3. Have the kiddos draw him some lovely artwork for his office, or you can do a fun interview with the kids to give him. Josie, who is almost eight now, still gets a big kick out of this interview she did for Father Jonathan when she was two!
  4. Does he love Sonic, McDonald’s, or some other fast food place? Pick up a gift card (any amount will do!) and toss it in the Father’s Day card!
‚̧ SCROLL PAST THE PHOTOS TO SEE EXTRAS TO MAKE YOUR PRIEST FEEL LOVED ‚̧
10 Great Ways to Make Your Priest's Father's Day ROCK!
Josie and Drew with Father Jonathan on May 20, 2018.
Great Ways to Make Your Priest's Father's Day ROCK!
Father Michael Sullivan with Joshua and Drew on the last day of Conquest. This annual boys camp is always the week following Father’s Day. The two oldest boys have both attended for going on nine years!
Great Ways to Make Your Priest's Father's Day ROCK!
Josie along with big brother (and seasoned altar boy of eight years) bring up gifts to Father Dean. She specifically asked for a Sunday to celebrate her First Holy Communion when Father Dean could celebrate Mass.
Great Ways to Make Your Priest's Father's Day ROCK!
Receiving Jesus in the Eucharist.
Great Ways to Make Your Priest's Father's Day ROCK!
She was so excited to share her special day with Father Dean.
Great Ways to Make Your Priest's Father's Day ROCK!
Father Uche and Joshua had a special bond in the time he was at St. William. Here we said goodbye as he moved on to his next priestly assignment.
Great Ways to Make Your Priest's Father's Day ROCK!
Father Uche put on a soccer camp for kiddos and Drew participated.
Great Ways to Make Your Priest's Father's Day ROCK!
Father Uche and my husband played soccer (along with several St. William staff) for about a year. On Josie’s birthday, we found Father Uche and asked him to bless this sweet girl.
Great Ways to Make Your Priest's Father's Day ROCK!
On Scout Sunday, Paige brought up gifts to Father Uche at Mass. Afterward, we grabbed a snap of the two of them.
Great Ways to Make Your Priest's Father's Day ROCK!
Father Uche gives Josie a ‘hi five’ at Vacation Bible School and then made a beeline to ask me why her name tag said “Mary,” lol. #MaryJosephine
Great Ways to Make Your Priest's Father's Day ROCK!
Drew and Father Michael Sullivan at the end of Conquest Boys Camp in 2015.
Great Ways to Make Your Priest's Father's Day ROCK!
Father Jonathan came over for dinner and Josie always makes sure we take a picture of the two of them, lol. #BUDDIES
Great Ways to Make Your Priest's Father's Day ROCK!
Even when Father Uche is at another parish and he says “I need to speak to your daughter, bring her to Jesus Is Lord” in another city, you know what you do? You throw her in the car and take her to see Father Uche, lol.
Great Ways to Make Your Priest's Father's Day ROCK!
Drew asked Father Dean to celebrate his First Holy Communion in 2016.

EXTRAS

What else can you do to help your priest know he is loved and appreciated, especially in big parishes?

  1. Invite him over for dinner! Seriously, it doesn’t have to be fancy – pizza will do. Need some inspiration? Check out our Pinterest Food.Meals board!
  2. Ask him if he will celebrate sacraments for your kiddos! In our case, our kids actually request our pastor because there is a level of comfort in that relationship. We have created a priestly culture and our kids know how church works – get there early so the boys can serve, say prayers, and then ask if we can see Father Dean. Every. Sunday. He greets everyone between Masses, so we head to the narthex and join him to say hello, greet folks, and let the littles run around outside to burn off some energy. I may or may not utilize that time to see how his week has gone and if he can pray a little extra over the one kid who acts like he’s never stepped foot in a church before – uh hem. 
  3. Offer to make a meal – fresh or for the freezer. Call ahead of time and find out likes/dislikes and what he prefers. Some priests love to cook and others can’t even look at a recipe card without sweating. ūüėČ 
  4. Send an email (or text if you’re at that comfort level) and fill them in with the latest with your family. Often times, priests only hear about folks problems, which is part of the job, but sharing in some of the highlights of your family life can be a huge blessing. 
  5. In times of distress, ask for their prayers. Additionally, let them know you are offering up your suffering for their tireless work. Priests have a target on their back and Satan does not take a day off. Knowing you are praying for them and offering up struggles for them can go a long way. They definitely need all the prayers we can send their way! When I had an emergency appendectomy, both Father Dean and Father Uche came to see me at the hospital to pray over me and to pray Vespers together. I was hooked up to all kinds of machines and it was kind of comical, but I was so glad to have them there with me. Father Dean and his dry, German sense of humor and Father Uche and his Oxford English accent despite being from Nigeria. What made it all the better was listening to the two of them bicker like true brother priests. Another time, right after we experienced our first (of three) miscarriages, our parish priests reached out to me and my family in one of the most pastoral ways. They made themselves available in ways that were unique to their personalities. One priest researched burial logistics and another asked to talk to me because he knew I was suffering. This man – this diocesan priest whose schedule is filled from first light of day until the stars come out and here he was asking if he could call me and talk to me.  These men have and still are treasures to our family.
  6. Has your priest been reassigned? This is the time of year when the diocesan reassignments have been announced. Here’s one great way to help your priest feel the love of the parishioners and it takes very little effort, you’ll be glad to know!

What would you add to this list? Share in the comments!

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So Your Priest Was Reassigned – Now What?

It happens. Especially for rookie priests fresh off of holy orders. They spend an average of two years at three different parishes before eventually becoming pastor of their own parish after six years.

At my parish, we recently said goodbye to Father Jonathan, who I often joked had been on borrowed time. As things worked out, his first assignment at St. William was an incredible four years. I feel like our parish in that time became closer knit, but that might also been in part due to other factors. Father Dean and Father Jonathan both came on board when Father Joel moved out of state to a new assignment. I could also say the parish started to feel smaller as a result of my own decision to actually get out into parish life and start serving through various ministries but, somehow I don’t think my observation is restricted to just my experience. I think others in my parish would say similar things, that the vibe of the parish shifted after both Father Jonathan and Father Dean’s arrival.

Each year, dioceses shuffle priests from one parish to another. Our parish has been home to a steady stream of rookie priests and with Father Dean leading the charge as of the past four years, these young men have been entrusted with some wonderful responsibilities and experiences that they take with them to their new assignments.

Short of considering bribing the bish into keeping Father Jonathan any longer – and to be serious here for a moment, we all knew it was time for the next chapter, and to want to keep Father J would have been selfish – I started conjuring up a new project in my mind. Friends who know me well know I am constantly looking for my next project. I decided to enlist the help of friends around the parish to do the following and it’s something that I offer as a suggestion for you as well to do for your priests.

I remember reading a letter some years ago from a mother of a priest. She submitted it to my mother-in-law’s newsletter,¬†Les Femmes. In the Fall 2007 newsletter, the mother encouraged parishioners to please send glowing letters to the diocese to let the bishop know of the positive impact the priest has made on your faith, family, etc. She went on to say that more often than not, the diocese hears more from people who complain or have something negative to say about a priest, especially when they speak the truths of the Faith i.e. contraception, abortion, the HHS Mandate, etc. I figured if we couldn’t keep our priest, we could at least send him to his new assignment with some heartfelt letters from parishioners. I added to it by requesting that friends and parishioners make two copies of their letters, one set for the bishop and one set for the priest to keep as a momento of his time at our parish. I have been honored to do this twice now and hope to make it a tradition of our parish before long.

 

My challenge to you: If your priest has been recently reassigned and he has helped you grow in the Faith, challenging you when you needed it, or has just been a wonderful influence and family friend, please take the time to let your bishop know. You don’t even have to wait until they move to their new assignment. Get started writing¬†today.

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The Scandal at Penn State and Syracuse: A Call to Action

When I heard the news about the sexual abuse scandal at Penn State, I was shocked and horrified for the victims.  I was disgusted by the actions of the alleged perpetrator and the cover up that followed.  And, I was sad for the students who were in shock and denial.  I experienced similar feelings during the early days of the sexual abuse scandal in my beloved church.  Catholics are still vilified for remaining faithful to the church and are considered complicit in the abuse by some people just for being Catholic.  Not surprisingly, that never-settled dust from the Catholic Church scandal is swirling again in the media.  Comparisons are being drawn.  People are trying desperately to understand how this could happen and how it could be covered up?  With all the mixture of emotions and controversy, it can be difficult to remember what is most important: protect children at all costs.

In the wake of this new scandal, I have created a short list of actions we can all take right now to protect all children.

1) Be Vigilant
Where are your children spending time?¬† We can’t wrap them in bubble wrap and follow them wherever they go all the time.¬† But, we can know who their friends are by name.¬† We can meet their friend’s parents.¬† We can make sure they are supervised when playing at another friend’s house.¬† Make sure their friends are age appropriate, too.¬† Sadly, many perpetrators begin offending in their teens.¬† When our children join an activity we can inquire about the child protective practices they have put in place.¬† Does the organization have a policy where no child is to be left alone with an adult?¬† Are the shower and bathroom facilities safe for children.¬† Are they able to maintain modesty and privacy?¬† Is the staff required to report any suspicion of abuse when they observe it within the organization?¬† These are all initiatives that have been put in place by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.¬†¬†¬† We must stay vigilant and make sure these practices are being put into place in our church programs.¬† And we must advocate that they be put in place in all community activites.

2) Teach Modesty
One of the best thing we can do as a parent is form a strong marriage so that both the mother and father are interacting daily with their children in a loving home and keeping an eye on any changes that occur.  We can set the standard for modesty in dress and behavior.  We can teach our children how to dress modestly and keep their private body parts private.  Otherwise, a young child may not know when a modesty boundary is being violated.  We must teach them to speak up and be assertive with their classmates, as well as with adults.  All kids need to learn to respect authority but they need to know that that respect must end when a boundary has been violated.  This way we can empower our children to protect themselves when we are not around.  Tell them to come to you whenever an adult, a classmate or anyone does something to attack their sense of modesty and privacy.

3) Look on the Bright Side
One good thing about this scandal is that now that it is exposed, the cycle of abuse for this perpetrator and victims is over.¬† If the students at Penn State can accept that their school failed them and make sure that practices are put into place to never let it happen again, then good will ultimately come out of this.¬† They must make sure that they don’t fall into the trap of defending the wrong people.¬† They must keep their focus on protecting innocent children.¬† Perhaps they can set a new standard for child safety and make it a model for other college programs that work with children. ¬†¬†Hopefully they will not fall to the pressure of some in the media who suggesting that male dominated organizations are to blame. ¬†¬†The idea of creating a sports program for at risk children is not what caused this abuse.¬† The students should not be discouraged from continuing to support programs that aim to help at risk children.

4) Leave No Stone Unturned
Most people are in denial about child predators. They are content to believe that predators come in one shape and one size only and are easily spotted by their tell tale white collar.¬† Rather, the most common predator is someone you know.¬† It could be a stepfather or a mother’s boyfriend. ¬† Basically, anyone who has access to children is a potential predator. ¬†¬†But, people are more comfortable believing predators are priests. ¬†Why?¬† It is likely because those who believe that never actually come in contact with one.¬† So, folks are lulled into a false sense of security.¬† Well, the Penn State scandal sort of blew that out of the water.¬† Sort of.¬† It’s an institution predominantly run by men much like the Catholic Church.¬† ¬† So, we do have to ask ourselves what is it about this institutional structure that allowed, if not the abuse, then the cover up to occur?¬† If we are to protect children, we can leave no stone unturned in this investigation.¬† The Catholic Church is being asked to question its policy of priestly celibacy.¬† Fine.¬† Examine it.¬† Are there any other demographics about candidates for the priesthood that may be problematic?¬† Let’s look into it.

And, now, we have Penn State and Syracuse.¬† Is there something in the sports arena that makes children vulnerable?¬† Do parents place too much trust in coaches? ¬† Do adults have too much access to our children in sports and other activities? ¬† Are there any practices in place to protect children in sports and other extracurricular activities?¬† And what about Hollywood?¬† Are child actors safe?¬† Corey Feldman, a former child actor, said that pedophilia is rampant in Hollywood.¬† Is this true?¬† Let’s look into it.¬† When we are talking about protecting innocent children, we need to leave no stone unturned.¬† So, let‚Äôs not be afraid to look into any of it.¬† Bottom line is we need to stop being defensive and stop worrying about offending people and just focus on protecting children and stopping abuse.

While the church remains in the shadow of scandal, knowing that the teachings of the church are always in stark contrast to the horrible crimes committed by some members and clergy is an important touchstone for me.  And, now, thanks to all the media scrutiny, the lights are on in the church, shining brightly in every corner and crevice, thank goodness. But they are still out in Hollywood, our communities, schools and many other areas where children remain vulnerable. Hopefully, the scandals at Penn State and Syracuse will shine a light on this kind of activity in sports and put an end to it. Because I guarantee you, the abuse and cover up at Penn State is not an isolated story.  It is likely happening right now as I write this and the perpetrator may be somebody we least suspect and, quite possibly, someone we most admire.

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Mercy and Justice -or- My Perfect Confession

+JMJ+

I’m Catholic and have been since birth. ¬†My faith has always been part of the definition of me. ¬†That being said, in May 2010 my world fell apart and the foundations of my faith cracked.

At 8:50 pm on May 26th 2010 my beautiful daughter Rita Marie was born. ¬†She weighed 8lbs even and was 21 inches long. ¬†She had a head of gorgeous black hair. ¬†She was all me but for her nose and her hands – those were her daddy’s.

She was perfect.

But she wasn’t breathing.

A special ambulance came and rushed her to the local Children’s hospital. ¬†There she stayed for two days. ¬†She died in my arms when she was but 48 1/2 hours old. ¬†I sang to her as she left us for Heaven and Life Everlasting. ¬†Her daddy made sure of of her destination when, good Catholic man that he is, he baptised her as soon as it was evident she wasn’t breathing.

I’m so blessed to have a Saint in Heaven who is especially concerned for me and my family. ¬†But I am also broken. ¬†I have struggled greatly since Rita came and left us. ¬†On the Feast of the Assumption I went to Confession for the first time in 10 months. ¬†10 months is a long time for sin to build. ¬†I didn’t even know where to start and I let Father know. ¬†I was expecting to come out with a penance that would take me hours to complete but God surprised me with His Justice and Mercy. ¬†He had just the right Priest waiting for me and cleared the line so that I could quickly duck into the confessional without having to wait for ages.

Without going into intimate detail of my fallen nature, Father said two things that stuck with me. ¬† The first was that there are two parts to faith: the intellectual knowledge or understanding that God is Real and the¬†trust¬†that He wants¬†good¬†for us. ¬†The second thing that stuck with me was my penance and the spiritual guidance received. ¬†Respectively, to pray simply the prayer of St. Faustina “Jesus, I Trust in You.” a certain number of times and to say every day, as many times as needed, “Lord give me the light and grace to get through this day.”

I truly feel God’s love and mercy from that penance. ¬†He knows I am already hurting and broken and chose to remind that I am His and that He loves me even when I am expecting Him to give me the spiritual equivalent of a good spanking.

I went into the confessional feeling like God had it in for me – ¬†like I was His new Job – and came out feeling like Mary, sitting at Jesus’ feet.

Our God is both Merciful and Just.  He is perfectly both and measures each to us as we need.

Jesus, I Trust in You.