From Pastor's Desk
From Pastor's Desk
Over the course of the fourth century, Christianity went from being a persecuted, marginal religion, to a religion favored by emperors and the elite and the wealthy. Over time, Christianity was not only accepted; it became one of the world’s largest religions. As new lands were developed and countries were conquered, Christianity spread wider and wider. “Christendom” (an unofficial term) came about.
What is Christendom? In essence, Christendom constitutes a society that is guided by Christian ideals, beliefs, morals, etc. “When the Christian narrative of the human drama and its corresponding moral order have become prominent in a given society and have come to provide, at least largely, that society’s ruling vision, what emerges can be called a ‘Christendom culture.’” 2 For many centuries (in the West, at least), Christianity was accepted as the norm. The Church was protected, respected, and given a great deal of prominence in society. Despite setbacks, scandals, and even a great schism between the East and the West in 1054, followers of Christ were still able to carry out the mission given to them by their founder.
There are periods in history when evangelistic fervor was greater than others. Wars and crusades were waged to defend the faith and to convert non-believers. The physical structure of the Catholic Church, that is, the hierarchy, became more prominent and defined. In places like what is now our diocese, the State encouraged and funded efforts to bring the Gospel to people in far-off lands. For example, the king of Spain commissioned Tristan de Luna y Arrellano to colonize (and evangelize) Florida in 1559. The Franciscan missionaries who traveled with him celebrated the first Mass in what is now the United States that same year.
Especially in recent centuries, the Catholic Church became established throughout the world – and the sense of urgency that our ancestors had was diminishing considerably. Even so, the Church has faced many persecutions over the years, for instance, during the Protestant Reformation, the French Revolution, the rise of Communism, the Cristero War in Mexico, and so on.
Questions for reflection:
“The Church exists to evangelize.” Addressing the signs of the times and the urgent needs of the day, Pope St. Paul VI taught us to reclaim our heritage and the Great Commission of Jesus Christ: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” This is not something that we do in our spare time or something that is “extra” to our Catholic faith or even optional; it is the heart of everything we do. Now more than ever, our God calls us to be disciples of his Son, and apostles who bring the good news to the world. It is clear that today we are bogged down by so many important issues and concerns. here is a great deal of anger, division, anxiety and hopelessness in our world. In times like these, we are tempted to retreat and “circle the wagons.”
Some would have us focus only internally, guarding and defending our Catholic faith against the forces of the world. Others want to use the faith solely to resolve key issues like abortion, same-sex marriage, capital punishment, immigration and so many others.
Before and above anything else, however, our Catholic faith unites us with Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit, and thus leads us to the Father and the kingdom of heaven. We remember Jesus’ words in the Gospel: “I have come so that you may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) We have received this incredible gift, and all God asks of us is that we extend it to others.
Questions for reflection:
1.How comfortable would you feel explaining your faith to a non-Catholic?
2. How do I “live my faith well …” so that others might ask me about God because they are sure he is with me? ( Zech 8:23)
3.How does the call to evangelization represent a solution to being endlessly bogged down in the debates over important issues outlined by the Bishop?
4.What are the signs of the times which make the call to evangelize so urgent in this day?
Bishop William A. Wack
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Greetings in the Lord! As I celebrate my fourth anniversary as your bishop, I wish to express in this Pastoral Letter my deepest hope for the Church (that is, the People of God – us). The longer I serve as a priest and bishop, the truth of this statement becomes more evident: The Church exists to evangelize! Put simply, if we believe that Jesus Christ suffered and died for us and rose again to set us free from sin and death, we are compelled to share that Good News with everyone around us.
We are living in challenging times, to be sure. Our world, our families and even our beloved Church, is experiencing a great deal of division, acrimony and confusion. It seems as though we are condemned to exist in a world where everyone either agrees with us (and thus are on our side) or disagrees with us (and thus are to be shunned – or, worse: treated as ‘enemies’). However, there is
a way out: embracing and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who said, “Seek first the kingdom of God …” (Mt 6:33) A focus on sharing the Good News not only helps us to address the many challenges we face, it is something very positive and hopeful.
Is there anything more hopeful and joyful than knowing that in Christ Jesus we are loved, redeemed, and are given the promise of
eternal life? If we truly believe that, we can say with St. Paul: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31)
Sisters and brothers, why are we downcast today? Why does there exist so much anger and outrage within ourselves and in the world today? I believe that we have forgotten the truth of the Gospel: God the Father sent his Son into the world to save us from our sins, and God also gave us the Holy Spirit to lead us and guide us. Thus, we are invited to share in God’s divine life even now. Since that is so, what could possibly afflict us? Jesus says to us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled… Have faith in me.” (Jn 14:1)
One of my (new) favorite passages from the Bible comes from the Book of Zechariah. The prophet lived and ministered in times of struggle and confusion, not unlike our own day and age. Yet he was absolutely convinced of God’s ultimate plan to bring salvation to all of creation. One of his prophesies ends with great hope in the coming of the Messiah, and the response of God’s beloved people: “In those days, ten people from nations of every language will take hold, yes, will take hold of the cloak of every [Jew] and say, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’” (Zech 8:23)
May we live our faith well, confident in the glory that is ours in Jesus Christ, so that people around us may say the same thing:“Tell me about God, for I am sure t hat he is with you!” This is our task and our challenge. If we believe in the Good News, we must share it with everyone we encounter. I hope in this Letter to instruct, exhort, and then join you in living as a missionary disciple of our Lord. I humbly ask everyone in the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee to read it and pray with it. My prayer is that all of us – as families, as parishes and as individuals will put this teaching into practice and heed Jesus’ call: “Go and make disciples of all nations …” (Mt. 28:19)
Sunday, November 14th, 2021 – XXXIII Sunday in Ordinary Time Readings: Daniel 12:1-3, Psalm 16 “You are my inheritance, O Lord!”, Hebrews 10:11-14, 18, Mark 13:24-32
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on November 6th our diocese celebrated her 46th anniversary. To mark the occasion, Bishop Wack released “Sharing the Gift,” his first pastoral letter. In this letter, he shares his vision for the diocese moving forward and challenges the faithful to evangelize. “Evangelization” may sound intimidating, but it is simply a way to awaken in people’s heart a love of God and an adherence to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Last weekend, hard copies of the pastoral letter were distributed to parishioners. I kindly ask you to visit ptdiocese.org/pastoral-letter for an online copy.
The pastoral letter is divided into nine sections: introduction, biblical basis for evangelization, early church, origins of christendom, the death of christendom, renewal, what does evangelization look like today, evangelizing in the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Mary and the saints who will guide and assist us. We shall be impelling this pastoral letter in our parish and each parishioner is invited to fully be part of it. “I humbly ask everyone in the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee to read the letter, pray with it and put into practice Jesus’ call- ‘Go and make disciples of all nations…’ (Matthew 28:19).”- Bishop William Wack.
November 7 to 13 marked the National Vocation Awareness week. This annual week-long celebration of the Catholic Church in the United States promotes vocations to the priesthood, diaconate, and consecrated life through prayer and education, and to renew our prayers and support for those who are considering one of these particular vocations. We give thanks to God our Father, for caring men and women to serve in his Son’s Kingdom as priests, deacons and consecrated persons. We ask the Holy Spirit to help others to respond generously and courageously to God’s call. May our community of faith, St. Eugene Catholic Mission and Student Center support vocations of sacrificial love in our youth and young adults. Amen.
I wish you a blessed week,
Fr. Paschal Chester, svd
Today we celebrate World Mission Sunday. It is our yearly opportunity to honor our life as Catholics through the special call we received at Baptism to be missionaries. It also reminds us of the service offered by the Church’s missionaries in bearing Christ’s message of salvation to all people in all lands. In line with this you can do three things to help a missionary to carry our his or her work, you can pray for a missionary, you can send a word of encouragement to a missionary, and you can support the work of a missionary.
The Gospel for this Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time is wonderfully appropriate in revealing the lifechanging joy that can come to us as followers of our Lord and Redeemer. We meet Jesus as He is traveling with His disciples and a crowd of people who want to stay in His company as long as possible. They pass a blind man sitting by the side of the road begging. His name is Bartimaeus. Obviously, he has already heard of Jesus’ message and miracles; so, he shouts out, acknowledging Jesus as the Son of David and asking for His pity. The people try to quiet him; after all, he is loud and annoying and trying to get Jesus’ attention. But Jesus hears Bartimaeus and tells the others to send him forward. “He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus. Jesus said to him… ‘What do you want Me to do for you?’ The blind man replied to Him, ‘Master, I want to see.’ Jesus told him, ‘Go on your way; your faith has saved you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed Him on the way” (Mark 10:50-52).
This man, a blind beggar, would have been of little account to his neighbors. Yet he was able to see more clearly than many who followed Jesus. He already believed that He was the Messiah and trusted Him to heal his blindness. The way he jumped up to run to our Lord and then instantly followed Him when he received his sight reveal just how much Bartimaeus rejoiced, not only in having his eyes opened, but also in his faith. Unlike many who believe, he did not hesitate to express his gratitude with exuberance. Let us willingly show our belief in the Christ who heals spiritual blindness as joyfully as Bartimaeus – for all the world to see.
On this World Mission Sunday, let us also “speak” of our faith, through our prayers and financial help to the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. Our generosity on this Sunday, combined with what is offered in churches and chapels around the globe, join us to the efforts of missionaries who proclaim the Gospel and serve the poor.
Fr. Paschal Chester, svd
XXVII Sunday in Ordinary Time Genesis 2:18-24, Psalm 128 “May the Lord bless us all the days of our lives.” Hebrews 2: 9- 11, Mark 10: 2-16 or 10: 2-12
Pharisees who wanted to test him. They asked Jesus to pass a judgement on the Mosaic Law. “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” Moses had permitted divorce because of the hardness of heart of the chosen people. The condition of a woman was at the time ignominious. She could be put aside by her husband for virtually any reason. Moses requires the husband to give the wife a certificate of reputation (‘a bill of divorce’) so that she might be free to marry again. The Prophets spoke out against divorce when they came to the Promised Land.
Jesus took this opportunity to affirm the indissolubility of marriage, as God originally intended at Creation. He quotes the words of Genesis which we find in today’s first reading. “But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one.’ So they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” When Jesus elevated matrimony to the dignity of a sacrament, He was doing something completely unprecedented. Christ elevated the natural reality of Christian marriage to an extent that the spouses receive divine life through the sacrament. It is what sustains their work of mutual perfection. This is what has to inspire their children from the moment of Baptism.
Those who marry begin a new life in the company of the Lord. God himself has called man and wife to follow this path of holiness. For a Christian marriage is not just a social institution, much less a mere remedy for human weakness. It is a real supernatural calling. A great sacrament, in Christ and in the Church, says St. Paul (Ephesians 5:32). May the Lord bless marriages, and all couples who are in difficulty.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Fr. Paschal Chester, svd
Sunday, September 19, 2021 – XXV Sunday in Ordinary Time Readings: Wisdom 2:12, 17-20, Psalm54 “The Lord upholds my life”, James 3:16 - 4:3, Mark 9:30-37
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, National Hispanic Heritage Month is held annually from September 15 through October 15 and celebrates the culture and recognizes the achievements and contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans. Hispanic Heritage Month kicks off in mid-September because it’s when more than a half-dozen countries celebrate their independence from Spain. Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua celebrate on September 15 while September 16, or Sixteenth, is when Mexico celebrates its independence and September 18 is Chili’s independence day. Let us celebrate and enjoy the National Hispanic Heritage Month. We as a church blessed with the cultural diversity of people from all over the world, and we thank our brothers and sisters with Hispanic Heritage for your contribution in diverse ways to the church. In today's gospel Mark tells us how the disciples responded to the second prediction of the passion of Jesus Christ. But the disciples did not understand what he said and they were afraid to ask him instead they started their own discussion group about power and prestige. When they got to Capernaum, Jesus asked them “what were you arguing about on the way?” they remained silent. It is in that silence that Jesus takes a little child, sets him in front of them, puts his arms around the child, and challenges his disciples to accept the little one. When they can welcome that little child, they can welcome the real Jesus.
Jesu compares himself to the little child, the one who cannot resort to power tactics when threatened or maltreated. Jesus’ protection is his father; his trust is placed in the God who will ensure his protection. When suffering comes, Jesus refuses to abandon trust in the Father. That trust makes him vulnerable, like a little child, but unless the disciples can come to welcome that vulnerability they will never understand the way of Jesus. Jesus offers a permanent challenge to his followers to welcome the powerless, to take to heart the weakest members of the community. He places himself in their company. Special hospitality should be offered to those from whom we can benefit the last. Their vulnerability is something that Jesus not only shares but values. May the Lord bless us with his presence, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Fr. Paschal Chester, svd
Readings: Job 38:1, 8-11, Psalm 107 “Give thanks to the Lord, his love is everlasting.”, 2 Corinthians 5:14-17, Mark 4:35-41
Happy Father’s Day
“Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you.” (Exodus 20,12)
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up with the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6,4)
Today we honor our fathers and recognize the contribution that fathers make to the lives of their children. We salute all the wonderful fathers who have made the difference the lives of many in the family. We appreciate your existence and the impactful and significant role you have played in our lives.
Father is a person who Let’s you experiment life in your own way and pulls you up when you fall. Let’s you get angry on him and loves you more after that. Is with you always, especially when you need him! They have always been the one reliable man in our lives, and they have always treated us with a stern yet loving hand. We will never cease to follow their footsteps and will always make the right decision like they have taught us. No matter how famous or successful we are, but our first identity is that of someone’s son or daughter. Thank you for being great fathers.
A day to remember our Heavenly Father.
Father’s Day is a day to remember, acknowledge and appreciate the “World’s Greatest Dad,” OUR HEAVENLY FATHER (Rom. 8:15, Gal. 4:6) Who is our spiritual Daddy, actively involved in all areas of our lives. It is He on Whom we lean in times of pain and hurt; it is He on Whom we call in times of need. Many of us pray the “Our Father” day after day, without paying attention to, or experiencing, the love and providence of our Heavenly Father. Let us pray the Our Father during this Holy Mass, realizing the meaning of each clause and experiencing the love of our Heavenly Father for us.
May all earthly fathers draw strength from their Heavenly Father! On this Father’s Day, please don’t forget to pray for
us, your spiritual Fathers, men who are called to be Fathers of a large parish family through the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
We congratulate and pray for all the father’s parishioners collaborators of St. Eugene Catholic Mission and Student
Center. God Bless You All.
Rev. Dilip K. Soreng SVD