It Can Happen, Even At Jewel!
Fr. Ron Hicks and I reside at the apartment next to St. Joseph’s church on Orleans Street. We do our own shopping like typical bachelors living in the big city. We usually switch-off each week with the responsibility by running over to Jewel to pick-up enough groceries that will carry us through the upcoming week.
A few weeks ago it was my turn to load up on the basics. Our refrigerator was bare and we were down to our last breakfast bar and banana.
My shopping cart was full by the time I reached the checkout line. I piled my stuff onto the black narrow conveyor belt. The customer in front of me was a young adult woman, probably in her mid- 20’s. Her black hair was tied up in a knot. From what she was wearing, it looked like she just finished a serious workout at the gym.
I looked at her groceries, and she in turn reviewed mine. I noticed that her brown paper bags at the end of the ramp were being filled with all kinds of healthy stuff with things like fruits, vegetables, and low-fat yogurt. I was a little embarrassed because there was nowhere to hide the beer, ice cream and potato chips that were right behind the separation stick on the conveyor.
There was a brief and awkward moment of silence as she waited for her credit card to be approved. She glanced back at me with a friendly smile. I had the same feeling that two poker players have right before they lay down their cards on the table.
In an apologetic way I said to her, “This stuff is not all for me. It’s for the other guy in the house.” She laughed. I bet she heard that before. I followed up by saying, “ I see you are good about eating healthy.”
She said, “Yes. I try. But it is not easy. You have to constantly watch.”
I then sucked in my gut and I tried to hide the beef jerky and the chocolate candy bar behind the coffee. For some reason I was compelled to say, “I am a Catholic priest, right over here are St. Joseph’s Church.” As the words left my mouth I realized that it’s the same line that I have used with a police officer when I have been pulled over for a traffic violation. (Praise God, it doesn’t happen very often.)
She said, “Oh, I am Catholic too! Where is your church?”
I pointed through the store window and said, “It’s right across the street. St. Joseph’s, by Division and Orleans, just down the block across from the firehouse.”
She said, “I live right in the neighborhood. I didn’t know there was a Catholic church so close.”
“You should come by sometime and check it out. I hear the pastor is a nice guy.” I think the clerk at the register rolled her eyes when she heard me brag.
Two weeks later, I was celebrating the 11:00 AM Mass. I looked down the center aisle, and there she was at Mass; all cleaned-up, wearing her Sunday best.
I approached her after Mass and said, “You’re the girl from Jewel? Right?”
She said, “Yes.”
“Thanks for being here. You made my day!” I felt like the woman in today’s gospel who rejoices when she finds the valuable coin that she lost.
Jesus throughout the gospel stories constantly invites folks to come and see. He wants to give them a glimpse of what a loving relationship with God can be like, and how it can trans-form the way we live.
Who can you invite to join us at the table of the Lord on Sunday? You just never know how the Holy Spirit might work, even at Jewel! Let someone come and see.
“Stewardship: It’s A Way of Life”
“God loves a cheerful giver.” This bible verse is taken from one of St. Paul’s letters to the Corinthians. The point that he is trying to make with them is that whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will reap bountifully. Each person must give as they have decided in their heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion.
This is truly an important time for our parish. All of us will be invited to stop and seriously reflect on how we can be the good stewards of what God has entrusted to us. How can we share our time, talents and treasures to promote the mission of the Church, right here, right now?
This invitation comes in two ways. First, Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph Parish this Fall will participate in the To Teach Who Christ Is Capital Campaign. I will be speaking at all the Masses this weekend on how the capital campaign will directly support our local parish, as well the mission of the Archdiocese of Chicago. Our main objective of the campaign will be to relieve our current parish debt.
Secondly, our parish will be hosting a “Ministry Fair” on the weekend of September 17-18. The fair will identify where we have the biggest need for volunteers. There will be a variety of opportunities for parishioners to get involved in the life of the parish: from serving the poor, to teaching children about the Catholic faith, to singing in the choir, to visiting the sick, to pray-ing for those in need, to welcoming people to our parish. Maybe God is calling you to a particular ministry where you can share your gifts, talents and skills. Please, don’t hold back!
I have always believed that a parish is only going to be as good, vibrant and faith-filled as parishioners are willing to make it. One pastor cannot do it all; nor should he do it all. I honestly know that I do not have the skills to do it all. There are a lot of people who are a lot better at many things than I am, and they need to be recruited and empowered to use what God has given to them for the life of the Church.
What is important for me as your pastor in the months ahead is that we stay spiritually focused and that our priorities are in order. One of the criticisms that I hear most from Catholics today, many of whom have stoppedpracticing their faith, is that our church is always asking for money. It is so easy for a parish to get sidetracked. Parishioners soon get frustrated because they feel they are not being spiritually fed. I will do my best to make sure that our mission is always in front of our financial appeals. Arch-bishop Blasé Cupich put it best when he said, “If we do our mis-sion well, the money will follow.”
I ask that you take time to reflect on your level of steward-ship. What has God given to you? What can you give in return to help build the Kingdom of God?
“Do It Anyway!”
In my homily last weekend I used one of the writings of St. Teresa of Calcutta that was written on the wall of one of her homes for children. It expresses the spirit in which they lived their lives. It is entitled, “Do It Anyway.” May it be a source of inspiration for you.