Pastor’s Column

Fr. Luke's Message... February 11, 2024

Can you believe we are about to start the season of Lent?!?! It always sneaks up on us so fast as these winter months go by in a blur. I’ve always found that many people find the season of Lent to be a personally meaningful time as they take the opportunity to spiritually reengage, recommit, reconnect, reinvigorate, rediscover, reaffirm, reestablish, rejuvenate, respond, reconcile, rehabilitate, refresh, reset, retreat, renew ...

All of us know a share in the brokenness of this world and need to re: (fill in the blank here) every once in awhile in order to get ourselves back on track to where we’d like to be. Indeed, God Himself leads us in this opportunity. The Gospel, the Good News, is that God understands this about us, accepts us for who we are and yet wants so much more for you and me. God knows the persons we can yet become, and God will give us the grace to get there. As ashes are imposed on our foreheads this Ash Wednesday, we hear the words, “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel,” marking our program for Lent. It is a program of repentance (literally: “a turning around”) to resurrection ultimately celebrated in the Easter Season to come. What great hope for us, a hope that can be found nowhere else!

Come and re: (fill in the blank here) with God and us here in the Lower Niagara River Catholic Community! You’ll see a list of happenings here in a handout with the bulletin to help you do exactly that - opportunities for Mass, for Stations of the Cross, for Quiet Prayer in our churches, for Faith Sharing, for Faith Formation and reflection, for Reconciliation, for personal practices of Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving, and there are many other opportunities besides. Know that you are always welcome here. We exist to serve you, to help you grow in discipleship, to accompany you together on this journey to encounter Jesus Christ, who alone can re: (fill in the blank here) your life.

Peace Fr. Luke


Fr. Luke's Message... February 4, 2024

This weekend, we finish our celebration of Catholic Schools Week, knowing that Catholic Education provides a foundation for our lives.  While it’s amazing that we are able to provide this vital ministry for our young students, it’s also important that we don’t neglect the fact that Catholic Education is something that we all stand in need of, whether we are 7, 19, 35, 53, or 98 years old and anywhere in between – discipleship is a lifelong process and there is always something new that Jesus wants to teach us.  I don’t mean to sound judgmental, but if one hasn’t done anything to grow their faith and learn anything since they were in grammar school or high school, then that is their faith formation equivalency.  There are many opportunities to grow here in our Catholic Community: St. Peter’s School, Religious Education Classes or Family Faith Formation, Seasonal Retreats and Reflection Opportunities, Resources such as the Beautiful Eucharist Book which we distributed at Christmas (anybody get to reading that yet? What do you think – good huh?!), or even simply listening to the prayers and the Scriptures and Homilies in our liturgical celebrations… and there are more opportunities coming with the Season of Lent before us (you will see in a flyer next week detailing these) and with the Road to Renewal’s vision for various enrichment programs and events like LITE and Alpha… as we continue to grow in God’s ways, Catholic Education helps us all to become the best version of ourselves that God made us to be.

Regarding the Road to Renewal, the pillar groups have helped draft an Action Plan for the family, detailing the goals and strategic initiatives for our going forward over the course of the next few years.  I have shared this vision with our Parish Councils at our respective January meetings and will be presenting this to the Diocese at the end of the month.  There is nothing in here that should come as a surprise, given that we have already been operating with many of the best-practices and concepts the Diocese requires of us, yet we have self-identified opportunities for growth and areas in which we can increase the collaboration and support between our parishes.  As in any institution, the plan is likely to evolve as we evaluate our progress and as the needs of our parishes expand over the years while the implementation of the plan in the day-to-day is left entirely to us.  There are handouts of this available at the Church entrance for your perusal.

Peace

~Fr. Luke


Fr. Luke's Message... January 28, 2024

There are a couple of great events coming up here in the Lower Niagara River Catholic Community, with further information elsewhere in the bulletin.  A couple of highlights:  On February 2nd at 7pm at St. Peter’s, there will be a Novus Ordo Mass celebration of Candlemas, on the Feast of the Presentation.  We are honored to host Harmonia, who will lead us in music, and a reception will follow Mass.  It is a great opportunity to recognize Christ as our Light, as we bless our candles and the candles that will be used throughout the year.  Traditionally, following this is the feast of St. Blaise, and accordingly, we will be using these candles to do the Blessing of Throats after all Masses this coming weekend.  On February 7th, St. Raphael is hosting Divine Will Ministries for a Healing Mass with the Laying on of hands with Fr. Dick DiGiulio presiding.  Finally, in support of our school, the Home School Association is hosting a Galentine’s Night Out and Auction on February 7th at St. Peter’s Rectory – walk-ins are welcome!

Speaking of the school, this week is Catholic Schools’ Week!  I was recently reading an excellent article published by Fordham discussing how, “Catholic schools continue to demonstrate strong long-term outcomes… And at the core of these successes is the way Catholic schools think about their students and why Catholic educators do this work.  The goal of Catholic schools is … to form students who opt to serve, who choose right over wrong, and who contribute to their communities. The goal of Catholic schools is not discipline and structure merely for the sake of order but for the sake of building the habits of self-management that lead to virtuous lives.”  We are proud of our school, its rich heritage in our parish and community, the family atmosphere, the academic growth that is fostered, the values espoused and lived out, its grounding in faith and service to others – all these and more help nurture our students to become the best version of themselves… We have dedicated teachers and staff who have navigated the many challenges of our world these days together with our wonderful students who in turn bring their own unique gifts.  All of that is happening right here!  We have much to celebrate… come and see (Open House 1/28, 8:30am to Noon), come and be a part of all the good things happening at St. Peter’s School!


Fr. Luke's Message... January 21, 2024

It’s strange that we are in 2024 and that hasn’t really sunk in yet. By the time I stop writing 2023 on my correspondence and paperwork, it will already be next year! This week, Fr. Dan is on vacation and will be heading to Washington DC to participate in the March for Life. We hope that he gets some nice rest and relaxation while he is down there, and at the same time, we emulate his witness to the sanctity of all life from conception to natural death. We know that there are grave evils that threaten life throughout our world and in our community still today, and we are called to use our voice to speak up against these injustices. We also lift our voices in prayer, as there will be an opportunity for Eucharistic Adoration for Life held at St. Raphael Parish from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, January 22nd. Everyone is invited to participate.

We recently put together a Buildings and Grounds Committee for our parishes. The group’s members met last week at St. Raphael’s and will meet this week at St. Peter’s and St. Bernard’s to do a walkthrough, assessing the current state of our buildings and helping us in our planning to keep our facilities in great shape going forward.

I also share with you that some members of our parish have stepped forward to help our Vicariate revitalize its marriage preparation offerings, such that those couples who are engaged to be married from our parishes might receive worthwhile support and guidance from the Church to make this covenant with God and each other fruitful for their lives as well as for their newly formed families.

Thank you all for your continued prayers and your help in keeping the mission of Christ moving forward in our Catholic Community. Have a great week!

Peace ~Fr. Luke


Fr. Luke's Message... January 14, 2024

It’s strange that we are in 2024 and that hasn’t really sunk in yet.  By the time I stop writing 2023 on my correspondence and paperwork, it will already be next year!  This week, Fr. Dan is on vacation and will be heading to Washington DC to participate in the March for Life.  We hope that he gets some nice rest and relaxation while he is down there, and at the same time, we emulate his witness to the sanctity of all life from conception to natural death.  We know that there are grave evils that threaten life throughout our world and in our community still today, and we are called to use our voice to speak up against these injustices.  We also lift our voices in prayer, as there will be an opportunity for Eucharistic Adoration for Life held at St. Raphael from 9am to 5pm on Monday, January 22nd that all are invited to.  

We recently put together a Buildings and Grounds Committee for our parishes.  The group’s members met last week at St. Raphaels and will meet this week at St. Peters and St. Bernards to do a walkthrough, assessing the current state of our buildings and help us in our planning to keep our facilities in great shape going forward.  

I also share with you that some members of our parish have stepped forward to help our Vicariate revitalize its marriage preparation offerings, such that those couples who are engaged to be married from our parishes might receive worthwhile support and guidance from the Church to make this covenant with God and each other fruitful for their lives as well as for their newly formed families.  

Thank you all for your continued prayers and your help in keeping the mission of Christ moving forward in our Catholic Community. Have a great week!  

Peace

~Fr. Luke


Fr. Luke's Message... January 7, 2024

I got the opportunity to spend some quality time with my family as I hosted Christmas Eve dinner at the rectory and went to Indiana this past week to visit my sister there.  I discussed the importance of family in one of my Christmas homilies, and how we have been all brought together into God’s family tree.  It has been wonderful to celebrate these holidays (read holy days) with you, my Church family, and I am happy to be with you here in our family of parishes – which, by the way, is officially being named “The Lower Niagara River Catholic Community.”  

There were a number of great suggestions from our parishioners for our family name.  This is the name that continued to rise to the surface and had overwhelming support from among the feedback of the representative parish councils and pillar groups.  Just as the Diocese is named after the city of Buffalo, so we are named for the river which is an identifying hallmark of our region.  As a Catholic Community, we acknowledge not only our own family of parishes but also the presence and ministry of the Vincentians and Niagara University, the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Stella Niagara, and the Barnabites in our area.  Thus, we are no longer designated Family #34, but the Lower Niagara River Catholic Community when speaking of collectively of all our parishes and ministry here.  At the same time, all the names of the Churches and Parishes remain the same – St. Teresas, St. Peters, St. Bernards are still the Church Buildings properly, and St. Raphael and St. Peters are still the name used to identify the Parishes.    

The season of Christmas opens with John’s Gospel declaring that “the Word was made Flesh and dwells among us… and we saw his light, the light of an only begotten Son.”  The feast of Epiphany this weekend concludes our Christmas season revealing that Jesus is a light to all the nations.  I pray that you have been able to find some of that light amidst the darkness we constantly face.  As this great season comes to a close once again this year, it is important that we let this Christmas spirit continue to guide us as we go forward in our endeavors.  To that end, I came across a thought-provoking poem that reads: 

“The work of Christmas begins: when the carols have been stilled, when the star-topped tree is taken down, when family and friends are gone home, when we are back to our schedules… The work of Christmas begins: to welcome the refugee, to heal a broken planet, to feed the hungry, to build bridges of trust not walls of fear, to share our gifts, to seek justice and peace for all people, and to bring Christ’s light to the world.”  

May the light of Christ, heralded in these celebrations of our Church, continue to guide you and yours each and every day.  

Peace

~Fr. Luke


Fr. Luke's Message... December 31, 2023
We herald the fact that God is no distant lord, dwelling in isolation above the heavens, but love incarnate, born like us of a mother, in order to be a brother to each of us, to be close to us: the God of closeness. God-with-us, Emmanuel, loves us despite our mistakes, our sins, and the way we treat our world. And God himself has drawn close to us through motherhood. And if the Son of God needed a Mother, how much more so do we! Jesus himself gave Mary to us, from the cross: “Behold your mother! And from that hour, the disciple took her into his home.” (Jn 19:27). He said this to the beloved disciple and to every disciple. January 1st is the Solemnity of Mary’s Motherhood of God and of us all. While this year it is not a holy day of obligation, all the same, we ask Mary’s intercession in this New Year trusting that she will care for us and lead us to the best of blessings in held in store for us by God. We are charged therefore in this New Year to make the most of our opportunities for grace that have been procured for us, and as such we make our New Year’s Resolutions. There are many noble resolutions made at this time of year for the betterment of our lives, including these popular goals: Exercise more; Lose weight; Get organized; Learn a new skill or hobby; Save more money or spend less money; Quit smoking; and Spend more time with family and friends. If we are being holistic (think “holy”), then be sure to include a spiritual
resolution as well. Maybe, this year I will: pray more, do some spiritual reading, regularly participate in a Church organization or ministry, take a class or listen to a podcast about my faith, do Christian Service to love Jesus in my neighbor. While at the outset of the New Year, we clean the slate, look to the future with hope for ourselves, and we begin honestly and earnestly striving for these things, it also has become a sort of running joke in our culture to see how just long our resolutions will last before they break down and settle for our old routines. Indeed, it is not easy to build new habits and make lifestyle adjustments, even if we know they are for our own good! Therefore, I would suggest to 1) be realistic in your expectations; don’t set yourself up for failure, and 2) give your resolutions some legs; put a plan into place that is specific and manageable in the day-to-day; make sure you have the supports and people around you that you need to not only make your goals possible, but to help you through the struggles that inevitably come along; and hold yourself accountable. Nothing changes if nothing changes. Turn your resolutions into reality. For us, I would like to see our Parishes resolve to continue to grow as a place in which disciples of Jesus are made and thrive. The Road to Renewal has become a springboard of sorts for this which are allowing us to rethink our approach through every facet of parish life. We will continue to work with our Pillar Groups and Parish Councils as well as our many other leaders and volunteers to turn our parish’s resolutions into reality.
Good things are happening here; great things are in store for us still! May God bless us all in this New Year!
Mary, mother of God, pray for us!
Peace
~Fr. Luke

Fr. Luke's Message... December 24, 2023

Dear Parish Family,
Amidst the hustle and bustle of this busy season, Christmas is a time of joy for Catholics! The Nativity of our Lord is a mystery we could spend our whole lives pondering, but we focus on it especially at this time of year. By coming to us in flesh, God himself embraces us in Christ and brings dignity to our humanity. We discover that all things are possible for God, and knowing that Jesus was born for us, fills us with great joy. God’s love for us is amazing! This in turn brings great meaning to our lives and provides for our salvation. As you are reading this bulletin, you will see how we continue to live this mission out here in our Lower Niagara River Catholic Community. Come be a part of all the good things that are happening here this coming year and invite your friends and family to check us out as well. It has only been a short while since Fr. Dan and myself arrived here, and it is good to have our Deacons on board with us as well. We are astonished at your great love and support - Thank you for everything! May we continue to be a blessing to one another. On behalf of the clergy, our pastoral staff and community, we wish you and yours a Merry Christmas!
Peace,
Fr. Luke


Fr. Luke's Message... December 10, 2023

Since we have arrived, I’ve been asked at various points, “Who are those other priests up there on the altar together with you - I thought there was a shortage?” Besides Fr. Dan and myself as well as our visiting guests priests at times from Niagara University, these are actually Deacons – Deacon Dave Augustyniak and Deacon John Phillips – who have also been assigned to our parishes and are assisting us in the celebration of the Eucharist. This is something that our parishes aren't exactly used to as we've not had a deacon assigned to us in quite some time.

At the celebration of the Eucharist, you will see that their vestments are similar to the priest’s but the stole that they wear goes diagonally across their chest and they may also wear a dalmatic which is like a poncho with sleeves. While hearing Confessions, celebrating Anointing of the Sick, and consecrating the Eucharist are sacraments reserved exclusively to priests,

Deacons proclaim the Gospel and sometimes preach at Mass, and they can also celebrate Baptisms and Weddings. Their main ministry, however, is actually a ministry of service out in the community in the name of the Church.

Deacon John Phillips helps out at Roswell and Deacon Dave Augustyniak works several days a week at Catholic Charities as a clinical mental health counselor. Permanent Deacons are often married and have families of their own - this is an important ministry too! They are a wonderful addition and have been very helpful to our community. Deacon Dave and Deacon John would be happy to talk with you if you had any questions about their role and ministry, or even if this

is a vocation that you may be discerning for yourself.

Please continue to pray for vocations!

Peace,

~Fr. Luke


Fr. Luke's Message... December 3, 2023
Happy Advent! Advent is one of my favorite liturgical seasons because it is the great season of hope. Whereas optimism is the passive belief that things will get better, in and of itself, hope is an active virtue, and requires a choice on our part to work towards the future that we believe in and move into that reality. In this season, we talk about and do the work of preparing ourselves for the coming of the Lord. This often centers around the upcoming celebrations of Christmas, where we follow in the footsteps of the prophets, of John the Baptist as well as Mary and Joseph as they prepared the way of the Lord and made room for Jesus' coming into the world. But this Advent season of preparation involves us also in this work of hope as we ourselves prepare for Jesus' coming into our hearts and lives in today’s day and age. Check out the bulletin for our Advent and Christmas Activities to help us as a family of parishes claim this hope for ourselves. I would like to give some summary updates on the Road to Renewal and the work of the Pillar Groups in our family of parishes:

Liturgy Pillar: A New Mass Schedule has been produced and is now in effect. Anointing of the Sick will be
regularly celebrated on the Last Thursday of each month at St. Bernards following the 7pm Mass as well as the
Last Saturday of each month at St. Raphaels following the 8am Mass. Liturgical ministers have a night of
reflection on their ministry and a (refresher) training on December 6, 7, or 9th.
Spirituality Pillar: They are actively planning the Life in the Eucharist Seminar which will be our Family’s Easter
Retreat, leading up to Corpus Christi. There is a yearly calendar of events that is in the final stages of being
ready for publication. A Worship Committee will be forming to help us coordinate and prepare for the various
spiritual and liturgical events of our Church.

Formation Pillar: The formation pillar is in the process of clarifying the logistics of each of the parish’s faith
formation programs as well as the formation offered by St. Peter’s school. The goal is to ensure that there is a
more comprehensive and unified program that embraces and forms everyone at all the stages of life.

Inreach/Outreach Pillar: They are formulating a booklet of all the ministries of our parish with descriptions and
contact information so that anyone can find ways to be involved or understand how these various groups can
be of service. They are examining the various touch points in which people come into contact with our Church
community, at which we can help people find faith in all of life's circumstances: weddings, marriages, funerals,
cancer, finances, service, community events, homebound, education - all these and more are opportunities for
evangelization!

Stewardship Pillar: The group has coordinated calendars of fundraising events and will be working to
formulate an ongoing committee to help us network volunteers and various professionals to help us all take
ownership and care of our spiritual home.

Administration Pillar: Is finalizing the updated job responsibilities of the office staff in service to the Family;
has also reorganized custodial and maintenance services between the parishes. A template for a unified
bulletin has been crafted and hereafter will be extending this work to a shared website. They are about to
explore a phone system to ease direct communication between the parishes. Sacramental and financial
records will remain separate by parish, but will stored in the same locations for easy access. Implementation of
the above will begin in the new year. These things mostly concern the internal workings of the parish – for
parishioners, all the services of the parishes will still be available and there will remain an office presence at
both Peters and Raphaels.

~ Peace, Fr. Luke

Fr. Luke's Message... November 26, 2023

We find ourselves in the middle of another busy holiday season. Sometimes, the hustle and bustle of these days stresses us out more than usual. We also know that there is a lot going on in our country and world that is troubling. But perhaps, that is all the more reason to really take the time to sitdown, to be intentional, and truly to celebrate the many good things of our lives. As Gandalf says in the Lord of the Rings, “There are other forces at work in the world besides evil… and that is an encouraging thought!” I hope that everyone had a good Thanksgiving, that you could count yourmany personal blessings, and that you found ways to be appreciative. This past month we also gave thanks to our veterans for their service to our country, and in doing so, we are reminded of the fact that we still do enjoy many freedoms and privileges that are hard to come by and indeed are yeworth fighting for. In this month of November, we have likewise celebrated our saints and our beloved dead, knowing that they have enriched our lives in meaningful ways, that they are in a better place now, and that one day we hope to join them there. And then, Advent is soon to be upon us. It is a great season of Hope, and we’ll continue to explore this in our preparations for Christmas, in which of course, we in turn welcome Jesus the Christ into our lives. Although we may not always see it, throughout salvation history, Christ the King of the Universe, the feast we celebrate this weekend, has been reaching out to us and giving us grace and strength to overcome the darkness of sin and death which we confront all around us. The Lord is ourShepherd, there is nothing I shall want (Psalm 23)! We have lots of reasons to celebrate… don’t ever forget that!

Peace
~Fr. Luke

As the liturgical year in the Church draws to a close with the feast of Christ the King coming up on
November 26th, our attention as a Church is drawn to the last things. Earlier this month, we
celebrated the feast of All Saints, reminding us that our journey on earth too, if lived out faithfully,
culminates in this heavenly destiny. We also prayed for All Souls, and continue to do so
throughout this month, knowing that it is a great work of mercy to pray for and bury the dead.
It is natural for human beings to resist the notion of death in our minds and hearts. In this
experience is an element of loss, of things unknown, of powerlessness, true enough. Stripped of
Trick-or-Treating, decorations, and parties, Halloween originating out of these feast days is scary in
this literal way in which we are forced to confront the reality of death and the unavoidable fact that
all of us will one day pass away from this world. Moments like these force us to reflect upon life as
a whole and its meaning. If we push away these thoughts and refuse to contemplate them, we will
find ourselves living under a destructive and unhealthy illusion. The Church doesn’t shy away from
this challenging reality, but also continuously, annually reminds us of the hope that is held in store
for us through our faith, that at death, life is changed and not ended. The task before all of us in
this month then is in some ways is to learn to befriend death. If you’ve seen the Pixar movie, Coco,
you’ll have been exposed to the Mexican tradition of Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead,
which is the ritualized way of befriending death in that culture and remaining connected to their
families.
Growing up, I can remember going to the cemetery from time to time and thinking of it as an eerie
place. But as I grow in faith, I have become more comfortable going to the cemetery as I think
about the people whose funerals and burials I’ve celebrated, and have even developed a certain
fondness for visiting my deceased relatives. I guess I would say that I feel more connected to them
as if I can reach out to them and find a peacefulness in my heart as a result of going. I would also
say that while I am there, I am reminded of the bigger picture, for as a universal Church, we (the
Church Militant) are indeed connected to people of all times and all places, including all those who
have gone before us (the Church Penitent) and those saints already in heaven (the Church
triumphant). Visiting a cemetery has helped me accept and befriend death, and find my place in
the grand scheme of things. You can sit in silence there, or use your own words to pray, or if you
are looking for some guidance, there is a prayer service you can use that is found in the Book of
Blessings and online, appropriately entitled: “Order of Visiting a Cemetery.”
There is an old story between rabbis, in which the younger one asks his elder: “Why does it say to
put the words of Scriptures on our hearts and not in them.” The elder rabbi replied: “We put these
words upon our hearts, so that when our hearts break, the words sink in.” There are many
comforting words and insights of faith that sink into our hearts as they are broken open by the
experience of death. For example, the prayer of the Church at one’s graveside is helpful: “Lord
Jesus Christ, by your own three days in the tomb, you hallowed the graves of all who believe in you
and so made the grave a sign of hope that promises resurrection, even as it claims our mortal
bodies. Grant that our brother/sister may sleep here in peace until you awaken him/her to glory,
for you are the resurrection and the life. Then he/she will see you face to face and in your light will
see light and know the splendor of God, for you live and reign for ever and ever. Amen.” God loved
his own son through the experience of death and the tomb to new life in the resurrection; He will
do the same for us (check out 2 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
I would encourage you to visit St. Bernard’s cemetery or another cemetery sometime this month to
pray for your loved ones and those who have gone before us. As we stop avoiding and confront
these last things, may our prayers, traditions, and cemetery visits all help us to come to trust in
God’s power over all things, and know His abiding peace.
~Peace, Fr. Luke

Fr. Luke's Message... October 29, 2023

Pastor’s Column… Visiting a Cemetery

As the liturgical year in the Church draws to a close with the feast of Christ the King coming up on November 26th, our attention as a Church is drawn to the last things.  Earlier this month, we celebrated the feast of All Saints, reminding us that our journey on earth too, if lived out faithfully, culminates in this heavenly destiny.  We also prayed for All Souls, and continue to do so throughout this month, knowing that it is a great work of mercy to pray for and bury the dead. 

It is natural for human beings to resist the notion of death in our minds and hearts.  In this experience is an element of loss, of things unknown, of powerlessness, true enough.  Stripped of Trick-or-Treating, decorations, and parties, Halloween originating out of these feast days is scary in this literal way in which we are forced to confront the reality of death and the unavoidable fact that all of us will one day pass away from this world.  Moments like these force us to reflect upon life as a whole and its meaning.  If we push away these thoughts and refuse to contemplate them, we will find ourselves living under a destructive and unhealthy illusion.  The Church doesn’t shy away from this challenging reality, but also continuously, annually reminds us of the hope that is held in store for us through our faith, that at death, life is changed and not ended.  The task before all of us in this month then is in some ways is to learn to befriend death.  If you’ve seen the Pixar movie, Coco, you’ll have been exposed to the Mexican tradition of Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, which is the ritualized way of befriending death in that culture and remaining connected to their families.

Growing up, I can remember going to the cemetery from time to time and thinking of it as an eerie place.  But as I grow in faith, I have become more comfortable going to the cemetery as I think about the people whose funerals and burials I’ve celebrated, and have even developed a certain fondness for visiting my deceased relatives.  I guess I would say that I feel more connected to them as if I can reach out to them and find a peacefulness in my heart as a result of going.  I would also say that while I am there, I am reminded of the bigger picture, for as a universal Church, we (the Church Militant) are indeed connected to people of all times and all places, including all those who have gone before us (the Church Penitent) and those saints already in heaven (the Church triumphant).  Visiting a cemetery has helped me accept and befriend death, and find my place in the grand scheme of things.  You can sit in silence there, or use your own words to pray, or if you are looking for some guidance, there is a prayer service you can use that is found in the Book of Blessings and online, appropriately entitled: “Order of Visiting a Cemetery.”  

There is an old story between rabbis, in which the younger one asks his elder: “Why does it say to put the words of Scriptures on our hearts and not in them.”  The elder rabbi replied: “We put these words upon our hearts, so that when our hearts break, the words sink in.”  There are many comforting words and insights of faith that sink into our hearts as they are broken open by the experience of death.  For example, the prayer of the Church at one’s graveside is helpful: “Lord Jesus Christ, by your own three days in the tomb, you hallowed the graves of all who believe in you and so made the grave a sign of hope that promises resurrection, even as it claims our mortal bodies.  Grant that our brother/sister may sleep here in peace until you awaken him/her to glory, for you are the resurrection and the life.  Then he/she will see you face to face and in your light will see light and know the splendor of God, for you live and reign for ever and ever. Amen.”  God loved his own son through the experience of death and the tomb to new life in the resurrection; He will do the same for us (check out 2 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

I would encourage you to visit St. Bernard’s cemetery or another cemetery sometime this month to pray for your loved ones and those who have gone before us.  As we stop avoiding and confront these last things, may our prayers, traditions, and cemetery visits all help us to come to trust in God’s power over all things, and know His abiding peace.


Fr. Luke's Message... October 22, 2023

As a follow-up to last week’s Pastor’s Column, here are the latest updates on the Road to Renewal and the work of our Pillar Groups:

Spirituality – the members of the spirituality pillar group reviewed the calendar of spiritual activities that were already happening throughout the year at each parish and suggestions were made for strengthening and sharing these between us.  Some of these include Advent Concerts, respect for life Masses, stations of the cross, backpack and pet blessings and more.  Also noted was that Rosary occurs after the daily Mass at St. Raphael’s and that each First Friday of the month there is Eucharistic Adoration at St. Peter’s from 10am – 8pm.  The focus will turn towards involving the various ministries that are in place as well as planning to host a Life in the Eucharist Seminar for our family.

Formation – This pillar group has perhaps the most comprehensive task in unifying a program that serves each of our parishes and each of our demographics, understanding that formation is a lifelong process.  While there is already formation for elementary and high school students, as well as sacramental preparation for Reconciliation, Eucharist, and Confirmation at each of our parishes, our collaboration will help us better utilize our resources, catechists, and those with God-given gifts as well as to offer more adult enrichment programs, youth ministry, family-oriented programs, etc.  The group has made a review of these things and will begin exploring what this might look like for us down the road.  The programs already in place will continue through the end of the school formation year.

Inreach/outreach – With the goal of evangelization in mind, the members of the inreach/outreach parish group reviewed the ministries that are in place at our respective parishes and how they are currently fulfilling the Church’s mission.  These include St. Vincent de Paul, Heart 2 Heart, Altar Society, Food Pantry, Knights of Columbus, Giving Tree and more.  The group also began exploring new ways of (re)connecting to God’s people in our contemporary milieu.  

Stewardship – The Stewardship Pillar briefly looked at the current fundraising initiatives as well as the ways in which these are communicated and how support (physical resources, volunteers, time) for these various initiatives is formed.  There is an eye to promoting a culture of vocational discernment, not just to priesthood and religious vocations, but recognizing our universal call to holiness and to cultivate and empower each and every one of us to work on behalf of the church.

Administration – The members of the administration pillar have already met a couple of times.  They have begun developing a communication strategy, including designing a unified bulletin and webpage for our family of parishes.  They also began reviewing job responsibilities, office resources, and vendor contracts so to be more efficient in our operations as well as cover some of our growing areas in which help is needed.  The administration pillar has taken point in soliciting names for our family of parishes.  Take a look at the forms distributed in Church to make suggestions to this end.

Peace
~Fr. Luke


Fr. Luke's Message... October 15, 2023

Confirmation: Earlier this month we had our Confirmation with Bishop Michael Fisher and 34 confirmandi from our parishes.  It was a wonderful celebration of our Church!  Congratulations on completing your initiation in the Catholic Christian way of life!  One thing caught my attention in the bishop’s homily.  He said something to the effect of: since it is true that you already received the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit at Baptism, you indeed have all the components to live a spiritual life.  What then is the purpose of Confirmation?  It is to pull us out of our individual selves, to not just be spiritual but also a religious people, people who are strengthened to share those gifts of the Holy Spirit and make a difference in other’s lives too, bearing fruit in the world.  While there is certainly a personalism in our relationship with God, faith cannot be reduced to a private affair, and that God indeed calls us to love others and participate in the life of our Church and community requires the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Something for all of us to remember and to cultivate.

I want to give a couple of Capital Project Updates.  We were a little worried over at St. Raphael about the roof of the old school building and the furnace in the rectory as we had a water and gas leak respectively.  Both repairs proved to be small in scope and have since been fixed with minimum expense and a little bit of work.  While Fr. Dan, Patricia, and all who come to our rectory will have heat this winter, it is worth noting that the furnace is the original one installed when the rectory was built and may have to be replaced in the near future.  At St. Peter’s, many will be pleased to hear that starting Monday October 23, through to the end of the week, the steel beams reinforcing the roof will be installed and the scaffolding will come down!  To Facilitate this work, the daily Masses that week will be moved to St. Bernards at their scheduled times.  This should not affect the weekend Mass schedule.  We will likely be arranging a couple of the pews to make for a break in the middle of the church for handicapped seating and allow for more movement within the church.  

A Road to Renewal Update: All of the Pillar groups have now met at least once and are all scheduled to meet again by the close of the month.  This week I want to share with you the work and recommendations of the Liturgy Pillar.  Since this one is a little lengthy, an update from the remaining Pillar Groups (Spiritual Life, Formation, Inreach/Outreach, Stewardship, and Administration) will be shared in next week’s bulletin.  The Work of the Liturgy Pillar is as follows:

  • The group made up of representatives from our respective parishes met on September 27th and reviewed the family’s current liturgical schedule.
  • Taking into consideration the number of clergy and number of Masses that could be celebrated, the travel time between Masses for a priest’s rotation, the average attendance and capacity thresholds of our worship spaces, and how to best serve God’s people that maximizes access to the Sacraments with the resources that are available to us, the recommendation was made to merge the 9:00am and 11:00am Sunday Masses at St. Raphael’s into one 10:00am Mass, keeping in place the 4pm Saturday Mass.  This proposal was shared with the parishioners at Raphael’s last weekend and their input was invited.  
  • St. Peters and St. Bernards merged their Mass times 2 years ago, going from 6 to 4 weekend Masses, and at this point, this Mass schedule will likely remain the same
  • To allow for internal coverage of our weekday Masses, St. Peter’s daily Mass will move to 7:30am.  Additionally, there will be a 7pm Thursday evening Mass at St. Bernards (no morning Mass at St. Peters on Thursdays) with Confessions held at 6:30pm at the St. Bernards site.  These were already presented to the weekday Mass congregation on 10/5.
  • As a whole, these recommendations are to be discussed with our respective parish councils with a formal decision being made for the finalized schedule by the end of October.  
  • To help us adjust, the New Mass Schedule and rationales will be communicated in large detail throughout November. 
  • The plan is to implement the New Mass Schedule the weekend of December 2nd and 3rd, the First Sunday of Advent.  The current schedule will remain in effect until then.  

Peace, 

~Fr. Luke


Fr. Luke's Message... October 8, 2023

Consider This… October: The Month of the Rosary

Why is October the month of the Rosary you ask?  In the year 1571AD, Europe was under the threat of invasion from the Ottoman Empire.  More than a stately affair, in those days Europe was then known as Christendom in which the Christian faith could grow and thrive, and the Ottoman Empire extending around the rest of the Mediterranean Sea was interested at that time, not only in expanding their territory, but in forcing conversion to Islam to all the inhabitants of their empire.  On October 7th, 1571, soldiers from the Holy League, an allied force of Christian states, engaged in the Battle of Lepanto and despite the extraordinarily great odds against them, emerged victorious, thus securing Europe’s religious autonomy.  Now, each of the soldiers in the battle were given a rosary and much of Europe was united in praying the rosary with them and for them.  While the rosary had been prayed since the time of Saint Dominic, this was one of the first large scale efforts of bringing people together in such a prayer.  A result of such prayer, the miraculous victory was thus attributed to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  October 7th became known as the feast day of Our Lady of Victory (if we think of the basilica in Lackawanna – this Marian title originates here as well), and the title of the feast was changed over the following years to Our Lady of the Rosary to mark this victory as well as to continue to unite people throughout the world in prayers of thanksgiving and intercession through the devotion of the rosary.  Accordingly, this devotion grew so that the whole month revolving around this feast became a way of inviting participation in this great devotional treasure of the Church.

The invitation to pray the rosary is extended to us today in a special way during this month of the rosary.  If you are not sure how to pray the rosary, this might be a good time to learn!  There are how-to brochures located throughout in the Church, or you can pick it up simply by joining us and following along with us (St. Raphael’s prays the rosary after daily Mass each day).  All the same, I would like to add for us here a couple of different practical practices that can help us enter into praying the rosary even more meaningfully beyond that of a step-by-step guide.

1) As you know, we repeat many of the same prayers throughout the decades of the rosary.  This repetitiveness gives us a chance to really focus in on the words that we are saying by allowing them to sink in, indeed ‘get lost’ in such simple words, as they move more deeply from our minds into our hearts and souls.  As we do so, different words within these prayers will jump out at us at various points.  One moment might be God’s invitation to ponder “thy will be done” and what we are doing for our Father, the next moment it’s the fact that our Mother Mary is indeed “pray[ing] for us, … now” in this particular moment of my life!  In this way, prayer is relational and keeps us connected on what is being communicated with God as well as all those in communion with God.  If words are especially important to you, then you will find this way of praying the rosary very meaningful.  

2) One of the ways to enter more meaningfully into the rosary is to contemplate on the joyful, sorrowful, glorious, or luminous mysteries of the rosary that are announced at the beginning of each decade.  All of these mysteries highlight a particular aspect of Jesus’ life for us as revealed by the Sacred Scriptures.  As you go through the various decades, the prayers we say recede to the background to allow us to contemplate what is unfolding in that mystery.  Through the rosary, Mary will take you by the hand, put you in the scene, and reveal her son to you.  If you are an imaginative person, this will be a fruitful way for you to pray the rosary.  

3) As you pray through the rosary, each decade, or even each bead, you can pray it for others.  When I am anxious about something, or someone has asked me to pray for them, I’ve always found that offering up these particular prayers for that intention was a very concrete and powerful way of praying for others.  We’ve already said that the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary owes itself to answered prayer reaffirming for us that the rosary is a powerful intercessory tool in our prayer kit.

4) Some people find it hard to be still so as to pray.  I am a very fidgety person myself.  The beads help with this, giving our hands something to do and engages our body in the prayer.  Further still, I like to walk and pray the rosary.  While my body is physically engaged in this way, it frees up my mind and heart to pray.  So, you will more likely see me praying the rosary walking around rather than in the pew, using a finger rosary that is attached to my key chain and always on my person.

Point being, there are many ways to engage in this great prayer of the Church!  There really is something for everyone in the rosary.  Join us and with the Church worldwide under the patronage of Our Lady of the Rosary in together praying this great devotion and discover the power of the rosary for yourself.

~Fr. Luke


Fr. Luke's Message... October 1, 2023

I can’t believe that we are in the season of Autumn already!  It’s been 3 months since Fr. Dan and I have come to our family of parishes and it’s been a blur of meeting folks, and settling in, and festivals and summer happenings… I do like the fact that we have 4 seasons in Western New York.  My grandfather used to sing a little ditty – “O man is such a fool; when it’s hot he wants it cool, when it’s cool he wants it hot – always wanting what is not!”  The changing weather and seasons give us something to look forward to, and we seem to find ways of making the best of whatever comes our way.

Fr. Dan had talked about St. Francis in the bulletin last week.  Indeed, as he is the patron saint of animals and creation, with his feast day coming up this Wednesday, October 4th, we will be celebrating the Blessing of Pets.  This blessing will be held at both St. Raphael (outside by the Stations of the Cross) and St. Peters (on the front lawn of the rectory) at 6:00pm this Wednesday rain or shine.  Bring all your pets big and small alike.  

There are several feast days in the Church in the month of October: St. Teresa, our Guardian Angels, St. Francis, St. Luke, St. Ignatius, the North American Martyrs, and Our Lady of the Rosary among others.  This last feast is why October is associated with praying the rosary and I’ll have a separate column about this later this month about the rosary – stay tuned.

This past week we had all but 1 of our Pillar Groups meet for the Renewal (at the time of this writing, they still haven’t met yet).  I am asking that the discussions of those meetings be shared with the parish, so again, stay tuned for updates in the bulletin here.

This week we have the Sacrament of Confirmation for our family of parishes, celebrated by Bishop Mike.  We welcome him and we offer our support and prayers for our Confirmandi who will be strengthened by the gift of the Holy Spirit to live their faith out in the world.  Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth. O God, who have taught the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant that in the same Spirit we may be truly wise and ever rejoice in his consolation. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Peace

~Fr. Luke


Fr. Luke's Message... September 17, 2023

This weekend is Catechetical Sunday in the Church.  All those who teach about Jesus by the way they live are catechists.  It would be good to take a moment (even now as you are reading this) to remember all those who were instrumental in passing along the faith to you.  For myself, I think of my family, but especially my grandfather who went to Mass every day, and I think of some of the spiritual experiences we shared together; I think of my confirmation sponsor (now, Deacon) Ron Adamczak who took me under his wing, my 8th grade teacher Mr. Michael Morcelle who challenged me to go deeper, and my scout leader and religious emblems counselor Mrs. Koreen Scalfaro who encouraged me to explore the vocation God had in store for me.  All these folks were instrumental to my faith journey as I was growing up.  I also think of the great people I met in the seminary and in all the parishes I have been assigned to as a seminarian and as a priest who have helped me to continuously grow and have helped shape my relationship with God and my ministry in turn.  Faith Formation is indeed lifelong, and I am still learning and growing.  Who are those people for you? 

I would like to acknowledge Maria Gleason and Dianne Wysocki for the amazing job they do in leading our faith formation programs and helping us all to grow in faith.  Together with them are our catechists who so generously volunteer their time and energy for the education of our children.  Thank you for your ministry!  May God bless you abundantly.  We are looking forward to another great year together.

Most importantly, the Church recognizes that parents and guardians are also catechists; they are the first and primary teachers of the faith for their children, preparing the soil and planting the first seeds of a relationship with Jesus.  On catechetical Sunday, we not only highlight the work of catechists in parishes and schools, but we also commend parents and guardians and encourage them to take seriously their role of making their Catholic households a place where faith is passed on to the next generation.

This day is an opportunity for all of us to rededicate ourselves to the mission of handing on the faith and being a witness to the Gospel as a community of faith.  

Peace 

~Fr. Luke