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.
It has been 22 years to the day in which occurred the tragic events of 9/11. Imprinted upon many of our minds is where we were and what we were doing when everything happened on that horrible day. More importantly, we remember the thousands who perished and the families who are grieving such undeserved losses still, as well as the many heroes who offered themselves to assist those in peril.
But I should also like to say that I remember 9/12 and the days that followed. There was a flag adorning every house, every street, and every community space as patriotic songs played through the depths of our souls. Recognizing the value of life and the important things in it, people were moved to faith and to the common good. We were good neighbors towards each other, and we felt united.
Well, things are different now… Many such flags are packed away; some kneel for our anthem; privatization and secular culture continuously replaces faith and its values; living has given way to surviving through the all too frequent mass shootings, the lingering effects of a pandemic, and the difficulties of making ends meet amidst global supply shortages, all the while families are split apart (and not just at the border); we are hunkered down, concerned for our own good and our own individually-forged identities, withdrawing, as it were, from social affairs or even scapegoating and cancelling others furthermore; not be confused with yet another mental health crisis still, the country feels so divided… Yes, things are different now, and perhaps there are indeed just and worthy reasons for these things besides.
And yet, as we have taken the time to honor in our memory those who have been lost, so let us neither forget then the noble values and aspirations of 9/12, which in its own unique way, even in the midst of terrible distress, celebrates the great good that Americans are and still can be today.
In other news:
A brief update on our Road to Renewal - our Pillar Groups are formed and our first meeting together with representatives from the Diocese will be tomorrow evening. Thank you to the 34 individuals representing our parishes in the various aspects of our faith as lived here in our family of parishes: liturgy, spirituality, formation, in/outreach, stewardship, and administration. We will be receiving training, information, and resources to shape our collaboration going forward.
We have a date for Confirmation! Bishop Michael Fisher will be here on October 3rd to celebrate Confirmation with the candidates from our family of parishes. Please pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in their lives, that they may grow strong in faith and set the world on fire with God’s love.
I will be away this week for a mini retreat with a men’s group from our area from Wednesday evening to Saturday night and will be back for the Sunday Masses. Praying for you all.
This coming week, Fr. Dan will be away on vacation. Speaking of Fr. Dan, he is celebrating a birthday this coming week as well! Happy Birthday! We wish you the best.
As we celebrate Labor Day weekend, it is good to reflect on some of the Church’s teaching regarding the dignity of work:
“It is clear from the very first pages of the Bible that work is an essential part of human dignity; there we read that 'the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it' (Gen 2:15). Man is presented as a laborer who works the earth, harnesses the forces of nature and produces ‘the bread of anxious toil’ (Ps 127:2), in addition to cultivating his own gifts and talents. Labor also makes possible the development of society and provides for the sustenance, stability and fruitfulness of one’s family: ‘May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life! May you see your children’s children!’ (Ps 128:5-6).” (Pope Francis, The Joy of Love [Amoris Laetitia], nos. 23-24)
“Work is, as has been said, an obligation, that is to say, a duty, on the part of man… Man must work, both because the Creator has commanded it and because of his own humanity, which requires work in order to be maintained and developed. Man must work out of regard for others, especially his own family, but also for the society he belongs to, the country of which he is a child, and the whole human family of which he is a member, since he is the heir to the work of generations and at the same time a sharer in building the future of those who will come after him in the succession of history.” (St. John Paul II, On Human Work [Laborem Exercens], no. 16)
For my family, Labor Day was always “work weekend” at my family’s cottage, where we took in the boats and pulled the docks out of the water, and closed up the cottage for the winter months before pulling everything back out again come Memorial Day weekend. It was all hands on deck, but was also time well spent together which made for many relaxing summers and good memories as a family. I’m sure you have your own Labor Day traditions. Enjoy
Of course, this weekend rather signals that the days of summer are winding down and that school is almost back in session. St. Peter’s School just had its annual “Blessing of Backpacks” as we gathered to ask for God’s blessing on our new academic year. There is always something exciting about the new year at hand, even if it means we have to say goodbye to a nice long vacation. We get to see our friends and our teachers again, and there are many opportunities for growth, learning, and fun. Whether you are attending St. Peters or another school, we wish you the best for this coming new year. May you be richly blessed.
Fr. Luke's Message... August 27, 2023
With the Jazz festival coming to Lewiston this weekend, it got me thinking of the power of music
in prayer. I can remember going to Mass growing up, and the organist would announce the
hymns and the congregation would begin singing along. But my Dad never really joined in.
This was curious to me because we would sit around the campfire, and he would always sing
campfire songs for us, including songs that he learned from his Dad and from Boy Scouts. My
brother on the other hand, sang out loud and proud in church even though he couldn’t really
carry a tune. I was embarrassed to sit next to both of them.
One day, I came across a quote, “the forest would be quiet if only the best birds sang.” I came
to appreciate my brother’s willingness to give it a go, and I realized that he was there praising
God all the while I was too self-conscious and not at all lifting my mind to prayer. And with all
that practicing, he became much better as the years went by and even joined the choir. I
suppose our life here on earth is something of a dress rehearsal for the day we join the
heavenly chorus. I digress. Back to Dad’s story; I was now in the seminary and was being
installed by the bishop to the ministry of lector. My classmates and I processed out with the
clergy for the celebration and then made our way to our seats with our families. And when I got
into my pew, Dad was there singing along, together with everyone else. I don’t remember
anything else about that Mass. I don’t remember what hymn it was. But the fact that he was
actually singing along was so beautiful and meaningful to me that it brought tears to my eyes,
and as I write this story for all of you I am crying again.
I read this the other day: “As a church, we believe that music does what words alone cannot
accomplish. Serving as a cantor or singing in your church choir are excellent ways to use
musical gifts in ways that enrich both communal worship and personal devotion. However,
Kathleen Harmon writes eloquently in The Ministry of Music (Liturgical Press), “The most
important ministers of music are the members of the assembly for it is they who, as Body of
Christ, enact the rite.” That’s right: Everyone is a minister of music, and the people in the pews
are essential!” St. Augustine would say singing is twice praying. It’s his feast day this Monday.
Don’t underestimate the power of music. Don’t neglect the importance of your role. It can
change the whole way you approach the Mass. Keep praying! Keep singing!
A couple of notes for us: On the topic of music, there was not a Jazz Mass at St. Peter’s this
year because of scheduling conflicts with those who have helped out in the past, but in case you
were wondering, we will look to have it back beginning next year. Our Pillar Group
Representatives for the Road to Renewal will be receiving their training from the Diocese in mid-
September, and from there, much of the collaborative efforts between our parishes will begin in
earnest. Additionally, we have also scheduled our Parish and Finance Council Meetings at both
St. Raphael’s and St. Peter’s for the year to keep us on track for our mission and our
Fr. Luke's Message... August 13, 2023
The first reading of this weekend speaks of how God’s voice was heard by Elijah in a tiny whispering
sound. Every human heart is made for the Lord, but there are often several distractions and obstacles
that get in the way, that make it hard to hear what God is trying to tell us. The work of “pre-
evangelization” is to make way for receptivity to the Gospel message, to till the soil so that the seeds of
faith fall on fertile ground. For example, it might be hard to talk to young people about the Truth when
they hold that truth is relative. Trying to propose pre-packaged ideas as such in this secular culture will
often be counterproductive. It is interesting to note that while Jesus was asked 183 questions, he only
answered 3 directly, and ended up asking 307 questions of his own. If we do pre-evangelization well,
people will feel comfortable coming to the Church to explore for themselves, “What’s the best way to
live and what will bring about happiness?” or “Why is there something rather than nothing at all?” They
will be able to engage their hearts and minds and grapple with their doubts. They will be able to attend
to their wounds and reflect meaningfully upon the suffering they are facing in this world, like “why do
bad things happen to good people?” Consider how hard it is to find a safe space to truly connect with
others and explore these things without ever being truly heard or feeling accepted. If we do pre-
evangelization well, they will develop relationships and friendships with people here who are willing to
accept them, accompany them, and care for them in their needs. All of us need to start somewhere,
and these are our new starting points in this day and age. And, it is at this point that we become open
and receptive to hearing the voice of God amid all these loud and competing voices of the world.
Niagara Falls and Lewiston and Youngstown are great places that people often come to visit over these
summer months as well as do some personal exploration while retreating away from the distractions of
the world. As people contemplate the beauty of God’s creation at the Falls or step back from their daily
routine to celebrate and engage in other aspects of life celebrated in our festivals or relax out on a boat
on the Niagara River, there is an opportunity here to hear the voice of God speaking to our hearts. So,
let’s resolve to do our part in clearing the pathway, making this a safe and hospitable place for that
dynamic to happen and for God’s word to sink in.
Consider reaching out of your own accord to someone who sits near you in church, introduce yourself,
your name, what you do, how long you’ve been here… be understanding and patient towards families
with young children - offer encouragement and support… Although we are creatures of habit, don’t
allow possessiveness to take over when someone else sits in your usual spot. Be an attentive listener
yourself, both to what is expressed and those things that remain unsaid. Ultimately, put yourself in their
shoes and treat others the way you would like to be treated. Let’s be good hosts to our guests in this
our spiritual home, that they can encounter God here as we do!
A note for our Church’s calendar: this Tuesday, August 15 th is the Solemnity of the Assumption, which is
a Holy Day of Obligation. At St. Raphael, there are Masses on Tuesday at 8am and 7pm. At St. Peter’s,
there is a Vigil Mass on Monday evening at 5:30pm and then on Tuesday at 7:45am and 7pm. Let’s
celebrate our Blessed Mother’s Assumption as well as our destiny, eternal life in heaven together with
her and her Son.
Fr. Luke's Message... August 6, 2023
They say in Western New York that there are only 2 seasons really: winter and construction season. I
wanted to give an update on some of the projects that have been completed around our various
worship sites during this “construction season”. At St. Raphael’s, the rectory was repainted with the
help of Youthworks and other volunteers and the sanctuary carpet just received a deep cleaning this
past week. Also, the overgrown gardens and landscaping around the church has been beautified by a
parishioner who has spent countless hours and days tending to the grounds. At St. Bernard’s, the new
carpet in the Church was installed last week. Fr. Cole’s parents also did a lot of work fixing and sprucing
up the rectory there. The rectory will be leased to our new St. Peter School Principal, Mrs. Janet Larson.
At St. Peter’s, the front porch of the rectory had been really run down and is now refurbished as part of
the overall capital campaign for improvement projects around the campus started with Upon This Rock.
The structure of the Church has been repaired, and, I am told, the cross-braces to reinforce the roof are
making their way here and will be installed by the end of August – so it will be nice to have the
scaffolding down at that point. The new PA system for 2-way internal communication in the school and
amid the classrooms will be finished on August 18 th with training for its use by our staff soon following.
Our safety committee will also be making recommendations in short order as to the work that needs to
be done to our campus before the school year begins. We are also in the process of getting bids to
replace the windows in the school which are now over 20 years old, some of which are in dire need of
being replaced. Things are coming together, but there is of course always more to be done.
I am grateful to my predecessors for putting a lot of this work into motion. A large thank you also
importantly goes out to you, our dedicated parishioners, who continue to lend your support with your
time, your expertise, and your financial help such that we can be good stewards of our Church and
community. This is our spiritual home. This is all part of responding to God’s call to holiness and
together doing our part to build the Kingdom of God in our midst. Keep up the good work!
PS The Church Picnic was awesome! Thank you to Barb and Shannon and to all those who helped plan
and pull the event together. Mass was beautiful, God provided good weather, the company between all
our parishes was great and the food was plentiful. Looking forward to the next one already!
Fr. Luke's Message... July 30, 2023
yet?” For the most part, I think I am settled. Things are unpacked and in place. I am developing a little
bit of a routine. I am learning to make this home. We’re meeting people – people are good and have
been receptive! Thank you for that. By and large, I am content. God is good! I suppose, like everyone
else, we’re still figuring things out a little bit, but that’s a lifelong task as each new day comes with its
own opportunities and challenges. I would ask you the same - How are you doing? How has our
transition here been for you so far? What’s something that we need to know to help you better?
A Road to Renewal Update: we have begun some internal discussions on our Pillar Group
Representatives from our family of parishes and have accordingly begun reaching out to these
individuals. Once this is formalized, there will be a training conference for our representatives led by
the Renewal Team of the Diocese so as to outline expectations and so as to equip us with the knowledge
and resources to begin the creation of our Family Action Plan, which I referenced in a previous article.
So we are moving along here.
Mrs. Janet Larson, the new principal of St. Peter’s school, has reported this past week, and she and I
have been busy brainstorming and getting things ready for the new school year. We are so excited to be
serving our school community and can’t wait to kick things off (indeed, the start of the school year will
be here before you know it)! If you know of any students or families still looking for a great place to go
for a holistic Catholic Education, they would be invited to come check out St. Peter’s School. It is not to
late to register!
This last Sunday of July, today, is our Church picnic in Kiwanis Park in Lewiston to which our whole family
of parishes has been invited. At the time of this writing, it’s shaping up to be good. People have been
calling in to RSVP, the forecast looks great (knock on wood), and folks have been working hard to pull it
all together. I am looking forward to spending the time with all of you, breaking bread together at Mass
and at (the picnic) table. See you there!
Fr. Luke's Message... July 23, 2023
The prayer I like to use with regards to the weather is simply this: “God you do good work, keep it up!”
Indeed, smoke from the Canadian forest fires aside, we’ve been blessed with a pretty gorgeous summer
so far. And we’ve been able to make good use of that for God’s greater glory with some great
happenings in the area. As I write this, there was the Porter Cup hosted at the Niagara Country Club,
which we were able to provide the opening dinner prayer for golfers near and far, a great concert by
Christian music artist Lauren Daigle in Artpark, I was able to be a part of the proceedings of the Hospice
Clam Bake fundraiser promoting a culture of care at the Youngstown Yacht Club, and just recently St.
Peter’s School had another successful annual golf fundraiser for HSA at Niagara Frontier Golf Club. It has
been good to be present to these community happenings and meet with many of our parishioners and
folks from outside our area to make connections and spread the love of God here in our corner of the
world. Remember that our own Church Picnic on July 30 th in Kiwanis Park in Lewiston is coming up, to
which our whole family of parishes is invited as a good opportunity to meet and greet each other and
enjoy each other’s company. Remember to sign up and then pray for more good weather. Indeed, in all
this we say, “God you do good work, keep it up!”
Amidst a fast-paced society with many demands placed on us and many anxieties from the challenges
we face, it is good that we find rest for ourselves. In this same spirit, Jesus said to us in the Gospel a few
weekends ago, "come to me all you who are weary and are burdened, and I will refresh you" (Matthew
11:28). With many of our regularly scheduled activities on a hiatus for the summer and with the local
festivals that are soon to be upon us, hopefully, we use the opportunity that summer brings to celebrate
and reconnect with all those people and things that are important and life-giving to us.
Fr. Luke's Message... July 16, 2023
By now, you’ve certainly heard about the Road to Renewal, though I recognize that there are varying levels of understanding
regarding what it is about, why it is needed, and concretely how it will impact our respective parishes now and into the future.
Although it is impossible to share all the information regarding this all at once, please know that I will try my best to
communicate with as much clarity and transparency as possible as we go along to get us all on the same page and keep us in
the loop, and you are always welcome to reach out with questions besides.
One of the tasks that lies before us in this Renewal initiative is now to create a “Family Action Plan” for detailing how we will
be collaborating between our parishes, especially with respect to six key aspects, or “Pillars”, of Church life (see descriptions
below). In conjunction with Fr. Bryan Zielenieski and the Diocesan Renewal Team and Diocesan Policies, as well as our
Diocesan Vicar Fr. Steve Jekielek, most of this process for coming up with the specific Action Plan for our own Family of
Parishes will be drafted through the consultative work of the respective committees setup for each of
these Pillars, which will be comprised of representatives from our parishes (more on these structures
next time). It is my hope to establish these committees very soon. If you, or anyone you know, might
be interested in committing to helping with the work of one of these Pillar Groups, please reach out
Let us pray for one another. Peace,
Liturgy: The Liturgy is the primary way in which we worship God. The focus on the liturgy pillar is to make sure we have the
very best worship taking place within our family of parishes. Priority is to be given to the dignity of each celebration, focusing
on good ministry, music, and participation. Priority is not to be given to appeasing locations and times. Church capacities and
accommodations need to be taken into account. Considerations include:
Mass Schedules for each parish within the Family || Sacrament schedule || Liturgy Committee
Spiritual Life: Spiritual Life works hand in hand with Liturgy. The Spiritual Life pillar should focus on fostering a relationship
with Jesus Christ through para-liturgical experiences, retreats, devotions and any activity within the family that will help bring
people closer to Jesus. Considerations include:
Devotions || Retreats || Life in the Eucharist
Forming Disciples: Forming Disciples involves all aspects of education. If your family has a Catholic school within it, your pillar
group for forming disciples must contain a representative from the school. How the family supports all education is the
primary function of this pillar group. Considerations include:
Religious Education (K-12) || Catholic schools || Youth Ministry (Grades 6-8) || Youth Ministry (Grades 9-12)
Young Adult Faith Formation || Adult Faith Formation || Adult Leadership Training
Inclusive Catechesis || Family Formation || RCIA/OCIA || Sacramental Preparation
Out Reach / In Reach: This pillar involves how we as church respond to the needs of our people, both in and outside of our
family of parishes. Social outreach/justice are a key component of this pillar and can work together with organizations that
already focus on specific outreach activities: St. Vincent de Paul, Food Pantry, etc. Considerations include:
~ Out Reach ~
- Promotion of missionary discipleship
- Any ministry or activity aimed at bringing relief for those who are
suffering, while maintaining inclusivity
- Evangelization efforts towards unchurched and seeking Christ
~ In Reach ~
- Ministry to those who are in physical or spiritual need
- Empowerment of parishioners
- Develop a culture of welcome
Stewardship: Stewardship looks at how we utilize time, talent and treasure among our parishes for the good of our parishes
and people. Working closely to make sure our efforts in fundraising do not compete with one another, this pillar group works
on coordinating efforts for a fundraising schedule, determining how volunteers get involved in ministries between parishes
within the family and ways that people can get involved in the family. Considerations include:
Volunteers || Donate time, treasure and/or talent || Family/Parish hospitality
The 6 Pillar Groups
Administration: The Administration Pillar looks at the business components of how our parishes operate, and looks at
creating efficiencies that respond to the challenges of diminishing resources and personnel as we move forward. Determining
each parish’s fiscal responsibility within the family is also a part of this pillars task. This pillar will work closely with the Pastor
of the Family and the Renewal office to ensure expectations for the family are being met. Considerations include:
Human Resources || Compensation, benefits & policies || Safe Environment || Central Office || Budgeting / finances
Personnel || Communications || Governing / Family leadership || Data / Reporting || Security / Compliance
Fr. Luke's Message... July 9, 2023
Last week, in the pastor’s column, Fr. Dan and I got a chance to say ‘hello’. This week, we pass along a ‘hello’ from our two new deacons, who will be serving in our family of parishes. Deacon John Phillips was just ordained this year and has already begun ministering with us, and Deacon David Augustyniak, who was ordained in 2018 and will be joining our family of parishes on July 16th. They are native sons in that St. Raphael’s and St. Peters are their respective home parishes. (What other home-grown vocations are being cultivated here? Something to consider...). I hope that you get the chance to meet them and say ‘hello’ to them as well.
So, the team is coming together! Next week, in the pastor’s column, we’ll discuss some of the renewal pillar teams that we are being asked to form, and how they will help our family of parishes moving forward.
We’re getting acclimated and settled in here. I want to thank everyone for their hospitality and welcome so far. We know that a renewed spirit of hospitality is something that our society could generally use more of these days, so kudos to you for playing your part. Moreover, everyone has been telling me of all the summer events coming up here in the area, and certainly many come from near and far to check out the happenings in our community.
By the same token, St. Peter’s is soon hosting it’s annual Church Picnic in the Kiwanis Park of Lewiston. There will be an outdoor Mass along with food and fellowship. The invitation is extended to our entire Family of Parishes. This will be a good chance to meet and greet your new clergy team along with parishioners that you might not ordinarily see from other Mass times or from our sister parishes, so I would definitely encourage you come on out. See the bulletin elsewhere here for more information. I hope to see you there.
Fr. Luke's Message... “Hello” - July 2, 2023
“Hello!” It’s the first thing we usually say to one another. In whatever form that gree;ng takes, it signals that we are first and foremost in rela;onship with one another and are calling upon each other as fellow human beings. We all know that there have been a lot of changes to our parishes and we’ll con;nue to have to adjust to the reali;es before us as we embark on the Road to Renewal together, but before any of that, it’s important that we have the opportunity to say, “hello.” That is and will con;nue to be my priority: to get to know each other, to be in rela;onship with each other, and thus to love each other through everything that life throws at us, that we can make it to heaven together.
Naturally then, you would like to know more about your pastor. “Hello!” I am Fr. Luke P. Uebler II, the son of Luke and Pamela Uebler, and have 2 younger siblings. I grew up in Elma, NY and aOended Canisius High School gradua;ng in 2008. My first inklings of a calling to the priesthood were perhaps in 6th grade, and so I entered the seminary right out of high school to see if this was the life God was indeed calling me too, and the rest is history. I come to you having served as parochial vicar and later as administrator these past 6 years at Queen of Heaven, West Seneca and St. Mary, Swormville, respec;vely.
I am an Eagle Scout and look forward to working with our scout troops. I enjoy woodworking and model railroading as a hobby. I play roller hockey each week s;ll, and passionately root for all our hometown teams. I do like video games and my favorite show is Big Bang Theory though I don’t have too much ;me for these. I am always up for trying new things, but mostly I just enjoy spending quality ;me with others – let’s go out for breakfast, or dinner, or ice cream, or a walk, or an event or whatever... yes to all!
We have a lot that we would like to share with you in ministry together, but we also know that you have a lot to share with us, your stories, your blessings, what you are about, the way of life here, and more. Make sure that you get the chance to say “Hello” to us (and please, help us out with your names – you may have to introduce yourselves a few ;mes un;l we get it down). We look forward to working together, and sharing life with you, and serving each one of you!
~ Fr. Luke