Help Us Save Lives

10-29-2017Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

Over the past dozen years, our Parish has supported a variety of youth programs aimed to keep the next generation connected to the Church. One of these programs is designed to help young people who struggle with issues such as substance abuse, cutting, eating disorders, pornography and other similar issues. The FullCircle Program has grown and developed over these years, and this year we have seen a big increase in requests for assistance from families. No doubt the opioid explosion is fueling a lot of the new requests. To better manage the increased numbers, we added an additional full-time staff counselor. Additionally, we have increased our outreach to many of the area schools, including Seton Catholic and Brophy, so that they have more tools to help their students.

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Everyday Stewardship

10-29-2017Stewardship Reflection

In today’s Gospel Reading from St.  Matthew, A lawyer among the Pharisees again tries to entrap Jesus by asking Him the question, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest.” Jesus’ response appears multiple times in Holy Scripture, as He says, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” The Lord then adds another that He cites as almost equally important, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

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It's Been a Year

10-29-2017The Sisters Corner

It's been a year since we arrived in the US, and we are so thankful that God has given us many so many blessings throughout the year. It seems like only yesterday and yet at the same time,  many wonderful things have happened in our lives and in this wonderful mission.

Since the beginning, we have felt the love of God and His unconditional love through the presence of many people. We also remember with gratitude, how some of you welcomed us at the airport and those, who in different ways, have given us the support for our needs both before we arrived and during this past year.

In the Plan of God, He has given us the opportunity to serve His mission here and to experience  beautiful encounters with Him through children, teenagers, families, and people with varied needs. 

We join our voices and hearts to the psalmist: "Give thanks to the Lord for He is good"   Psalm 107:1 He has been good with all his servants!

For more information, visit www.siervasdelplandedios.org or www.facebook.com/siervasdelplandedios/ 

Everyday Stewardship

10-22-2017Stewardship Reflection

The last line of today’s Gospel Reading from St. Matthew contains one of the more well known of Jesus’ quotes. When asked a bit of a trick question by the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Jesus responds by asking them whose image is on their Roman coins, to which they respond simply “Caesar’s.”

Jesus’ response to their reply is known to most of us, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” The Lord’s answer is far more perceptive than we might think, and it gives another message to us, one we must always remember. If we are followers of Christ, and if we work to be His disciple, the Lord might ask us, “Whose image is on your soul?” We have learned in the First Chapter of Genesis that God created us in His image.

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The Holy Spirit has been always with us!

10-22-2017The Sisters Corner

The year our foundation was formed was the year dedicated in the Church to the Holy Spirit. We have discovered in ourselves, a special relationship with Him through these 19 years of our foundation and of course now with this new foundation in the U.S.

He is the One who called us here to serve. We have seen during this first year just how He has been leading us. Thus giving us the grace to fulfill this beautiful mission here.

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We all Have One

10-22-2017Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

Nun-sense, nun-vasion, nun-the-less, is coming next weekend as we host the Annual Diocesan Vocations Event. Yes, expect an invasion of nuns, sisters, consecrated women as they are variously called. It all begins at the 9:00am. Mass where Bishop will be the Celebrant. This is also a “your parents are coming to visit so straighten up the house” kind of letter! In addition to welcoming our Bishop, we will welcome religious communities of women (a few men’s communities, too) of every flavor that serve here in our Diocese. Our goal is to expose as many young people as possible to the work of the religious in our Diocese and have them consider if it is a way of life they are being called to. For the rest of us who already have our vocations set, it is a time to pray for vocations to the religious life and to thank those who serve us here in the Diocese.

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Everyday Stewardship

10-15-2017Stewardship Reflection

Today’s Gospel from the Book of Matthew again includes parables. We have been hearing the Lord share parables with us throughout our readings in recent weeks. Interestingly Matthew contains 23 parables (or teachings classified as parables), while Luke has 28. Mark has only nine, and John has none.

The first parable we hear today is called The Parable of the Wedding Feast. In this story shared by Jesus for our benefit, a king is hosting a wedding feast for his son. He sends out invitations and people ignore them or choose not to respond. It may seem somewhat remarkable to us that people turn down an invitation to a royal wedding feast.

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How did we get here from there?

10-15-2017Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue…so goes the rhyme. But now some in our fair land want to send Columbus back to ‘the other side” as my grandmother would say. The other side of the ocean that is. But what we have once again is some who insist on judging yesterday’s behavior with today’s information.

During its heyday, if you can call it that, the Klu Klux Klan targeted statues of Columbus and all things that were associated with the explorer. Christopher Columbus that did not fit into their white supremacy world view. He was not English or Protestant but Italian and worse, Catholic. As those of us who had grandparents or great-grandparents who came from southern Europe, know from their stories that they were not considered white people. In fact, it would come as a shock to them that Columbus is now being derided as a symbol of white supremacy. Those who are now insisting images of Columbus be consigned to the waste bin can now partner with the KKK. Strange bedfellows.

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Everyday Stewardship

10-08-2017Stewardship Reflection

One of St. Paul’s favorite topics was prayer, and today’s reading from his letter to the Philippians is no exception to that. He says, “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.” For Paul all topics are appropriate for prayer because we need to share and consult with the Lord about everything.

God knows what is on our minds already, of course, but He also desires that we make a conscious effort to communicate with Him on these subjects. In addition, Paul points out that our prayers need to be infused with thanksgiving. We should not just petition the Lord and make requests. It is equally important that we think about, identify, and acknowledge our blessings.

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Our Mission in the USA!

10-08-2017The Sisters Corner

Soon it will be a year since we arrived in the USA and opened our new foundation here. We are so very thankful to God for all His blessings. Individually we have been serving in different ministries in OLMC Parish and School: Religious Education, Pastoral Care, Full Circle, Bridges, RCIA, teaching in the school and preschool and serving at the Newman Center at ASU. We have experienced the grace and love of God during this time and we ask Him to continue helping us in this mission that is His Mission.

Viva Las Vegas

10-08-2017Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

I admit, one of my “guilty pleasures” is, well, Las Vegas. The town fascinates me. There’s really nowhere like it: not Reno or Laughlin, Atlantic City or Macau nor even Monte Carlo. Where else can you have breakfast in Paris, pranzo in Venice, supper in New York and dessert in Egypt? Someone even came up with the idea to build a lake in the middle of the desert and put in it dancing fountains choreographed to music! Human imagination and ingenuity at its most entertaining. Las Vegas is a fun reality escape for most adults for a day or two unless you are prone to greed, lust or too much booze.

With all its illusions and excess, don't forget that God is also very much present in Las Vegas. Not so much for praying that you hit the progressive or win your money back. No, not in that sense. Rather the Church in Las Vegas is big and growing way beyond the Strip. My old friend, from way back when, Bishop Pepe (we were assigned together to the same Parish back in our Philly days) is in a nice competition with Bishop Olmsted to see who holds the record for the fastest growing Catholic Diocese in the US. At this point, I think Bishop Olmsted is a bit ahead!

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Everyday Stewardship

10-01-2017Stewardship Reflection

St. Paul offers a formula for living the way we are supposed to live as Christians in the Second Reading. Paul writes, “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves.” Doing that is a challenge for most all of us. Yet, that is one of the secrets to being a good steward and living as Christ wants us to live.

To truly live that way requires a dramatic conversion. All of us know people who are so self-centered that they often are not even aware that they are totally unwilling to compromise or to even recognize the value of those around them. Achieving this kind of self-awareness, of what kind of a person we are, is a significant step on our faith and life journeys.

Screenwriter and playwright William Nicholson once wrote, “God does not necessarily want us to be happy. He wants us to be lovable, worthy of love, able to be loved by Him. What makes people hard to love? It is called selfishness. Selfish people are hard to love because so little love comes out of them.”

That is our challenge, to love others in such a way that we become lovable as well. Christ told us over and over that the secret to being His disciple and the secret to being a good steward is to 

“Love your neighbor.” That is how to be the kind of person Paul calls us to be as well.

One of a Kind

10-01-2017Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

When I came to Arizona, I was predisposed to not like Sheriff Joe. I had worked in Jails and Prisons for about a dozen years and “the toughest Sheriff in America” was pretty infamous in the correctional world. His use of striped uniforms, pink underwear, and bologna sandwiches always seemed to me an unnecessary humiliation that didn't add much to correctional goals.  I admit I had some liking for the chain gangs, not so much the chains but putting inmates to work, as most of them actually prefer to do something rather than sit around idle all day.

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Sisters in the School!

09-24-2017The Sisters Corner

This year is our community’s first year teaching at the OLMC school. There are two sisters teaching. One teaches Religion classes to the 8th graders and the other is teaching Spanish classes.  

One of the things that Jesus spent time doing throughout His life was teaching. He taught about who He was and how much God loves us.  His testimony came not only with His words but through His actions. We ask Jesus for the grace to follow in His steps, seeking to spread His love to all the students at the school. 

It is such a beautiful experience to share with the OLMC teachers and staff alike the opportunity to help the students feel the Lord’s presence in our school. 

We give thanks to God for this beautiful mission!

Everyday Stewardship

09-24-2017Stewardship Reflection

In our First Reading from the Book of Isaiah, God reminds us that He does not think in the same way that we do. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts.” That is quite clear in our Gospel today from Matthew, which relates the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard.

In the Gospel parable, God (who is represented by the landowner ) does something which from our human perspective may seem unfair and unjust. What we must keep in mind is that the landowner did not treat anyone unfairly. He may have seemed more generous to some than to others, but again that is from our perspective.

We can be absolutely certain that God will never be unfair to us. The Lord may bestow greater blessings on others, some of whom again from our perspective may seem less deserving. God is a righteous God. Through stewardship, we acknowledge that everything comes to us from God. All our blessings may seem to be more or less than we deserve, but if we are grateful for what we have and what we are, we will then recognize God’s generosity and His grace.

The important thing to us should not be and cannot be whether we are first or last. What is central is that we are part of the Kingdom of God. That should be sufficient for us. We get into trouble when we conclude that God should think the way we do

A Permanent Resolution for the Dreamers

09-17-2017Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

We all probably have a relative or a neighbor whose vocation it is to complain - constantly. They bemoan the state of affairs but never lift a finger to help better things. They quickly get boorish. So, it goes with those who are having a spittle-flecked hissy fit and engaging in extreme self-righteous moral preening over the President’s recent executive order winding down the DACA program. I’m thinking specifically about our congressmen and senators. The President has thrown them the ball, but they seem reluctant to catch it and put some points on the board.

I recently heard Sen. McCain snarl and scoff at how unfair it is to rescind these work visas for the DACA recipients. Along with so many others, he kept chanting how mean and evil Trump is and how this is the worst thing ever to happen in the history of ever. But what he did not say is that the Constitution gives Congress the explicit authority to PERMANENTLY fix this problem and that, as a Senator, he would lead the effort to give the Dreamers permanent legal status. No, he did not say any of that. He seems content to complain about the sad state of affairs.

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Sisters in the preschool!

09-17-2017The Sisters Corner

This is our first year as a community in the OLMC Little Lambs Pre-school. Two of our sisters are teaching here. One of our sisters is the assistant teacher in the 3 year old classroom and the other sister is teaching Catechesis of the Good Shepherd to all of the children in the preschool.

For us as a community it proven to be a very beautiful experience affording us the privilege to love and teach the ones that Jesus loves more: the children. It has also allowed us to learn from the children’s simplicity and their capacity to wonder even at the simplest of things. That same wonder which surprises us still encourages us to open our hearts from the smallest to the largest of gifts that Jesus offers us daily.

We give thanks to God for this wonderful gift!

Everyday Stewardship

09-17-2017Stewardship Reflection

The theme throughout today’s readings from Holy Scripture has to do with forgiveness. We must always appreciate that forgiveness is a two way street. We need to seek forgiveness as all of us are likely to do. However, forgiveness is also something we need to grant to others.

Some scholars consider Matthew’s Chapter 18 from where our Gospel Reading comes today as perhaps among His most personal teachings to His disciples and others as spiritual leaders. There is no question that the Lord is in the process of preparing His followers for the time when they (we) must continue His Kingdom without His physical presence. He is trying to build up the sense of fellowship and cohesion among His flock.

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The Experience of RCIA

09-10-2017The Sisters Corner

For me to assist in the RCIA program means to be a witness sharing the history of Salvation through God with each of His little sons and daughters. It’s always special to see how the Lord knocks at the door of the catechumens and candidates speaking in the language that they can understand, inviting them to; come into the Church and to have a closer relationship with Him.

Saturday, Aug 26th, we kicked off RCIA 2017-18 (this year) with an opening retreat.  We reflected on the question, "Who is God?" The following Sunday’s Gospel, Peter also reflected on Who is God; this is a personal question, every  one of us needs to answer in our own hearts.  Who is God for me? What place does  He have in my life? I think the process of RCIA assists in answering that question, working towards allowing Him to guide your mind, your heart and your daily decisions.

The joy and peace that the catechumens and candidates find when they discover that they have; a merciful Father that truly loves them, a Savior that gave all His blood to save them, and a Holy Spirit that constantly gives them the grace to persevere in following the Lord’s steps; is a treasure that no one can ever take from them.

Everyday Stewardship

09-10-2017Stewardship Reflection

St. Paul echoes Christ in many ways. In the 13th Chapter from his letter to the Romans, he continues with his thoughts on how we should live to please God, and he uses a sentence which Christ often repeated. After listing several of the 10 Commandments, Paul states, “…whatever other commandments there may be, are summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’.”

There is always much that gets debated in that admonition, such as loving yourself, and who exactly is your neighbor? Paul’s point, like that of Jesus, is simply that we are called to treat others as we may like to be treated. We need to show them the respect and caring that we may hope for and wish for. God loves us, and if we realize that, we may ultimately come to the conclusion that we are loveable.

Most of us know someone whose love is evident by how they treat others and how they live. Loving neighbor is a visible expression of everything that Jesus taught. It is a way of expressing the depth of our faith and our belief that we are Disciples of Christ.

St. Francis de Sales captured all about what this love is and who is your neighbor when he wrote, “Examine your heart often to see if it is such toward your neighbor as you would like his or hers to be toward you in his or her place. This is the touchstone of true reason.” It is relatively basic and simple — our neighbor is everyone with whom we have contact and love is what makes it all work.

Escalation

09-10-2017Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

You might recall the words of the Marvin Gaye song, “What’s Goin’ On?”  “Father, Father, we don't need to escalate; war is not the answer. Only love can conquer hate.” There is a great deal of escalation going on these days, and worse still, it seems too few are trying to de-escalate the tension and conflict. De-escalation is a key goal in any conflict situation, so that calm heads can prevail and solutions are found. One area in which there has been increased escalation is between many communities and local law enforcement. We are all familiar with the clashes and cases of excessive use of force, as well as claims of racism. Hostility between law enforcement and the community never works out well - especially for the community. After all, that thin blue line is often all that separates us from the law of the jungle. Additionally, when things really go south, it will be the local police, who live in our communities and are our family members and friends that we must rely on and who will be loyal to us.

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Everyday Stewardship

09-03-2017Stewardship Reflection

Our Second Reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans is quite short, but as is ever the case with Holy Scripture it contains a central message which is quite important to us. One of the ongoing challenges of being Catholic and Christian in today’s society is that society, cultural norms, sometimes seem to work against our efforts to live as followers and disciples of Christ.

Paul sums up that struggle succinctly as he says, “Do not conform yourselves to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” Paul offers two suggestions in terms of combating the temptation to conform and agree.

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Iconoclasm

09-03-2017Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

Iconoclasm – the destruction of images or hostility towards visual representations in general - has come to Marin County. San Domenico Catholic School in San Anselmo, CA, has decided to remove many of the statues that graced its campus so as to create a less “in-your-face” Catholic environment. Now to be fair, you can make a case for toning things down in service of a subtler evangelization effort. This can be a workable strategy, especially if the clientele is not familiar with Catholic devotional practices, and you want to gently begin the process of evangelization. But that does not seem to be the case here. The school also removed the word “Catholic” from its mission statement and made the school uniforms “less Catholic” in appearance. The school has simply lost its reason for being. It apparently wants to be a high end (tuition is $30k+) all-inclusive school “in the Catholic tradition.” So be it. But the school should be honest to its students and families that it is no longer part of the educational ministry of the Church and that it is not interested in forming young minds and hearts to be faithful followers of Jesus Christ.

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