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Reflections on Memorial Day and Trinity Sunday

May 27, 2018

Last week’s Pentecost celebration was just marvelous! Of course, celebrating the sacred liturgy and with the testimonies of faith and declarations of ministries by the Neophytes, brought a great sign of hope  for the Church. With the commissioning of our Parish Council President, John Dunstone, and our new head of Evangelization, Mike Dulapa, that hope and spirit enlivened our parish. I continue to pray for our parish and its people that we will be able to grow our parish as we grow in Christ. Please, everyone invite others to St. Matthew’s, especially during these summer months. The summer is a great time to grow closer to the Lord for we have fewer distractions.

This weekend as we celebrate Trinity Sunday, we also remember on Memorial Day those who fought and died for the sake of our nation. However, we are also recognizing one of our own, Chuck Schuster who served in World War II and was recently recognized by the French government for the role he played in freeing their country, France, from Nazi occupation. We congratulate Mr. Schuster as we honor him for his reception of the French Legion of Honor Medal.

I also want to remind you that if you receive a CSA letter from the parish this week, please respond as generously as you can. This “double down” effort is important to our sustainability. May God bless you this week and keep you safe.

Father Duane

CSA Double Down

May 4, 2018

Last week we heard about the important work of the Catholic Services Appeal; i.e., ministry to catholic education, marriage tribunal, community outreach programs, Black Catholic ministries, and programs such as “Unleash the Gospel.” On this CSA hospitality weekend, we are going to “double down” on CSA.

I want to make the meaning of this campaign title very clear. As I said last weekend, our CSA target for this year is $15,800. This amount must be raised by the parish and submitted to the Archdiocese for all the good ministerial work the AoD does. Any amount raised over and above the stated target stays in our parish. It is not assessed, meaning taxed by the Archdiocese, and does not effect our target for next year.

This seems like an opportune moment to raise much needed funds for our budget. As you know, we subsidize our budget yearly from our savings and until our school buildings are sold, it is nearly impossible to have a balanced budget. In addition, we had to draw down $20,000 extra last year over and above the $150,000 to deal with essential maintenance issues; i.e., the drains in the church towers, repair of asphalt in the driveway, and replacing 23 tubes in our school boiler so that we could meet the city inspection and fire-up the boiler for last winter. All of this approved by the Parish Council.

The Parish Council has now initiated a means by which we can replenish our savings especially the money we needed last year for maintenance. That is where the title of “double down” originated. We would like to “double down” on the AoD target of approximately $15,000, and internally give ourselves a target of $30,000. In effect having a pledge drive for ourselves to raise $15,000 to help offset our maintenance expenditure.

However, we are not just “doubling down” on the money. We would like to “double down” on participation. Last year, only 99 givers pledged $26,000, 104 parishioners did not participate. With a concerted effort to reach out to nongivers in the CSA and with their support, we could easily reach $30,000. If those who gave last year pledged the same and those who did not participate gave something toward it, we could reach our goal and maybe go beyond.

To that end, a CSA Committee has been formed to reach out to the 104 parishioners to encourage their participation. Through a letter, phone call, or personal invitation, perhaps our need can be expressed more clearly so that participation increases.

This request is not for anything extravagant or for anything superfluous, it is for the basic needs of our parish so that we can continue to maintain ourselves. We want to remain at the corner of Harper and Whitter as a Beacon of Light and a Sign of Hope to our neighborhood and for a Catholic presence on the east side of Detroit.

So I’m asking everyone, please “double down.” Help us to meet our internal (self-imposed) target of $30,000 through the CSA pledge drive. Over the next twelve months, you can surely do something to help us out so we can remain a viable presence as a Catholic Community.

 

God bless you,

Father Duane

Alleluia! He is Risen!

April 1, 2018

Alleluia! Our joy is complete; Christ, the first born, is risen from the dead!

The whole of Christianity around the world rejoices in the Resurrection. Today, we celebrate this great mystery, the ultimate evil, death, has been conquered by Jesus Christ. We acknowledge today that we will never die.

We will be changed but not die. Happy Easter! Even as we celebrate new life, we  remember the lives of those who have gone before us. Some who have made a great impact upon us and our nation.

This Wednesday, we as a nation remember the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., 50 years ago April 4, 1968. Like so many tragic events in our nation, I’m sure for those who remember the day, we remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news. We truly lost a great figure and leader on that day.

This coming Wednesday, April 4, 2018 in order to mark and remember Dr. King, there will be a Memorial Prayer Service, sponsored by the Archdiocese of Detroit and the Black Catholic Ministry at St. Mary’s of Redford at 7 p.m. I will be attending, and I invite you to participate as well to raise the name of Rev. King to God in thanksgiving for what he gave to our nation —— his fullest measure.

At a time when racial tension seems to be growing in the nation, it is good for us to remember what Brother Martin told us, “that hatred anywhere is hatred everywhere.”

Lest we fall into our past sins, let us remind ourselves of his goodness and his message; to dream that justice is for all.

In fact, it is a great way to celebrate Easter Week, reminding ourselves in prayer of the New Life that can spring even from tragedy and death. We have come a long way; with a long way to go. But we can do it; we shall overcome!

Happy Easter!

Father Duane

Lenten Reflection on Almsgiving

March 24, 2018

Continuing my Lenten Reflections on the Joy of the Lenten Season, I want on this Fifth Sunday of Lent to reflect on finding joy in almsgiving. Charitable giving in the Old Testament Scriptures was usually tied to sacrifice and a tithe was recommended; i.e. 10%. Our Catholic church historically has not been linked to tithing (as some denominations are), but rather to free-will offering. Our Sunday collections are freewill offerings. We don’t tell you what you have to give rather to give what you honestly are able.

I know in my own life when I look at what I contribute to the Church, contribute to favorite charities that are dear to me, along with additional requests that are made, I am surprised that my charitable giving comes to 10% of my income. I’m sure that you probably have the same experience. But one thing I do know is that in almsgiving, I never act alone. I truly feel as if God is walking with me in my almsgiving.

Isaiah, the prophet, wrote of releasing those bound unjustly, setting free the oppressed, sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, and not turning our back on your own (Is 58:6-7).

Fulfilling these needs certainly sounds like the Corporal Works of Mercy. In a real world with real needs that often means for us to contribute to the support of structures and organizations that deal directly with the poor and the downtrodden.

Each of us has to be realistic about what we can give in light of our responsibilities and personal resources. Our time, energy, and finances are not limitless, but stretching ourselves to the point of sacrifice is a way to touch the presence of Christ himself who sacrificed his life for us. In fact, we grow in stature, meaning, and riches when we give joyfully from the heart.

Love is not diminished when it is shared, but multiplied. The joy of almsgiving is sharing in the sacrifice of Christ Jesus who gave his life for all. Charity/almsgiving reflects a deeper spirituality in the believer. Supported by prayer, it aligns us with the Corporal Works of Mercy and demonstrates that we mean what we say. The wonder and joy of giving is truly a Christian action of love, and love is joyful.

As St. Theresa of Lisieux said, “I found happiness the day I forgot myself and began to serve others.” These reflections on the Joy of Lent through the disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving bring us ever closer to the Joy of Easter, being one with a new life in Christ is certainly a joyful experience.

I also want to remind you of our Communal Penance Service Monday, March 26, at 7 p.m. God’s mercy and love celebrated through the Sacrament of Confession and Reconciliation is the perfect way to prepare ourselves for the Easter Triduum.

God Bless You, Father Duane

Lenten Reflection on Joy

March 9, 2018

During the season of Lent, we are reflecting on the “joy of the Season.” It seems odd to say that, it almost sounds like Christmas. But as we have been reflecting, Lent starts with the wonder of God’s love for us.

Opening ourselves up to God in prayer, we enter upon a conversion journey deepening our relationship to a merciful God and knowledge of Jesus which is a joyful experience.

But how does fasting fit into this reflection, and how can self-denial, sacrifice, and mortification be joyful? The Latin root of the word mortification literally means to put to death. If putting to death bad habits or any action that undermines our humanness, then it is not something sad but full of joy. Oh, it may be difficult to change habits and patterns; but, if it opens up for us a new zest for life and living in the Spirit, then it is a joy.

Let me explain. We are not called to despise our humanness. God created everything good. So to die to self (mortify) is not a denial of the goodness of who we are, but a recognition that self-defeating patterns of  behavior diminish our true humanness.

Giving up things, sacrificing, and denying ourselves is not to cause pain, but they are done in pursuit of the fullness of life which God fashions for us out of His love. Looking at Lent in this fashion is not a putting to death  but a coming to life.

Fasting is a path to joy because it opens a path to a fuller life. We sacrifice a false or lesser belief for a fuller one gaining a measure of freedom over compulsive behavior. If you sacrifice an hour away from your computer or “hand-held device” and reflectively used this same amount, would your life be less joyful? If you took that $20 or $40 you spent on your favorite indulgence; i.e., alcohol, desserts, junk food and donate it to a worthy cause, would your life be less? If you “put to death” that which has diminished you, a false life for a true self free from a slavery you are caught in, would that not be joyful?

Yes, fasting, although difficult, can offer us the freedom of God’s love and mercy. And isn’t that a wonderful joy? 

Lenten Reflection on Prayer

March 5, 2018

Congratulations to our catechumens, Keith and Cory, upon being called through the Rite of Election by the bishop to journey to the Easter sacraments and full initiation in the church at the Easter Vigil through Baptism, Confirmation, and receiving the Eucharist (Holy Communion).

This is certainly a time of joy for them and should be for the entire community. In my column of February 4th, I spoke of the joy of Lent. A thought that almost sounds counter-intuitive. However, I did reflect upon the disciplines of prayer, fasting, almsgiving, as a way to open ourselves up to God’s love which is always around us and is always a joy. Noting that I would continue this thought, I would like to reflect further.

If Lent starts with the wonder of God’ love and putting the accent on God’s mercy and love, not merely on our own strength of will, then we must be open to a journey of conversion. That is, in the biblical sense of changing of one’s heart. We might even say that conversion is a joyful process because at the very center of conversion is us letting go of that which does not work for us. A turning away from what is illusory, deceptive, and dried-up wells that do not give us life. Like the woman at the well in today’s Gospel, we seek fresh running springs of water that refresh us like a fountain of love, God’s love. As our Catholic catechism says, conversion is not just human, it is a contrite heart moving to “respond to the merciful love of God who loved us first.”

Conversion first begins in prayer. Prayer is a joyful moment especially in our busy and hectic lives. We shouldn’t think of prayer as something for professional religious or contemplatives who are trained in it. Rather, it should be likened to two lovers or two friends who can sit in silence with each other knowing that a love exists between them, and they share it without saying a word. As Thomas Merton once said prayer is becoming conscious of what is already happening between God and ourselves. In prayer, we discover what we already have and possess, God’s love. Again, conversion is a joyful discovery of God’s love. If Lent offers us this type of prayer, we will move toward Easter with hearts renewed and all action will flow from the life-giving water of adoration, prayer, and praise.

Next week, I’ll reflect on the joy of fasting — really!! Seeking the bread of life is our true joy. Continue to live Lent in the joy of the season.

One last word goes to Mr. Jeff Smith for organizing our trip to the DIA for the Monet Exhibit. The day was wonderful, good art, good friends, good food. Thank you, Jeff and Joe Zainea for your hospitality at the Majestic Café.

Our Newest Catechumens & Parish Council Update

February 16, 2018

On this First Sunday of Lent, we acknowledge our catechumens, Keith Arcicovich and Cory Fullilove, who have been sent to the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament to participate in the Rite of Election.  Now called the elect, and having been received by Archbishop Vigneron, they are in their final period of preparation and purification for the Easter sacraments. Their sponsors, Bill Zuerblis and Bryan Jones, respectively, have been walking with our catechumens and speak positively about their growth and development.

Catechumens are non-baptized persons, and at the Easter Vigil after these Lenten days of Scrutiny (examine) will be led by their sponsor to the font of Baptism. It is an exciting time in their spiritual lives and an exciting time for our community to welcome them in the faith of our Church.

I ask that you greet them warmly, encourage them in the faith, and continue to pray for them throughout these Lenten days.

As part of our Lenten journey and our own examination of conscience, I would invite you to mark your calendars for a couple of dates. On Monday of Holy Week (March 26th), we will celebrate our Parish Lenten Reconciliation Service (communal confession). The liturgy is always so beautiful, prayerful, and spiritually uplifting. Yet many people do not attend. Reflecting on this, Lent would be a good time to renew our understanding of the sacrament and its forms of celebration. To that end, we will be offering on Sunday, March 18th, in conjunction with our Hospitality Sunday a presentation on the Sacrament of Penance in the church auditorium. So plan on socializing a bit with your fellow parishioners, and then reflect with them on your Lenten journey of prayer and penance. Hope to see you there.

On another matter of importance to our parish is the ongoing development of our Parish Council. If you remember, we added three new members in the fall. With the passing of our prior president, Vaughn Adams, we needed to fill his seat (sede vacante). Today, I am happy to announce that the Council selected Mr. John Dunstone as our new president. John and his family have been active members in the parish for over 25 years. John being on the Parish Financial Council and co-chairing the CSA, while his wife, Liz Foley-Dunstone is a lector; and their children, Mary Elizabeth and Patrick, are current and former altar servers. We congratulate John on his new position which is, per the council, projected for two years.

In addition to this, Mr. Mike Dulapa has also joined the Council as Representative of the Evangelization Committee. Mike, if you remember, was our representative to Synod 16 in the Archdiocese. As Mike moves forward, he plans to re-invigorate our Evangelization Committee and present their efforts to the Parish Council. We welcome Mike, and with a renewed energy our Parish Council looks forward to providing direction and guidance to parish life so that, as our Mission Statement says, we can be a Beacon of Light and a Sign of Hope.

In the weeks to come, we will formally install our new president, John Dunstone, and our Evangelization representative, Mike Dulapa, at a weekend liturgy.

May God give to each of you a Lenten journey filled with spiritual renewal and love of our Lord as we together move to the Easter sacraments.

God bless you, Father Duane

As We Enter Lent...

February 10, 2018

All the poinsettias are gone from our sanctuary, throats will be blessed
in honor of St. Blaise, and old palms will be collected to be burned. It can
only mean one thing, Lent is soon upon us. Because Easter is early this
year (April 1st), so too is Ash Wednesday (February 14th) which begins the season of Lent. Ironically Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day.

For some, it may seem odd that this day dedicated to a saint that has become synonymous with love, hearts and flowers, and romance should begin a liturgical season of penance and fasting., Yet upon further examination, perhaps it is the most perfect time to start our Lenten journey. For Lent is a season of love.

Let’s give gloom and doom a rest in Lent this year. After all, Jesus advises his followers in the Gospel, “Do not look gloomy like the hypocrites...When you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that you may not appear to be fasting.” (Matt 6:16-18)

So how do we find joy in Lent? Well, we must begin with love, God’s love. Before Jesus went into the desert for 40 days, he was filled with the love of his Father which came down on him at his Baptism in the Jordan River.
“You are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Filled with the Father’s spirit of love, only then does Jesus go into the desert. Following Jesus, we can find joy and a new life in our Lenten season.

If our Lenten activities do not begin with the wonder of God’s love, but rather from some self-centered need to prove our holiness, then our path in Lent will be a dreary one. At times, we think that the more we stockpile penitential works, we will win God’s love. In fact, it is quite the opposite. God’s love is always present to us. We joyfully enter into prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, so as to open ourselves up to receive a love that is always present. As Jesus opened himself to the Father in the Jordan River and the Spirit came upon him, so too are we asked to open ourselves up to God’s overflowing life and love that surrounds us. God loves us first and unconditionally, we don’t earn God’s love, we receive it and Lenten practices help to open us to that perfect love.

In the upcoming weeks, I’ll reflect upon this more in The Pulse. I pray we all have a good and loving Lent. Remember bring your old palms next week, we will create our ashes from them on Ash Wednesday, St. Valentines Day!

Please respond by February 17th for the Monet exhibit. Jeff Smith who is coordinating the event tells me it is going to be a great day. What a wonderful way for us to once again gather as friends and parishioners! God bless you!

2017 Christmas Season

January 11, 2018

Merry Christmas!!! The Christmas celebrations were prayerful and just beautiful. Now that we are well into the Christmas Season, I hope you have time to enjoy family and friends. Given the way the calendar fell this year, we had a short Advent as well as a short Christmas Season.

The Baptism of the Lord is the day after the Feast of the Epiphany (Monday, January 8). No matter how short the season may seem, time keeps marching on. This week-end, on December 30th, I’ll mark my 67th birthday. It’s hard to believe I was only 38 years old when I came to St. Matthew Parish. Although it seems like a lifetime ago, the journey of faith has been a good one for me, and I do hope for the parish as well.

As we stand on the brink of another New Year, we anticipate still more growth, more challenges, and successes. We have been adding new parishioners to our community which helps keep us stable, our Christian outreach and service remains strong. Our finances would be more secure if we could sell our school building. That is something I would ask every parishioner to put in their daily prayer intentions. We need to move forward on this issue, and with the help of God (and St. Joseph whom we buried in front of the school), I’m sure our prayers would be answered.

Indeed, we have challenges for the New Year, but none that can’t be overcome. I feel strongly in what the theme of our 50th Anniversary stated in 1977, “We are here to stay,” and in what our 75th Anniversary theme was in 2002, “What was, What is, and What will be!” What we hope to be is as our Parish Mission Statement directs us, “to be a beacon of light, and a sign of hope” on the eastside of Detroit. (Please re-visit our Mission Statement displayed in the back vestibule of the church.)

Our efforts in the New Year should strive for that as we continue to work with the Archdiocese of Detroit to Unleash the Gospel. Happy New Year to all and may your Christmas Season be blessed with peace, joy, and hope in Christ Jesus.

God bless all of you, Father Duane