Pray for Me as I Leave for Sabbatical in Rome

 

I leave this Sunday for my sabbatical in Rome, Italy.  I am very excited for this opportunity to learn more about my Catholic faith and to dive deeper into the spiritual life.  My pastoral approach to ministry has always been that the minister must first be alive with the faith before he is able to pass it on to others.  Fire comes from fire.  I often quote St. Bernard of Clarvoix teaching to those seeking to do good things for God, “If you are wise, you will be reservoirs and not channels.” We have many channels in the Church today but very few reservoirs.  My purpose for the sabbatical is solely for the benefit of filling my reservoir that I may come back to you spilling over with water for the furthering of your spiritual life.

While I am gone, Fr. Adam and Fr. Andrew will be in charge of the parish.  I have been super impressed with these young men.  They are both wise beyond their years, full of learning, committed to the life of prayer and passionate about exercising their priestly ministry.  They will be assisted by our outstanding parish staff who many of you know very well.  

Before Fr. Adam and Fr. Andrew were assigned to Blessed Sacrament, the Bishop called me into his office to discuss the prospect of Fr. Curtis serving as chaplain to Kapaun and Blessed Sacrament being assigned two new priests.  He shared with me that he knows some people will find it problematic to send two brand new priests to a large parish where the pastor is leaving for a three-month sabbatical, but if there is a parish and staff that can handle it just fine, it is Blessed Sacrament.  That was a great compliment to both our parish staff and our wonderful parishioners!  

During my sabbatical, the Bishop has asked me to keep a low profile in order to focus on drinking in the many blessings of this sacred time.  I feel that I am very fortunate to have this time away to enrich and enhance my priesthood.  I am passionate about being a priest and I am more than grateful to be your pastor.  

Please pray for me during these three months as I will certainly pray for you.  And, I will see you on the first weekend of Advent!

Ad majorem Dei gloriam,

Rev. John F. Jirak

Human Dignity

 

 

The recent resurgence of racial tension in the wake of the Charlottesville protest is cause for us to reflect once again on the dignity of each human person.

Human dignity is neither based on any law, nor any merit earned by a person, nor any benchmark of intelligence, nor any party or religious affiliation, nor any country of origin, nor any skin color. Human dignity is inherent in all people. It is a result of nothing other than God loving us into existence and designing us in His image and likeness. Every single person is a masterpiece of the Divine Artist. Every single person is a witness to the image of God in a unique and unrepeatable way. Thus, in every single person, God reveals Himself to us. In the words of Pope St. John Paul II, “We are the sum of our Father’s love for us, and our real capacity to become the image of his Son.”  It is hard for us to even fathom the heights and depths of a single person’s dignity!

Further, in Christ Jesus, we find our true unity. As St. Paul teaches us, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). In the Body of Christ, we are all are children of God and brothers and sisters to each other. God has united humanity again into one family through Jesus.

Any act of violence against a human person, be it abortion, racism, abuse, etc. are all grave offenses against a person’s infinite dignity, and an offense against God who loves that person more than we can ever know. Concerning racism, in particular, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops says, “Racism is a sin: a sin that divides the human family, blots out the image of God among specific members of that family, and violates the fundamental human dignity of those called to be children of the same Father.”

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God” (Mt 5:9). As followers of Christ, let us continue to be salt and light in our community by being peacemakers and defenders of human dignity, wherever it is attacked. Let us also pray for the victims of racial discrimination, for the conversion of those who fuel racism, and for peaceful unity in our nation.

God bless,

Fr. Adam Grelinger

Safety on Church Property

 

 

Since beginning at Blessed Sacrament in June of 2010, I have become ever more convinced of the importance of the first pillar of stewardship, hospitality.  It was Bishop Gerber some 30 plus years ago that decided that hospitality must come before any of the other pillars even though the other pillars may be more important.  Such an arrangement is analogous to the sacraments.  We believe the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life.  It is the greatest of all of the sacraments. Yet, the Eucharist is not the first sacrament.  The first sacrament is baptism.  Without baptism, a person is unable to validly receive the Eucharist.  The official law of the Catholic Church in the Code of Canon Law states: “Baptism, the gateway to the sacraments . . .”  In a real way, we can say that hospitality is the gateway to the stewardship pillars of prayer, formation, and service.  

Hospitality is based on a root word which means “guest.”  And for us Catholics, not just any guest.  We take up the spirit of St. Benedict who states, “Let all guests who arrive be received as Christ.”  Hospitality is a “gate” that welcomes all into the community of Christ.  However, as we know from the Gospels, a shepherd is always assigned to the “gate” for there are those who would walk through only to hurt and destroy.  This is true both morally and physically.  

In regards to the physical protection and safety of our parishioners at Blessed Sacrament, especially the most vulnerable, our youth and elders, this summer we have worked hard to review and improve the safety of our entire school and church campus. 

In order to sustain our parish’s magnanimous spirit of hospitality, while assuring the safety and security of our house of worship and campus, I am introducing the following protocol to address loitering on the parish grounds. 

In consultation with the WPD, we have been advised to be consistent in our treatment of those loitering on church property, as well as those who express financial and/or other needs. I ask parishioners when on parish property, to direct people requesting assistance to contact the parish office directly between the hours of 8:30 and 5:00 Monday through Friday. Outside of the stated hours please dial the Sacramental Emergency Line at 316-361-6015. The parish office staff will either assist them directly, connect them with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, another appropriate parish ministry or other resources available in Wichita.

I am also happy to announce that over the summer we installed new security cameras and enhanced security on doors, specifically those doors extending access from the church to the school, the east side of the church, and through the tunnel from Bishops Hall to the school cafeteria. 

Ad majorem Dei gloriam,

Rev. John F. Jirak

Oktoberfest Run for the Poor 2017

"Run for the Poor"!!!! The Oktoberfest route is one of the best 5K races in#Wichita. Run through the scenic and historic College Hill street and finish up smack dab in the middle of our annual Oktoberfest celebration. Featuring live music, inflatables and rides for the kids and of course, German Beer and Food. All runners receive a Brat and Beer(21 and older)  pdf Click here to Register. (4.45 MB)

Come to the Run for the Poor and see if you can beat our Associate Pastors, Father Andrew Bergkamp and Father Adam Grelinger.

To donate or sponsor, click HERE

 

God's Promises: Now or Later?

God’s promises: now or later? Well, the answer is both. The Christian maxim of already but not yet is the scope of the Christian life. For example, when we read the words from this Sunday’s first reading, “O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them and bring you back to the land of Israel”, is this promise to be fulfilled at the end of time or now? The answer is both. We know at the final judgment, Christ’s resurrected life will resurrect our own from the grave. At the same time, His resurrected life is already operative so that we experience now, for a moment, as Pope Benedict XVI states, “ahead of time something that will constitute the happiness of paradise.”

God’s promise to “open your grave” and to have us “rise from them” is happening here and now! Of the graves that grieve many of us is the cemetery of dead faith among non-practicing and ex-Catholics. Every week, I hear at least several stories of grieving family members whose children have abandoned the Catholic faith. Most of these children attended our own Catholic schools. The temptation is discouragement and I have certainly succumbed at times. However, the invitation from the prophet Ezekiel is hope. God promises to resurrect these souls. I believe whole-heartedly that the New Evangelization is the Holy Spirit’s effort to have our lost brothers and sisters “rise” from the graves of the cemetery of dead faith and to bring them “back to the land of the Israel” in the Catholic Church.

Living the New Evangelization is one of our three parish priorities. This is certainly appropriate as St. John Paul II himself stated already in 1990, “I sense the moment has come to commit all of the Church’s energy to a new evangelization.” And, of course, Pope Francis, “In all its activities the parish encourages and trains its members to be evangelizers.”  There are many New Evangelization efforts happening at Blessed Sacrament and I pray that they multiply. We have created a new page on the parish website to keep everyone engaged with our parish efforts in the New Evangelization. You can check out the page by clicking on the Parish Priority Plan tab on the parish website or going directly here.

Before concluding, I am happy to announce that Becky Meyer will be working part-time at the parish office as our Assistant Stewardship Coordinator. The growth of our parish stewardship has been wonderful, but we are in need of more infrastructure to sustain and continue our growth. A fun fact, Renee Riter, our Stewardship Coordinator, (along with many other responsibilities) met with over 200 families last year! Becky will be serving our parishioners in many ways by assisting Renee in meeting with new families and school families as well as with serving our stewards in leadership positions and assisting ministries in their particular needs.

Ad majorem Dei gloriam, Rev. John F. Jirak

 

Pilgrimage at Blessed Sacrament

 

 

 

Praised be Jesus Christ!

In 1917, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared six times to three shepherd children; Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta; between May 13 and October 13, in the little village of Fatima, Portugal. Mary came to the children with an urgent message of warning and hope for the whole world. Pope Saint John Paul II had a great devotion to Our Lady of Fatima and strongly encouraged the spread of the devotion to our Lady of Fatima stating: the message of Fatima is more relevant and more urgent today, than when Our Lady first appeared.  

Pope Francis also has a strong devotion to Our Lady of Fatima, and has recently announced that he will visit Fatima on May 12-13 of this year to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first apparition of Mary. During this Jubilee Year, Pope Francis has granted a plenary indulgence to  anyone who either a) makes a pilgrimage to the Shrine during this year; b) visits a statue of Our Lady of Fatima that is set up for public veneration in a Church or some similar place and asks for Mary’s intercession; or c) for the elderly and infirm who are unable to attend a public veneration, to at least pray in front of a statue of Our Lady of Fatima and unite themselves spiritually to the jubilee celebrations from home. Of course, this indulgence also requires that one fulfill the ordinary obligations of a plenary indulgence (going to confession and communion, to be interiorly detached from sin, and to pray for the intentions of the Holy Father).

We at Blessed Sacrament want to take full advantage of this extraordinary year and the graces that are being offered. I am very happy and excited to announce that I am going to be the chaplain of a pilgrimage to Fatima, as well as Lourdes, France; and Santiago, Avila, and Madrid, Spain this summer from June 26-July 10! The tour company that is organizing the trip, Journeys of Faith, was founded by Bob and Penny Lord who were regular television hosts on EWTN. My trip is called “The Many Faces of Mary” pilgrimage #626. There are still plenty of spaces available for this pilgrimage, would you consider joining me on this journey? You can find more information about this trip by going to bobandpennylord.com and clicking on the pilgrimages link. Or you can contact the parish office.

If a pilgrimage to Europe is not possible for you, we also have an amazing opportunity to make a pilgrimage right here at Blessed Sacrament. On Monday, May 8th we will host the world-famous International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima, which has been traveling all over the globe since 1947. This statue is currently on a historic two-year journey across America, from March 2016 – December 2017; visiting more than 100 dioceses in 50 states. It will only be in our parish for one day, so we plan to make the most of its visit by having devotions throughout the day, as well as a special Mass in the evening. Look for more details on this event in the coming weeks. 

I pray that during this jubilee year we all may grow closer to the Immaculate Heart of Our Mother Mary, who always guides us closer to the Sacred Heart of Our Lord, Jesus.

In Christ through Mary,
Fr. Curtis 

Rwandan Genocide Survivor to Bring Message of Forgiveness and Hope

 

In 1994, members of the Hutu tribe in Rwanda took up arms against the Tutsi tribe.  In 100 days, the Hutu tribe slaughtered over 800,000 Tutsis using only spears, clubs and machetes.  It was genocide, and few Tutsis survived.  Immaculee Ilibagiza was one of the few, but most all of her family and friends were killed.

 

In the years since the genocide, Immaculee has come to grips with what happened, and what she can do about it.  She has written a book, Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Genocide, and has been telling her story around the world. Immaculee is regarded as one of world's leading speakers on peace, faith, and forgiveness and she will share her message through a retreat at The Church of the Blessed Sacrament, 124 N. Roosevelt, Wichita Kansas. It begins Friday evening, July 14th, (4:30-9:00) and concludes Saturday morning, July 15th, (8:30-12:30).

 

Members of Blessed Sacrament who register early have been generously blessed with $20.00 off of their registration.  A single registration will cost $37.00 and registration for two will cost $56.00. You may register by filling out one of the early registration cards available in the parish office and turning it in on or before Friday, March 17, 2017. After Friday, March 17th the retreat will be promoted and open to the Diocese of Wichita with regular registration prices. If you have any questions, please contact Bev Gipson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (316-708-1326) or Machelle Good at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (316-390-3655).

 

We look forward to having you join us for this wonderful retreat opportunity.

.  

Spiritual Dementia

 

A friend of mine expressed to me his angst about not being able to remember people’s names as well as when he was younger. In fact, he presently feels a pronounced lag in recalling names. The loss or diminishment of one’s memory is a great fear for many people who are aging. One hears, “take anything, but not my memory.” There is almost an instinctual sense that in losing one’s memory a person ceases to exist and this triggers great fear. Memory is essential to the human psyche as we draw from it in everything that we do. Those of us who have had family members with dementia know this fact only all too clear. 

My grandfather Jim passed away in 2007. Grandpa was a very good athlete in his day—I got my wheels from him. I recall reminiscing with grandpa about football. He, too, had played football as a youth. I laughed when he told me that after practice he would fold up his helmet and put it in his pocket. About five years before his death Grandpa began to suffer from Alzheimer’s. During this time he struggled greatly. He fell into fits of anger at time, which was not normal for him; was often disoriented and many times fearful. All the result of losing his memory.

As bad as it is to lose one’s memory, it is much worse to lose one’s spiritual memory. Psalm 103 from this Sunday’s Responsorial Psalm speaks of the need to actively engage our memory in recalling God many works lest we forget. King David exhorts himself, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” This Psalm teaches us that we have to stir ourselves to remember what God has done lest we fall into a sort of spiritual dementia. The result of spiritual dementia, like its neurological counterpart, includes disorientation about finding happiness, great fear and, interestingly, bursts of anger. Hmm, this seems to capture the spirit of many hearts in our day and age. People have short fuses, fear is prevalent and there is a hopeless groping for meaning. Maybe the Psalmist is offering the remedy, right here, right now: Remember, “forget not” all his kindnesses!

The hopeful thing about spiritual dementia is that it can absolutely be avoided. We merely need to recall often the many benefits that we have received and to “praise the Lord, O my soul.” Frequently, this will mean giving thanks to God when we don’t feel grateful. In other words, don’t wait for the spontaneous feeling to give praise to God. We will have to exhort ourselves and stir our souls like King David in Psalm 103.

St. Robert Bellarmine comments that David recognizes that because of weakness, he must command himself to give thanks:, “due to our human frailty, a consciousness of human infirmity, that is very apt to cool in matters that do not come under cognizance of the senses, especially such as God, “who dwelleth in light inaccessible” he (King David), therefore, adds, “and never forget all he hath done for thee.”

“Bless the Lord, O my soul. And forget not all his benefits.”

Ad majorem Dei gloriam,

 

Fr. John F. Jirak, Pastor

How Do We Respond To The Current Political Situation?

Several weeks ago during a homily I referenced Peggy Noonan’s Wall Street Journal article “In Trump’s Washington, Nothing Feels Stable.” I was particularly struck by her clarity in describing people’s feelings surrounding politics, “Everyone’s political views are now emotions and everyone now wears their emotions on their faces.  People are speaking more loudly and quickly than usual.”  We all recognize that many are wearing their political views as emotions on their faces.  How do we respond to the current political situation? The same way in which we are to deal with any conflicting situation regarding our neighbor.

Leviticus 19, this Sunday’s first reading, exhorts, “Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.”  The word holy literally means to be set apart, to be different. This difference includes not merely our worship of the one God, who has revealed himself completely in Jesus, but also to our moral behavior.  In fact, immediately after commanding us to be holy, the Lord states, “Do not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart.”  

There is a lot of hatred being carried right now.  How might we respond to the hatred conceived in our hearts?  The Lord gives us some direction after establishing the goal of being holy.  The remedy from Leviticus 19 is not exhaustive but it certainly will help us to make progress when dealing with contentious situations, whether it be political or family related.

First, the Lord states, “If you must reprove your fellow citizen do not incur sin because of him.”  In other words, if we see and judge someone as missing the mark, there is a certain duty as a “citizen” of a community to bring the matter to the person accused.  By directly addressing the matter to the person who has committed the wrong, we avoid allowing the injustice to fester in our hearts.  How often do we bury injustices in our hearts, perceived or real, only to see them re-emerge as passive aggressive behavior.  

This brings us to the next directive when dealing with an injustice. The Lord through Moses states, “take no revenge and cherish no grudge on any of your people.” Notice that the Lord did not discriminate by leaving out certain groups of people, rather, we are not to harbor a grudge against “any of your people.”  What does it mean to cherish a grudge?  It literally means to keep the injustice and the hurt alive in our memory.  We keep the matter alive by sharing it with others, which Facebook and other social media makes so easy; dwelling on the hurt; continuously replaying the story in our mind; and, presuming evil intentions on the part of the accused.  In these ways we “cherish” the grudge and make our souls into a toxic pool.

The Lord’s final counsel in responding to a person or group of people who have hurt is the best, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Yes, Jesus includes these same words in Mark 12, a rewording of the Golden Rule.  

I conclude with St. Leo the Great’s thought on what the Lord would say to those who find it difficult being “holy, as the Lord, your God is holy.”  “If what I order seems difficult, come back to me who ordered it, so that from where the command was given help might be offered. I who furnished the desire will not refuse support.”

Ad majorem Dei gloriam,

Fr. John F. Jirak, Pastor

Enhancing the Sunday Mass Experience

 

Praised be Jesus Christ!

As we at Blessed Sacrament continue to implement our Priority Plan, we remain focused on our three priorities of Cultivating Our Spiritual Life, Living the New Evangelization and Enhancing Our Sunday Mass Experience. 

One element of both Enhancing Our Sunday Mass Experience and Cultivating Our Spiritual Life is the realization that, like the Cross, our spiritual lives have both a vertical and a horizontal dimension. The vertical dimension of our spiritual life is our relationship with God—how we pray, and what we both receive and offer back to God. The horizontal dimension of our spiritual life is our relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ—particularly those who make up the body of Christ in our own parish. Simply by our presence and participation in Mass, we build up the body of Christ and contribute to both our own personal spiritual growth and to the spiritual growth of our parish.

Beginning the in fall of 2015, Bishop Kemme asked every parish in the diocese to begin counting the number of people attending Sunday Mass during the month of October. The numbers show that across the diocese slightly over 50% of registered parishioners attended Mass, which is better than twice the national average of 24%. Blessed Sacrament parish Mass attendance was 41%-- higher than the national average, but well below the diocesan average. 

As we work to enhance our Sunday Mass Experience, Fr. Jirak and I are also looking to improve our Mass attendance.  There are many factors which play into our low Mass attendance, and one possible reason is that not everyone is able to attend Mass at Blessed Sacrament because the Mass times do not work with the schedules of many of our parishioners. While altering our current Mass times is not on the table, we have decided to experiment with adding an additional Mass at 5:15pm on Sunday evenings but only during the season of Lent. Thus beginning on March 5th and going through Palm Sunday, we will be offering a 5:15pm Sunday evening Mass.  This Mass will not affect any of the other Mass times and we will also continue to offer our parish Holy Hour from 4:00-5:00pm, including vespers and confessions.

Depending on how this Mass is received, we will consider making it a permanent fixture on Sunday evening. Hopefully this Mass will serve the needs of our parishioners and help us all grow closer together as a parish family and closer to our Lord Jesus Christ.  

In Christ through Mary,
Fr. Curtis

Year of the Parish Priority Plan

Our parish family will be full steam ahead with our Parish Priority Plan as we commence the year 2017.  In fact, I would like to introduce this year at Blessed Sacrament as the Year of the Parish Priority Plan.  We spent several years (2014 and 15) in the creation of the plan and the past year establishing the parish infrastructure to execute the plan.  It is an exciting time for us as a parish!  The vision for the plan is Creating Disciples and Living the Stewardship Way of Life.  Last weekend many of you were able to participate in the blessing of the pergola at the main entrance of the church.  

The pergola encloses the sacred art for our Parish Priority Plan, The Annunciation, painted by Oswald Tanner in 1898. Tanner, a Frenchmen, spent 1897 in the Middle East becoming familiar with historical religious sites.  His exposure to Middle Eastern culture inspired him to paint the unconventional portrait of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The Angel Gabriel is depicted as burst of yellow light, very mystical in appearance.  Mary is captured with strength yet with some bewilderment at what is being asked of her.  It was at this moment that Pope St. John Paul II claims that Mary became the first disciple of Jesus, “the first to whom he seems to say, follow me.” 

The Annunciation image is now a window into each parishioner’s call to be a disciple, a close follower of Jesus. The way in which we are called is often mysterious and we may likely find ourselves bewildered or even confused by what the Lord is asking of us.  My hope is that each of you will take time to ponder the painting, whether in the church or at the pergola, and to consider your own call to discipleship.  Art is a powerful avenue to move from what is seen to what is unseen.  The poet Scott Cairns captures well the power of religious art:

As windows go, these ancient gilded figures both receive our rapt attention and announce a subtle reciprocity.  We look to them to apprehend a glimpse of life enduring out of time; and likewise find our own experience attended by a tranquil gaze that turns increasingly affectionate, indulgent kind.

Ad majorem Dei gloriam,

Rev. John F. Jirak 

Simplify Your Life By Adding Prayer

 

Happy Gaudete Sunday (Joy Sunday)

O.k., this time I mean it.  How can Christmas be only two weeks away?  I am starting to understand the sentiment of my parents, who are nineteen times grandparents, when they find themselves with less time on their hands than when they were raising kids themselves. What can we do?  How do we slow things down?

Well, the purpose of the Advent season is to slow us down.  In the readings we continue to hear about the need for patience, waiting and hope.  This Sunday’s second reading from St. James tell us to “be patient brothers and sisters until the coming of the Lord.” Patience involves a deliberate, sometimes painful slowing down and waiting.  If we find ourselves hurried and occupied at every step how can we cultivate patience?

The best way to slow down so as to live in patience is through prayer.  Actually, I don’t think that it is possible over the long run to remain in patience without prayer.  Think of how Jesus constantly turned to the Father in prayer, often very early in the morning.  Jesus’ prayer disposed him to live patiently and trustingly in the Father’s love.

What I am going to say may surprise you.  If you want to make progress on slowing down and reducing the crazy pace of your life, then add something.  Yep, the requirement for simplifying one’s life is to add another thing, namely, prayer.  

In prayer we do not change God, rather we find ourselves changed.  At the beginning of the month I offered the Advent Challenge to spend at least 7 minutes in continuous prayer each day of the Advent season.  For those of you who have taken on the challenge, great work, add another two minutes.  For those of you who have not taken on the Advent Challenge of 7 minutes of daily prayer, how about starting today or tomorrow?  You might be surprised about how adding “another thing” actually simplifies your life down with the result of greater patience and joy.

Ad majorem Dei gloriam,

Rev. John F. Jirak

Parish Priority Plan Reflection from Ted Lewis

 

 

The Church recently celebrated the feast day of St. John XXIII.  I was at Mass that day and recall thinking how understandable and expected it would have been for this supposed “interim pope,” at age 76, to hold his papacy seat without much fanfare until his death. 

God’s surprise turned that notion entirely on its ear as St. John XXIII called the Bishops to council and the Second Vatican Council was convened.  The Holy Spirit was breathing new life into the Church and this elderly “interim pope” was the spark. I imagine that “Come, Follow Me” was a message that resonated across the globe during that time and in the years to follow as the Church was changed forever.

I realized, in a new way, the tremendous value of the spirit of openness and creativity and new approaches, most especially in our faith life.  This perspective, I believe, is fruit from the two-year commitment that was made to work with you, the parishioners, and the parish priority team to create our priority plan.

The new parish priority plan seems so right, what God intended for us. Just like during the time of St. John XXIII and throughout history, there is a tendency among the faithful, over time, to roll along in the faith without much fanfare. A spark is a Godsend, literally!  I see our priority plan as our parish spark and a trifecta spark at that – Cultivating Our Spiritual Life, Living the New Evangelization, and Enhancing the Sunday Mass Experience.  

The Holy Spirit is breathing new life into our parish with these three priorities and to me it feels like our stewardship way of life is being refreshed with new approaches, creativity, and an air of openness.  

I appreciate immensely Fr. John’s leadership over the years. . .
-Challenging us to recognize and understand what true discipleship means. 
-Coaching us to seek and embrace a personal relationship with Christ. 
-Making available resources and opportunities for faith formation.

We are at the next step - action!  Everything is in place and the invitations have gone out: Come, Follow Me.  Pray with me for our priority plan leaders and their teams.  

With much anticipation I look forward to the many stories and fanfare that will be forthcoming from our families, our youth, and our community in our worship and witness.  

-Ted Lewis, Parishioner

Pride

AND SO IT BEGINS

One fine Saturday morning I decided to wake up around 4:30 a.m. to attend a men’s bible study about “pride.” I had a general idea about what this word meant but soon found out I had a little understanding of the true meaning.

When I read the definition of pride, it stung like swarming wasps on my ear which by the way happened when I was a kid. 

The Catholic Catechism defines pride as “an inordinate self-esteem or self-love, which seeks attention and honor and sets oneself in competition with God.” A google search defines pride as “a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from ones own achievements.”

It hurts because I know it’s a HUGE struggle for me and has affected my life in many ways in the past. I’ve lost jobs, friends, hurt family members and burned many bridges. I’ll give you a few examples in the next blog I will write very soon. This blog is about ways to conquer pride.

How does one conquer pride and all the evil things that come with it? Romans 12-3 says “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” I think this bible verse says it pretty well.

If you think about what God did for us it’s really pretty sobering. He sent His son to die for ALL our sins on the cross. THAT INCLUDES PRIDE PEOPLE! But what I think is most sobering is the fact that Jesus IS God. He was tortured and ridiculed and did this without even the slightest bit of pride. He did ALL of this with humility. He did this because HE LOVES US!

It’s difficult swallowing pride and being humble in such a competitive world. If you have ever traveled to a big city like Chicago, the honking horns let you know how impatient this world is. The next time someone cuts you off or honks at you because they think you’ve cut them off, simply ignore it. That’s not easy for me, just ask my wife Erin. But if you can think about Jesus dying on that cross with so much humility, maybe that will change the way you react. Maybe that pride that gets in the way will one day turn into well, humility.

Thank you for reading my first blog. Please feel free to comment. Gods Blessings!

Jake Petersen 

Katie Coffey's Reflections

 

Greetings!

Very soon our parish will be pressing full speed ahead with our Parish Priority Plan.  You have already heard bits and pieces of the plan and you have certainly noticed the painting of the Annunciation in the northwest corner of the church. The painting is the chosen image for our plan’s vision, which focuses on creating disciples and living the stewardship way of life.

I have asked members of the planning team to share their experience of the planning process and their take on the Parish Priority plan.  Katie Coffey’s reflection is the first.  More reflections yet to come.   

-Rev. John F. Jirak

Two years ago, a team was formed at Blessed Sacrament to create a plan that would make our good parish even better. Parishioner input was carefully combed through, and one thing was clear to our team: there were needs to be met within all facets of our parish.  

Upon this realization, we set forth to bring into light ways to personalize faith here at Blessed Sacrament, all the while keeping an arching umbrella of “meeting people where they are at.”  Every one of us encounters Christ in a different way.  We all crave to be special in His eyes, but our cravings are unique to who we are.  Three priorities arose out of our process, which do, and will, offer opportunities to grow in faith:  Cultivating Our Spiritual Life, Living the New Evangelization and Enhancing Our Sunday Mass Experience.

When Father Jirak asked me to be a part of the parish’s process to create the new Parish Priority Plan, he never mentioned that I, Katie Coffey, would be writing a letter blaring the love I have for my faith in this bulletin.  Back then, I would have said, “no way.”   However, helping to build a new Parish Priority Plan the last two years has also built new structures within me.  I had to spend time and seek out new ways to fill my “reservoir,” as Father Jirak puts it.  This allowed me to have the ability to let my faith life overflow into my family, friends, and now you, my parish family.  

On behalf of the Parish Priority Team, and the leaders of our new priorities, I say to you, “Come, follow me.”  Come, follow me to increase Christ within yourself, your family, and outside of the Blessed Sacrament walls.  Come, follow me and let the Holy Spirit work in ways that we have yet to realize, in order to meet people where they are at. 

In what way is Christ beckoning you?  I would love to know, so that I can follow you too.

-Katie Coffey

Justice For All- Taking Abortion from Debate to Dialogue

Rosary with Bishop Kemme

 

Praised be Jesus Christ!

On October 7, 1571, a small Christian naval fleet was fighting against a much larger fleet of Ottoman Muslim invaders who were seeking to push north into Europe in conquest of new territories along the Mediterranean. This Christian fleet of ships, led by Don Juan of Austria, was the final line of defense against the Muslim invasion who would then have gained unhindered access to the coasts of France, Spain and Italy. The stakes were high for Christian Europe and Pope Pius V knew it, so he begged all Christians to join him in praying the rosary during the day of the battle to ask for Our Lady’s intercession on behalf of the soldiers fighting at sea. 

During the Battle of Lepanto, when the fighting became most intense, there was a shift in the wind and with some brilliant maneuvering, the Christians managed to soundly defeat the invading forces and thereby preserve the people of Europe. In honor of the victory, Pope Pius V instituted the Feast of Our Lady of Victory, which we still celebrate today as the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary (October 7). Later, in 1883, Pope Leo XIII officially dedicated the entire month of October as the month of the Holy Rosary.

The rosary still remains a powerful tool of prayer available to us in asking Our Lady’s intercession. This year, Bishop Kemme has asked all Catholics in the Diocese to take a moment to join him in praying the Rosary wherever they are this Saturday October 8th at 9:00 am.  Bishop Kemme will be leading the rosary at that time in the Cathedral downtown and he has asked each parish in the diocese to offer a rosary and encourage all parishioners to join in praying the rosary on behalf of our nation during this election year. This is such a critical time in our nation’s history and we can certainly use all the prayer we can get! 

So I ask you to join us this Saturday, October 8th at 9:00 am in the Church to pray the rosary on behalf of our Nation. If you are not able to attend the rosary here, I ask that you take a few moments wherever you might be at 9:00 am and say a rosary in solidarity with our bishop. 

In Christ through Mary,

Fr. Curtis

Improving the Quality of Your Confession

Praised be Jesus Christ!

Fr. Jirak and I both spent four days last week taking the 8th grade students on retreat just outside of Oklahoma City.  Witnessing all of those young men and women experience God in a new, profound and personal way was such an inspiration for me.  For many of them, this was the first time having a spiritual encounter with God and not just seeing the faith as a set of rules to be followed. 

One of the most impactful parts of the retreat was the evening of adoration and confessions.  All of these kids have experienced adoration and confessions before but there was something powerfully tangible about the experience of that night that was new and life changing for many.  When I asked some of the kids about why they thought this experience was different from confessions in the past, many of them said that they thought that it was because they were able to take more time to prepare and examine their conscience and they did not feel rushed during the confession. 

This just goes to show that not all confessions are created equal. I think most of us have experienced “normal” confessions as well as “extraordinary” confessions; and while there is no way to make every single confession extraordinary, there are some things that you can keep in mind to improve the quality of your confessions and thereby increase the grace that you receive from the Sacrament.

1) Make a good examination of conscience and confess all mortal sins.  When we intentionally conceal mortal sins in confession, whether it be through fear, pride or embarrassment we actually make a bad confession and we do not receive the grace of the sacrament. Conversely, the better we are able to examine our conscience, the more impact we will receive in confession.

2) Feel true sorrow for our sins. It is possible to go to confession without feeling any sorrow for our sins. Like concealing sins in confession not being sorry for your sins can invalidate the confession. As a matter of fact, if you tell the priest that you are not at all sorry for your sins, he cannot grant you absolution. That being said, even the slightest sorrow for your sins is sufficient for absolution—it is enough to be sorry that you are not sorry, but the greater compunction and sorrow we have for wounding the Sacred Heart of our Lord, the greater will be our fervor turning from sin.

3) Make a firm resolution not to sin anymore. This is the most difficult part of turning a good confession into a great confession. When we make an act of the will that we will turn from sin and avoid what leads us to sin we work to cooperate with God’s grace to make the concrete and positive changes that we need in our lives. Asking God for the grace to make this firm resolution is one of the best ways to open ourselves to his grace which will lead to deeper interior conversion. 

In Christ through Mary,

Fr. Curtis

Catholics Care, Catholics Vote

Well in case you haven’t noticed, we are in the midst of another election year and November 8th is coming upon us very quickly—not quickly enough for everyone who is tired of the annoying phone calls asking for donations or the incessant political TV and radio ads. The question of what is a Catholic’s responsibility in an election always comes up every few years; and while the Church will never endorse a political party or candidate, it does offer some guidance on how to navigate the political arena.

Every election season the USCCB puts out a document called Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship which outlines a Catholic’s moral obligation to participate in the political process:

In the Catholic tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation. As Catholics, we should be guided more by our moral convictions than by our attachment to any political party or interest group. In today’s environment, Catholics may feel politically disenfranchised, sensing that no party and few candidates fully share our comprehensive commitment to human life and dignity. This should not discourage us. On the contrary, it makes our obligation to act all the more urgent. Catholic lay women and men need to act on the Church’s moral principles and become more involved: running for office, working within political parties, and communicating concerns to elected officials. Even those who cannot vote should raise their voices on matters that affect their lives and the common good. Faithful citizenship is an ongoing responsibility, not just an election year duty.

In a recent interview, the former pastor of Blessed Sacrament and current Bishop of Lincoln, NE, Bishop James Conley, was asked what issues and qualities he thought are important when examining a candidate for public office. This was his response:

"For me, personally, I first consider the life issues. I was the director of the Respect Life Office in Wichita for eight years. Human life is as fundamental as you can get.

This includes the beginning of life, which brings up the abortion issue, and the end of life, which brings up euthanasia/assisted suicide. And everything that occurs in between. I want to support candidates who uphold the sanctity of life, despite its stage, and without consideration of disabilities, dependency, or lack of financial resources.

If we don’t get the life issue right, what else is there? If you’re not alive, no other rights pertain. It is fundamental, and we have an obligation to respect those rights… Close in importance to the life issue is the family. Life comes out of the family, and a candidate’s understanding of marriage and human sexuality is crucial."

Even if you are like most people and are not terribly pleased with any of your voting options, it is still your duty to be involved in the political process and to vote for candidates who will best respect defend all human life, the good of marriage and the family, and religious freedom.

In Christ, through Mary,

Fr. Curtis

Thank You

 

 

My name is Renee Riter and I have the distinct pleasure of serving you as Stewardship Coordinator here at The Church of the Blessed Sacrament. Welcome to another school year at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church. Welcome to those of you who attend our parish school who are members of other churches.

Thank you.  Thank you for supporting this parish family through your gifts of time spent at Mass and in other prayer, for your gifts of talents to support our ministries and organizations, for your gifts of treasure that keep the lights on, pay salaries, support the sacraments and maintain many activities. Thank you for giving back of your first fruits of time, talent, and treasure to honor and glorify God. Thank you for your support of the mission of the Church. Thank you for forming your children in the Catholic faith.

I have realized that despite how much we speak about the Stewardship Way of Life and try to live it by example, there is always still much to learn.

Do you know? Canon Law states that every baptized Catholic has a right to a Catholic education? Parishes must provide catechesis and formation in the faith (PSR, CCD, Sunday School) 

Do you know? Education in a Catholic School is not a right?  It is a privilege. It is a privilege that Catholics outside the diocese of Wichita pay for with tuition of thousands of dollars for every child.

Are you aware? Outside of Diocese of Wichita, throughout Kansas and the United States that Wichita is the only diocese globally which supports its parish schools because of the stewardship of all parishioners and does not charge tuition. K-12 

Do you know? There are 1132 registered families at BS? There are 265 school families in our parish school? This parish does not exist because of the school.  Our Catholic grade schools and our Catholic high schools exist because of our parishes. Our parish schools could not be sustained by school families alone. 

Do you recognize? That we are one - we are The Church of the Blessed Sacrament. We are the Blessed Sacrament family. Our parish has over 70 ministries. Blessed Sacrament Catholic School is ONE of those ministries. Parish School of Religion is one of those ministries. Homeschool Group is one of those ministries.

Do you know? 71% of the parish budget pays for the Blessed Sacrament Grade School and our parishioners who are enrolled in a Catholic high school.

Thank you, again. Thank you for your support of our parish family's largest mission - our K-12 Catholic school education. Thank you for attending Mass at your home parish to bolster that support of the parish mission. Thank you for your sacrificial, planned and proportionate giving. Thank you for cleaning the church, maintaining our gardens, having a committed hour in the Adoration Chapel, singing in our Choir, bearing offertory gifts during Mass, hosting coffee and donuts, praying for one another, and serving those less fortunate through St. Vincent de Paul Society and The Lord’s Diner.

I invite you to join me in thanking the other ¾ of our parish family -who are not here this evening- who along with you, offer generous gifts of their time, talent, and treasure, so that we may pass on to each generation the greatest gift of which we are stewards: The Catholic Faith. We can show our gratefulness by joining them in fellowship and service to others, in worship at Mass together and by thanking God for them in prayer with our children.

I want to close with today's reflection from St. Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle.

What can we do for a God so generous that He died for us, created us, and gives us being? Shouldn't we consider ourselves lucky to be able to repay something of what we owe Him for His service toward us? 

May the joy of the risen Christ animate our lives and set our hearts on fire with the love of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 

What Is Your Favorite Part of Being a Priest?

Praised be Jesus Christ!

I can’t believe that it is already August and school starts back up in just a few more days! The summer has flown by as has this whole last year. I was ordained last year on May 23rd and began here at Blessed Sacrament a few weeks later, on July 1st. Over the course of this last year, I have learned and grown a lot and now that I have been through the cycle of an entire year as a priest, I feel even more gratitude for God’s calling me to the priesthood.

One of the questions that I have received most frequently in regards to being a priest is: “What is your favorite part of being a priest?” That’s a difficult question to answer, since there are so many different aspects of the priesthood. It’s like asking: “What’s your favorite part of being a parent?” and “What’s your favorite part of being married?” and “What’s your favorite part of your career?” and “What’s your favorite part of your faith?” all rolled into one question!

My favorite part of the priesthood is celebrating the Sacraments, particularly the Mass and confessions. I love celebrating the Mass because from the time I was a little kid I knew I wanted to share Christ with others, and there is simply no better way to share Christ then to actually physically give Him to His people. There is nothing else in the entire universe like pronouncing the words of consecration and holding a piece of bread in your hands as it is converted into the Body of Christ. Before I was ordained, I heard several priests attempt to describe that moment and after listening to them I thought that I had some idea of what it must be like; but after having celebrated Mass, I now realize that there simply is no way to understand what it feels like unless you experience it yourself.

But perhaps the greatest surprise and the place where I have experienced God’s love and mercy most powerfully and tangibly at work is in the Sacrament of Confession. I thought that I loved the Sacrament of Confession before I was ordained, because it is a place where I have personally received God’s love and healing; but I never imagined the scale of Mercy that is poured out in that Sacrament which has made me love it even more. There have been many days where I leave the confessional in awe of the way God works to reconcile souls to himself who have experienced pain, isolation, confusion, anger, and who carry deep wounds-- sometimes for decades, and who leave the confessional as a whole new person. What a privilege to be God’s instrument when that happens! Please continue to pray for Fr. Jirak and myself and for all priests as we strive to be the instruments in God’s hands.

In Christ through Mary,

Fr. Curtis Hecker

Our Mass Captains

Praised be Jesus Christ!

As I am sure most of you know, we at Blessed Sacrament are in the process of implementing our Parish Priority Plan which will serve as the “road map” for the next three to five years. Our three priorities are:

1) Cultivating Our Spiritual Life
2) Living the New Evangelization
3) Enhancing Our Sunday Mass Experience

One aspect of the priority of enhancing the Sunday Mass experience is that every part of the Mass be fulfilled and executed to the best of our ability in order to create the greatest atmosphere of prayer possible. This responsibility falls to each member who participates at every Mass, but in a particular way it is especially important for those who carry out a particular ministry at Mass i.e. lectors, cantors, ushers and servers. We have a long tradition of excellence in each of these areas but of course we will continue to strive to attain ever greater heights of perfection in the worship that we offer to God.

I would like to call attention to one particular group who assists us every week in our worship—the Mass Captains. The Mass Captain program is a group of high school aged men who undergo extensive liturgical training in order to be elite servers in liturgical worship, leading and overseeing the younger servers ensuring the smooth and reverent celebration of the Mass. In addition to liturgical service, the Mass Captains also come together on a regular basis to work together on service projects, and to enjoy recreational activities. Through the Mass Captain program, young men will develop leadership skills, reverence for, and understanding of the liturgy, a deepening of their identity as Catholic Gentlemen and most importantly, they will deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ.

Last weekend, under the leadership of Dan Wetta, the Mass Captains had a sweet corn fundraiser where they went out and picked corn in West Sedgwick County, then offered it for a freewill donation after all the Masses. It was a huge success and the proceeds will be used to fund the Mass Captains formation and recreational activities. I would like to take the opportunity to thank Dan, and everyone who helped to make this such a success as well as to thank everyone who has supported our Mass Captains. These young men take their role at Mass very seriously and they do such a fine job serving which helps to add to the dignity and solemnity of our worship. So be sure to thank them for their role and the work that they do in assisting us in our worship.

In Christ through Mary,

Fr. Curtis

Blessed Sacrament's Academic Excellence

 

Summer Greetings!

We are half-way through the summer break.  Wow!  As you know our parish has around 75 ministries (see parish directory or app), one of which is our school. The parish school is the main ministry of the parish outside of the sacraments.  As a ministry of the parish, the school strives to create disciples who know, love and serve the Lord while achieving excellence in education. Archbishop Tobin of Indianapolis recently shared with a group of school pastors that the opportunity to serve our young Catholics five days a week versus one hour per week makes it possible to provide formation in the faith and not merely information about the faith. We are immensely blessed.

The stewardship way of life entails recognizing and receiving God’s gifts. At Blessed Sacrament we recognize the extraordinary gifts of our parish school’s faculty and staff. Mr. Dan Dester will be starting his fifth year as principal and from the get-go he has brought an evangelizing zeal and faith-first approach to all of his work. Without the leadership of a superb principal it would be impossible to stay true to our mission. Of course, if you mention such words to Mr. Dester, he will immediately give credit to Ms. Loyle and the teachers. Our teachers bring a next-level commitment to their classrooms, beginning with our preschool teachers and continuing through to our middle school teachers. This commitment has earned the school the diocesan Banner School Award for the past two years.

What happens when you combine a tremendous principal and tremendous teachers who strive to be disciples?  You get growth because word gets around-- in the Catholic world we call it evangelization. Just a few years ago I was told that there would not be much growth in our parish.  It makes sense. We are not a new parish and people are not building homes in College Hill. Accordingly, the school would remain at about 390 students.  In the 2011-12 academic year we had 388 children enrolled in K-8.  My hope was that we could eventually average 400 students. This felt like a true stretch goal, yet realistic, as our superintendent of Catholic Schools has shared with us that Catholic school enrollment in the diocese is declining. This year, I am happy to announce that we currently have 444 students registered for our kindergarten through 8th grades. This is an increase of over 20 students from last school year.  Our preschool has nearly 50 children enrolled for the fall, which brings our final number to almost 500 students.  I am also happy to say that even with the increases in enrollment, academic excellence has not wavered as demonstrated from the reception of the Banner School Awards. We have a great deal to be excited about and to celebrate in the growth of our parish school.

As part of our parish priority plan we are embracing the vision statement, Creating Disciples . . . Living Stewardship.  What a blessing for the parish to be carrying out this vision seven hours a day, five days a week at our parish school. I want to thank all of you who generously respond as disciples to living the stewardship way of life.

Ad majorem Dei gloriam (For the greater glory of God),

Rev. John F. Jirak

Good Deeds Summer 2016

 

 

All right, so summer is half way over and you might be looking for some worthwhile activities to do with your children, or just yourself. This is a short, yet mighty list of EASY ways you can help many in the Wichita community.

1. You know those cell phones you have sitting on a shelf that you aren’t sure what to do with? Well, Harbor House can use them! It doesn’t matter how old they are or what they look like. (When your life is in danger, a flip phone becomes your best friend.) They will wipe the memory clean and give them free of charge to women who need a way to call 911 in crisis. We do need the chargers though. Since Harbor House is a safe house, the address is not publicly available. We ask that you drop off old phones and chargers in the box located in the Blessed Sacrament parish office.

2. Still going on vacation? Staying in a hotel or motel? Travel for work? This has got to be the easiest way to help combat human trafficking. You need an IPhone or android for the app, but it is easy to download and you can use it for years to come. It is called TraffickCam and is a free mobile app developed in St. Louis and helps police identify specific hotels where minors are being sex trafficked. Travelers check into a hotel, snap up to 4 photos and download them on the app. Law enforcement officers feed the same database photos from escort ads showing minors in hotel rooms. Then, computer search functions analyze rug patterns, drapery designs and other features to match the ads to photos from specific hotels and chains. www.traffickCam.com

3. Have a surplus of veggies or fruits you have grown? Fresh produce is expensive and those on limited income have a hard time purchasing them. Drop off your surplus at:

  • Our Daily Bread located at 2825 S. Hillside, open Tu-Thur. from 8:30 till Noon and on the 2 nd and 4 th Saturday’s of the month from 9:00 a.m – Noon. 264-8344 x1504
  • Positive Directions – (help provide services to people living with HIV and their families) located at 415 S. Commerce between the hours of 9-5, M-F. 263-2214

4. Sometimes you purchase pillowcases, bedspreads, kitchen gadgets, etc…only to find out it isn’t what you needed or wanted, and time goes by and you forget to return it, lose the receipt or flat out forget it’s on that shelf in the closet. Well, St. Anthony’s Family Shelter has a little “store” that residents go shopping in once they earn enough points from completing tasks, duties and programs. They then redeem these points for items to be used in their new home once they leave. Feel free to take your new items directly to the shelter located at 256 N. Ohio, at 2nd and Ohio. Their phone number is 264-7233 if you have any questions.

5. It doesn’t get any better than Meals on Wheels when it comes to helping people and letting children see the fruits of their labor. It is a rare day when they actually have enough volunteers to deliver all the meals. They are located at 200 S. Walnut and the phone number is 267-0122. Typically, you can just show up and they will have a route available Monday through Friday, but feel free to call ahead to make sure. You don’t have to become a regular volunteer to participate, you can deliver as little or as much as you like. You can pick up a route between 9:45 and 10:30 am and are typically finished by noon. (Meals on weekends are delivered by church groups, help is needed M-F)

6. Did you have a party and have a lot of leftovers? These are some places that are more than happy accept open food items. Our Alter Society is very good about contacting a member of SVdP and we take the food leftover from their meetings to St. Anthony’s Shelter or the places listed below. They will gladly take your food too!

7. At the store and see a good deal? Please grab some snack items for our weekend backpack program at Blessed Sacrament and place the items in the SVdP drop box in the parish office. This food will go to students who might otherwise go hungry over the weekend. Another option is purchase some canned goods or cereal items and leave them in the food boxes located in all entrances of the church. These items go to a local food pantry to help households in need.

8. Many are at a loss as to how to help people we see holding signs asking for help at intersections. We advise putting together a little bag containing items like bottled water, Band-Aids, travel sized toiletries and a few snack items to give to the person and keep it in your car. This is a good way to help without feeling like you could be enabling.

As always, there are many ways to help our fellow brothers and sisters; these are just a few ways. We hope you find it helpful. Thank you for supporting Society of St. Vincent de Paul and our works.

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The Church of the Blessed Sacrament Roman Catholic Church + 124 N Roosevelt Wichita, KS 67208 + 316-682-4557 + Sacramental Emergency Phone: 316.361.6015 + parish@blessedsacramentwichita.com

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