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
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).
We look forward to having you join us for this wonderful retreat opportunity.
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
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!
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.
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
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:
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.
Dear Parish Family,
It has been my sincere pleasure to serve you as the Church of the Blessed Sacrament Parish and School Business Manager over the past eight years. I have resigned from this position effective June 30, 2016.
I did not come to this decision easily or quickly, however it was through the blessing of time spent in the Adoration Chapel, that God gave me the clarity and understanding that it was time for me to begin a new chapter in my professional life.
I began as the Business Manager in August of 2007 under the direction of Fr. McKnight and the last eight years have been wonderful. I have celebrated 10 years of marriage, now have three kids, Lilly, Tyler and Vivianne and have lived on the north and south side of Douglas. I have also experienced tremendous growth in my personal life of faith and understanding of stewardship as a way of life.
Additionally, the changes and growth at Blessed Sacrament are incredible. In the past few years, our parish family has grown to nearly 1,200 families, the parish school enrollment has grown, Fr. Jirak became our pastor, we have had three parochial vicars, Dan Dester became the school principal, we have updated the school playground, replaced the heating and air in the Church, updated lighting in the school, gyms, and Church, and have grown the parish staff to better serve the parish family. We have also dedicated ourselves to the New Evangelization and embraced hospitality, formation, prayer and service.
I want to close by saying “Thank You” to the whole parish family for giving me the opportunity to serve you as the Business Manager and to the Parish and School staff for always finding joy in our work and genuinely caring for each other.
My husband, Joe, and I have been members of Blessed Sacrament Parish for thirteen years. While we have both been actively involved in parish life through different stewardship opportunities, I had a desire to deepen my relationship with Christ, learn more about the history and teachings of the Catholic Church, and get to know my fellow parishioners better. I am a convert and joined the church in 1992. There were many things I wanted to know! About three years ago, I began participating in one of the parish book clubs that Blessed Sacrament had to offer. That opportunity got me more involved with parishioners on a personal level, answered many of my questions about the church, and got the ball rolling, so to speak, on my desire to pursue a deeper faith life.
When the ChristLife series was introduced to the parish last fall, I decided to prayerfully consider participating in the program. While a bit hesitant at the commitment of time involved (what would I be doing anyway besides sitting around and watching episodes of “Property Brothers” on HGTV) I decided to give it a try. I’m so glad that I did! In the first series, “Discovering Christ,” I learned about the unconditional love that God has for each and every one of us…no matter what! He is full of merciful compassion and longs for us to come to Him. The next series, “Following Christ,” taught me the importance of having an active prayer life and being open to forgiveness, not only to bring me closer to Christ, but so that I can effectively pray for others, as well. In the final series, “Sharing Christ,” I learned how to share my conversion story and on-going spiritual journey with others. For those, like myself, who are hesitant or unsure of how to share Christ’s love and message of salvation with others, this series was very helpful as it gave many different examples of ways to reach out to others through prayer, service, and leading by example.
I am so grateful for the opportunity that the ChristLife series gave me to meet some incredible fellow Catholics, each of whom has a unique story to share, and to deepen my relationship with Christ and His Church. This is a wonderful program for anyone who is seeking to know Christ at a deeper more personal level.