February 18, 2018

Do Catholics Hate Pleasure?

It’s that time of year again. Lent has just begun, which means many of us have decided what to give up (or what practices to take up) during these six weeks prior to Easter. Our rich tradition entails fasting from various enjoyments including, candy or sweets, certain drinks, and meat; or in modern times some give up social media, TV, and other various forms of entertainment. To a non-Catholic these practices might seem needlessly austere, or at least odd. Most people recognize that these various items are not bad, they even possess a certain goodness. So why do Catholics encourage fasting, self-denial, and temporary abstinence from good things? Do we hate our physical bodies or despise pleasure? No, and actually it’s just the opposite, but bear with me.

“Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” was not coined by some street corner preacher or even one of the Apostles, those are the words of God Himself, Jesus Christ. He uttered those words after, “He fasted in the desert for forty days and forty nights.” (Mat. 4:2) Repent/penance and fasting can go hand in hand, and the latter can be carried out for two reasons. Firstly, we can perform acts of penance, such as fasting, in order to make amends for our transgressions. Although God truly forgives us through the sacrament of Confession, we carry out penance so as to receive and internalize that forgiveness with the goal of ongoing conversion. Christ obviously didn’t need to perform penance; thus, His fasting points us to the second reason.

Our Catholic tradition has always incorporated acts of self-denial and sacrifice into Lent because of the Good for which we strive, taking our cue from Jesus Himself. Fasting for a given period of time helps to ensure that we do not become overly attached to anything other than God. Furthermore, various periods of abstinence helps to dispose ourselves more fully to God and to unite ourselves more fully to Him, our ultimate Good. It’s not a matter of avoiding bad things, it simply ensures we don’t become mastered by lesser goods. As St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything,” other than God. 

If one becomes mastered by something beneath God, we sacrifice the freedom to be united to God Himself. And besides that, if one is mastered by or attached to worldly goods, then they cease to offer their true potential happiness and pleasure. Fasting from something allows it to become even more enjoyable by the end of the period of abstinence. Often times people incorporate a dietary cleanse before the long term diet begins, or when they commence a new physical workout. Do they hate the body? No, it’s for the good of the body that they fast and likewise fasting and self-denial during Lent serves the good of the body, as well as the soul to which the body is united.  

Dei Gratia, 

Father Andrew Bergkamp

February 11, 2018

Dear Fellow Disciples of Jesus,

May the Lord give you peace!  This will be my last Pastor’s Corner.  I am so thankful to all of you for these nearly 8 years of Christian fellowship as your pastor.  I remember Holy Saturday, 2010, finishing my canon law studies in Washington, D.C., and receiving a call from then Bishop Jackels.  He called to ask (a.k.a., assign) me as the next pastor of the Church of the Blessed Sacrament.  I was in shock and full of excitement.  Could this be true?  I had been the parochial vicar of Blessed Sacrament from 2002-2004 and now I was going to be the pastor!  I could hardly sleep and I had a hard time paying attention at the Easter Vigil.

Blessed Sacrament has a wonderful reputation in the Diocese of Wichita as a strong, stable parish.  It is filled with great stewards that make the relationship between the priests and people vibrant and dynamic in serving the mission of the Catholic Church.  I can’t tell you how blessed I have felt to be your pastor over these past years.  I absolutely loved my assignment and have been enriched greatly.  (I was hoping to break Msgr. Timothy O’Sullivan’s record for years as pastor of B.S.  He served as pastor for over 30 years.  Although I was the youngest pastor to serve at the parish, I won’t be breaking the record for years of service.)

A year ago, in Feb. of 2017, we had the blessed opportunity to hear Msgr. Charles Pope give our parish mission.  There was one line of his many homilies and mission talks that impressed upon my mind and heart during his visit to Blessed Sacrament.  In a few words he described his own profound relationship with his current parish.  My heart resonated with his words, “For you I am your pastor.  With you I am your brother, From you I am your son.”  Thank you for letting me be your pastor.  Thank you for being a brother companion on The Way.  And, thank you for fathering and mothering me as a priest.”  For these blessings I will always be thankful to the holy people at The Church of the Blessed Sacrament.

For the last time, I share with you as pastor to, “Take it to the Next Level!”

Ad majorem Dei gloriam,

Fr. John F. Jirak, pastor

Total Gift

In light of the push we have been making for all of the stewardship forms to be returned, it might be fitting to briefly elaborate on the spirituality of stewardship and how its tied to true discipleship of Christ. St John of the Cross wisely wrote, “Return to God what He has given you and gives you each day. It seems you want to measure God by the measure of your own capacity, but it will not be so. Prepare yourself, for God desires to grant you a great favor.” We would be scandalized if we grasped the entirety of what God desires to bestow upon us; however, it is our imperfect gratitude and incomplete desire to give back which limits our ability to fully receive what God has in mind. 

Hopefully it is no secret that each and every one of us is destined for holiness, this is our goal and God’s desire for us… “So be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 4:48) We understand that total self-giving to God is a necessity for the soul once we realize nothing we possess is actually ever given, because all that we give to God is simply a return of what already belongs to Him. One donates to charitable causes, but one cannot donate to God because a donation implies giving a mere part of what one possess. We approach perfect giving when we offer to God what we recognize as already belonging to Him, our very being and everything that entails. 

God freely gives to us and as result we are free to give back to Him, when we fail in this regard, it is only to our detriment. The reason being, when we completely surrender our entire self (including time, energy, emotions, passions, and talents) to God, we complete His gift to us. The perfect exchange of giving and receiving of the good is true love. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (Jn. 15:13) Christ not only exemplified this, but He also said to learn from him and to follow Him. God desires a perfect gift of self from us, one of total surrender, because He desires a most perfect relation of love for us. 

Dei Gratia, 

Father Andrew Bergkamp

Farewell Letter

Dear Blessed Sacrament Parishioners,

May the Lord give you peace! I want to share with you that Bishop Kemme has assigned me to serve as the next pastor of the Church of the Magdalen in Wichita, effective February 13.   

My heart resonates strongly with Psalm 16 as King David professes, “He has put into my heart a marvelous love for the faithful ones who dwell in his land.” God has put into my heart an abundant love for you, the faithful, in “his land” of Blessed Sacrament parish. These past three weeks have been very challenging.  I love Blessed Sacrament very much.  It has been such an incredible blessing to strive together in taking our spiritual lives to the “next level”. (You may be glad to never hear that term again:).  

Transitions are always difficult and they are constant as we continue on our pilgrim way towards heaven. I might suggest Psalm 16 as a guide for us during this time of transition.  David’s prayers to the Lord, “Preserve me, God, I take refuge in you.  I say to the Lord: ‘You are my God.  My happiness lies in you alone.’” If in times of change and transition amidst the trials and transitions of life we double down on seeking refuge in the Lord and confessing that our happiness is in Him alone, we will find such times in life to truly be Kairos moments, i.e., God moments that bring abundant life and of course, Jesus would not have us forget, the cross.

Let us pray for one another and especially pray for Bishop Kemme as he discerns with grace and the Holy Spirit the selection of the new pastor of Blessed Sacrament. I would also propose that we celebrate the wonderful things God has done for all of us over the last 8 years.  Pope Francis states that “an evangelizing communityis filled with joy; it knows how to rejoice always. It celebrates at every small victory, every step forward in the work of evangelization”.

I look forward to this next chapter in my priesthood and I also look forward to hearing about the wonderful things God will continue to do here at Blessed Sacrament. 

Ad majorem Dei gloriam,

Fr. John F. Jirak

 

The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

This upcoming Friday marks the 45th Annual March for Life in Washington DC. Our diocese is sending 16 full charter buses to join with well over 400,000 other marchers to defend the right to life in our country.

The Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade in 1973 legalized abortion on demand in the United States. Since that time, an estimated 59 million abortions have occurred in this country alone. To get a better understanding of that staggering number, consider that Generation X, all those born between 1965 - 1979, are 61 million strong in the U.S. It is as if we have lost a whole generation. Those 59 million lost are also roughly one third of all of us born since 1973.

 The March for Life is special in a number of ways. The March is popular with young people. It is estimated that half of the participants are under the age of 30. This rally is also very diverse drawing people from all across the country, of all cultural backgrounds, and of all different religions. The March is also, though I couldn’t confirm this but saw no evidence to the contrary, the largest annual march in Washington DC. This march consistently draws hundreds of thousands of marchers every year. It’s consistency and diversity point to the fact that it concerns the most important and fundamental of all human rights.

What ultimately makes the March for Life a big deal? It is a public voice for those too small to speak up to defend themselves. It is a public witness to the innate dignity of every single human being, no matter how small. It is a reminder to marchers and onlookers of the beauty and value of each person. It conveys the striking truth that no one should be thrown away.

 Please pray for an end of abortion in our country. Please pray also for the safety of our buses as they travel halfway across the country.

God bless,

Fr. Adam Grelinger

Maintaining Hope

A little over a month ago we ushered in the new year. I’m referring to the beginning of the Liturgical year, which begins on the first Sunday of Advent. Although we might not realize it at first, the liturgical year is much more significant than the secular calendar year. If you remove the religious holidays from the secular calendar, what do we look forward to besides a year’s increase in age and the celebration of mankind’s accomplishments. Don’t get me wrong, these events can be worthy of recognition and can even enhance one’s culture, but they can also remind us of the exhausting and monotonous lives we sometimes feel trapped in. 

However, the liturgical year provides a renewed hope, compelling invitations to conversion, and an ever constant reminder that we’re destined for more than what this life offers. In its recalling of past religious and historical events, through the sacramental life, the liturgical year is actually lived anew each year. This is feasible by our encountering the supernatural, the transcendent coming down to us, and our being drawn out of our mere earthly existence; we are truly exposed to a reality above and beyond this world. Simply put, the liturgical year offers us an opportunity to walk with Jesus Christ, to follow Him as a Catholic disciple. 

No one exemplifies this better than our Blessed Mother Mary, who’s feast day, as the Mother of God, we celebrate on the first day of the calendar year. It is a most fitting reminder that our secular lives should fit into our spiritual lives, not the other way around; and modeling our lives off Mary’s true discipleship offers us the fullest of existence, union with her Son. As Pope John Paul II said: “If Jesus is Life, Mary is the Mother of Life. If Jesus is Hope, Mary is the Mother of Hope. If Jesus is Peace, Mary is the Mother of Peace, Mother of the Prince of Peace. Entering the New Year, let us ask this holy Mother to bless us. Let us ask Her to give us Jesus, our full Blessing, in whom the Father blessed all history once and for all, making it become the history of salvation.” A most perfect new year’s resolution then would be to reflect more closely on Mary’s life throughout our liturgical year. 

When Christ is absent from our everyday life, our spiritual lives undoubtedly evaporate, sucking the true hope and joy from our lives. St. Paul reminded the Ephesians that before they encountered Christ, they were “without hope and without God in the world.’” (Eph. 2:12). May our world always maintain its hope and ensure that God remains at the center of our lives.  

Dei Gratia,

Fr. Andrew Bergkamp

Fourth Sunday of Advent

“For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord” (Luke 2:11).  This announcement of the angel is the reason for our joy and celebration.  I am most touched by the personalization of the message.  The savior has not been merely born, but born for YOU!  The explicit mention for whom the savior has been born deserves much prayer and reflection.  I believe it also to be the key to reviving the power of faith in our families, parish and world.  

The designation “you” speaks to the personal nature of salvation.  Christ’s saving work is not something general or out-there.  It is not an impersonal matter.  “You” are not a number.  God’s saving work is something intimate.  It is “for you.”  Unfortunately, this is lost on many people today.  People just do not sense the closeness of God.  This is why I believe that the re-personalizing of the message “a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord” is the main work of the New Evangelization.  

I would like to introduce to you a spiritual opportunity that has personalized the faith of Catholics for centuries, prayer before our savior who is Messiah and Lord present in the Blessed Sacrament.  Prayer before the Blessed Sacrament in Eucharistic Adoration has been personalizing my faith day after day for some 25 years now.  I began spending time in Eucharistic Adoration at a chapel in Hays, Kansas in 1994.  I look back with gratitude on how the Lord was drawing me so close to him through this prayer.  I often experienced a burning in my soul that was too deep for words.  During this time my relationship with Jesus began to become very personal.  I share this experience because I also believe with all of my heart that the Lord wants the same for you.  In this vein, I would again like to propose to you the offer to commit to a weekly hour of Eucharistic Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.  We have a number of open hours in need of Adorers, but you can also take an hour that works best for your schedule.

A new proposal: How about committing to an Hour of prayer in the middle of the night.  The Psalms are filled with references to praying to the Lord at night and the power of such prayer.  In Psalm 77 we hear, “You kept me from closing my eyes, I was too distraught to speak; I though of former times, years long past.  I recalled; through the night I ponder in my heart.”  In the 7th century, St. Isaac the Syrian wrote, “Prayer offered up at night possesses a great power, more than the prayer of the day time.  Therefore all the righteous prayed during the night, . . . There is nothing Satan fears so much as prayer that is offered during the vigilance at night.”  

There are many hours needing Adorers in the middle of the night.  For example, on Mondays we have the following need for a Partner: 2-3AM; 3-4AM; 4-5AM.  For a listing of all of the hours in need, see the website.  Yes, this is a next level challenge.  I don’t believe in making such challenges unless I, too, am willing to make such a commitment.  Accordingly, I am going to be committing to a weekly Holy Hour in the middle of the night at the beginning of the new year.  I will let you know which hour I choose once I finish my discernment.   

If you are up for personalizing the love of Jesus in a powerful by committing to a weekly Holy Hour, please call Angie Holladay, Perpetual Adoration Coordinator at 633-6776.

               Ad majorem Dei gloriam,

              Fr. John F. Jirak, Pastor

Third Sunday in Advent

You may have noticed over the last few months that we have been offering confessions during Masses on Sundays. Actually, we know that you have noticed because the response to it has been great. Many people are seeking the sacrament more frequently and many are coming who have not sought the sacrament for a while. Both of these cases excite us!

Some have wondered if the practice of offering confessions during Mass is something “creative” we have started or if it is a practice allowed by the Church. It is allowed by the Church and we are not breaking any rules by offering confessions during Mass. Some have also wondered if going to confession during Mass interferes with your Mass obligation because you are not fully present at Mass. Certainly it is desirable to prayerfully and actively participate in the whole of the Mass. However, going to confession can be a very appropriate way to prepare oneself for the reception of our Lord in communion. Also, we strongly encourage you to remain engaged in Mass while standing in line so that you will only be missing the few minutes that you are actually in the confessional.

The primary times we offer confession at Blessed Sacrament are Saturday 3:30 - 5:00 PM, Monday - Friday 7:30 - 7:50 AM, and Tuesday - Friday 5:00 - 5:20 PM. Additionally, we will do our best to offer confessions during the Saturday 5:15 PM Mass and the Sunday 9 AM, 11 AM, and 5:15 PM Masses. However, there is no guarantee that confessions will be available during Masses each weekend, but we will do our best to have the sacrament available.

As priests and spiritual fathers, we love to offer confessions and especially love to see so many people taking up the opportunity to return to the sacrament of forgiveness. One of the great benefits of offering more confessions is that it allows you the opportunity to go to confession more often. We are all always striving for greater holiness and the sacrament of confession is a powerful means to this growth. For this reason, we priests recommend that you consider going to confession at least once a month. Maybe we have grave sins, maybe we don’t, either way we can experience God’s mercy and receive His grace to strive for the sanctity we are called to.

God Bless,

Fr. Adam Grelinger

May the Lord Give you Peace

May the Lord give you peace!  That greeting originated with St. Francis of Assisi, (1181-1226).  I had the opportunity to visit Assisi on four different occasions during my sabbatical.  I love visiting Assisi as it such a space of spiritual nourishment and refreshment.  Also, the town is incredibly interesting dating back to several centuries before the birth of Christ.  

Another reason that I have such an affinity for St. Francis is because my dad’s name is Francis and my middle name is Francis.  Another devotional connection for me is the fact that Francis’ baptismal name was John (Giovanni).  Francis (Francesco) was a nickname given to Francis by his father, Pietro, and refers to “the little French speaking one”.  Francis’ mother, Pica, was from France and Pietro used to travel to France as a cloth merchant.  That makes St. Francis’ name John Francis and that, my friends, is my name.  Okay, now that I have finished my mental gymnastics to establish my devotional relationship with St. Francis, I will share a bit about the tag line, “May the Lord give you peace!”

The Lord revealed to St. Francis that he and the brothers were to greet everyone they met with the words, “May the Lord give you peace!”  He said not to be embarrassed by addressing these words to others and that the Lord would greatly bless the brothers for it.  When I read the story in the legend of St. Francis, I thought, wow, I could do that and I should do that!  Normally, I send an e-mail beginning with a salutation such as Good morning or Good afternoon, but wouldn’t it be a better greeting to pray the Lord’s peace onto the recipient, especially during a time when there is so much conflict in people’s hearts.  Peace is what every heart is seeking.  The world is impotent to satisfy this desire.  We are seeking evangelical peace, in other words, the peace of Christ.  The blessing of evangelical peace permeates the Mass.  Think of the greeting, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father”; and, the dismissal, “Go in peace glorifying the Lord by your life.”  And, don’t forget the exchange of the sign of peace before Holy Communion to mention a few occurrences. 

So if you wonder why I am now opening my written addresses with the words from St. Francis, “May the Lord give you peace,” it is because there is a great need for this gift.

It’s great to be back with you again.  I love my Blessed Sacrament family.  

To conclude, my other tag line from St. Ignatius, of course: 

Ad majorem Dei gloriam,

Fr. John F. Jirak, Pastor

Give Thanks to God

November 26, 2017 - The Thirty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Give Thanks to God

     Thanksgiving is a unique holiday. On the one hand it is a secular holiday, there’s nothing special in our Catholic liturgy proper to Thanksgiving Day. On the other hand, this holiday was established on a very religious foundation. The tradition of a “Thanksgiving Day” dates back to the early 1600’s when the first settlers arrived in America and established their colonies. Interaction with the Indians certainly occurred along the way, and may have played a role in the early thanksgiving celebrations; but the primary focus was always on giving praise to God, thankful for a successful harvest. Some secular holidays are more laudable than others, but Thanksgiving has to be at the top of the list. 

     The word thanksgiving, in one form or another, occurs 221 times in the bible. Gratitude is key to our faith and relationship with Almighty God, it is the first necessary step anyone ever takes before deciding to follow Christ. Upon recognition of the countless blessings from God, let alone His sheer goodness, one can’t help but experience a deep sense of gratitude. This gratitude leads us to a love of God, which is always capable of further growth; and this love is what compels us to follow Christ. It is for this reason that it is advisable to always begin one’s prayer, especially a holy hour, with thanksgiving. It fosters a greater appreciation and orients our conversation with God towards a more intimate relationship. 

     Back to the holiday which is “Thanksgiving,” for it to maintain any significant value we must reject the absurd notion that our faith is somehow private and that prayer shouldn’t have a place of prominence in the public square. One cannot have a public holiday for giving thanks unless there is Someone worth giving thanks to. If we truly are grateful, then we will refuse to be bashful when it comes to our faith. The person we are supposedly thankful for, Jesus Christ, should not be someone we are embarrassed to be seen with in public. Thanksgiving is called for each and every day, not just on the fourth Thursday of November; but this religious, secular, holiday does offer a distinct opportunity. 

     Hopefully it was a time of communal thanksgiving for you and your family, and your friends. We actually exercise this aspect of our faith whenever we celebrate the Eucharist (which literally means, thanksgiving to God) together, as a community; and the holiday of Thanksgiving simply provides us with an explicit opportunity to extend our communal gratitude beyond the parish grounds and outside of our liturgies. Although the holiday is over, if it had any meaning, its effects will remain. Gratitude for God is not meant to wane, but to ever increase so that our love for God may increase. 

Dei Gratia,

Fr. Andrew Bergkamp

November 19, 2017

November 19, 2017 - The Thirty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Pope Francis has declared this Sunday, November 19th, to be the first World Day of the

Poor. He declared it at the end of the Year of Mercy to continue to remind us of our fervor

for the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. It has been clear from the first day of his

pontificate that Pope Francis has a special love for the poor, those who live on the literal and

spiritual peripheries. In calling the first World Day of the Poor, our pope is drawing us all to

reflect intently with him on the poor and to use our own hands to help.

We know the beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of

Heaven.” This “poverty in spirit” is a good thing and something all Christians are called to

foster in imitation of Jesus, who left the riches of His divine life to live here below with

us, as one of us. Pope Francis describes this spiritual poverty as, “having a humble heart

that accepts our creaturely limitations and sinfulness and thus enables us to overcome

the temptation to feel omnipotent and immortal. Poverty is an interior attitude that

avoids looking upon money, career and luxury as our goal in life and the condition for our

happiness. Poverty instead creates the conditions for freely shouldering our personal and

social responsibilities, despite our limitations, with trust in God’s closeness and the support

of his grace. Poverty, understood in this way, is the yardstick that allows us to judge how best

to use material goods and to build relationships that are neither selfish nor possessive.”

The poverty we must work to eliminate in our communities is destitution, lack of

opportunities, loneliness, addiction, the loss of hope, and an apathy for life. Pope Francis

calls us to not be indifferent, passive, or resigned in the face of these issues. He calls us to

act creatively and courageously to seek a life for ourselves and a society which does not

neglect those on the margins. He says, “If we want to help change history and promote real

development, we need to hear the cry of the poor and commit ourselves to ending their

marginalization.”

Such efforts cannot be left to others. We must imitate Christ in His poverty of spirit and

then we must serve Him in our marginalized brothers and sisters. Charity, actual my-handshelping-

another charity, has a truly transformative power in our lives and in the lives of

those we touch. Pope Francis again says, “We are called, then, to draw near to the poor, to

encounter them, to meet their gaze, to embrace them and to let them feel the warmth of love

that breaks through their solitude. Their outstretched hand is also an invitation to step out

of our certainties and comforts, and to acknowledge the value of poverty in itself.” Let us not

let Pope Francis (nor Christ) down! Let us heed his wisdom and go courageously to help

our poor brothers and sisters and to learn from them how to be poor in spirit.

God bless,

Fr. Adam Grelinger

November 12, 2017 Thirty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Yesterday was Veterans day, and on Friday our grade school students honored some of our veterans after the all-school Mass. It was a great show of respect and patriotism. Throughout much of our nation’s history, Catholics were viewed with skepticism because many people mistakenly thought that to be a good Catholic, one couldn’t be a true American. (It seemed odd to non-Catholics that one could be obedient and loyal to the Pope, while still pledging allegiance to America). For years, Catholics had to prove that it was possible to be a good Catholic while also being a true patriot. One of the clearest ways this was demonstrated was through the courageous armed service provided by faithful Catholics, going all the way back to the Revolutionary War. 

At the heart of it all lies our Lord’s greatest commandment, to love God and neighbor. It might not be viewed this way, but patriotism is a virtue. St. Thomas Aquinas places patriotism under the virtue of piety. Piety is primarily directed towards love of God, but as we know, this also entails love of neighbor. When our men and women serve our country, this should be their underlying motivation. Recognizing the unalienable right to life and the importance of our freedom to worship God is what compelled our veterans to serve our country, and to willingly place their lives in harm’s way. Love is, willing the good of another, and there is no greater good than to love and serve God. Defending and fostering this good is what our veterans have done by devoting their service to our country. 

Whether one is currently in active service, a veteran, or neither, patriotism is virtue we must all strive to acquire and grow. It is founded on our responsibility to love our neighbor, willing the good of the other. As citizens of America, we don’t promote patriotism because of some ideology or sense of superiority, but because we ought to love our fellow Americans, defending one another and our God given rights. In doing so we truly love God, which is what we recognize and honor in our veterans. 

Dei Gratia,

Fr. Andrew Bergkamp

October 29, 2017 The Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

As we wrap up Respect Life Month, I would like to offer some commentary on another life-threatening issue that is growing in popularity in our country: Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS). This is similar to, but not the same as, euthanasia. In euthanasia the doctor administers the drug which ends life; in PAS the doctor supplies the drug for the individual to self-administer. Both are gravely immoral.

Currently five states and Washington DC have legal PAS and another state allows it by court ruling. The state of Kansas introduced the Death with Dignity Act earlier this year which awaits review by Kansas’ Committee on Health and Human Services. The popularity of PAS has grown as the conversation about it focusses on PAS as “death with dignity” or a “compassionate choice” to end suffering.

The argument for PAS is that many are suffering from terrible pain and it is compassionate to let them be free from it. This argument succeeds in that it sparks fear in us that people are suffering from severe, incurable pain. However, the Oregon Death with Dignity Act: 2015 Data Summary shows the real reasons cited by those seeking PAS: 96% cited being “less able to engage in activities making life enjoyable,” 92% cited “losing autonomy,” and 48% cited being a “burden on family/caregivers.” Only 29% showed concern for “inadequate pain control or concern about it.” So which is the compassionate choice, accompany the suffering with love and palliative care or provide them with drugs so they no longer have to be a burden to us?

Why is PAS not death with dignity? First, when have we ever considered suicide a dignified choice? When have we lauded those who say to persons suffering with a terminal illness “It’d be better without you”? Are those who don’t choose PAS undignified? PAS is not death with dignity because there is no dignity in devaluing human life. Life doesn’t lose its dignity when it entails suffering. The value of life is more than the sum of its pleasures and “activities making life enjoyable.” One’s life is dignified because God desires, out of His abundant love, for it to be.

For us to affirm that the value of someone’s life has run out because she is suffering with a terminal illness is to confirm for her that life is no longer dignified. That is not compassion. Com-passion means “to suffer with.” PAS is not compassion. Accompanying the suffering, lonely, and vulnerable person with love, respect, and a good dose of our time is compassion. A death with dignity is one where the value of the person is affirmed with love all the way to the end.

God Bless,

Fr. Adam Grelinger

October 15, 2017 - The Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In celebration of our parish’s 90th Anniversary, we will be posting “time capsules.” Here is our third.

Pastors and Associate Pastors Who became Bishops

Archbishop Leo C. Byrne, Pastor 1961-1963
Auxiliary Bishop, St. Louis Archdiocese, 1954-1961
Coadjutor Bishop, Wichita Diocese, 1961-1967
Archbishop/Coadjutor, St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese, 1967-1974

Bishop Ronald M. Gilmore, Associate Pastor 1970-1971
Bishop, Dodge City KS Diocese, 1998-2010

Bishop Eugene J. Gerber, Pastor 1973-1975
Bishop, Dodge City KS Diocese, 1976-1983
Bishop, Wichita Diocese, 1983-2001

Bishop James D. Conley, Pastor 2006-2008
Auxiliary Bishop, Denver Archdiocese, 2008-2012
Bishop, Lincoln NB Diocese, 2012-Present

October 8, 2017 - The Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

This coming Friday, October 13th, the Church will celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the last appearance of Our Blessed Mother in Fatima. This was the appearance accompanied by the miracle of the sun “dancing” in the sky which was witnessed by 70,000 people. In the world of 1917, one slipping more and more into atheism and materialism, this miracle itself paid witness to the spiritual realities which lie behind the material world we see.

As the anniversary of the apparitions comes to a close, I wanted to briefly recall the important elements of Mary’s messages which preceded the great miracle. These messages were pertinent at the time of the apparitions and they remain pertinent to us 100 years later.

One primary message of Our Lady at Fatima was our need to turn away from our sins. Mary urgently stressed that this goal needs to be a primary focus for us. Our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and died that we may live; we must make our lives a grateful response to His love by turning away from the sins that sent him to the cross.

Second, Our Lady exhorts us to commit to prayer and penance for the salvation of souls. It is Christ’s mission to bring salvation to all, and we, members of His Body, share that same mission. Mary calls us to offer prayer, especially the Rosary, for the conversion of sinners and to offer penance in reparation for sins committed throughout the world.

This is the briefest of overviews of the events and messages of Our Lady in Fatima. I encourage you, if you have not already, to look into the messages of Fatima during this anniversary year. Mary reminds us that the real battles in this world are spiritual battles. “For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers....” (Eph. 6:12). Today we contend with growing attacks on the family, disrespect for human life, and rejection of God. Our weapons are prayer, penance, and acts of charity, weapons to be wielded by all those baptized into Christ’s salvific mission. Mary did not appear just to verify the faith of the shepherd children she visited. No, Mary appeared to re-inspire Christians to fight for the salvation of souls.

For more information, see EWTN’s content on the apparitions at Fatima. [scan QR code with your phone] 

God Bless,

Fr. Adam Grelinger

October 1, 2017 - The Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This Monday, October 2, we celebrate the feast day of the Guardian Angels. When was the last time you heard anything about angels, let alone guardian angels? Most importantly, when was the last time you prayed to your Guardian Angel? For the longest time, guardian angels were part of the normal curriculum taught in religion class and everyone knew the famous prayer: 

ANGEL OF GOD, my Guardian dear, 
To whom God’s love commits me here, 
Ever this day be at my side, 
To light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.

Although many of our young children are still taught this prayer, the use of it dwindles as fast as we grow-up. As adults we may be tempted to think it childish to pray to our angel, but in reality to not do so is what’s foolish. 

Angels are not just a pleasant construct of one’s imagination, nor are they our deceased loved ones. Our theology on angels is well supported by scripture by Jesus Himself. In the Gospel of Matthew (18:10) He says, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in Heaven.” Jesus has told us that their angels are in the very presence of God. Each of us has been assigned an angel and we know that they intercede for us. “I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels who present the prayers of the saints and enter into the presence of the glory of the Holy One.” (Tobit 12:15) It is God’s will that we cooperate with the angelic intercession that occurs.

If we have angels in Heaven who are interceding for us, then we should speak to them in the same way we pray to the saints, asking them to protect us and guide us. St. Paul in his letter to the Hebrews (1:14) says that angels are, “ministering spirits sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation.” They serve us by protecting us both physically and spiritually. The iconic image of a guardian angel guiding two children across a dangerous bridge is not just a heartfelt image, it conveys a supernatural reality. 

Countless people in Scripture encountered this reality and engaged the angels. Mary had an entire conversation with Gabriel at the Annunciation. And we know from the Gospels that angels ministered to Jesus in the desert. If we strive to imitate Christ and follow the example of Mary and the saints, then we are in good company when we decide to pray to our guardian angel. We need all the help we can get when it comes to attaining our salvation, so if you’re not already, start praying to your Guardian Angel. What better day to start than on their feast day? 

Dei Gratia (By the grace of God),

Fr. Andrew Bergkamp

September 17, 2017 - The Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

I would like to take this opportunity to introduce our new Eucharistic Adoration Lead, Angie Holladay: “I am Angie Holladay and my family have been members of this parish since we married in 1983.  Both my kids attended Blessed Sacrament and KMC; they are now married and living outside of the state, but Mike and I continue to call Blessed Sacrament ‘home’. Fr. Jirak asked me to lead this important ministry as Rose Kuhlman, who has led it for over 20 yrs, would like to take a step back. She did a marvelous job and I have big shoes to fill! Rose will continue as Day Coordinator on Thursdays.”

In addition to our scheduled adorers, Angie pointed out to me that many parishioners are taking advantage of the adoration chapel by stopping in from time to time to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. This is wonderful!

However I would like to challenge all parishioners to sign up for an hour of adoration each week. It is a pillar of our Parish Priority Plan, here at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament, to Cultivate the Spiritual Life. Making a commitment to an hour praying before the Blessed Sacrament would definitely help you, in Fr. Jirak’s words, to take your spiritual life to the next level!

You do not need to be any kind of spiritual expert to have an adoration hour. I know this from experience, as I was somewhat forced to take an adoration hour in college. I didn’t have any direction as to what to do, but I just took that time to speak to the Lord and in a few weeks my relationship with the Lord became much stronger and very personal. When you sign up for an hour you are setting an appointment with God, blocking out time in your week that is just for Him. Trust me, God can use your commitment of time in adoration to bestow the gifts of faith and peace in abundance.

Angie also wanted me to mention that by signing up for an hour, it neither means that you can no longer visit at-will, nor that you can never take a vacation. We have a list of substitutes who are willing to step in when needed. So I challenge you once again to sign up for one hour of adoration each week. Of specific consideration are the multiple hours that have only one assigned adorer. These hours include the very early morning hours, daytime hours, and Saturdays.

To sign up for an hour, please call Angie Holladay at 316-633-6776 or speak to one of the day coordinators listed in this bulletin.

God bless,
Fr. Adam Grelinger

September 10, 2017 - The Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

In celebration of our parish’s 90th Anniversary, we will be posting “time capsules.” Here is our second.

The Church of the Blessed Sacrament “Time Capsule”

Founding pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish, Fr. O’Sullivan was born in Hutchinson.  He served as Vicar General, Defensor Vinculi and Diocesan Consultor and has the distinction of being the second Kansas-born priest of the Diocese of Wichita.  “Father O’Sullivan was one of the most prominent and beloved priests of the Wichita Diocese.”  (The Advance Register, Jan. 3, 1958)

September 3, 2017 - The Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

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 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 myself 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

August 27, 2017 - The Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

August 20, 2017 - The Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Last Tuesday we celebrated a Holy Day of Obligation, Mary’s Assumption into Heaven, and this Tuesday we celebrate Mary’s Coronation, the crowning of Mary Queen of Heaven, (a very fitting time to be praying the Glorious mysteries). Our faith informs us that besides Jesus, Mary is the only person to currently have a body in Heaven. How did she get there? When I was young, and even after the first few years of seminary, I just assumed that the Assumption of Mary into Heaven entailed her being fully awake and levitating upwards, higher and higher until she vanished from earthly sight. Our tradition tells us otherwise. 

Until the 17th century, the commonly held position was that Mary died before she was assumed into Heaven. Today some theologians believe what I previously assumed to be the case, that Mary never underwent physical death. At first glance it seems logical in light of original sin. We know death to be the effect and punishment of original sin; and so if Mary was preserved from original sin, she likewise ought to be spared from death. However, it is most fitting that Mary did experience death and it also provides more hope for the rest of us.

Mary’s Immaculate Conception, though a magnificent miracle and gift, did not exempt her from sharing in humanity’s condition, devoid of the preternatural gifts. She lacked infused knowledge, evidenced by her question to Jesus when Joseph and her found Him in the Temple. She also experienced pain and suffering, not suffering from personal sin, but obviously at the sight of our Lord’s Passion. Jesus entrusted her to all of humanity as our Mother, and thus it is fitting that she be in solidarity with us. And for her own sake, St. John Damascene points out, “To be clothed in immortality, it is of course necessary that the mortal part be shed, since even the master of nature did not refuse the experience of death.” 

Besides the general logic and fittingness of Mary’s death, it offers us hope in the midst of fear and anxiety. Although she was free from any and all bodily decay, our Mother underwent the same event that we inevitably approach. It is only through death that eternal life truly becomes a possible reality. As St. John Paul II said of Mary, “by undergoing mankind’s common destiny, she can more effectively exercise her spiritual motherhood towards those approaching the last moment of their life.” With Mary as our guide we do not have to fear death; and reflecting on her glorious Assumption, we can long with earnest hope for the day, when like her, our bodies will be reunited with our souls in Heaven. 

Dei Gratia (By the grace of God),

Fr. Andrew Bergkamp

August 13, 2017 - The Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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 in 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 church, and through the tunnel from Bishops Hall to the school cafeteria. 

Ad majorem Dei gloriam,

Rev. John F. Jirak

August 6, 2017 - The Transfiguration of the Lord

One month ago, Bishop Kemme and a small contingent from our Diocese traveled to Orlando, Florida for the Convocation of Catholic Leaders. This unprecedented event focused on how the Church is to live out the “Joy of the Gospel” in the present day, something Pope Francis strongly encourages. The fact is, every Pope has seen the importance of evangelization, founded on Christ’s own teaching, “Go therefore, and teach all nations.” However, for multiple reasons, evangelization by Catholics has fallen by the wayside over the years. Hence, evangelization was the main topic at the Orlando convocation, which sadly is not a “Catholic” term we’re comfortable using anymore, let alone practicing. 

To combat the perceived indifferentism and lack of effort on our part as Catholics, there have been countless initiatives, programs, and models introduced in order to jump-start evangelization efforts. Now many people have, and continue to, carry out great missionary efforts; but by and large there has been a paralysis by analysis in this area. The fact that the importance of evangelization continues to be stressed, might indicate that we’re still not convinced of its importance. So here’s a question for all of us: If I believe that the Son of God became man, suffered, and died an agonizing death on a cross because He loves me, why am I embarrassed or hesitant to share my faith? 

Our Lord desires a personal relationship with each and every one of us, and as a result, calls us to be a disciple of Him. Attempting to be a Catholic without being a disciple of Christ is like being a baseball fan who wears their favorite team’s paraphernalia, but doesn’t even know what month the playoffs begin. Sharing our Catholic faith with others should not be viewed as an obligation forced upon us by Christ, but rather as an exciting privilege. There are numerous materials at our disposal for evangelization, but when it comes down to it; one simply must be willing to bring up in regular conversations the fact that God still matters, that Jesus Christ loves you, and that the Church’s mission and teachings aim to serve mankind. It might not seem normal at first, but to use the old Nike slogan, “just do it.”

Dei Gratia (By the grace of God),

Fr. Andrew Bergkamp

July 30, 2017 - The Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

It’s time! Say “Yes” to God’s plan for married life

Forty-nine years ago on July 29, 1968, Pope Paul VI issued an encyclical that was the most controversial Church document since the Protestant Reformation. The above title was the United States Catholic Bishop’s slogan for last week’s NFP (Natural Family Planning) awareness week. It concluded Saturday, July 29, on the anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, Humanae Vitae. This document, although simply and compassionately reiterating the Church’s teaching on marriage, was received with hostility. Many people, laity and clergy alike, viewed the Pope’s affirmation on the inseparability of the procreative and unitive aspects of the marriage act as archaic and ridiculous. To this day the Church is trying to convey the true beauty of marriage in light of God’s plan for this vocation, hence the NFP awareness week. 

NFP is a natural and theologically sound approach to maintaining the union between the procreative and unitive elements of married love. Paul VI predicted that if these two aspects were at all separated by married couples (usually through contraception), society would witness a decline in moral standards, infidelity between spouses would increase, women would be reduced to objects for pleasure and that governments would openly embrace population control. These have all become a sad reality. Recognizing these consequences and the undying truth conveyed by Christ’s teaching on marriage, Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI both firmly reiterated the message of Humanae Vitae. 

The Church in Her wisdom and compassion, while upholding moral truths, never ceases to address real life situations and struggles. It is for these reasons that She strongly promotes couples to discern the use of NFP in their marriage. This method of regulating the birth of children is not only as effective as the, dangerous, artificial means, it is a completely healthy alternative for the woman. It fosters the practice of different virtues by each spouse, and as a result, is beneficial to the overall well-being of the marriage. Furthermore, the practice of NFP can offer couples with certain infertility struggles, a greater opportunity to conceive of children. 

If you and your spouse are not aware of the modern form of NFP, (more advanced than the rhythm method) or why the Church teaches that it is the only acceptable form of birth regulation, I encourage you to engage your faith by looking into this Church teaching. If you and your spouse have already encountered this method and recognize the great beauty and benefits of it, I encourage you to share your experience with young couples who might benefit from a greater understanding of NFP. The sanctity of life and the vocation of marriage are great blessings from God, but we as faithful stewards must open our hearts to them if we are to fully receive the blessings which flow from the Lord, the Giver of Life.

Dei Gratia (By the grace of God),

Fr. Andrew Bergkamp

The Church of the Blessed Sacrament Roman Catholic Church + 124 N Roosevelt Wichita, KS 67208 + 316-682-4557 + Sacramental Emergency Phone: 316-512-2206 + parish@blessedsacramentwichita.com

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