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
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.
Fr. Andrew Bergkamp
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
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.
Fr. Adam Grelinger
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.
Fr. Andrew Bergkamp
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.
Fr. Adam Grelinger
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
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]
Fr. Adam Grelinger
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
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.
Fr. Adam Grelinger
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)
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
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.
Fr. Adam Grelinger
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
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
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
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
Has anyone ever shown you how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?
No, really, has anyone ever really told you what it means, what it entails, how it works? Who is Jesus anyway? Many Christians may have at one time been attracted to the faith through the possibility of getting to know God, yet over time they have settled into the schedule of going to church and saying certain prayers. They know some facts about Jesus and think about him from time to time. Yet he remains abstract, distant. Is there anything more?
But what of Jesus’ own words, “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them” (John 14:18-21). That sounds like a God who wants to have a real, person-to-person relationship with you.
If any of this resonates with you or would resonate with someone you know who is Christian or non-Christian, I invite you and that someone you know, to consider joining us for Discovering Christ. This seven-week series presents the Good News of Jesus in a concrete and personal way. Discovering Christ is ordered toward drawing people into a personal encounter and relationship with Jesus.
I encourage you to consider this great opportunity to delve deeper into your faith and to encounter the person of Jesus Christ in a new and personal way.
Fr. Adam Grelinger
What a summer it has been so far. I have been so blessed to spend my summer here with all of you at Blessed Sacrament, but it seems like it is going too fast. I have only a few weeks left until I am done here and then it’s off to my last year of seminary. There have been many learning opportunities that I have had this summer and if I could summarize all of them in one sentence I would say: I learned what true discipleship looks like.
These last couple of months have been etched in intentional discipleship. For example, we have had multiple Gospels explaining the cost of discipleship. Jesus says “take up your cross and follow me,” and, “those who love mother and father more than me are not worthy of me.” He also said in the Gospel last Sunday, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.” All of these verses from the Gospels speak to us about submitting our entire lives to Christ. We have also had multiple feast days of the early Apostles; Saint Thomas, Saints Peter and Paul, and soon we will have Saint James’ feast day on July 25th. What great examples these men are for us, giving up their entire lives for Christ, even unto death.
We here at Blessed Sacrament take the role of discipleship seriously, or as Fr. Jirak would say “take it to the next level.” It is not just a way of life that leads to heaven but the only way of life that leads to heaven. It is an awesome sight and witness when so many people are striving to be disciples of Christ. Discipleship doesn’t only mean our own personal relationship with God, but leading others toward their personal relationship with God. Evangelization is key to being an intentional disciple and this is a predominant role of the laity.
I have been leading a book study on the book Forming Intentional Disciples by Sherry Weddell. Sherry speaks of the five thresholds of conversion. The first threshold is trust. Building trust between the person and yourself is key to helping them begin a journey to the truth of Christ. Without some kind of bridge of trust or a positive experience of a Christian believer, they will not be able to move closer to Christ. In our group we mentioned some ways this could happen: inviting them to a parish event (with food because people flock to food!), asking them out to lunch, or just sitting down and speaking with them about life, not necessarily starting with the truths of the faith. The curiosity will come later after they have developed a trusting friendship.
I hope and pray that all of us are encouraged to be intentional disciples because we all have this calling. Let us use the gifts that God has given us to serve Him and others!
Deacon Jim Schibi
It is such a blessing to be apart of this Blessed Sacrament family! I have only been here three weeks now, but I feel as if I am home because everyone has been so welcoming and helpful. It is a blessing to be assigned to Blessed Sacrament for many reasons, but I am excited to be here following in the footsteps of my great-uncle, Fr. Vic Bieberle, who was assigned to Blessed Sacrament for his first assignment and then later returned as pastor.
I grew up nearby, attending St. Thomas Aquinas parish and school. I graduated from Kapaun Mt. Carmel in 2008 and then received a bachelors in Information Technology from Newman University here in town. Having felt the tug to go to seminary in college, through the influence of friends and the chaplains Fr. Joe Tatro and Fr. Mike Simone, I entered seminary just out of college. Bishop sent me to Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Maryland where I spent my whole seminary career. Fr. Andrew and I entered seminary the same summer, but never had the chance to study at the same seminary.
I was blessed to grow up in a tight-knit Catholic family. My parents are still parishioners at St. Thomas Aquinas (or at least they said they wouldn’t switch to Blessed Sacrament). I have one sister who lives in town with her husband and my little niece. Much of my extended family also lives here in Wichita.
Growing up, I dabbled in different sports but didn’t find my niche until my dad, sister, and I took up Tae Kwon Do. I was also involved in Science Olympiad competitions through middle school and high school. My favorite events in Science Olympiad included constructing trebuchets to attack cardboard castles and building cars that played billiards.
I am so very excited to get to know you all and to be apart of your lives as a priest. Thank you for welcoming me to the parish!
Fr. Adam Grelinger
It has been almost two weeks now since I moved into the rectory and began working alongside Father Jirak, Father Adam, Deacon Jim, and the Parish Staff here at Blessed Sacrament. Settling in and beginning priestly ministry has been a whirlwind, but it is great to finally be getting my feet wet. I consider myself very blessed to be assigned here; and it dawned on me that this is the first time in my life that I belong, and am a member, of a new parish.
Calling Blessed Sacrament “my parish” is exciting, and it’s more than just an assignment. It is where my faith and my vocation will grow as I continue to encounter the love of Christ. All of you will play an important role in this; because our relationship with the Lord does not exist or grow in isolation, rather it is supported and nourished by the entire Body of Christ, specifically our parish family. At the same time, I am overjoyed to serve you as priest with the goal of assisting you in your own relationships with God, helping you on your way to our Heavenly reward.
I look forward to spending time with you and getting to know you and your families. I would like to offer a little bit about myself so that you know my background and where I come from.
I am the oldest of seven children and we were raised on a family farm south of Garden Plain, which my family still operates. We were blessed to grow up in a Catholic atmosphere, provided with good examples by our parents. Faith, family, and work, were staples in our lives and will continue to serve me in my vocation. I am amazed at all the blessings God has provided me, and this became more and more evident as I entered and progressed through seminary.
My six years of seminary were spent at Kenrick Seminary in St. Louis and Mundelein Seminary in Chicago. With each passing year, I became more excited for priestly ministry; and now that it has arrived I am eager to serve the Lord by serving you. I am a priest of God and I am your priest, please pray for me that I may do the will of God in all things.
Dei Gratia (By the grace of God),
Fr. Andrew Bergkamp
On Tuesday, Fr. Andrew Bergkamp and Fr. Adam Grelinger began their first priestly assignment. A priest’s first assignment is normally the most formative of his priestly assignments for good or for ill. After many years of discernment and formation, a new priest is ready to pastor souls. I remember the years of discernment before even going to seminary (1991-1997) and then five-and-a-half years of seminary formation (1997-2002) before becoming a priest. By the time it comes to ordination and a new priest’s first assignment, he is extremely ready for ministry. I love working with new priests because their energy and enthusiasm is so inspiring. I find my own priesthood being invigorated by the newly ordained. Fr. Andrew and Fr. Adam are in the second day of their first priestly assignment as I type this reflection. They are already kindling my own priestly spirit. Their new energy to bring the sacraments to the people of God brings a new found energy to my own priesthood.
The parishioners to whom a new priest is assigned also have an important role in the ongoing formation of a priest. In fact, the magisterium of the Church has issued numerous documents on priestly formation and the document currently in use explicitly mentions the parishioners to whom a new priest is assigned. This passage comes from United States Conference of Catholic Bishops titled The Basic Plan for the Ongoing Formation of Priests issued in 2001. Regarding new priests, the document states, “Parishioners, who generally take great pride in having a newly ordained among them, can also provide immense formational support through their words and prayers. They can also provide considerable practical assistance through the feedback they give to newly ordained, for example, concerning clarity of communication, availability, sensitivity to needs, and skills in organization. If this feedback is organized and systematic, it can be especially useful to one who is beginning priestly ministry.”
The parishioners at Blessed Sacrament have a great reputation for nurturing and supporting a man in his first years of priesthood. Some fifteen years ago I was greatly blessed as a new priest by the people of Blessed Sacrament. My first assignment as a priest was under Msgr. Gilsenan and ran from 2002-2004. Msgr. Charles Pope, who gave our parish mission this year, often states that the same people he has served have shaped and formed him as a priest.
Ad majorem Dei gloriam,
Rev. John F. Jirak
Praised be Jesus Christ!
As I finish my assignment here at Blessed Sacrament, my heart is full of gratitude to God for the past two years that I have been privileged to spend here. I have been proud to call Blessed Sacrament my home and have have truly felt at home here since I began my assignment in July of 2015. I would like to use my final Pastor’s Corner article to say thank you to all the many wonderful people that I have come to know and love during my time here.
First and foremost I would like to thank Fr. Jirak who has been an incredible mentor and older brother to me. From the very beginning I was astounded by Fr. Jirak’s patience with me and his willingness to help me learn and grow in my priesthood. They say that when two oxen are yoked to a plow or cart they will produce more than double the power of just one ox pulling by itself because each ox will pull harder since it will be encouraged by the other and work to keep up. I believe that both Fr. Jirak and I are better priests because of the other and I am incredibly thankful for his support and advice.
I also want to say thank you to all the parish staff. From fog horns and rubber snakes, to devious Elf on the Shelf appearances, they have put up with a LOT of shenanigans from me and have helped me in more ways than I could ever hope to enumerate. I will always look back with fondness at the team that we had here and I pray that you are just as patient with the new priests who are coming in.
I also want to thank the staff and teachers of the school. There is a reason that we have received the Banner School Award three years running and they are it! Their dedication to our children is nothing short of inspiring and it made me want to work harder to serve with the same dedication that they display.
Finally, I would like to thank all of the parishioners of Blessed Sacrament. Thank you for welcoming me into your lives and your families. Thank you for entrusting me with the care of your souls. Thank you for your constant encouragement and prayers. Thank you for allowing me to be your Father.
I would also like to offer a word of apology to anyone whom I might have hurt, disappointed, or offended unknowingly. If I have somehow let you down, please find it in your heart to forgive my ignorance and shortcomings and please pray that with God’s help I can improve and serve His people better.
I shamelessly ask-- no, I beg-- all of you to pray for me as I take on my new assignment as chaplain of Kapaun Mount Carmel Catholic High School. I am very excited to begin this new ministry and see what God has in store for me there.
Your Servant in Christ through Mary,
Fr. Curtis Hecker
Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. I often hear apologists—those who make a living by defending the Catholic Faith, e.g., Karl Keating and Tim Staples—use the doctrine of the Trinity to demonstrate that Catholics do not believe the deposit of the faith, everything necessary for salvation, is found in the scriptures alone. The doctrine of the Trinity, three divine persons but one God, is not found in the scriptures yet all Christians believe in the Trinity. The truths needing to be believed and held for our personal salvation are revealed through scripture, Tradition and the teaching authority of the Church.
The closest scriptural formulation for the doctrine of the Trinity is found in today’s second reading. It also happens to be the most used greeting offered by the priest celebrant at Mass: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all”(2 Cor. 13:13). I always laugh when people say that the Mass is not scripture. The Mass “bleeds” with scripture, including the initial greeting and dismissal.
An abundant Christian spirituality is founded on our personal relationship with each of the Divine Persons of the Trinity. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “by sending his only Son and the Spirit of Love in the fullness of time, God has revealed his innermost secret: God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange” (CCC, 221). We relate to the Heavenly the Father as the source of our life and our goal. All prayer is ultimately directed to the Father. However, we are not able to relate to the Heavenly Father in ourselves. The only prayer acceptable to the Father comes from the Son. The Son’s entire life was one dedicated as an offering to the Father. Our prayer is acceptable to the Father only when it is united to His Son. In Baptism, we are united to Christ as our head. This is why there is no salvation outside of Jesus Christ. In some way, known or unknown, all who are saved will be joined to Christ. This truth is also the principal for celebrating the 5:15pm Sunday Mass Ad Orientem (to the Liturgical East, the priest facing in the same direction as the people). The faithful at Mass are joined through the Holy Spirit to the priest, who acts in the Person of Christ, offering himself to the Father, who in tradition resides in the East. St. Augustine states: “When we rise to pray, we turn East, where heaven begins. And we do this not because God is there, as if He had moved away from the other directions on earth..., but rather to help us remember to turn our mind towards a higher order, that is, to God.”
O.k., now the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the love of God poured out into our hearts. It is by the Holy Spirit that the life of Jesus is made our own. We are truly united and strengthened in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is not merely a mental or sentimental union. The Holy Spirit confers a true existential union so that we can say with St. Paul, “it is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
The Catholic practice of beginning and ending our prayer with the Sign of the Cross impresses upon us the truth that God has “destined us to share in the exchange” of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit . . .
Ad majorem Dei gloriam,
Rev. John F. Jirak
First of all I want you to know how excited I am to be at Blessed Sacrament for the summer. I was so relieved when I opened the envelope and read that I would be spending my summer here (I said a few prayers). I was able to spend some time here last summer and was very impressed with everything going on here at Blessed Sacrament. All of you are so blessed to be a part of this parish and I am so happy I can be a part of it too.
As for me, I was born and raised in Parsons, along with my 10 other siblings; 7 boys and 4 girls (my parents are on their way to sainthood). I am the third oldest and the ages range from 31 to 5. Last summer, I realized how crazy it was that at 28 I was still buying school supplies with my 3 little sisters who are 5, 8, and 9. Only one more year left, thank God! I do love being in a big family and I believe that this has helped me feel comfortable in different parishes, because each parish is like one big family.
Two weekends ago, I was ordained a deacon along with 9 other men. This means that, through ordination, we are configured as a sacramental sign to the Church and therefore to Christ the Servant. Although everyone is called to serve, a Deacon by his sacramental ordination and through his various ministries, is to be a servant in a servant-Church.
So in short, I am here to serve. I will be able to assist at Mass, proclaim the Gospel and preach, celebrate baptisms, witness weddings, funerals and more. I am so thankful to God for calling me to this vocation and I look forward to being back in the diocese to serve all of you and hopefully somewhat pay you back for all the prayers and support that you have given me.
I look forward to meeting all of you over these next couple of months. Have a wonderful weekend and God Bless!
Rev. Mr. James Schibi