June 25, 2017 - The Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

June 18, 2017 - The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

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

June 11, 2017 - The Most Holy Trinity

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

June 4, 2017 - Pentecost Sunday

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!

In Christ,
Rev. Mr. James Schibi

May 28, 2017 - The Seventh Sunday of Easter

You may have heard that I will be going on sabbatical this fall.  Yes, it is true.  I will be spending about three months in Rome from September through November of 2017.  I will be back in time for Advent!  You might ask what is a sabbatical?  Firstly, as I was reminded by the Vicar General, it is not a vacation. :-) Secondly, a sabbatical is not a time of rehabilitation or of being sent away.  Often times in the past, “sabbatical” was the word used for the temporary departure of a priest from the parish needing help for a particular struggle.  Even as a young boy, I remember a local priest having to go away on “sabbatical.”

A sabbatical is leisure in the best sense of the word.  It includes the building up and expanding of the soul.  It is a time of personal enrichment, “filling the reservoir.”  Pope Francis described the purpose of a sabbatical very well in a 2014 homily: “I ask the Lord Jesus to confirm the priestly joy of those who have already ministered for some years. The joy which, without leaving their eyes, is also found on the shoulders of those who bear the burden of the ministry, those priests who, having experienced the labors of the apostolate, gather their strength and re-arm themselves: ‘get a second wind,’ as the athletes say.”

I would like to share with you my sabbatical itinerary.

MODULE 1: The Art and Architecture of Rome and the Papal States: Saint Peter and His Successors — September 4 through September 29, 2017 Mass at the tomb of Saint Peter; Tours of the great Papal Cities of Anagni, Viterbo, Orvieto, Spoleto, and Perugia; General Audience with Pope Francis; Tour of the Vatican Museum; Five-Day Retreat in Rome; Visit to the Vatican’s Mosaic Studio

MODULE 2: The Saints of Rome: Saint Peter and His Companions — October 2 through October 20, 2017 Mass and tours at the tombs of Saints Peter and Paul, Catherine of Siena, Ignatius of Loyola, Philip Neri among others; Scavi Tours at Saint Peter’s and San Clemente; Tour of the Catacombs; Visits to Vatican Dicasteries

MODULE 3: The Life of the Priest: Saint Peter and His Brothers — October 23 through November 17, 2017 Five-day Retreat in Ars, France with Fr. Jacques Philippe; Presentations with the Catholic Leadership Institute; Mass at the Tomb of Saint Peter; Presentations on Preaching, Canon Law, Lectio Divina; Visits to Vatican Dicasteries

I am very excited to spend three months on sabbatical after 15 years as a priest.  I am so blessed to be the pastor of Blessed Sacrament.  My prayer is that this sabbatical will enhance my capacity to serve you as pastor for years to come.

Ad majorem Dei gloriam,

Rev. John F. Jirak

May 21, 2017 - The Sixth Sunday of Easter

The Church of the Blessed Sacrament "Time Capsule"

This 1886 Victorian mansion was the official residence of the Bishop of the Diocese of Wichita from 1901 to 1932. The parish purchased the home in September 1932 from the Diocese and it became the first convent for the Sisters of St. Joseph who taught in the parish school.  The building was razed and a cornerstone for the first church of the parish was laid at the site in April 1951.  The church was completed the following year with dedication by Bishop Mark K. Carroll on July 20, 1952.

May 14, 2017 - The Fifth Sunday of Easter

May 7, 2017 - The Fourth Sunday of Easter

Praised be Jesus Christ!

As the craziness of May starts to ramp up, I would like to keep you updated on the various events that we have going on here at Blessed Sacrament. For the last couple of weeks we have had a sign-up drive for our Perpetual Adoration chapel, with the goal of gaining 50 new adorers. As of the time that I write this, we have added about 40 new adorers! Thank you to all of those who have so generously committed your time, it is only because of those who have committed to taking a regular hour that we are able to keep the Perpetual Adoration chapel open and available for those only have the opportunity to drop in from time to time. Even though we are very grateful for the new adorers, we are still short of our goal and invite you to prayerfully consider committing to an hour of your own. 

Tomorrow, May 8th, we are blessed to welcome the traveling statue of Our Lady of Fatima. The statue will be set up in the church all day with special events throughout the day starting with a rosary at 7:00 am followed by a presentation on Our Lady of Fatima and the statue itself by the custodian of the statue. We will offer a public rosary every hour on the hour throughout the day and at 6:00 pm there will be a rosary followed by an enrollment in the scapular, a presentation by the custodian of the statue, and an outdoor procession. Finally, at 7:00 pm, we will have a special evening Mass. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to take advantage of this special opportunity.

One more great opportunity we have coming up this week is the beginning of the book studies which will focus on the book that we gave out at Easter, “Mother Teresa of Calcutta: A Personal Portrait.” Our parish book program has had such an important impact on our parish providing both important continuing formation and also venues for growing together as a community. If you are interested in joining one of these book studies, you can still sign up online or by contacting the parish office. 

In Christ through Mary,

Fr. Curtis Hecker

April 30, 2017 - The Third Sunday of Easter

Happy Easter Season!

As you know, our Parish Priority of Enhancing the Sunday Mass Experience is directed to increasing Mass attendance at Blessed Sacrament.  Out of our 3000+ parishioners, around 42 percent attend our Masses.  This percentage is about 10 percent less than the diocesan average.  The good news is that our Parish Priority Plan has been producing fruit.  With the intervention of offering a 5:15 pm Sunday evening Mass our weekend Mass attendance is approaching 50 percent.  Praise the Lord!

I must share with you that it’s more than about numbers, although numbers are a very good metric of the presence of a vibrant parish life.  If we go back to the first hristians in the Acts of the Apostles, we find that they “devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and the communal life” (Acts 2:42).  Interesting, they were very intentional about living a “communal” life.  Parish life is nothing less than a deliberate, systematic way to live our communal life.  There are a number of factors undermining this goal.  I would like to share my thoughts on one.

Our times have seen a depersonalization of the faith due to a lack of appreciation of the Church as the People of God.  One cause of this depersonalization that erodes “communal life” has been the overemphasis on just getting to Mass.  It doesn’t matter where you go, just as long as you go.  I call it the Quicktrip mentality.  There are many awesome Quicktrips in Wichita.  I usually go to the one on Hillside.  However, I have no problem with going to other Quicktrips around town.  They all fulfill the same need.  I fill my car with gas and pick up a brat.  Whichever is the most convenient suits me the best.  Many people look at their Sunday Mass experience in the same way.  If a person is a Blessed Sacrament parishioner, well the parish Mass is preferred, but there is no problem with going elsewhere.  

Re-personalizing the faith means that being a member of a parish is being a member of a family and if you are not present, you are missed.  This is the true understanding of “Church.”  It means being connected with others who we deeply care about and with whom we are working towards the same goal of attaining heaven.  

Tracking our Mass attendance is a metric to help us assess whether we are moving towards a re-personalizing of the Catholic faith at Blessed Sacrament.  In the future, we will be including each week’s Mass attendance, along with our parish’s tithe of treasure, in the bulletin.  I am happy to let you know that our Mass attendance this Easter was up 10 percent from last year.  2050 people attended one of our five Masses on Easter.

Ad majorem Dei gloriam,

Rev. John F. Jirak

April 23, 2017 - Divine Mercy Sunday

Praised be Jesus Christ!

I pray that your Easter was as wonderful and blessed as mine was. I would like to offer a special word of thanks to all the servers, lectors, ushers, musicians, sacristans, church cleaners and decorators as well as to everyone else who put in so much extra work during Holy Week to make our church and our liturgies so beautiful and edifying.

As I mentioned in my Pastor’s Corner article a couple of weeks ago, the World Apostolate of Fatima’s Centennial U.S. Tour for Peace is underway and coming to our parish! The historic tour, which marks the 100th Anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima, will feature the world-famous International Pilgrim Virgin Statue that has been traveling worldwide for nearly 70 years. The presence of this special Statue (sculpted by Jose Thedim in 1947, based on Sr. Lucia’s description of her encounters with Our Lady) is a great gift to our community. This statue is one of only a small handful of documented cases of statues that have wept tears.    

Blessed Sacrament is hosting the tour of this statue on May 8th. It will be an extraordinary occasion of healing, hope and grace. Please join us that day to hear the story of Fatima and see this beautiful statue that set out from Fatima in 1947 to bring the graces of Fatima to all who might not ever be able to make a pilgrimage to Fatima, Portugal. We are bringing the pilgrimage to you!

On the morning of May 8th, the statue will be available in the church for veneration all day beginning at 6:00 am and will be present for both the 6:30 am and the 8:00 am morning Masses. We will also be praying a rosary in the church every hour on the hour from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. At 2:00 pm, the school children will have their May Crowing Ceremony and at 6:00 pm we will have a scapular enrollment and talk from the statue’s custodian about the history of Our Lady of Fatima. We will then offer a special Mass and procession with the statue at 7:00 pm. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend these events. I pray that you will be able to join us in this great day of events.

In Christ, through Mary,

Fr. Curtis

April 16, 2017 - Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord

Happy Easter, the greatest day of the entire Church year!

In fact, the day is so grand that we commemorate it every Sunday at Mass as a mini-Easter.  The significance of the Resurrection is beyond anything that we can imagine or hope.  Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is our victory over death.  The endless longing within each of us to live is a sign that we were made for more.   That being said, the Resurrection is not something solely directed to the future.  The Resurrection is already present among us, especially, in the presence of the Eucharist that unites us as a community, the People of God, each week at Mass. That being said, how do we begin to live this resurrected life already present in the Church and our Eucharistic Lord?

To answer this question, let us turn to the Protestant Reformation.  This year we celebrate the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of his famous 95 thesis to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany.  Hmm, the Protestant Reformation?  Yes, because the Reformation speaks to an important truth regarding faith and how we are saved.  We are not justified by our works but by the “righteousness of God” as explained by St. Augustine.  At the time of the Protestant Reformation, a distortion emerged among many Catholics in regards to works and merit.  Namely, there was a squeezing out of the necessity of grace among many practicing Catholics.  Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M., Cap, Preacher of the Papal Household, states that the practice of the Church was not “truly reflecting its official doctrine.  Church life, catechesis, Christian piety, spiritual direction . . . all these things seemed to affirm just the opposite, that what really matters is in fact works, human effort.”  

The history of the Protestant Reformation brings home an important truth needing to be embraced among all Christians and Catholics the same, namely, that everything is grace.  We must begin with the new life that originates and is shared with us in the Resurrection and the life given to us in the real, resurrected presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  This is something to get excited about!  God’s power, present and active, intimate and personal ready, to be poured into our minds and hearts.  Living in this truth brings a new, hopeful dimension to our days.  We become Spirit-reliant and not self-reliant.  In the words of John the Baptist, we begin to say, “He must increase, I must decrease.”   

St. Gregory the Great said, “We do not attain faith from virtue but virtue from faith.”  In other words, we have faith not because we have courage, right judgment and discipline; rather, we have courage and all of the virtues because we have faith, the power of the resurrected Christ alive and well in our souls.  Today “we emphasize the moment in which faith was born.”

 

Ad majorem Dei gloriam,

Rev. John F. Jirak

April 9, 2017 - Palm Sunday of the Passion of our Lord

Praised be Jesus Christ!

We are now 6 weeks into our experiment of having a Sunday evening Mass at 5:15pm, and so far the response has been very good. We have intentionally tried to give this Mass a slightly more contemplative feel than the other Masses that we offer here at Blessed Sacrament. Part of the way we have done that is by bringing in a motet choir to sing more solemn pieces of music. We also celebrate this Mass “ad orientem” which is Latin for “to the East” or facing the same direction of the people. Because this is not the way we typically celebrate Mass since the Second Vatican Council, it is foreign to our eyes and it naturally raises a lot of questions as to what it is and why we have decided to celebrate the Mass that way. 

Prior to the Second Vatican Council, celebrating Mass “ad orientem” was the norm and anyone who is old enough to remember the old Latin Mass will remember the priest facing the same direction as the people during the consecration. The idea of facing the East during prayer is an extremely ancient one that has its roots in the Old Testament and Jewish Liturgy, but that was carried through into Christian worship. Part of the idea behind praying while facing the East is the association of the “rising sun” with the eschatological hope of the second coming of Christ, the “rising Son.” Thus, there is a sort of play on words between “sun” and “Son.” Even if a Church is not built facing towards the “rising sun” (like our church here at Blessed Sacrament, which faces North) the idea is that during the Liturgy there is a facing towards the “rising Son.” This notion is called “Facing Liturgical East.” 

The starkness of having the priest and the people facing the same direction during the Eucharistic Prayer means that there is no eye contact between the priest and the people during that part of the Mass, outside of the three times when he turns and faces the people. This can have the benefit of redirecting the focus of the Liturgy away from the priest and back to God who the priest is addressing during the Eucharistic Prayer. This can truly add a whole level of solemnness, which was why we decided to include this Liturgical practice in this new evening Mass.  Hopefully, this practice will help you pray the Mass better, as it has helped me.

In Christ, through Mary,

Fr. Curtis

April 2, 2017 - The Fifth Sunday of Lent

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

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

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

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

Ad majorem Dei gloriam,

Rev. John F. Jirak

March 26, 2017 - The Fourth Sunday of Lent

Praised be Jesus Christ!

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

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

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

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

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

In Christ through Mary,
Fr. Curtis 

March 19, 2017 - The Third Sunday of Lent

As Bishop Kemme visits our parish this weekend, I would like to reflect with you on the significance of his visit in light of the Church’s understanding per the Code of Canon Law (the Catholic Church’s collection of norms organizing and providing for us as the People of God) and this Sunday’s 1st reading from the Book of Exodus 17:3-7.   Bishop Kemme is making his five-year (quinquennial—see canon 396 of the Code of Canon Law) pastoral visit to the Church of the Blessed Sacrament.  He comes to our house just as God commanded Moses in the first reading to “Go over there in front of the people.”  Moreover, the priests of the parish are to be present with the Bishop this weekend just as God told Moses to stand “with some of the elders of Israel” as God provided for the Israelite’s thirst.  Ya, it’s not a weekend off.

The Code of Canon Law contains an entire section on the role of the Bishop in his Diocese—canons 381-430. While in canon law school in Washington, D.C., we spent nearly a month of class learning about the office of Diocesan Bishop, namely, his rights and duties in light of pastoral service to the People of God.  In regards to the care of souls, one canon (norm or law) is especially important relative to the success or failure of the Bishop’s ministry.  Canon 387 of the Code requires the bishop to be “an example of holiness in charity, humility, and simplicity of life, he is to strive to promote in every way the holiness of the Christian faithful according to the proper vocation of each.”  This leads us back to the ministry of Moses and another similarity with the office of Diocesan Bishop.  Moses was a man of humility.  Numbers 12:3 states “Now the man Moses was very humble, more than anyone else on earth.”  If you have been to the Cathedral here in Wichita, you know that Bishop Kemme has a chair (cathedra) in the sanctuary of the church.  The inscription above the chair contains his episcopal motto, humilitas, which is Latin for, you guessed it, “humility.”   

Moses was charged on behalf of God with serving the people in their need.  The people were thirsty.  We know that Moses worked a powerful miracle with the aid of a staff.  God told Moses, “holding in your hand, as you go, the staff with which you struck the river. . . Strike the rock, and the water will flow for the people to drink.” You will notice that Bishop Kemme will also be holding a staff in his hand.  As he celebrates Mass, the staff represents the sacred power and jurisdiction that he has been given to shepherd the people of the Diocese of Wichita.  Just as Moses was given sacred power to quench the thirst of the “grumbling” people, so the Bishop has been given a sacred power to direct us to that water which quenches not the body but the soul.  This water is spoken of in today’s Gospel of the Samaritan woman, as Jesus tells her “whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst.”  

God could have worked the miracle for the Israelites without the intervention of Moses.  One Divine thought and rivers of fresh water would have appeared.  However, God did not act in this manner.  He worked through his servant Moses.  Similarly, God could have provided for the spiritual needs of Christians in many ways, but he chose a distinct way through the sacrament of Holy Orders, the fullness of which is received by the Diocesan Bishop.  In light of God’s saving and loving plan, we give thanks for Bishop Kemme and this special visit to our parish.  May we find our thirsty souls quenched through his sacred ministry.

Ad majorem Dei gloriam,

Rev. John F. Jirak

March 12, 2017 - The Second Sunday of Lent

March 5, 2017 - The First Sunday of Lent

We pray that you are able to take advantage of all the opportunities to receive the sacraments and cultivate your spiritual life here at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament this Lent. In addition to this list of liturgical events, also consider the items listed below as additional spiritual opportunities you can start this season. Don’t forget to utilize Formed.org for great content as well! Use Parish Code: 3MKD43

Lauds (morning prayer) After every 6:30am Mass during the season of Lent

Sunday Holy Hour with Vespers and Confessions 
Every Sunday of Lent at 4pm (March 5, 12, 19, 26, April 2 and 9)

NEW 5:15pm Sunday Evening Mass
Every Sunday of Lent (March 5, 12, 19, 26, April 2 and 9)

Stations of the Cross Every Friday at 2:30pm and 6pm

Lenten Penance Service Thursday, April 6th at 7pm

Holy Thursday, April 13th - 7pm Mass

Good Friday, April 14th - noon stations, services at 3pm and 7pm

Divine Mercy Novena - 3pm daily from Good Friday to the 2nd Sunday of Easter (concluding with a 3pm Holy Hour)

Easter Vigil, April 15th - 9pm Mass

Easter Sunday, April 16th - 6:30am, 9am, and 11am Masses

 

Thursdays (March 2-April 6) - 5:30-6:25am Fellowship of St. Joseph is hosting a series of Bishop Robert Barron’s videos on scriptures for Lent
Thursdays beginning March 16th - 7-8:30pm, Scripture Study for Adults on the Acts of the Apostles. Contact Marla at 681-1933 after 5pm before March 7th!
Saturday, April 1 - 7-9am Women’s Morning of Reflection in Bishops Hall hosted by Regnum Christi
Friday, April 7 & Saturday, April 8 - ParishWomen’s Retreat hosted by Altar Society. Contact Annemarie at 685-8908 for more information

 

First Sundays each month - Blessed Sacrament’s day to work the Lord’s Diner, contact Margaret at 688-1585
Tuesdays (ongoing) Rosary after 8am Mass in the Church
First Saturday Devotions (ongoing) - Each first Saturday of the month
24/7 Perpetual Adoration (ongoing) - Make a visit or commit to a regular Holy Hour in the Adoration Chapel

February 26, 2017 - The Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Praised be Jesus Christ!

In April of last year our parish hosted Fr. Andrew Kemberling, the board chair of the International Stewardship Conference, who spoke to at all of our Masses and gave a presentation about the spiritual meaning of money. During those talks, Fr. Kemberling gave us a lot of spiritual food for thought which we have tried to incorporate into our parish life. One of the things which Fr. Kemberling mentioned, was that his parish in Denver sends out monthly tithing statements to every family in the parish and that these statements have been very helpful for his parishioners in keeping track of the their tithing throughout the year. So upon his recommendation, we have decided to begin the practice of monthly tithing statements, which most of you should have received a statement for the month of January. 

These monthly tithing statements are not meant to be a bill, but rather a courtesy to simply help our parishioners keep current on where they stand on their pledge commitment to the parish. These reminders help our stewards to review their offertory giving and assess whether they are on track to fulfill their pledge for the year.  They also serve to help catch errors in our records that are much easier to correct if they are caught early rather than at the end of the year.  

We at Blessed Sacrament have such a rich understanding of living the stewardship way of life and these statements are just one way that the parish is striving to assist our parishioners in being good stewards. We have something very special here at Blessed Sacrament and our health and growth are due to the people of this parish who are dedicated to following Jesus Christ and who strive to put Him first in all things. 

Thank you to all of you for all that you do for our parish. 

In Christ through Mary,
Fr. Curtis

February 19, 2017 - The Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Several weeks ago during a homily I referenced Peggy Noonan’s Wall Street Journal article “In Trump’s Washington, Nothing Feels Stable.”  I was particularly struck by her clarity in describing people’s feelings surrounding politics, “Everyone’s political views are now 

emotions and everyone now wears their emotions on their faces.  People are speaking more loudly and quickly than usual.”  We all recognize that many are wearing their political views as emotions on their faces.  How do we respond to the current political situation?  The same way in which we are to deal with any conflicting situation regarding our neighbor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ad majorem Dei gloriam,

Fr. John F. Jirak, Pastor

February 12, 2017 - The Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Peace be with you!

Today’s first reading is a straightforward, black and white, presentation of God’s plan for our life.  The message is so simple and direct that we might easily skip over it.  Sirach states, “If you choose, you can keep the commandments, they will save you.”  One might respond, “what’s so novel about this statement? Of course, if you ‘choose’ you can keep the commandments.” 

The deeper message here is that God has given us actual freedom and responsibility.  By our own free will we can choose to follow or break the commandments.  God presents a certain way to live, the life of the commandments, and He has made us without making us slaves or robots.  So much contemporary thinking holds that we do not have a choice.  Like Adam and Eve, we blame everything and everyone else and absolve ourselves of any responsibility.  Lady Gaga’s song “Born This Way” speaks to this modern mindset.  No change is required, “just love yourself, and you are set.”

Sometimes it is a refreshing message that we can choose.  We don’t have to keep on doing the same things in the same way.  This is a message of hope when we start experiencing the misery associated with living contrary to God’s commandments.  St. Augustine, in his Confessions, speaks to the pain of living in opposition to the commandments in a poetic and poignant fashion: “Matters are so arranged at your command that every disordered soul is its own punishment.”     

In the second part of the verse quoted from Sirach, we see that the commandments “will save you.”  He is saying that God’s commandments are not arbitrary without rhyme or reasons. Rather, God’s commandments are fulfilling because “Immense is the wisdom of the Lord; he is mighty in power, and all-seeing.”

Ad majorem Dei gloriam,

Rev. John F. Jirak

January 29, 2017 - The Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Praised be Jesus Christ!

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

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

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

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

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

In Christ through Mary,
Fr. Curtis

January 15, 2017 - The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Praised be Jesus Christ!

One of my favorite saints, St. John Vianney, was known for his great holiness and simplicity. He was said to have worn the same pair of shoes for 15 years or more until there was nothing left of them. His cassock, (the black robe worn by clerics at the time) was so worn out and tattered that it was little more than a rag. In fact, St. John Vianney practiced such asceticism in every aspect of his life, he did not believe in extravagance or frivolous things, except when it came to things of God. St. John Vianney would spare no expense when it came to adorning his small parish church. When I traveled to Ars, France last year to visit the little town where St. John Vianney lived, I was struck by the stark contrast between his small, bare little rectory which has been preserved completely intact ever since he died, and the beautiful inside of the Church which was elaborately decorated. 

St. John Vianney filled his church with beautiful statues, ornate tabernacles that he had special ordered, exquisite gold chalices and gorgeous vestments. The reason why he approved of the purchase of such expensive items for the Church (and often paid for them personally), is that he believed that nothing was too good for God. He believed that things of beauty in the Church serve the double purpose of giving honor to God while at the same time lifting up the hearts and minds of those who entered and prayed in the church. 

Despite his commitment to offering the best to God, St. John Vianney did not neglect the needs of the poor; in fact, he built an orphanage and school for the poor and was constantly giving to the needs of the poor. But St. John Vianney believed that offering a beautiful space to pray and worship God was itself an act of charity to the poor who are offered just as much of a chance to have their hearts and minds drawn to God as is the richest king who prays there. 

We at Blessed Sacrament are also very blessed to have a beautiful Church in which to pray and everything from the stained-glass to the crucifix and statues serve to help draw our minds to the things of heaven. As we continue to roll out and implement our Parish Priority Plan, we are considering one of our goals to “Enhance the Sunday Mass experience.” To that end, we have received a donation from a private donor which has allowed us to purchase a new set of beautiful chasubles (the red, green, violet and white vestment that the priest wears at Mass) which is just one small piece of the over-all beauty of the Mass. So next Sunday hopefully the new chasuble will help draw your mind to the heavenly liturgy in a small way, and serve to remind you that what we do at Mass transcends the things of this earth

In Christ through Mary,
Fr. Curtis

January 8, 2017 - The Epiphany of the Lord

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

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

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

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

Ad majorem Dei gloriam,

Rev. John F. Jirak 

January 1, 2017 - Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

Praised be Jesus Christ!

Happy New Year to all of you. For six years now, we at Blessed Sacrament have had a parish book program, a program designed to help our parishioners grow in their spiritual lives, which just happens to be one of our parish priorities.

A focus of this priority is to improve the prayer life of Blessed Sacrament parishioners.  We have selected the book, “Prayer for Beginners” by  Dr. Kreeft for the upcoming book study program. You should have received this book last weekend at our Christmas Masses. If you didn’t, they are available in the church entrances, as well as the church office.

In this book, Dr. Kreeft offers simple but profound advice and practical steps for developing a prayer life based on the wisdom of the saints and great spiritual writers. He claims that he himself is still a beginner in prayer; this book is for all those who similar to Dr. Kreeft, feel that they are not good at praying but desire to become much better at it.

Great! You have the book and are excited to read it, so why join a parish book program study group? For many Christians, small groups can play a vital role in their spiritual lives:   “Members of small groups are twice as likely to be engaged in the faith community as those who are not in a small group.”  (Growing an Engaged Church, Winseman, p 136). Participating in a book study small group can also help deepen your understanding of our faith and assist in developing relationships with other parishioners.

The fruit of the book is multiplied when studied in a group setting, as each individual participating brings their own insight and experience with the writing, which enriches every participants’ understanding and experience of the book. 

We are currently embarking on an effort to advance the goal of the Parish Priority Plan of cultivating the spiritual life, and need your help. We would like to see the number of study groups doubled.  Sign-ups will begin mid-January and will be available online and in the back of the church.

Just a little something to consider for the New Year.

In Christ through Mary,
Fr. Curtis

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

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