August 20, 2017 - The Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

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

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

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

Dei Gratia (By the grace of God),

Fr. Andrew Bergkamp

August 13, 2017 - The Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ad majorem Dei gloriam,

Rev. John F. Jirak

August 6, 2017 - The Transfiguration of the Lord

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

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

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

Dei Gratia (By the grace of God),

Fr. Andrew Bergkamp

July 30, 2017 - The Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

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

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

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

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

Dei Gratia (By the grace of God),

Fr. Andrew Bergkamp

July 23, 2017 - The Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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.

Discovering Christ opens with dinner and includes prayer, teaching, and small group discussion. The series begins on Wednesday, August 30th and lasts from 6:00 to 8:30 pm and continues each Wednesday for seven weeks until October 11th. The program is free and childcare is offered. For more information or to register, visit the parish website, call the parish office 682-4557, mail a completed registration form found at all the church entrances, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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.

God bless,

Fr. Adam Grelinger

July 16, 2017 - The Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Parishioners,

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!

God bless,

Deacon Jim Schibi

July 9, 2017 - The Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Parishioners,

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!

God bless,

Fr. Adam Grelinger

July 2, 2017 - The Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Parishioners,

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

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

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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