Pastor's page

First Sunday of Advent

December 1, 2019

My Dear Friends,

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the first day of a new liturgical year, and a new opportunity to grow in God’s grace.  This Advent, we have chosen “Hope” as our theme as it seems that this is a virtue which is sorely tested in the world today.  Hope is an act of the will, a leap of faith ... an expectation of the certain and promised return of Jesus Christ our Savior in glory (Titus 2:12-13) and our eternal union with Him in the Kingdom of Heaven.  Jesus IS our hope!

To help us, you should have received in the mail a copy of our 2019 Advent Highlights.  If you did not receive it, please contact the parish office as we must not have your mailing address on file.  The Advent Highlights provides a day-to-day overview of many of the exciting ways our parish will be preparing for the “advent” or coming of Christ.

You are invited to “Come and See” what Alpha is all about.  The session in Portuguese was this Saturday at 5:00pm.  The Spanish session is today (Sunday) immediately following the 2:00pm Mass in the Family Center.  Our teens will “Come and See” tonight at Youth Group at 6:30pm in the Family Center.  Those who speak English are welcome to “Come and See” this Thursday, December 5th after the 12:15pm Mass and again at 7:30pm in the Family Center.  Please come and invite your family and friends, especially those who are lukewarm in the faith or who are curious about our faith!  Our goal is for every person to experience Alpha and this week’s “Come and See” is the first step in the process!

Another highlight is our Advent Mission with Jon Leonetti next Wednesday, December 4, beginning at 6:30pm.  A parallel session is being offered for our children in grades K-5 in the Family Center.  The nursery will also be open.  Jon is an amazing nationally known speaker, author, and radio host.  His goal is to help us all develop a personal, intimate relationship with the Lord.  Please come and bring your friends!

This Advent promises to be such a blessing in so many ways.  To assist us, we have purchased a copy of The Guiding Power of Hope (La Esperanza y Su Poder para Guiarnos) by Sr. Janet Schaeffler, OP, for each family.  Read the scripture and daily devotion in the morning and reflect on the Daily Practice throughout your day.  During your evening meal, pray the Advent Prayer and reflect on how God touched you that day.  To help you, we have a “Hope” wrist band for every parishioner.  “Hopefully” it will help us all grow in “hope” and be better prepared for the return of our “Blessed Hope” and the celebration of the Incarnation of “Hope” this Christmas!

During these next four weeks of Advent, be sure you set aside some quality time with the Lord and His Word each and every day.  Go to Mass and Adoration as often as you can and go to Confession.  Think about fasting from those things which block us from being truly open to His grace such as excessive media, alcohol, tobacco, and other vices.  Finally, remember the poor, elderly, sick, and oppressed and please remember us in your charitable giving.  We depend totally upon you as our sole source of funding.  Thank you!

This Advent, may we courageously grow together in Hope,

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

P.S.  Remember, next Sunday is December 8th.  The Feast of the Immaculate Conception has been transferred to Monday, December 9th.  Masses will be celebrated at 7:30am, 12:15pm, 5:30pm, and a 7:00pm Rosary followed by a Trilingual Mass (~7:30pm) in honor of our Blessed Mother.  While it is not a Holy Day of Obligation, please keep the feast!

 

 

Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

November 24, 2019

My Dear Friends,

Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe.  We thank God for the gift of His Son, our Lord and renew our pledge to love and serve Him now and until the end of time!  At a time when many in positions of authority use their positions to lord over others, Christ our King laid down his life for us and for all.  He revealed to us the unconditional love and mercy of Our Heavenly Father.  And through His passion, death, and resurrection, freed us from the bonds of sin and death.  As we pledge our undying loyalty to Christ our King this day, we also pray for the grace to submit ourselves totally to Him.  May Christ truly be the King of our hearts and Lord of all we are and ever hope to be!

On Thursday, we celebrate Thanksgiving, a quintessential American holiday.  While other countries celebrate Thanksgiving, I think we do it best.  This is the day, more than any other, when Americans take to the roads and airways, traveling to share quality time with family and friends through a meal which personifies “thanksgiving.”  While we may disagree about many things, this is the day we all pause and give thanks for the many blessings we have received.

The very first Thanksgiving took place in St. Augustine on the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary on September 8, 1565.  It began with a celebration of the Holy Mass presided by Father Francisco Lopez with 800 Spaniards and members of the indigenous Timucuan tribe.  Afterwards, they ate a communal meal.  This was 56 years before the Thanksgiving celebration in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Two things can be learned from this.  First, Thanksgiving is not about turkeys and stuffing but about giving thanks.  Please come to our Mass on Thanksgiving Day at 9:00am.  We ask that you bring a non-perishable food item to share with the poor.  Our offertory collection will be given to our parish Society of St. Vincent de Paul to be distributed to those in need living in our parish boundaries during the holiday season.  During the Mass, some of our children have prepared a special presentation of what Thanksgiving means to them.  Please come!

Second, after Mass, the Spanish and Timucuans shared a communal meal.  Invite others to join you for Thanksgiving.  No one should eat alone on Thanksgiving Day.  Invite neighbors, coworkers, and others you know who are alone.  If someone is homebound, offer to bring a plate of food to them to share.  Let’s share our blessings with others!

Finally, next Sunday is the First Sunday of Advent.  We have two special gifts to give you which exemplify this year’s theme “Hope.”  This week, bring our theme to your prayers.  What do you hope for?  What will you do this Advent to better prepare your heart for the return of Hope in glory, the birth of Hope in history, and the encounter of Hope in the present?

May we continue to courageously grow together in Christ,

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

 

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 17, 2019

My Dear Friends,

A few years ago, a parishioner was struck by a life-threatening illness and no one knew who to contact to help direct the medical care.  Bills were left unpaid as her illness progressed.  When she finally died, no one knew how or where she wanted to be buried. While we all had ideas, no one had the authority to make decisions on her behalf.  Thankfully, the State stepped in and assigned a lawyer who took care of matters so she could be buried.  Unfortunately, he didn’t think it was important for her to have a funeral service and since she died without a will, the State assumed her estate.  How sad!

It is important for all of us to be prepared for a life-threatening emergency.  The diocese requires each priest to have certain forms on hand.  This is good advice for every one of us.  It is important to have emergency contact information (physician, health care surrogate, next of kin, allergies, and a current list of medication) in a readily accessible or visible place.  I know many of our parishioners have it in their wallet and posted on the refrigerator.  When hiking, I keep this information in an ID bracelet.  Don’t laugh… but I also have a medal which states on the back side: “I am a Catholic, in case of serious accident, please call a priest.”  In the event of an emergency, you may be unable to give this vital information.  A few years ago, my cousin collapsed and because the emergency personnel did not know what medication she was taking, she suffered serious medical consequences.  By the time our family arrived, it was too late.

All of us should designate a person as our health care surrogate and complete a Catholic living will.  A copy of these documents should be given to our doctors and our loved ones should be informed of our intentions regarding medical care and treatment.  You should also appoint someone with durable power of attorney.  Should you become incapacitated, it will be important for him or her to manage your financial affairs.  Your attorney may also suggest that you appoint a legal guardian.

We should also have a lawyer draw up our last will and testament.  Missing and incomplete wills often generate a great deal of animosity among those left behind and your estate will be distributed as the court sees fit.  I am in the process of revising my will so that St. Paul’s will be remembered since you are all an important part of my life.

It is also important to complete your funeral plans.  Not only is it less expensive to pre-arrange your funeral, it also relieves a great deal of stress among those who will be grieving.  For my part, I find it incredibly sad when a daily communicant is denied a Catholic funeral simply because no one thought to contact the church.  I have specified the place of my funeral and internment as well as the readings.

I have entrusted all of these documents to the Diocese for safekeeping and gave a copy to my family.  You could keep them in an “emergency drawer”, give them to your lawyer, or to a family member or close friend.  I’ve also included an emergency contact list of people to contact when I die and financial information (IRA and bank account information).  If I owned real estate, I’d also include this.  In other words, I’ve written down all the information the executor of my estate will need.

There is one more thing I would like to include and that is a spiritual testament.  This is a letter to those I love expressing my thanks for the many ways they have revealed the face of God to me.  It is a wonderful way to help loved ones during their time of grief.

I can’t begin to express how important it is for us to make these preparations.  It is not a question of IF we will be called home but rather WHEN it will happen.  Although many of these forms are available online, I encourage you to see a lawyer.  Florida is very particular about these documents and what is valid in another state may not be valid in Florida.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, it is important to be spiritually prepared.  Don’t let the sun set without telling your loved ones how much you care about them, to reconcile with those who have hurt you, and to be at peace with yourself and our Good and Gracious God.  When the Lord returns, may you be prepared to greet him with all the saints in heaven!

May we continue to courageously grow together in Christ,

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 10, 2019

My Dear Friends,

First, on this Veterans’ Day weekend, we thank God for the gift of our veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much for us so that we might enjoy the freedoms we cherish in our beautiful country.  Also pray for those who are in active duty, especially those separated from loved ones as they serve our country.  May they all know our gratitude and may peace and justice flourish around the world!

I’d also like to thank Fr. Arockiasamy Arulandu, (also known as Father Rocky) for helping us these past two weeks.  He has been a huge help to me as Fr. Bob and Fr. Ambrose are away.  May God bless you, Father Arulandu!

As a parish, our clear priority is our worship.  Recently, I made several large purchases to help ensure that the quality of our liturgy remains high.  We bought a set of liturgical vestments (white, green, red, and rose) for our clergy who are shorter.  Each priest vestment (chasuble) and deacon vestment (dalmatic) costs approximately $700.  We also bought a cope, or the cape-like vestment used in Benediction for $1,100.  In total, the cost was around $6,700.  If we have a benefactor, I would love to order another cope and veil in a larger size.  We would be glad to attach a label to the vestment with the name of your loved ones so that whoever wears it in the decades to come, may offer a prayer for your stated intentions.  If you are interested in donating money for one or more of these beautiful vestments, please contact Brian Smith at the Parish Office (bsmith@stpaulchurch.com).

While in Assisi, I also purchased an exquisite monstrance.  The monstrance is the liturgical vessel used to hold the Sacred Host during Eucharistic Adoration.  It is beautiful and has the images of Jesus flanked by angels and Saint Peter and Saint Paul.  It is shaped to remind us to lift our minds and hearts up to God and that we are called to be the Church, the living tabernacle of God!  The cost is approximately $6,000.  If you would like to donate the cost, we can engrave the name of your loved ones on the base.  Again, please let Brian know!

Finally, many people have asked when we will have our next “Teaching Mass.”   It will be next weekend!  So please be sure to invite your family and friends to join you.  It is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass!

May we continue to courageously grow together in Christ,

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

 

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 3, 2019

My Dear Friends,

First, please join me in thanking all those who helped make this year’s Parish Picnic so wonderful!  It was great to see so many people gather to enjoy quality time with family and friends.  The food was delicious and the games and entertainment were fantastic!  May God bless you all!

I’d also like to extend a warm welcome to Fr. Arockiasamy Arulandu, SVD, to our parish.  Fr. Arulandu is a Vincentian priest and hails from Tamil Nadu in India.  Father is here in the United States on a mission appeal.  He graciously agreed to help me while Fr. Bob is on retreat and pursuing continuing education and Fr. Ambrose is on a retreat - pilgrimage in the Holy Land.  May God bless Fr. Arulandu, Fr. Bob, and Fr. Ambrose!

Scriptures record that Jesus and the apostles often went off by themselves to commune with our Heavenly Father.  So must we!  In fact, each year priests, deacons, and religious are required to go on a retreat.  Retreats or pilgrimages like the one I recently had in Assisi or like Fr. Bob and Fr. Ambrose are now enjoying are so important for one’s spiritual health.  If Jesus and his disciples, the clergy and religious all need to go on retreat, how much more so do you?  Thankfully we are blest to have two retreat centers in our diocese ... the Franciscan Center and the House of Prayer.  St. Leo Abbey and Holy Name Priory also periodically offer retreats.  In our parish, we will be offering Alpha retreats for teens and adults in English, Spanish and Portuguese languages.  Alpha begins at the end of January.  Our Couples for Christ and MDS ministries also offer couple retreats.  Make a point to go on a retreat this coming year!

On another note, we will celebrate a special evening Mass for all our dearly beloved deceased this Friday, November 8th, beginning with the Rosary at 7:00pm followed by the Mass at 7:30pm.  In addition, we will offer a special novena of prayers throughout this month at every celebration of the Mass for all who have submitted names of loved ones on the back of their "All Souls" offertory envelope.  If you have any questions, please call the office.

On Saturday, we will celebrate the First Reconciliations for 120 of our young children.  Please keep them in your prayers as they encounter our Merciful Lord for the first time in this wonderful Sacrament of healing and forgiveness.  May they always know the love of the Good Shepherd!

May we continue to courageously grow together in Christ,

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

 

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 27, 2019

My Dear Friends,

As we come to the end of October, our thoughts turn to Halloween or All Hallows Eve, All Saints Day and All Souls Day.  All Hallows Eve or the Vigil of All Saints Day is not about ghouls and goblins or ghosts and witches, but about all those incredible men, women, and children who have gone before us, modeling what it means to be authentic disciples of Christ.  Remember, All Saints Day is a Holy Day of Obligation.  All Catholics of age and good health are bound to observe it as a Sunday, including the obligation of participating in the Holy Mass. Many do not realize that we "are also to abstain from those labors and business concerns which impede the worship to be rendered to God, the joy which is proper to the Lord's Day, or the proper relaxation of mind and body" (c. 1247).  Sounds good to me!

In our parish, we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints in style!  At 5:30pm on Thursday, October 31st, we will have a special children’s All Saints Day Vigil Mass.  All the children are invited to dress as their favorite saint.  We will process in together and there will be a special children’s homily.  Afterwards, all are invited to participate in a “Trunk or Treat” until 7:30pm in the parking lot.  Please call the Parish Office for more information.

On Friday, November 1, the All Saints Day Masses in English are as follows: 7:30am, 12:15pm, and 5:30pm.  At 7:00pm, we will pray the Rosary and Santo Niño Novena followed by a trilingual Mass at 7:30pm.  Afterwards there will be a reception in the Family Center featuring delicious Filipino food!  Please be sure to come!

Saturday is All Souls Day.  We remember all who have gone on before us to the other side of life.  It is a beautiful time to attend daily Mass, visit the cemetery, and take out photos of loved ones to share with our friends and family.  Masses are at 8:30am and 12:15pm.  Because it falls on a Saturday, the vigil Masses will be for Sunday NOT the feast day.  Also, on Saturday, we will be holding our annual Parish Picnic.  Please be sure to come!

We will celebrate a special evening Mass for all our dearly beloved deceased on the following Friday, November 8th, beginning with the Rosary at 7:00pm followed by the Mass at 7:30pm.  In addition, we will offer a special novena of prayers throughout this month at every celebration of the Mass for all who have submitted names of loved ones on the back of their "All Souls" offertory envelope.  If you have any questions, please call the office.

I pray that all the saints in heaven will intercede for you and our parish as we courageously grow together in Christ,

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

 

 

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 20, 2019

 

My Dear Friends,

Last week, I presented some of the findings from our annual parish survey on September 8th.  As I mentioned last week, I’m so grateful for the time and care you took to share your thoughts and concerns.  I am so grateful and feel so blest to serve you as pastor. 

By way of review, it is clear from the survey that people are very pleased to be members of our parish family.  They love our liturgies and adoration and enjoy how friendly and welcoming we are!  Several mentioned how they loved the diversity of culture and the sense of belonging.  Praise God!  Most reported a close or good relationship with the Lord.  The challenge is that few felt comfortable inviting people other than family members to parish events or liturgies.  Hopefully, we can change that!

For suggestions, many focused on the need for more priests, especially those who were familiar with the language and culture of those they serve.  As I mentioned last week, this is a challenge for the Church given the priest shortage.  Please pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life and please encourage your sons and daughters and grandchildren to prayerfully consider a vocation to the priesthood and religious life.  Fr. Bob will begin a ministry to help people pray for vocations and I’ll work with the young people discerning a vocation.  Pray for us.

Other suggestions from the surveys?  (1) A few people mentioned the need for a sound system in the chapel.  We will make sure that it is on during the weekends as it is switched off during the week during Eucharistic Adoration.  (2) Others mentioned the need for more confession times and more Masses.  Given the number of priests, this is simply not possible.  Note that confessions are now offered six days a week as well as by appointment.  That is more than almost every other parish in our diocese.  (3) Several mentioned the need for more meeting space.  I agree…. but unless I receive a large, seven figure donation, I can’t imagine starting a multimillion-dollar fundraising drive at this time.

A couple of people mentioned the need for more retreats.   Please note that we are starting Alpha in January and that includes a retreat.  We also periodically bring in speakers and retreat directors and there are events offered in the diocese.  I encourage you to keep watching the bulletin.  For marriage enrichment, please check out Couples for Christ (couples-for-christ@stpaulchurch.com) or Diálogo Matrimonial [MDS] (dialogomatrimonial-esp@stpaulchurch.com).  Hopefully we will offer a one-day seminar soon.  Please let me know if you can help.

Another person commented on the need for more children’s liturgies.  Presently they are offered at the 7:30pm Vigil Mass and the 9:00am and 2:00pm Sunday Masses.  This is a great idea and we have been praying to be able to offer more as well.  Our challenge has been finding more volunteers.

Someone else mentioned the length of time for announcements.  I’m very sympathetic to this person’s concerns.  Unfortunately, our experience is that when an event is not announced, the attendance is considerably smaller.  Communication experts note that it often takes seven messages for the person to truly receive what is being said.  Our goal is for every member of our family to be invited, informed, and active in the life of our parish family.

What was not mentioned in the survey is bathrooms.  We are presently securing quotes for a make-over of our church bathrooms!  Yay!  We are also working on clearing a sports field for our youth and overflow parking.  The parishes in our area are forming a Catholic sports league and we want to be involved!

Thank you for sharing and know you are in my prayers!

Courageously growing together in Christ,

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

 

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 13, 2019

My Dear Friends,

I’d like to take the time in the next few bulletins to reflect on the results of our annual parish survey.  First of all, I really appreciate the time and care you took to share your thoughts and concerns.  Thank you so very much.  Second, for the person who asked, “Does anyone read this?”  Yes, we do!  The surveys are distributed to the clergy and staff and members of our Pastoral Council and were discussed with me this past week.  Third, the results were very positive and there were several ideas worth considering.

There was a consensus that people love our parish.  They describe us as a very warm, friendly, welcoming parish.  People were excited about our priests and deacons, Eucharistic Adoration, and the diversity of culture.  It is a family in which people have a sense of belonging!  Praise God!

Those who responded to the survey generally felt that their relationship with God was good.  Although they really liked the parish, few reported that they recently invited others to join them for a parish event or liturgy.  Those who were invited were most likely to be family members.  This is something we really need to work on in the future.  We are all called to be evangelists or missionaries – to invite others to come to know and love the Lord!

In regard to how we can serve you better, most felt that we were doing great and there is little we could do to improve.  Others offered a variety of suggestions which certainly deserve prayerful consideration.

One area of concern was with priests.  Some remarked on how difficult it was to listen to priests with accents and some expressed the need for a “permanent” Spanish speaking priest.  Others wanted more Masses and more confessions.  I understand your concerns.  The problem is that there is a chronic shortage of priests and very, very few are bilingual.  For instance, to get another priest while Fr. Bob and Fr. Ambrose are away next month, I know a priest friend, who knows a priest, who knows a priest who happens to be in the States during that time and is free.  While he does speak English, it is with an accent.  I’m just grateful I have help.  While I may be able to get Spanish or Portuguese speaking priests from other countries, they don’t have the language skills to minister to the majority of our parishioners who are English speakers.  As it is, we are one of the largest parishes in our diocese with one of the heaviest workloads for priests - with all our Masses, confessions, funerals, weddings, ministries, and home and hospital visits.  As a result, there are priests who simply can’t minister at St. Paul because of the amount of services required each day.

What is the solution?  One: Pray for an increase in vocations.  Encourage your children and grandchildren to listen to the Lord and follow His call.  Positively talk about priests and religious with your children.  Second: Pray for the priests we do have.  I’m especially grateful for the three ministries in our parish whose purpose is to pray for priests: Spiritual Mothers of Priests, Seven Sisters Apostolate, and Ministério de Oração para o Clero.  Three: I will start a Vocation Support Group for young people which will meet periodically throughout the year and Fr. Bob will start a Praying for Vocations Ministry to encourage prayers and support for vocations.  Four: I’ll continue to try to find priests who speak with an American accent and will schedule priests who can speak Spanish and Portuguese fluently for at least half of the weekend Masses in those languages.  I’m truly grateful for our deacons who assist us, and I’ll try to use them more as their schedules permit to help.  As for the suggestion about female priests ... that is way beyond my pay grade!  Sorry!

I’ll cover the rest of your ideas next week!  Meanwhile, see you at the Pumpkin Patch!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

 

 

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 6, 2019

My Dear Friends,

In today’s Gospel, the apostles ask the Lord: “Increase our faith.”  We should all have the same prayer in our hearts: “Lord, increase our faith.”  Faith is a gift from God.  But we must be open to the gift.  The fact is that most of us really are not open to the gift of faith.  In other words, faith is much like every other gift.  We can refuse it and we can mark it “return to sender.”  Or we can simply never open it.  Or we can open it but either never use it or use if for a short while and then lay it aside.  Faith is a gift which must be welcomed and exercised each and every day of our lives.

So how do we increase our faith?  1) Pray for the grace.  Like the apostles, we should pray every day, “Lord, increase my faith.”  2) Pray and meditate on the Sacred Scriptures every day.  Prayer is a conversation with God.  Effective communication is essential in every meaningful relationship.  This involves both talking to and LISTENING to God.  3) Count your blessings every night and reflect on how you experienced God that day.  This is a wonderful practice which is sure to supercharge your faith!  4) Participate fully at Mass at least every weekend and go to confession monthly.  It is impossible to overstate the importance of the Sacraments as encounters with the Divine.  5) Volunteer as a catechist or core team member for our youth group.  The more you share your faith the stronger it becomes!  A great challenge is to pledge to share your faith with one new person every day.  For me, it is a game changer and will certainly increase your faith.  6) Be involved in ministries.  Our prayer groups, bible studies, and service organizations are great faith builders.  But so is helping with our ministries of mercy or charitable organizations in our community.  As St. James told us, “Faith without works is empty”.   Again, the more you exercise your faith, the stronger it will become!

On Thursday at 1:00pm and 7:00pm, I am hosting two Question and Answer Sessions.  It is my opportunity to share with you some of the amazing things God is doing in our parish.  I would also like to share the challenges with our parish finances, the results of our parish survey and how we are fulfilling our goals for the Bishop’s pastoral plan, “Courageously Living the Gospel.”  I want to listen to your concerns and respond to your questions.  I also have questions for you.  I need your guidance on several issues.  Please come!

This coming Saturday, we complete our novena in honor of Our Lady of Aparecida with the Rosary at 7:00pm and Mass in Portuguese at 7:30pm.  For Brazilians, this is also celebrated as “Children’s Day” as the children are entrusted to the care and protection of the Mother of God.  It is also the feast of Our Lady of the Pillar.  Tradition has it that Our Lady appeared on a pillar in Spain to encourage St. James the Apostle around the year 40 A.D.  The devotion spread with the Spanish explorers.  To this day, many of our parishioners from Argentina, Uruguay, and the Philippines invoke her as their patron saint.  Finally, it is also the feast of Our Lady of Leche ... of St. Augustine fame!  This is the first and oldest shrine dedicated to our Blessed Mother in the United States.  Please visit our Shrines in honor of Our Lady of Aparecida and Our Lady of Leche by the fountain!

See you at the Pumpkin Patch!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

Mark your calendars: October 10 for Q&A with Fr. Bill at 1pm and at 7pm!

 

 

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 22, 2019

My Dear Friends,

This week we celebrate several notable feasts.  Monday is the feast of St. Jerome who reminds us: “Ignorance of Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”  On Tuesday, we remember St. Thérèse of Liseaux, “the Little Flower.”  She taught us that it’s easy for those with the trust and love of a child to follow Jesus.  Wednesday is the feast of the Holy Guardian Angels and we remember Jesus’ promise that we all have angels interceding for us before the throne of God (Mt 18:10).  American pioneer, St. Mother Théodore Guérin, is remembered on Thursday for her work in Indiana with orphans, children, and the infirm.  Thursday also marks the beginning of our novena in honor of Our Lady of Aparecida.  Join us each evening at our beautiful Shrine at 7:30pm for our novena prayers, rosary, and light refreshments.

On Friday, we remember St. Francis of Assisi!  St. Francis is often remembered for his love for animals and nature yet his holiness flowed from his devotion to Christ Crucified, the Holy Eucharist, and Mother Church.  He had a great love for Lady Poverty and a passion for the poor, especially lepers.  He was a committed evangelist and was ordained a deacon so he could preach at Mass.  St Francis traveled far to share the Gospel with the Muslims and went on thirty day retreats several times a year! He believed that the key to holiness was to radically follow Christ – to live the Gospels – and this he did as none other!

In honor of his feast day, you are encouraged to have your pets blessed on Saturday at 9:00am in our beautiful Santo Niño Shrine.  (Note the new time!)  You may also want to clean your closets and cupboards and share your surplus with those in need.  Finally, you may also want to sit with a friend and share how Christ has touched your heart or visit our Crucifix by our Fountain Garden and meditate on this prayer penned by St. Francis before the crucifix: “Most high, glorious God, let your light fill the shadows of my heart and grant me, Lord, true faith, certain hope, perfect love, awareness and knowing, that I may fulfill Your holy will.  Amen.”

Saturday marks the feast of another American: Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos.  He was a German immigrant who was ordained a Redemptorist priest and worked throughout the United States.  Father Seelos' Top 10 Practical Guide to Holiness: 1. Go to Mass with deepest devotion. 2. Spend a half hour to reflect upon your main failing and make resolutions to avoid it. 3. Do daily spiritual reading for at least 15 minutes, if a half hour is not possible. 4. Say the rosary every day. 5. Also daily, if possible, visit the Blessed Sacrament; and toward evening, meditate on the Passion of Christ for a half hour. 6. Conclude the day with evening prayer and an examination of conscience over all the faults and sins of the day. 7. Every month make a review of the month in confession. 8. Choose a special patron every month and imitate that patron in some special virtue. 9. Precede every great feast with a novena, that is, nine days of devotion. 10. Try to begin and end every activity with a "Hail Mary."

Finally, Saturday, October 5th, also marks the beginning of our annual Pumpkin Patch.  This is a major source of revenue for our youth ministry and provides funds for our teens to be able to attend various retreats and conventions throughout the year.  Your generous support is extremely important as the cost of attending these events would be prohibitive for many of our families.  Thank you so much for your support!  May God bless you!

Growing together in Christ,

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

P. S.  Mark your calendars: October 10th for a Q&A Session with Fr. Bill at 1:00pm and at 7:00pm in the Parish Center!

 

 

 

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 22, 2019

My Dear Friends,

First, please join me in thanking God for our parish and for all who helped make this year’s Ministry Fair such a huge success!  I really loved visiting all the ministries and hearing about the wonderful and exciting things they are doing.  I feel blest to be a part of this amazing parish!

If you didn’t get a copy of our new Parish Ministry Directory or if you have questions about a ministry, just let us know.  Laurie Erickson, our Director of Ministries, is here to assist you.  If you signed up for a ministry, you should be hearing from them shortly.  If you don’t, please let us know.  We care!

Our evening discussion last week on Bishop Barron’s “Letter to a Suffering Church” was well received.  Eighty people attended the open forum and after presenting a summary of the book, I shared how our diocese has addressed the problem of clergy abuse and presented some ideas of what could be done in the future.  It was a difficult discussion but hopeful.

Tragically, the abuse of children is an epidemic and it can be prevented.  How?  1. Talk to your children about touching safety.  Teach them that it is OK to say “NO,” get away, and seek help.  2. Help your children make a list of the people they can turn to for help if they have a problem.  3. Teach your children that unsafe touching can happen with people they know and trust; not only with strangers.  4. Respect your children’s personal boundaries.  Teach them to trust their intuition about others.  5. Be aware of those who have contact with your children and be sure it is a “Safe Environment” with at least two adults supervising whenever possible.  In our parish, this is always the case.  In addition, everyone having supervision of a child must be Safe Environment compliant.

On the subject of protecting our children, you should know that our parish has recently spent a great deal of money to tighten the security of our campus including installing bollards in the courtyard, locks on our classroom doors, phones in all the preschool classrooms and speakers so that if there ever was a lockdown or an active shooter situation, everyone could be quickly informed.  In addition, we have added fire drills, active shooter drills and lockdown drills to our Faith Formation program.  I wish these measures were not necessary but unfortunately, they are.

You should also know that in the past week the Church was vandalized.  A television from the narthex, a vacuum cleaner, and electronic equipment was stolen.  I pray for the poor soul who felt the need to steal from the Church of God.

To end on a happier note, please join me on Monday night at 7:30pm for Mass in honor of Padre Pio at his shrine on our beautiful Peace Path.  May Padre Pio pray for us all!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

 

 

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 15, 2019

My Dear Friends,

It’s here!!  Praise God!!  I love our Ministry Fair!  Each year it gives us all the opportunity to learn more about how God is blessing our parish, to prayerfully discern how God is calling us to become more involved, to meet some extraordinary parishioners, make new friends, network and enjoy some delicious food!  God is so good to us!  This year is extra special as we are blest to have the opportunity to meet Fr. Ambrose, to learn about our new ministries, and to pick up a new copy of our St. Paul Ministry Directory.

The Directory is especially useful as it contains updated descriptions of all our ministries, information about our parish advisory councils, a summary of our parish finances, a calendar of upcoming parish events, and a pictorial directory of our parish staff.  I encourage you to pick up your copy and circle those ministries you are interested in.  If you have a question about the parish finances, contact me or our parish manager, Brian Smith by phone at 813-961-3023 or via email (bsmith@stpaulchurch.com).  Our next Q&A is October 10th, but please don’t wait until then to have your questions or concerns addressed!  Also, if you see anything in the Directory, our website or on the St. Paul Parish App which needs to be corrected or updated, please inform Charles Yezak, our parish’s Director of Communications, by email (cyezak@stpaulchurch.com).  Thank you and may God bless you!

So why should you become involved in a ministry?  Good question!  First, you are doing exactly what Jesus told us to do...to love and serve Him and to love and serve our neighbor.  Second, you will find that the more you are involved, the smaller our parish becomes.  You will discover that you have many new wonderful friends who will journey with you through life.  Our parish family truly will become an extended family for you.  Third, you will find that your involvement in ministry will be a blessing to your family.  The graces you receive will flow to them!

Does that mean you shouldn’t be involved in other charitable organizations in our community?  Of course not!  Our parishioners truly are the “movers and shakers” throughout Tampa Bay and as a result, St. Paul has a wonderful reputation as being a bright light in our area and home of some of the most generous and talented people in Hillsborough County.  Thank you!

You don’t have much time?  You have physical limitations?  You travel a great deal?  No worries.  We are blest with over 100 different active ministries and there is certainly one that will fit your needs.  Pray about it or talk to Laurie Erickson, our Director of Ministries (Lerickson@StPaulChurch.com).  She will certainly help you!

May God bless you and I’ll see you at the Ministry Fair!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

P.S.  While visiting the Ministry Fair, please be sure to thank our volunteers!

 

 

 

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 8, 2019

My Dear Friends,

Please join me in welcoming Fr. Ambrose Kadambukatt, OCD, to our parish family.  Fr. Ambrose is a member of the Order of Discalced Carmelites and comes to us from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.  We pray that God will bless him and his ministry at St. Paul!

Please join us for our annual Ministry Fair next weekend from 6:30pm -7:30pm after the Saturday evening Mass and after all the Masses on Sunday.  The Ministry Fair is a phenomenal opportunity to learn more about how the Lord is working at St. Paul Catholic Church while meeting new friends and enjoying delicious food.  There are also fun games and activities for the kids.  Please be sure to come!

When you come to the Fair, be sure to thank our fellow parishioners who will be representing our ministries at the Ministry Fair.  They are truly amazing, and we are so grateful for the sacrifices they make for our parish family!

It is my prayer that each parishioner be involved in at least two ministries... one which feeds you and another in which you help another person.  For instance, if you love the Bible, be involved in one of our bible studies.  You may also want to volunteer to be a catechist or assistant with our Faith Formation program.  You may have a passion for the Eucharist and so you become an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion or join our Eucharistic Adoration Society...but you can also volunteer to help wash the linens used during the Mass.  One last example, you may have a passion for the poor and so volunteer with our Jamaican Ministry.  Closer to home, help with our Migrant Farm Workers Ministry!  The thing is that we can all become involved.  If you can’t get out of the home, think about joining our Partners in Prayer.  If you have a strong back and want a workout, Homemakers of Hope is perfect for you.  We can always use more help with our Faith Formation and Youth Ministry.  If you have another idea for a ministry, let us know!  The bottom line is: Become involved, you will be glad you did!

Being a good steward means sharing generously with others the gifts and talents God has given us...our time, our abilities, and our material resources.  I’m impressed by all that our parishioners do, both in our parish as well as our larger community.  I’m also so grateful for your generous financial support for our parish as well as those in need.  Thank you and may God bless you!

If I may be so bold, I have one more favor to ask of you.  If you love St. Paul as much as I do, please share your joy with others.  Invite others to join you for Mass or one of our many communal activities.  They will thank you!

May God bless you and your loved ones as we courageously grow together in faith!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

P.S.  On Thursday, September 12th at 7:00pm, I’m hosting an open forum to discuss Bishop Barron’s “Letter to a Suffering Church” regarding the sexual abuse scandals affecting our Church.

 

 

 

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 1, 2019

My Dear Friends,

This Labor Day weekend, we thank God for the gift of our labor, the ways we participate in the creative work of God.  While some may erroneously feel that work is a result of original sin, it actually provides meaning and worth to our lives as we actively build up the Kingdom of God.  Today we pray for those who are unemployed, underemployed, and those otherwise unable to work.  We pray that God will be with them and answer their prayers.  This is also a good time for us to reevaluate the roots of Labor Day and reevaluate what just wages, safe working conditions, reasonable hours with time off and sufficient employment benefits mean in today’s context.  We remember in a special way those living on fixed or minimal incomes and single parents.  May God bless all those who labor and especially those who are heavily burdened!

Today we also give thanks to God for our “Tweeners” ministry or “In Between Jobs Support Group.”  This important ministry meets every Thursday at 8:30am and provides important support to those who are looking for new work opportunities.  Please recommend this ministry to all who are searching for gainful employment.

Labor Day also traditionally marks the end of summer (wishful thinking in Florida!).  Please be sure to enjoy quality time with those you love.  One of the many blessings of living in the Sunshine State is that there are lots of wonderful things to do as a family which do not cost much money.  Remember, you are the best gift you can give to those you love!

On Labor Day the parish offices will be closed but we will still offer Mass at 7:30am and 12:15pm.  Eucharistic Adoration will be offered from 8:00am through 8:30pm.  Please be sure to stop by and spend a few moments thanking God for the gift of life and for those who labor!

We thank you, Lord, for the gift and opportunity of work; may our efforts always be pure of heart, for the good of others and the glory of Your Name.

We lift up to You all who long for just employment and those who work to defend the rights and needs of workers everywhere.

May those of us who are now retired always remember that we still make a valuable contribution to our Church and our world by our prayers and deeds of charity.

May our working and our resting all give praise to You until the day we share together in eternal rest with all our departed in Your Kingdom as You live and reign Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

May God bless you and your loved ones as we courageously grow together in our faith!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

P.S.  On September 12th at 7:00pm, I’m hosting an open forum to discuss Bishop Barron’s “Letter to a Suffering Church” regarding the sexual abuse scandals affecting our Church.  Also, our annual Ministry Fair is quickly coming...September 14-15 after all the Masses.  Please mark your calendars!

 

 

 

 

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 25, 2019

My Dear Friends,

God is so good to us.  He always hears our prayers!  It is my pleasure to welcome Deacon Richard Spiro to our parish family.  Deacon Rich and his wife, Colleen, are from the Diocese of Venice and come with a wealth of experience.  They have recently retired and have relocated to our parish to be closer to family.  I’m looking forward to journeying with them both in faith. 

We are also blessed to welcome Louis Gobin as our new parish bookkeeper.  Louis has lived in Tampa for a number of years and has been very active in neighboring parishes.  He has considerable accounting experience, most recently as Vice President of Finance for our local Fox Television affiliate.  May God bless him as he begins his new ministry here at St. Paul!

We have also received news from the diocese that our new Parochial Vicar, Father Ambrose, a  Discalced Carmelite, will be arriving September 6th from Los Angeles.  He speaks English and Spanish, among other languages and has agreed to also work on his Portuguese for our Brazilian community.  I’m very excited to be able to serve the Lord alongside a member of the Carmelite community!

As long as I’m sharing good news, we are busy gearing up for Alpha in January.  Alpha is an 11-week process involving a shared meal and short video followed by small group sharing.  It is an amazing way to grow in faith while forming lifelong friends.  We will be offering it in English, Spanish, and Portuguese languages.  There is even a special Alpha for teens and young adults!  You’ll be hearing more about Alpha in the coming months but if you have participated in Alpha in another parish, we want to hear from you.  Please contact Susan at alpha@stpaulchurch.com!

Our Faith Formation program is well underway.  We are so blessed at St. Paul with wonderful families to work with and an amazing team of catechists and assistants.  We can always use more!  We need more people committed to helping our young people in Middle School and High School.  We also need substitutes to cover when our catechists and assistants call in sick.  If you can help, please call the Faith Formation office at (813) 961-3023!

On Friday at 7:30pm, we begin our 9-day Novena in honor of Our Lady of Good Health with the traditional “Hoisting of the Festival Flag” followed by the rosary, and the novena prayers.  Afterwards, we will celebrate our Fifth Friday Mass sponsored by our African community.  The evening will conclude with a dinner reception.  Please come and bring your friends!

May God bless you and your loved ones as we courageously grow together in faith!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

P.S.  On September 12th at 7:00pm, I’m hosting an open forum to discuss Bishop Barron’s “Letter to a Suffering Church” regarding the sexual abuse scandals affecting our Church.  Also, our annual Ministry Fair is quickly coming!  The Ministry Fair will take place on September 14 - 15 after all the Masses.  Please be sure to mark your calendars!

 

 

 

 

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 18, 2019

My Dear Friends,

In today’s Gospel, Jesus says “I have come to set the world on fire!”.  This Gospel is perfect as we begin another year of Faith Formation.  We pray that the fire of the Holy Spirit may come over all our children, teens, young adults, and adults who are participating in our many Faith Formation programs and ministries.  May we all be ablaze with the love and mercy of God!

Every child and teenager who is not enrolled in a Catholic school (K-12) should be enrolled in our Faith Formation and Youth Ministry programs.  In many other countries whose population is predominantly Catholic, faith formation is limited to preparation for Sacraments.  Unfortunately, our American culture is not Catholic.  Many would argue that it is not even Christian.  If your children are going to know about our rich faith, it will be because of how WE as adults live our faith and by enrolling them in excellent faith formation programs.  Classes start today so if you know of any child who is not yet enrolled, please be sure to enroll him or her ASAP.  If your child is enrolled in a Catholic school and is scheduled to receive First Holy Communion or Confirmation this year, he or she should also be enrolled in the sacramental preparation program in our parish.

Of course, the primary factor in determining if your child develops a profound, lifelong, personal relationship with the Lord is not whether they attend a Catholic School or Faith Formation Program.  It is whether YOU as parents live the faith...praying every day with the children, modeling the faith through their words and deeds and participating in the Holy Mass each and every weekend!  Your home is the first church, the first seminary, the first school...the foundation of the church and our society.  All that we do is supplement what you do at home.  Thank you for all you do for your children!

As we begin a new school year, this is also a good time to recall that safety is everyone’s priority.  Our parish strives to be a safe environment.  All of our catechists and staff have had background screening checks and Safe Environment training.   In addition, all of the parents, children, and young people in our preschool and Faith Formation programs are receiving Safe Environment training.  That being said, we always have many people on our campus who have not been vetted.  It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that children are not left unaccompanied on our parish campus and if you see something suspicious, report it.

Faith Formation is not just for kids, but for each and every one of us.  My prayer is that this year we will all grow in our faith through one of our Bible Studies, Prayer Groups, continuing education programs, or online learning opportunities.  May we grow together in Christ!

May God bless you and your loved ones!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

 

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 11, 2019

My Dear Friends,

This Thursday, we celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a Holy Day of Obligation.  While embraced by the Church for centuries, Pope Pius XII infallibly declared it to be so in 1950: “By the authority of Our Lord Jesus Christ that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”  Our Blessed Mother, who was immaculately conceived free from Original Sin, was assumed body and soul, by God to heaven as Queen of the Universe.

The timing of this declaration was a great grace.  In 1950 the world was exhausted by war and the death of over 50 million human beings.  The value of human life had been diminished by the horrific brutality and destruction of the war.  By affirming Mary’s dignity, the Church affirmed the dignity and worth of every human life.  All life is precious in the sight of God.

Furthermore, the Pope’s declaration lent hope to a world that had been crushed by evil.  God is ultimately and unequivocally victorious.  From the grave, each of us will share in the mystery of the Assumption as the Lord calls us to eternal life with Him.

How can you observe this feast as a family?  First of all come to Mass! Our Mass schedule is as follows:

Wednesday:  7:00pm Vigil Mass

Thursday:  7:30am Mass, 12:15pm Mass, 5:30pm Mass and 7:30pm Mass (en Español)

Second: Pray the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary as a family.  Rosaries and brochures on how to pray the Rosary are readily available at the parish.  Just ask!

Third: If you have a Marian Shrine in your home or in your garden, spruce it up!  Or bring flowers to your favorite Marian image at the parish!  We have many ... our Lady of Grace, our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady Queen of the Apostles, Our Lady of Aparecida, Our Lady of Good Health, Our Lady of the Milk, Our Lady of the Angels, the Immaculate Conception ... take your pick!  Your flowers are a wonderful sign of your love for the Mother of our Lord!

The following prayer can be used by your family at home to extend the joy of celebrating this mystery of faith:

“In giving birth you kept your virginity; in your Dormition you did not leave the world, O Mother of God, but were joined to the Source of Life.  You conceived the living God and your prayers will deliver our souls from death.”   

                                                                                                                        —Byzantine Liturgy

May we one day share in the promise of the Assumption!

May God bless you and your loved ones!  See you on the Feast day!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

 

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 4, 2019

My Dear Friends,

This Tuesday is the Feast of the Transfiguration, when Jesus took Peter, John, and James and climbed up Mount Tabor to pray.  Like Jesus, we all need to pray.  While in prayer, Jesus’ appearance changed; He was transfigured.  Prayer does that.  It transfigures us.  No, we may not glow like the sun, but prayer nonetheless changes us.  I remember my brother once wrote to me: “Bill, I pray for you.  Not because you need it, but because I need it.”  Conversing with God changes us.

Luke records that Jesus was having a conversation with Moses and Elijah about the exodus which was to be accomplished in Jerusalem.  The term “exodus” is a loaded one as it refers to the liberation of God’s people from slavery.  Likewise, Jesus was going to Jerusalem to suffer, die, and rise from the dead in order to set us free from the chains of sin and death.  This was His mission, His purpose here on earth.  Likewise, our prayer confirms our mission or purpose here on earth: to love God with all our hearts and souls and to share His love and mercy with others.

The disciples were understandably distracted by this sight and wanted to memorialize it.  It was then that God the Father reminded them to focus: “This is my chosen Son; listen to Him.”  How important it is for us to keep our minds and hearts focused on Jesus ... to listen to Him ... and to follow His will in our lives and not be distracted by worries or concerns.

As you can tell, I love the mystery of the Transfiguration.  In fact, Mount Tabor is one of my favorite places on earth.  Every time I visit there I am changed.  It transfigures me.  Thankfully we have a “Mount Tabor” in our parish ... namely, our parish chapel where we can spend quality time before the Eucharistic Lord and experience the Transfiguration every day.

What should we do or say when we come to Eucharistic Adoration?  Remember, you don’t need to do or say anything.  In fact, the perfect prayer is simply to share with the Lord what is on your heart and then LISTEN!  LISTEN to Him with an attentive heart!  LISTEN to His quiet whisper.  LISTEN!

Please come and pray before the Eucharistic Lord at least once every week, if not every day!  Like Jesus, invite three friends to join you!  We periodically bring the children in our Preschool, children in our Faith Formation classes and teens in our Youth Group to Eucharistic Adoration.  They love it!  In fact, our young adults have made it a regular part of their gatherings.  For them, it is a transfiguring experience - an encounter with God!

This Tuesday is the Feast of the Transfiguration.  My prayer is that we may all, in the words of St. Paul, “be transfigured from glory to glory into His image!” (2 Cor 3:18).

May God bless you and your loved ones!

 

Father Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

 

 

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 28, 2019

My Dear Friends,

First of all, please join me in thanking Michael Maloney for his service as our parish manager these past five years.  He has been a blessing to our parish and an incredible help to me personally as both my “right hand man” and dear friend.  Let us offer a prayer for him and his family as he begins this new chapter of life.

In the same breath, we offer a prayer for long term parishioner Brian Smith as he begins his service as our new parish manager.  I’ve known Brian for almost thirty years.  He has served in a number of ministries and is known for his can-do attitude, professionalism, and abiding faith.  I’m looking forward to serving the Lord at His side.  Please keep him and our entire parish family in prayer during this time of transition.

With Fr. George leaving for hospital ministry and Sister Betz retiring, we are in need of help to meet our growing pastoral needs.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve been storming heaven!  To that end, I was recently informed that two Carmelite priests may soon be coming to serve at St. Paul...wouldn’t that be wonderful!  We may also have an additional deacon!  God is certainly blessing our parish!

Today’s Gospel is all about prayer.  Prayer is a conversation with God...a sharing of hearts.  God always hears our prayers.  That being said, God is not a genie.  He is our loving Father and like all parents, His answer may not always be yes and at times calls us to have trust as well as patience.  He always knows what is best for us, even if we don’t.  Share your hopes and dreams, fears and worries with Him.  Listen to His quiet voice.  And be attentive to His response!  You won’t be disappointed!  I know I’m not!

May God bless you and your loved ones!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

 

 

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 21, 2019

My Dear Friends,

In today’s Gospel we hear the familiar story of the visit of Jesus to the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus.  While Martha was busy serving the Lord, Mary simply sat at His feet, attentively listening to Him.  Many of us can relate to Martha.  It is easy for us to fall into the trap of a hyper activism, failing to remember that we can become so busy that we fail to be attentive to the most important things in life, our relationship with God, our families, our friends, and even our health.  We are grateful for the Lord’s invitation to be a bit more like Mary and enjoy some quality time with Him. 

So who is right?  Martha or Mary?  The truth is that we must be both.  We are called, like Mary, to enjoy quality time with the Lord each day through our personal prayer, participation in our beautiful Masses, as well as sitting at His feet in our daily Eucharistic Adoration.

We are also called to roll up our sleeves and assist those who are in need.  We can do this as catechists and team members in our Faith Formation programs, liturgical ministers at Holy Mass, volunteers in our many community building and community serving ministries, or by helping with one of our many Ministries of Mercy!

Remember, Mary wasn’t just sitting around.  She was offering the gift of hospitality as she was attentive to the words of Jesus.  Martha was offering a different type, but equally important form of hospitality.

I pray that we too may be known by our love for the Lord and the quality of time we share with Him as well as our love and concern for those in need.

On another note, as part of the diocesan Courageously Living the Gospel initiative, we are discerning a new “family friendly” ministry of mercy to assist those in need in our community.  If you would like to take part in the envisioning process, please contact Laurie at the parish office.  We could use your input, especially if you have young children.

Also, we would like to offer a special Mass of Thanksgiving on August 16th beginning with the rosary at 7:00pm for all those who have recently become naturalized citizens of the United States.  And on September 13th, a special Mass beginning with the rosary at 7:00pm, for migrants throughout the world.  Please contact Laurie at the parish office for more information.

May God bless you and your loved ones!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 14, 2019

My Dear Friends,

During the past month, I was away for a few days for a family wedding.  It was beautiful - not because of its location but because of its significance for the bride and groom.  Let me explain.  I have come upon weddings in some of the most beautiful spots in the world: a golden beach at sunset, a park shaded by majestic trees, and on the top of a mountain with a gorgeous view.  In each case, I was struck by the beauty of the setting and overcome with sadness for the couple.  I wonder if they really had any understanding about the nature of marriage.  A beautiful setting, a quick exchange of words, a flash of a camera...and it is all over.

As Catholics, we believe that marriage is far more than simply a relationship shared between two people.  We believe it is a permanent covenant, a relationship shared between the husband and wife which encompasses the whole of life.  It is a partnership, for better or for worse, richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, ordered for the good of the couple, their children, and indeed our entire society.

More than that, it is a sacred event, a sharing in the life of God.  A Christian marriage involves three people ... not two.  The man, the woman, and God.  We believe that God is love.  Therefore the more the couple grows in the Lord, the greater their capacity to love one another.

Marriage makes God's love visible to all the world.  That is why we Catholics describe it as a Sacrament.  Sometimes, that love becomes so powerful that new life is generated.  We become co-creators with God.  That is why we often place a crucifix over the nuptial bed ... it is a sacred place where the fullest expression of love is exchanged.

More often than not, the Sacred Scriptures describe God's relationship with us as a nuptial bond - Jesus is the groom; we, the Church, are His bride.  St John, in the book of Revelation, describes heaven as a nuptial Mass.  Whenever I want to reflect on God's love for me, I often think of my friends and family who are married and the covenant of love they share.

We also believe that God confers special blessings through marriage.  When Jesus changed the water into wine at the Wedding of Cana, he was not simply interested in ensuring that the wedding guests enjoyed the reception.  Today as then, the cup of blessing is an essential part of the Jewish wedding ritual.  During the time of the Lord, several cups of blessing were used throughout the week-long wedding festivities.  If they ran out of wine, the couple would not be able to "drink" of the fullness of God's blessings.  In changing the water into wine, we believe Christ blessed that couple and all couples that follow.

The Catholic Church requires couples to get married in the Church because we believe it is a sacred event, the most important day in their lives.  We realize that God must be an essential part of every healthy marriage.  We believe that marriage is not merely a private event between two people.  It changes their life, perhaps more than every other event.  It affects our community and we want to support it.  For this reason, we require all Catholics to be married in the Church or to have special permission from the bishop to be married elsewhere.

If you were married outside the Catholic Church (without the necessary permission), you are invited to have your marriage convalidated so that your marriage will be recognized in the Catholic Church and you will be able to receive the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Communion.  Maria Costa (mcosta@stpaulchurch.com or call (813) 961-3023) is available to help you have your marriage "blessed".  If you or your spouse were previously divorced, she can also help you secure a Declaration of Nullity.

For us, weddings are not "Kodak moments" or photo ops; they are not private affairs in beautiful settings for the sole benefit of the couple.  They are ecclesial events which confer grace, empowering and enabling the couple to grow together in the Lord.  They are encounters with the Divine during which they exchange sacred vows; to love and honor their spouse for the whole of life, to enrich the Church with their children, to realize God's presence here on earth through their love, and to journey hand and hand into the life to come.  May God bless all of our married couples!

Know that you and your loved ones are in my prayers.  May God bless you!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 7, 2019

My Dear Friends,

First of all, let me share my joy!  I’m proud to announce that parishioners, Chuck Glass and Dr. Bill Stephen, have been selected to begin formal studies for the diaconate.  For both, this is the fruit of a special call from God and a long period of discernment.  Please keep them and their wives in prayer!  May God bless them all!

Secondly, last week I wrote that we were searching for a parish manager.  It is a blessing to be able to report that long time parishioner, Brian Smith, has graciously accepted my call to serve as Parish Manager.   This is a very important position, shepherding the resources of the parish so that we are able to fulfill our mission.  Please keep Brian and our parish team in prayer during this time of transition.  In a special way, I thank those who assisted on our search committee.

This week, our parish will undergo an audit of “Agreed Upon Procedures.”  This independent review is an important part of our fiscal stewardship which helps ensure that we remain in full compliance with the diocesan policies and all applicable civil laws, including our Safe Environment protocols.  Our last audit was three years ago.  In the future, the audit will take place every year in each parish in our diocese.  This is another example of your APA donations hard at work!

While most parishes “cool down” during July, we are “on fire” with the Holy Spirit!  This Friday, we are hosting a Mass for those who have lost a pet.  This is a special time to ask God’s grace upon those who are grieving as well as to thank God for the gift of our animal friends!  We will begin with the rosary at 7pm and continue with the Holy Mass followed by a light reception.  Please come!

On Saturday, our Brazilian Community is hosting a “Tea with Mary” for families starting at 2pm.  It is an afternoon full of delightful fellowship and delicious food.  You do not need to speak Portuguese to attend...you do need to love our Blessed Mother!

Later this month, our teens will be going to the Steubenville Youth Conference to be immersed in the power and love of the Holy Spirit.  Our very own Apostles of the Eucharist will be hosting a wonderful “Alive and Active” young adult retreat with Fr. William Fickel, SSS, from St. Vincent de Paul in Holiday and Fr. Xavy Castro from Our Lady of the Rosary from Friday July 19 at 4:00pm through Saturday, July 20th at 8:00pm.  Please call the office today to reserve your spot!

Know that you and your loved ones are in my prayers.  May God bless you!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

June 30, 2019

My Dear Friends,

This week our nation observes Independence Day, when the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, declared that the thirteen American colonies were free and independent of British rule.  The Declaration of Independence is a document which should be re-read each year: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  What does this mean and how can we better realize these foundational principles in our current context?  Let us pray that we may truly be a people who profess our dependence upon God and protect and defend the inalienable dignity and human rights of every human being.  May this holiday be one of special blessing for you and your loved ones!

On a sad note, this is the last weekend Fr. George Gyasi will be with us.  Father has recently accepted a position as chaplain at St. Joseph Hospital.  It has been a blessing to serve the Lord at his side this past year.  He is truly a gifted priest.  Please be sure to thank him and say farewell after Mass this weekend.  The Bishop is currently discerning who will be assigned to our parish.  Thankfully, Fr. Prakash is here to help us in the interim.

In addition, Michael Maloney, our parish manager, has accepted an offer for another position.  Michael has been a tremendous blessing to me and to our parish and will be missed.  Please join me in thanking him for his service.  We have formed a search committee and a number of qualified candidates have expressed interest in this important position.

To end on a positive note, we have been busy planning for next year.  As you know, our parish is fully committed to implementing the Bishop’s vision, “Courageously Living the Gospel”, with a renewed emphasis on youth ministry, evangelization, and care for those in need.  In addition, this August we will distribute Bishop Barron’s book “Letter to a Suffering Church” (in English and Spanish) and invite those interested to join me for a discussion.

In the Spring, you will be invited to join Alpha, an exciting 11 week series designed to help you super-size your faith in a friendly, open and informative environment (in English and Spanish).  The goal is for each member of our parish to courageously grow in faith and be empowered to fully respond to the Lord’s call to discipleship.

Personally, I’m very excited about the coming year and I pray you are too!  May God bless you and your loved ones!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

Corpus Christi

June 23, 2019

My Dear Friends,

Today we celebrate the source and summit of our faith – the Most Holy Eucharist.  The Eucharist is so important because of WHO it is...the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  We believe that when Jesus said "This is my Body...This is my Blood" he wasn't speaking symbolically.  When our Lord said, "If you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you...for my flesh is real food and blood real drink," he wasn't using an analogy.  And when people rejected him because of this teaching, he did not back down.  The Eucharist is one of the greatest gifts God has given to us as he invites us to enter communion with him physically as well as spiritually!

From the first beginnings of our Church, the apostles and all those who followed them always understood the true meaning of the Eucharist – the Real Presence of Christ – and were willing to give their lives in defense of that truth.  It was only during the Protestant Reformation when people began to question this tenet of faith.  Why?  The first thing the reformers did was discard apostolic succession and the priesthood.  Without valid priests, there is no Eucharist.  It becomes merely a symbolic representation - spiritual but void of the true presence of Christ.

Given the clarity and consistency of the Church's teaching, as given to us by Christ and faithfully handed down through the ages, it is a surprise that the U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey recently reported that more than four in ten Catholics (45%) do not know that the Church teaches that the bread and wine used in Communion do not merely symbolize but actually become the Body and Blood of Christ.

One possible explanation is that there are many people who claim to be Catholic but rarely attend Mass.  I think we all know people who fall into this category.  In fact, of the 20,000+ souls registered in our parish, less than 4,000 come to Mass on any weekend.  Perhaps one reason why they don't attend Mass is because they are so ignorant of the teachings of our Church.  If they had any idea of the nature of the Eucharist, I doubt if they would ever skip a Mass.  After all, who wouldn't want to enter communion, physically as well as spiritually with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?

I am convinced that the Lord is challenging us to reach out to the lost sheep. While we try our best through mailings, advertising, our website, and social media, the best way is personal invitation.  PLEASE, share your faith with your family, friends, and neighbors.  Invite them to join you for Mass.  If you know people who are absent from Church, give them a call and let them know they were missed.  Who knows?  They could be waiting for your call.

Today is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.  Today, let us share the Good News of the Real Presence of Christ with those we love and invite them to join us.  May we continue to grow together in Christ!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

 

The Most Holy Trinity

June 16, 2019

My Dear Friends,

Today, we celebrate the most fundamental and essential mystery of our Christian faith...our belief in the Most Holy Trinity.  As St. Caesarius of Ares once said, “The faith of all Christians rests on the Trinity.”  We believe in one God indivisible in nature, substance and essence but revealed in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who creates, redeems, and sanctifies all creation in His merciful love.  May the Most Holy Trinity be ever praised and adored!

Today, we also celebrate Father’s Day!  We thank God for the gift of our fathers, living as well as deceased, who reveal to us in so many ways our Heavenly Father’s loving care!  For me, I am so inspired by the example of my dad, brothers, nephews, friends, and you ... my brothers who give so selflessly of yourselves for the benefit of your wives and children.  May God bless you all!

I’d also like to thank you for all your support for our Panama Mission.  We were truly blessed during our eight day visit to our sister parish in Montijo, Panama.  We were blessed to be able to visit two villages on remote islands which lack a medical clinic, electricity and fresh water sources. Our doctor and nurses offered medical services while the rest of us teamed up with parishioners from our sister parish to go door to door, sharing the message of Divine Mercy and the goods you donated to the mission.  Each night, we celebrated Mass and prayed the chaplet of Divine Mercy during Eucharistic Adoration.  It was beautiful!

As you may know, our Youth Ministry is going through a transition.  Our former youth minister, Stephen Watkins, accepted a position as director of Camp Good Counsel.  Albert Voigt was offered the position but declined as he was asked to serve as director of Faith Formation at St. Michael in Hudson.  Thankfully, parishioner Andy Gotsch has graciously accepted our invitation to head our youth ministry program.  He comes with a wealth of experience and is very excited for this opportunity to journey in faith with our teens, their families, and our wonderful core team.  Please keep Andy and our youth ministry program in your prayers!

Next weekend, we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi.  This year, we will host Forty Hours of Eucharistic Adoration beginning with Mass on Thursday evening at 7:30pm and ending with the 5:30pm Vigil Mass on Saturday.  Immediately following the 5:30pm Mass, there will be a Eucharistic Procession with a blessing of our parish ministries.  We will end in the Family Center where we will enjoy a delicious dinner.  Please come and bring a friend!

Courageously living our faith!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

Pentecost

June 9, 2019

My Dear Friends,

Huddled together in fear in the upper room, the Holy Spirit burst through the locked doors and came upon the apostles, our Blessed Mother, and the other men and women who followed Jesus.  As the Spirit came upon each of them, they were filled with His grace and began to boldly proclaim their faith in Jesus.  And the Church was born!

I believe that our Church truly needs a new Pentecost - a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  It seems that we have grown fearful and have locked ourselves up in our upper room.  Too often, we are afraid to share our faith for fear that some might think we are religious fanatics or worse.  We are afraid to speak out against the injustices and inequities of our age for fear that we would be judged "intolerant".  We are afraid to stand up to defend what we know is true for fear that someone might question our intentions.  Faith has become a private matter and evangelism has become a dirty word.

Yet that is exactly what we are called to do.  It is clear from Sacred Scripture that we are all called to share our faith with others, to speak out for those who lack a voice, and to lend a hand to those in need.

How do we evangelize?  First of all, we evangelize through our actions.  The most important witness to the Gospel is the silent witness – the way we live our lives.  As St. Francis reminds us, we are all called to preach – and if necessary even to use words!  St. Anthony of Padua, whose feast day is Thursday, once said: “Actions speak louder than words; let your words teach and your actions speak."

Evangelization can also happen through spoken word.  Often, it is simply a quiet assurance of prayers when someone shares a problem.  At other times, it is an invitation to join you on Sunday for worship or during the week for Adoration.  At other times, it is simply a sharing of how God worked in your life during a similar crisis.  Evangelization is not posterization or a failure to respect the beliefs of another person.  It is simply a sharing of those truths which bring so much meaning and joy to you.

Evangelization can also happen through our inner disposition.  A heart marked by the fruits of the Holy Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, and self-control – is a heart which evangelizes.

Yes, I believe we all need an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  I challenge you to share your faith, to invite a friend or neighbor to join you on Sunday, to help someone in need.  May the Holy Spirit come upon us and fill our hearts – that we may have the courage to proclaim our faith throughout our lives!

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of your love.   Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created; and you shall renew the face of the earth!

Last but not least, we thank God for the gift of Fr. Lenin Fernandez as he returns to his parish in India.  And we extend a warm welcome to Fr. Prakash Rumao who will be staying with us through August 31st.  Welcome Fr. Rumao!

Courageously living our faith!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

 

Ascension of the Lord

June 2, 2019

My Friends,

Today we celebrate Ascension “Thursday”.  Why did many of the dioceses in the world transfer this feast to Sunday?   Because for many people, it is not possible to come to Mass on a Thursday and they wanted everyone to experience this important mystery of faith.  Forty days after the resurrection on Easter Sunday, Christ ascended to heaven to open the gates of paradise for us all and to send His Spirit to remain with us forever on Pentecost Sunday!  The nine days of prayer between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost Sunday is the first novena and one we should all do every year.  Pray for a new Pentecost for ourselves, our families, our parish, our Church, and our world!  May we all be renewed in the gift of the Holy Spirit!  Let us pray:

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

This past week, I received the results of the annual Assessment of Children/Youth Religious Education (ACRE).  This assessment is an important tool to assist us in providing the highest quality of faith formation for our children and youth.  It is given to our 5th, 8th, and 11th graders.  Our 8th grade was our big success.  While they underperformed in every area last year, this year they surpassed the national parish averages in all 10 domains!  The dramatic improvement is a testament to the concerted efforts of our Faith Formation staff and catechists.  The second part of the instrument pertains to how they live their faith.  Unfortunately a large number still do not read the Bible, feel comfortable talking about faith with their friends or even talking about the morality of actions.  Unfortunately, faith is a taboo subject for many of them.

Our 5th graders scored better than the national parish average in 7 of 10 domains.  This is a decline from last year’s assessment and we will need to redouble our efforts.  Our goal is to score better than students who attend Catholic schools!  Why should our public school students be at a disadvantage?  They struggle with the same issues as the 8th graders.  I was surprised how few report that their family prays together at home.  For both grades, most of those polled have never even thought about serving God as priest or religious.  This year, none of our 11th graders were assessed.

What does all this mean?  Our children are our priority.  They are gifts from God, entrusted to us for a time so that we can help them develop to their full potential...spiritually, intellectually, morally, and physically.  Clearly we have more work to do and together, we can do it!  Please prayerfully consider volunteering to help with our Faith Formation and Youth Ministry programs next year.

On another note, I would like to thank everyone who has participated in this year’s Annual Pastoral Appeal.  As you know, our goal is $452,000.  To date, we have over $400,000 in pledges!  Praise God!  This money is used to provide vital services to so many.  Our diocese uses this money to provide housing for the poor and elderly, counseling, immigration and refugee services, seminarian education and formation, and help to women with unexpected or difficult pregnancies.  As a parish, it helps us to provide the best education to those enrolled in our preschool, Faith Formation programs and Youth Ministry.  If you haven’t yet made your pledge, please do so!  I would love to see every family in our parish pledge.  Thank you!

Finally, the clergy and staff of St. Paul often meet with people who are in need of counseling or mental health care.  If you are a mental health professional, please let me know.  I’d like to arrange a meeting with the clergy and staff and create a list of parish professionals which we can use when making referrals.  Thank you so very much!

Courageously living our faith!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

P. S.  Don’t forget to wear your Pentecost Red next weekend!

 

 

 

 

 

Sixth Sunday of Easter

May 26, 2019

My Friends,

This Memorial Day weekend, we remember in prayer all those who have died in service to our country.  For me, this holiday has a special meaning as I remember my uncle, a young army private and recent immigrant from Ireland who served our country during the Civil War in the Irish Regiment and died in the Battle of Gettysburg.  I also remember parishioners I have buried over the years who died in recent conflicts in the Middle East as well as their spouses, children, parents, and siblings who continue to mourn their loss.  Today, we must also pray for those who continue to bear the physical, mental, and emotional scars of their service to our country as well as all those who love and care for them.  Lastly, we offer prayers for those currently in service.  May God bless them and may we never forget the sacrifices they have made and continue to make on our behalf.  May God bless America!

Because Memorial Day is a time when families often gather together, there will only be one Mass at 7:30am.  Afterwards, the church will be closed.  There will neither be Eucharistic Adoration nor a 12:15pm Mass. Thank you for understanding.

This Wednesday we welcome our shepherd, Bishop Gregory Parkes, to our parish for the celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation on Wednesday night at 7:00pm.  Through an invocation of the Holy Spirit, laying of hands, and anointing with Sacred Chrism, over 80 of our young people will commit themselves to be disciples of Christ and fully initiated members of our Church.  It is an incredibly important moment in their lives and I invite EVERY member of our parish to come and pray with and for them.  They really would appreciate your presence AND your prayers!

Have you ever wished that you had the opportunity to meet and serve the Lord alongside Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta?  Have you ever wished that you had the opportunity to serve the “poorest of the poor”?  Now is your chance!  Father Richard Ho Lung is often described as the “Mother Teresa of the Caribbean.”  Like Mother Teresa, he felt the call to leave his order and form a new one, dedicated to care for those who were discarded by society... the poor, elderly, infirm, and disabled.  His order now spans several continents as he and his brother Missionaries of the Poor share the compassion and love of Christ with those most in need.  We will be joining the brothers from February 3 - 9, 2020, in Kingston, Jamaica.  For more information, please contact Vanessa at jamaicanmission@stpaulchurch.com.  We are limited in the number of people who can join us so it is imperative that you reserve your spot as soon as possible.  Remember, we are all called to share God’s love and mercy to those most in need.  You don’t need to have any particular talents ... only a loving and merciful heart!

On another note, the clergy and staff of St. Paul often meet with people who are in need of counseling or mental health care.  If you are a mental health professional, please let me know.  I’d like to arrange a meeting with the clergy and staff and create a list of parish professionals which we can use when making referrals.  Thank you so very much!

Courageously living our faith!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

 

Fifth Sunday of Easter

May 19, 2019

My Dear Friends,

This is a time of new beginnings for many of our parishioners.  Many of our college and university students have either graduated or have returned home to begin their summer adventures. Our college and senior high students will soon graduate and begin the next chapter of their lives.  This is also the last week of classes for our preschool as well as our Faith Formation classes.  Let us offer a prayer for our young people, their families, and all those who are involved in their formation and education.  May they always know the love and mercy of our good and gracious God!

Next Wednesday, May 29th, at 7:00pm, our Bishop Gregory Parkes will invoke the Holy Spirit and confirm over 80 of our young people.  This is an incredibly important moment in their faith development as they complete their Christian Initiation, are enriched by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and are strengthened, commissioned, and empowered to go forth as disciples of Christ.  It will be their task to be witnesses to Christ by word and deed and to spread and defend our rich faith!

However, they need our prayers.  Please join me in offering a novena for them!  Let us pray each day that they will be open to all the gifts God will graciously confer on them through the anointing of Sacred Chrism and imposition of hands!  I’ll be posting prayers on our webpage and my Facebook page but you can also just simply pray this prayer each and every day from now through May 29th:

 

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful

and enkindle in them the fire of your love.

Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.

And you shall renew the face of the earth.

 

Let us pray:

O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit,

did instruct the hearts of the faithful,

grant us in the same Spirit to be truly wise

and ever to rejoice in His consolation.

Through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

If you are in 8th grade or older and have not been confirmed, please call the Faith Formation Office at (813) 961-3023 so we can help you prepare.  We offer the Sacrament of Confirmation for adults several times throughout the year, so there is no need to wait a year.  The Holy Spirit is a gift which is never refused!

Courageously living our Faith!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

 

Fourth Sunday of Easter

May 12, 2019

My Dear Friends,

Today we honor our beloved mothers, living and deceased, who reveal to us the face of God in so many ways.  When I think of my mother, sisters, grandmothers, aunts, and dear friends who are mothers, I’m inspired by their unconditional love, selfless sacrifices, and unending compassion.  Today, let us thank God for our mothers!

In particular, we thank God for the gift of Mother Mary.  One of the last gifts Jesus gave to us on the cross was the gift of His mother (Jn 19:26-27).  Like “the disciple whom he loved,” we are invited to take Mary into our homes as our mother, to sit at her feet and listen to her words: “Do whatever He tells you.”  May our “yes” to the Lord be an echo of hers!

Today is also the 56th World Day of Prayer for Vocations.  In his message, our Holy Father reminds us: “We should always look to Mary.  Also in the story of this young woman, vocation was both a promise and a risk.  Her mission was not easy, yet she did not allow fear to prevail.  It was the ‘yes’ of someone prepared to be committed, someone willing to take a risk, ready to stake everything she had, with no more security than the certainty of knowing that she was the bearer of a promise.  I ask each one of you: Do you see yourselves as bearers of a promise?  What promise do I bear within my heart to take forward?  Mary’s would undoubtedly be a difficult mission, but the challenges that lay ahead were no reason to say ‘no’.  Things would get complicated, of course, but not in the same way as it happens when cowardice paralyzes us because things are not clear or sure in advance” (Vigil with Young People, Panama, 26 January 2019).  On this World Day of Prayer for Vocations, let us join in prayer and ask the Lord to help us discover his plan of love for our lives, and to grant us the courage to walk in the path that, from the beginning, he has chosen for each of us.”

Let us pray: Mary Most Holy, as a young woman living in obscurity, you nurtured with loving care the Word of God made flesh. Please protect and accompany all young men and women, especially from our parish, who are called to a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. Amen.

You are invited to come to the priestly ordinations of Deacons Anthony Astrab, Ralph D’Elia and Joshua Hare.  After years of prayerful preparation and study, they will be ordained through the invocation of the Holy Spirit, anointing with Sacred Chrism, and the imposition of hands this Saturday, May 18th, at St. Jude the Apostle Cathedral in Saint Petersburg.  It will also be live streamed (dosp.org).

Last but not least, on May 18th, we will have a farewell celebration for Sr. Theresa Betz, SND, following the 5:30pm Mass.  Please come and share your appreciation for the gift of her spiritual motherhood to our parish over many years.

May Our Lady of Fatima pray for us all!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

Third Sunday of Easter

May 5, 2019

My Dear Friends,

As Catholics, our Easter joy cannot be contained within a 24 hour period but flows into 50 days of celebration of the Resurrection!  In today’s Gospel, Jesus encounters the disciples on the Sea of Galilee.  Having witnessed the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, they had seemingly returned to Galilee to resume their normal lives as fishermen (Jn 21:1-19).  However, the disciples were unsuccessful in catching any fish.  Jesus appears to them on the shore and invites them to again “Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.”  And indeed they did!  So much so, their nets were breaking!  Jesus then invites them to have breakfast.

In many ways we are like the disciples.  While we have had an experience of Christ, we are easily distracted by the demands of daily life and forget that He is alive.  We lose heart as we forget the reason for our hope.  All our efforts come up empty.  That is why it is so important that we participate in Mass at least each weekend if not every day.  That is why it is so important to pray every day, reflecting on His Word, ideally during Eucharistic Adoration.  It is vital that we continue to open our ears to hear Him speak to us, to open our eyes to see Him, and to open our hearts to love Him more and more ... especially through the Blessed Sacrament, His Word, and in the faces of the poor, sick, elderly, and broken whom we encounter each and every day of our lives.  He is alive!  And He wants us to grow ever closer to Him!

The first order of business was for Peter to accept the forgiveness of Jesus for his threefold act of betrayal.  All sin is a betrayal and we too need to not only ask for forgiveness but to accept the forgiveness of God, remembering that no sin is too big to be forgiven.  Like Peter we need to say, Jesus I love you, help me to love you more.  Jesus I trust you, help me to trust you more.  Jesus I believe in you, help me to believe in you more!

On another note, our youth minister, Stephen Watkins, has accepted a full time position at the diocesan Camp Good Counsel.  He and his wife, Kayla, have been a blessing to us and we hope that they will remain involved with our youth ministry.  Albert Vogt has graciously accepted our invitation to serve as our new youth minister.  Albert comes to us with considerable experience and with a passion for youth ministry.  Thank you for keeping Stephen and Kayla, Albert, and especially our youth in your prayers during this important time of transition.

On Saturday, May 18th, following the 5:30pm Vigil Mass, you are invited to say farewell to Sr. Theresa Betz, SND, as she returns to her mother house in Chardin, Ohio.  Sister has truly been a blessing to me and our entire parish as our “spiritual mother and mentor.”  She will be sorely missed.

To end on an upbeat note, I look forward to seeing you for our Healing Mass in honor of Our Lady of Fatima this Friday, May 10th, beginning with the Rosary at 7:00pm. 

May God bless you!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

 

Second Sunday of Easter/Divine Mercy Sunday

April 28, 2019

My Dear Friends,

Today is the day of Mercy!  Our Lord told Saint Faustina: “My daughter, tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day are open all the divine floodgates through which graces flow. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. Everything that exists has come forth from the very depths of My most tender mercy. Every soul in its relation to Me will contemplate my love and mercy throughout eternity. The Feast of Mercy emerged from My very depths of tenderness. It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy” (Diary, 699).

Today is the day of Mercy!  Today we are called to turn to the Lord, to bask in the rays of his mercy, to be immersed in his merciful love!  One of the surest means of opening ourselves to his mercy is through the praying of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy before the Eucharistic Lord.  In today’s bulletin, we’ve included how to pray the chaplet of Divine Mercy, given by the Lord to St. Faustina.  I’m sure you will find it to be an incredibly powerful prayer.  Our Lord promised: “Whoever will recite it will receive great mercy at the hour of death.  Priests will recommend it to sinners as their last hope of salvation.  Even if there were a sinner most hardened, if he were to recite this chaplet only once, he would receive grace from my infinite mercy.  I desire that the whole world know my infinite mercy.  I desire to grant unimaginable graces to those souls who trust in my mercy” (Diary, 687).

Today is the day of Mercy!  Mercy, like love, is empty if it is not shared.  Saint Faustina recommends at least one act of mercy a day.  It could be through a “merciful word, by forgiving and by comforting; secondly, if you can offer no word, then pray – that too is mercy; and thirdly, deeds of mercy” (Diary, 1158).  The seven corporal acts of mercy are: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, shelter the homeless, visit the sick and bury the dead.  The seven spiritual acts of mercy are: to admonish the sinner, instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, comfort the sorrowful, bear wrongs patiently, forgive all injuries and pray for the living and the dead.  Let us do an act of mercy today!

Today is the day of Mercy!  May our merciful God shower his blessings upon you and your loved ones!  And may we grow together in Christ!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

 

 

Easter Sunday of the Ressurection of the Lord

April 21, 2019

Happy Easter!

Welcome! Whether you are a first time guest or a parishioner for many years, we warmly welcome you to this celebration and we thank you for choosing St. Paul Catholic Church as your spiritual home.  Your presence here today is an eloquent sign of your love for the Lord, your gratitude for the many blessings received, and your desire to grow ever deeper in faith.  May God bless you!

We are a vibrant, Spirit-led, Eucharist-centered family of faith which welcomes and celebrates our fundamental unity within our great diversity.  We are blessed with an exceptional Preschool, amazing Faith Formation and Youth Ministry programs, and over 100 active ministries serving people from many different cultures, backgrounds, and walks of life.  This Easter, around sixty people of all ages  are joining us through the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Communion.  If you are interested learning more about our parish or how to join one of our ministries, please contact Laurie Erickson at the Parish Office (lerickson@stpaulchurch.com; 813-961-3023). 

I feel truly blessed to serve you as pastor of St. Paul.  I am especially proud of the fact that we have expanded Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament to Monday through Thursday, 8:00am through 8:30pm Compline, in addition to Fridays, from 8:00am through 8:00am Saturday morning!  We have also expanded the hours we offer the Sacrament of Reconciliation to 11:30am on weekdays, in addition to 10:00am and 4:00pm on Saturdays.

This Easter Season we are also implementing a new way to offer your intentions during the weekend Masses.  There will be a book placed under the monitor in the narthex in which you can write your intentions for people living or deceased.  At the beginning of each Mass, it will be placed at the feet of our Blessed Mother as a sign of our prayers joining hers during the Holy Sacrifice.  After Mass, it will be returned to its place for people to sign for the next Mass.  When the pages are filled, they will be burnt as a prayer offering to God.

Next weekend is Divine Mercy Sunday when our Lord promised to St. Faustina that the floodgates of His mercy would be opened to all who seek it.  He asks only that we ask for His mercy, be merciful to others, and completely trust in His mercy.  This week, we will offer the Novena at 3:00pm, the hour of mercy, in our beautiful Santo Niño Shrine.  The Novena will culminate next Sunday, Divine Mercy Sunday, with the Holy Mass at 3:00pm followed by the chaplet and consecration before the Eucharistic Lord.  Please be sure to come.  If you would like to receive the Plenary Indulgence, be sure that you have gone to confessions within 20 days before or after April 28. For more information, please visit www.stpaulchurch.com or download our St. Paul parish app.

I believe, with all my heart, that this Easter, our Lord is inviting us all to grow in faith.  If you aren’t already doing so, pray every day, fully participate in Mass at least every weekend, come to adoration as often as possible, faithfully and regularly meditate on God’s Word, and go to confession once a month.  Become involved in our parish.  If there is anything we can do to help you, please let me know.

On behalf of Fr. Bob, Fr. George, Fr. Lenin, our deacons and religious, the entire staff of our parish and preschool, and our faithful volunteers, I would like to wish you and your loved ones a most blessed Easter and a joyous Easter Season.  May God bless you!

Growing together as disciples of Christ!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

Palm Sunday

April 14, 2019

My Dear Friends,

Welcome to this celebration of Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion.  In a special way we welcome our college students and other family members who have come home for Holy Week, those visiting our parish, and those of other faith traditions.  Welcome!  We pray you feel right at home!

This Holy Week is full of wonderful opportunities for you to grow in faith.  I pray you will take advantage of them and come as often as possible.  Our schedule for this week:

Seder Supper: On Monday at 6:30pm, we will gather for our annual Seder Supper, a wonderful way to recall our rich Jewish heritage as we prepare to commemorate the Last Supper this Thursday. Call the parish office to reserve your seat!

Chrism Mass: On Tuesday beginning at 11:30am in the Cathedral of St Jude the Apostle in St Petersburg, Bishop Gregory Parkes will preside over our annual Chrism Mass. During this special liturgy the priests will recommit themselves to ministry and the holy oils will be blest.  Please come!

Via Crucis: You are invited to join us on Wednesday at 7:00pm for a special "living" Via Crucis hosted by our  Grupo de Oración Amor de Jesus.  We will begin in the Santo Niño Shrine and process on the Peace Path. Be sure to invite your family and friends to join you!  Remember, 11:30am is the last time available for confessions as well as daily Mass until Easter Week.

Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper: The Sacred Triduum begins at 7:00pm.  It is a powerful commemoration of the Last Supper with the washing of feet. Afterwards, the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist will be reserved in our Chapel of Repose in the Family Center until midnight while our young people visit area churches.  Please come!

Good Friday, April 19 (day of fast and abstinence) Passion of the Lord: The Triduum continues with the celebration of the Lord’s Passion at 3:00pm in English, 5:00pm in Spanish, 7:00pm in English, and 7:30pm in Portuguese.  Stations of the Cross are offered at 12:00pm (noon) and 9:00pm.  Our Divine Mercy Novena will begin at 2:30pm in the Church.  Remember, today is a day of fast and abstinence.

Holy Saturday:  Today, the Church waits at the Lord's tomb, meditating on His suffering and death.  8:30am Preparation Rites for those to be received into the Church; 10:00am Easter Egg Hunt for kids 10 and under; 11:00am Blessing of your Easter Food and Baskets in the Family Center; 3:00pm Novena to Divine Mercy in our Santo Niño Shrine; and finally, at 8:00pm, join us as we celebrate the great Easter Vigil - the "night of nights," as we welcome our Elect and Candidates into the Church! It will be a celebration you will never forget! NOTE: In accord with ancient tradition, there will not be a 5:30pm and a 7:30pm Vigil Masses on Saturday, April 20.

Easter Sunday, Resurrection of the Lord.  Today we celebrate the central mystery of our faith: the Resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord and God! Please come and share our Easter joy!  This is our Easter Schedule:

6:00am Predawn Mass in the Church                   12:30pm Mass in the Church

7:30am Sunrise Mass in the Church                     12:30pm Misa em português no Centro de Familia

9:00am Masses in the Church and Family Center   2:00pm Misa en español en la Iglesia

10:45am Masses in the Church and Family Center 5:30 pm Life Teen Mass in the Church

In addition, at 3:00pm we will continue our Novena to Divine Mercy in the Church. This Novena will conclude during Divine Mercy Sunday, April 28, with a special Mass at 3:00pm with a consecration to Divine Mercy.

I look forward to seeing you throughout this Holy Week.  May God bless you!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

Fifth Sunday of Lent

April 7, 2019

Friends,

As you read this, I’m on my canonical retreat.  Each priest and religious is required to make an annual retreat, to share some quality time with the Lord through prayer and reflection.  For me, retreats are opportunities for me to reflect upon my call to the priesthood, the graces I have received, my many faults and failings, and to recommit myself to serving Him and His people as priest.  While I don’t usually take my retreat during Lent, I thought that it would be the perfect time after an exhausting March.  If you can, I would be most grateful if you would remember me in your prayers.  They mean so much more than you might ever imagine!

This week the parishes in our area are offering Communal Penance Services.  Please be sure to attend at least one.  For those who are seeking a plenary indulgence on the Feast of Divine Mercy or are making their consecration to Divine Mercy, participating in one of these services would fulfill the requirement to go to confession within 20 days.

Monday at 7:00pm Most Holy Redeemer

Tuesday at 7:00pm St. Paul Church

Wednesday at 7:00pm Corpus Christi Church

Thursday at 7:00pm St. Timothy Church

On Friday at 7:30pm, our wonderful 10:45 choir will offer their Lenten Concert.  Invite your friends to join you for our Knight’s delicious Lenten Dinner, followed by the Stations and the concert.  It is the perfect evening before Holy Week!

Foundations of Life Pregnancy Center is having a Walk/Run for Life this coming Saturday at Ben T. Davis Beach on the Courtney Campbell Causeway.  The 1 mile, 2 miles, 5K walk/run will benefit the Foundations of Life Pregnancy Center, Knights Women's Center, Project Rachel and Perinatal Comfort Care.  The cost is $10 and you can preregister by calling 813-631-4393 or visiting www.foundationsoflife.org.  I've registered and I hope you will too!

And yes, next Sunday is Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, the beginning of Holy Week.  We are so blessed to live in Florida.  Please come and bring a palm or olive branch from home.  The children will be invited to participate in the entrance procession as we welcome Jesus into the Jerusalem of our hearts!  Afterwards, the timbre of the liturgy will dramatically shift as we reflect upon the Passion of the Lord according to Luke.

On the last evening of the Lenten Mission, Father Larry challenged us to start Perpetual Adoration.  As you know, that has long been on my heart.  Before we do, we need to increase the number of people who come at the times we presently offer adoration: 8am through 8:30pm Monday through Thursday and 24 hours on Friday.  We have the fewest adorers at 10:00am and 2:00pm - 4:00pm.  As we develop a thirst for Adoration, I hope to increase the hours.  Let us pray for the grace!

Courageously growing together in Christ,

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

 

Fourth Sunday of Lent

March 31, 2019

Friends,

Please join me in thanking Fr. Larry Richards for blessing us with this past week’s Lenten Mission.  My prayer is that it will continue to inspire you to “Surrender” into the loving arms of our merciful Lord and Savior!  I’d also like to thank all those who helped to make it such a huge success, especially Sr. Theresa Betz, our Panama Mission, our Healing Team, our Knights of Columbus, and our Liturgical Ministers.  May God bless you all!

I recently discovered a beautiful devotion in honor of Divine Mercy by Fr. Guillermo Serra, LC.  It is a 33 day preparation for consecration to Divine Mercy.  The original Spanish is readily available in PDF format on our parish website (www.stpaulchurch.com).  I’ve also posted an “unofficial” English translation and will be leading a discussion on my Facebook page.  To participate, you only need be my “friend!”  The consecration will take place during the special 3:00pm Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 28.  We already began the preparation on Monday, but it is not too late to join us.  All are welcome!  Of course, we will still pray the nine day Novena to Divine Mercy beginning on Good Friday at 2:30pm.  Jesus, we place all our trust in You!

Foundations of Life Pregnancy Center is having a Walk/Run for Life on Saturday, April 13th, 2019 at Ben T. Davis Beach on the Courtney Campbell Causeway.  The 1 mile, 2 miles, 5K walk/run will benefit the Foundations of Life Pregnancy Center, Knights Women's Center, Project Rachel and Perinatal Comfort Care.  The cost is $10 and you can preregister by calling (813)631-4393 or visiting www.foundationsoflife.org.  I've registered and I hope you will too!

When I think of the wonderful things I have initiated in our parish over the past several years, I’m proudest of our weekday adoration of the Blessed Sacrament from 8:00am through 8:30pm Monday through Thursday and  confessions at 11:30am!  Both have been tremendous blessings to our parish and have born much fruit!  We have the fewest adorers at 10:00am and 2:00pm - 4:00 pm.  I know for certain you would be blessed if you came to Eucharistic Adoration, especially during those times.  Thank you!

On another note, our parish has been plagued with numerous email scams.  Usually, it is me sending you an email asking for gift cards, money, etc.  Usually, it is clear from the email address and typos that is a scam.  Please be aware and ignore the messages.  Or if you want to give me money...just send a check to APA!  Ha-ha!

My last word: A recent email from a parishioner made my day: “I'm checking out at Publix and the cashier says “Don't I see you at St Paul’s? I love that church!’ How cool is that?”  Very cool!  Thank you for sharing our joy!

Courageously growing together in Christ,

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

 

Third Sunday of Lent

March 24, 2019

My Friends,

On Monday we celebrate the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord.  While not a holy day of obligation, this mystery heralds one of the central mysteries of our faith – the incarnation of Jesus Christ.  St. Luke records the visit of the angel Gabriel to a young girl named Mary.  Her “fiat” or yes to the invitation of God to be the mother of our Savior continues to echo through the ages.  Likewise, God calls each of us to be “God-bearers” by proclaiming through word and deed the Good News of God’s love and mercy.

One of the best ways to do that is to invite others to join you for this week’s Lenten Mission with Father Larry Richards, Monday through Thursday beginning at 7:00pm.  Fr. Larry is a dynamic speaker and founder of “The Reason for Our Hope Foundation”.  Fr. Larry promises two things: One, you will never be bored and two, your life will be changed forever.  Come and experience this truth for yourself and bring a friend!

Monday night will focus on God’s love and practical information on how to pray.  Tuesday will focus on the gift of the Mass and importance of family.  On Wednesday, we will contemplate the Passion of Christ and forgiveness of our sins.  Finally, on Thursday, Fr. Larry will offer a healing service and speak on new life of discipleship.  Please be sure to come and bring a carload of people!

On another note, our parish would like to better serve those in our community who are experiencing mental health issues.  To that end, the clergy and staff would like to meet the mental health professionals registered in our parish.  The goal is for us to know when referrals should be made and to provide a resource list of mental health professionals in our parish and their area of expertise.  If you are a psychiatrist, psychologist or counselor and would like to help us, please send me an email (frbill@stpaulchurch.com) with your contact information and area of expertise.  We’ll be scheduling a meeting after Easter.

After Mass, members of the Finance Council will be in the narthex offering materials for those who would like to remember the parish in their wills, charitable trusts, bequests, insurance policies, charitable giving and/or IRA distributions.  Planned gift giving can also provide considerable tax savings.  In doing so, you will not only bless the parish, but save money!  The Finance Council members would especially like to hear from parish members who are accountants or financial planners.  May God bless you for your generosity!

Last but not least, thank you for returning your Annual Pastoral Appeal pledges.  Your donation is essential in supporting hundreds of ministries serving hundreds of thousands of people throughout our five-county diocese.  May God bless you all!

Courageously growing together in Christ!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

Second Sunday of Lent

March 17, 2019

My Dear Friends,

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Today we have a unique opportunity to share our rich Catholic faith with our non-Catholic friends. While many will think that today is all about shamrocks, green dye in the river, leprechauns, corned beef and cabbage, and beer, we recall the great bishop and evangelist, St. Patrick. Kidnaped and enslaved as a young boy, he escaped, only to return to share with the people of Ireland the good news of Jesus Christ. If you want to give yourself and your family a treat, read his biography or his Confessions. It will inspire and challenge you! The Breastplate or Lorica of St. Patrick is a wonderful prayer to pray each day!

On Tuesday, we recall St. Joseph, husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus. He was an amazing man who dared to follow the Lord's dream. While we know little of him, I can't help but wonder what a profound impact he had upon the Lord as a youth. He is a great model of what it means to be a loving father, husband, and Christian in the world. I suggest that you reread the first chapters of Matthew. On Tuesday, there will be a special St. Joseph altar and luncheon following the 12:15pm Mass. Please come!

Two weeks ago, we had a special “Q and A session.” During the session, I shared that our parish continues to grow. St. Paul now has 6,667 families registered or 20,581 members! Our phenomenal preschool continues to be filled to capacity with a wait list. Our Faith Formation programs for children, Youth Ministry programs for teens, and Young Adult programs have experienced tremendous growth. The number of ministries and number of people actively involved in ministries also continue to grow. Financially, we have been doing very well thanks to the wonderful generosity of our parishioners.

On the downside, the continuing clergy scandals have affected our weekend Mass attendance. The number of baptisms and weddings were also lower this year.

During the Q and A session, I shared our six goals as part of the diocesan pastoral plan “Courageously Living the Gospel”. They focus on providing more opportunities for us all to encounter Christ, developing an evangelization ministry, creating a family friendly ministry of mercy, providing better mental health resources for our parishioners, developing a Catholic Sports Ministry, and encouraging youth and young adults in ministry at our parish. I’ll share more about these later.

We also had a discussion about the clergy scandals. The good news which is not often reported is that our diocese has always done an excellent job at responding to reports of clergy misconduct, following the best practices at the time. As a result, we have had very few cases. As a nation, since 2002, there have been very few cases and all are reported on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website. In many ways, we serve as a model for others to follow.

That being said, so much more needs to be done. As a parish it is important to remember that safety is everyone’s ministry. We should all be aware of persons or situations that seem out of place. It is always appropriate to remind parents that children should always be supervised and to contact the parish office or the police should you ever feel that a situation is unsafe. As every security expert will attest, the best security is an alert community.

Last but not least, thank you for returning your Annual Pastoral Appeal pledges. Your donation is essential in supporting hundreds of ministries serving hundreds of thousands of people throughout our five-county diocese. May God bless you all!

Courageously growing together in Christ,

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

First Sunday of Lent

March 10, 2019

My Friends,

I’m so excited about this year’s Lenten journey!  With the Lord as our Shepherd, I know we will be blessed in so many ways!  How is it going so far?  Ash Wednesday was certainly a moment of grace with a record number of people coming to mark the beginning of their annual Lenten pilgrimage with the reception of ashes.  How have you been doing with your Lenten resolutions?  If you aren’t doing so well, my guess is that you set a goal which is too high ... remember baby steps, baby steps.  Choose a goal which will help you to grow closer to God through your prayer, fasting, or charitable acts.

This year’s theme for Lent is Forgiveness and Renewal (Latin: Remissione et Renovatio).  The theme has two parts. The first is forgiveness.  How is God calling you to be more open to forgiveness?  Who do you need to forgive?  Who do you need to ask for forgiveness?  The second part is renewal.  How is God calling you to renewal?  How can you participate in His renewal of the church and world?  These are very important questions for us to contemplate throughout our journey.

I hope you are also enjoying our Lenten gifts of either Connie Clark’s book “Our Path of Life” or Joseph Sica’s book “¡Dejen Que Dios Obre Maravillas!”  I’m leading a Facebook discussion of Connie’s book.  All my “Friends” are welcome to participate!

We have mailed each parish family our Lenten Highlights brochure.  If you did not get a copy of our Lenten Highlights, please pick one up at the Parish Office or Narthex.  You should also let the Parish Office know.  My guess is that either you are not registered or we don’t have your correct address on file.

This Friday we will be offering a special Taizé prayer service beginning at 7:00pm in our chapel.  Taizé was founded in 1940 by a group of young Christians who realized that the key to world peace is for people to come together to dialogue and pray.  Over the years, a unique prayer was developed which invites people of all different languages, nationalities, and walks of life into union with God.  It is truly profound.  Please come and enjoy the peace of Christ!

Also, please don’t forget about our annual Lenten Mission, Monday through Thursday, March 25-28, beginning at 7:00pm.  This year, I’ve asked noted speaker and author, Fr. Larry Richards, to lead us.  Father Larry has a very dynamic and down-to-earth preaching style which is sure to both delight and challenge you.  I promise that those who come the first night, won’t want to miss the rest of the nights!  Please be sure to invite your friends, colleagues, classmates, and neighbors to join you!

Last but not least, I thank you for your faithfulness in completing your pledge to the Annual Pastoral Appeal.  The money raised through this Appeal is instrumental in helping us to provide the highest quality of pastoral care to you.  Every dimension of our parish is assisted through the offices of our Diocese: Liturgies, Faith Formation, Youth Ministry, Clergy Formation, Building and Maintenance, Administration, Human Resources, etc.  Your donation is an affirmation of your love for our wonderful parish!  Thank you and may God bless you for your donation.

Courageously growing together in Christ,

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

Ash Wednesday

March 6, 2019

My Dear Friends,

Whether you are joining us today for the first time or have been active in our parish family for years, know that you are most welcome and it is a great joy and blessing to serve as your pastor.  If you have any questions or concerns about the parish or our faith, please be sure to see me, Fr. Bob, Fr. George, Sr. Theresa, or one of our deacons.  We are here for you!

Today we are invited by the Lord to join Him in the wilderness of Lent for a 40 day period of prayer, fasting and works of charity.  It is a time of forgiveness and renewal; purification and enlightenment; and dying and rising...as we open our hearts to the merciful love of God.

Through today’s imposition of ashes, we are reminded that we are merely dust and unto dust we shall all return.  Life is transitory.  We are called to “Repent and believe in the Gospels.”  Forgiveness and renewal is the hallmark of our journey.

Today we recall the Four Last Things: one day we shall all die, on that day we shall be judged, and that there is a Heaven and a Hell.  We are called to prepare for the day when we will meet our Creator by following His will: to love God with all our hearts, souls, mind, and strength, and share His love and mercy with our neighbor, especially those most in need.

This Lent offers wonderful opportunities for us all to experience God’s forgiveness and renewal. Take time to read this bulletin and make note of those events you would like to attend.  If you didn’t receive a copy of our Lenten Highlights, they are available in the narthex.  Of course our website is also an excellent resource for parish events and other opportunities to grow in faith.

One of the highlights of this year’s season will be our Lenten Mission by Fr. Larry Richards, Monday through Thursday evening, March 25-28, beginning at 7pm. Fr. Larry is a gifted speaker, writer, and evangelist. He promises both to capture your interest and help you grow closer to the Lord!  Please invite your family and friends to join you!

Lent is a time of renewal through prayer, fasting, acts of mercy and love.  May God bless you throughout these 40 days and know that you are in my thoughts and prayers.

Growing courageously in Christ,

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

 

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

March 3, 2019

My Friends,

Our Bishop, Most Reverend Gregory Parkes, has asked all the parishes in our diocese to observe Safe Haven Sunday this weekend.  Pornography truly is an epidemic and a national health crisis.  I’ve asked our SOS ministry to provide age-appropriate materials this weekend to help us all become better informed about this important issue.  I also encourage you to do your own research.  There are a number of excellent free resources to help us become more aware of the nature and disastrous effects of pornography, and how to combat it on both a personal and societal level.  Let us pray for an end to the scourge of pornography and human trafficking.  St. Josephine Margaret Bakhita, pray for us!  St. Michael, defend us!

On a completely different note, this Wednesday is Ash Wednesday and marks the beginning of our annual 40 day pilgrimage of Lent.  To assist you, we have recently mailed our Lenten Highlights to each family in the parish.  You should be receiving a copy in the mail soon.  We are especially delighted to announce that Fr. Larry Richards will lead our Annual Lenten Parish Mission March 25-28.  In addition, we would like to give you a copy of either “Our Path of Love” or “¡Dejen Que Dios Obre Maravillas!”  Our prayer is that this will be the best Lent ever for you and your family!

During the next few days, I encourage you to pray about what the Lord would like you to do this Lent.  How can you grow closer to the Lord?  How can you enhance your prayer life?  Daily Mass, Eucharistic Adoration and daily meditation on the Sacred Scriptures are great places to begin.

How is God calling you to fast?  From sweets or from negativity?  From coffee or from gossip?  From excess media or from pornography?  Think about it!

And lastly, give some thought to works of charity.  How can you be more charitable ... more loving ... especially to those most in need?  Your donation to the Annual Pastoral Appeal is certainly part of the answer, but also consider personally reaching out to the shut-in down the block, befriending the kid who is shunned, and reaching out to our seniors.  What is God calling you to do?

I hope to see you on Ash Wednesday.  Masses are at 7:30am, 9:00am, 12:15pm, 4:00pm, 5:30pm, 6:00pm (in Portuguese) in the Family Center, 7:00pm (LifeTeen in English) in the Church, and 8:00pm (in Spanish) in the Family Center. Also, don’t forget this Friday our Knights of Columbus are hosting our Lenten Dinner from 5:00pm - 7:00pm.  After that, we have Stations of the Cross and a Q&A session with me in the Family Center.  It will be a wonderful opportunity to ask me questions about our parish, recent events in Rome and our faith.  I can’t promise you that I’ll have all the answers but I do promise it will be interesting!

On a final note, Sister Theresa Betz, SND, has recently informed me that she will be returning to the Mother House in Chardon, Ohio at the close of May.  She feels this is the right time to return “home” and live in community.  Sister will be sorely missed.  Please join me in lifting her up in prayer.  If you are interested in helping with her farewell party, please contact Laurie in the Parish Office.

Courageously growing together in Christ,

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 24, 2019

My Friends,

As Catholics, one of our greatest priorities is our families. Each Sunday I am profoundly touched as I watch our families gather in love to worship the Lord and am so grateful for all you do to promote the dignity of marriage and family life.  May God bless you!

As your pastor, one of my concerns is the epidemic of pornography in our parish.  Studies have confirmed its disastrous effects on young minds, on marriages, and on our society as a whole.  It is a shock to hear that our elementary school kids are being exposed to it in the home and playground, many of our teens admit being addicted to it, and that “sexting” has become almost common place.  Pornography is a participation in human trafficking and is the objectification and use of a human being solely for one’s pleasure.  Furthermore, it is a mortal sin.  And it is an epidemic: 12% of websites on the internet are pornographic, 35% of all internet downloads are related to pornography, every day 2.5 billion emails containing porn are sent or received, one-third of porn viewers are women, and it is one of the largest industries in the United States.

In November of 2015, the Bishops of the United States drafted a pastoral response entitled “Create in Me a Clean Heart” in order to offer healing and hope to those who have been wounded by pornography, to articulate the Church’s response and to raise awareness of its pervasiveness and harm. 

It is so important that we become proactive in addressing this issue.  This is particularly true of parents.  Your children are vulnerable and we must do more to protect them.  To that end, Bishop Parkes has designated next Sunday to be “Safe Haven Sunday” with the theme “Equipping the Family, Safeguarding Children.”  The goal is to highlight awareness about this national epidemic and to recommit ourselves to ensure that our homes are safe havens for all.

Next weekend, our SOS Ministry will be staffing tables in the porticos with free age-appropriate information and helpful hints for us all, including how to talk to your children about internet dangers.  But you don’t have to wait.  You can begin learning now by joining The Equipped 7-Day Challenge: A Digital Crash Course by texting SECURE to 66866 to receive seven days of e-mailed digital tips!

Pornography truly is a national health crisis.  Thankfully, we can do some things to protect our families.  I suggest installing firewalls or software such as Covenant Eyes to block access to unwanted sites, making bathrooms and bedrooms phone and computer free zones, charging phones in a public place, and sharing passwords to social media sites with parents and spouses. 

I look forward to celebrating Safe Haven Sunday with you next weekend.  May St. Josephine Margaret Bakhita pray for us!  St. Michael, defend us!

Courageously growing together in Christ,

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 17, 2019

My Dear Friends,

Throughout the world, Catholics have a well-earned reputation for our care for those most in need.  Our diocese is no exception.  As one of the largest private providers of social assistance, we provide millions of dollars and thousands of volunteer hours to hundreds of thousands of people each and every year.  Our generous gifts of time, talent, and treasure make all the difference in the world to so many in our five county area. 

The ministries we provide are as varied as the people we serve: help for those with difficult or unexpected pregnancies, fertility care services, and adoption services.  We provide housing, medical care, education, legal assistance, and advocacy for migrant workers and their families.  We help the refugees from hurricanes and other natural disasters, as well as those from other countries.  We provide health services and housing to those men, women, and children who live with AIDS.  We provide care for the divorced and their children.  We provide health and counseling services.  We have an active elder ministry.  We provide programs for our teens, young adults, and those with special needs.  We provide care for those in prison, hospitals, and nursing homes or who work on ships.  We minister to those who do not speak English as their first language.  We broadcast the Good News 24/7 through our radio stations.  We provide continued formation and education for our seminarians, priests, and deacons.  In sum, we are doing the work of Christ!

I encourage you with all of my heart to participate in this year’s Annual Pastoral Appeal.  One hundred percent of this money is used to fund these vital ministries.  Last year, only 14% of our parish chose to participate in this important effort.  This year, I would like to see 100% of us participate – even if you can only give a few dollars!

The Bible prescribes a 10% tithe to the Lord as a sign of your gratitude for all the blessings you have received.  Ten percent may seem like a stretch, but believe me, God will bless you in return for your faith commitment.  A good rule of thumb is to give until it hurts.  I believe God is pleased when we step out in faith.  Amazingly enough, the more I give, the more the Lord seems to bless me!  God is not outdone in generosity! 

Of the 10% tithe, I tithe 5% to the parish, 3% to the Annual Pastoral Appeal, and the remaining 2% to other charities.  Of course, you are welcome to give it all to the Annual Pastoral Appeal.  Why?  Every dollar that is given to the Annual Pastoral Appeal goes to the best of causes.  Also, what is not raised in pledges, must be paid by our parish from our offertory collection.  In addition, pledges paid to the Annual Appeal are not considered when formulating the next year’s assessment so it is like giving an additional 20 cents on each dollar donated.  Lastly, every penny we pledge over our goal is returned directly to the parish and is not figured in the next year’s assessment.  It is like getting “tax-free” money!

This year, our parish assessment is $452,049, up $14,051 from last year.  While I know this is a lofty goal, I also know that it will be easily attained if each and every family participates in the Annual Pastoral Appeal.

You should have received a letter and a pledge card from Bishop Parkes.  Please prayerfully ask the Lord how you can participate in this Appeal.  Send it in as soon as you can and be sure your check and pledge card are clearly marked “St. Paul Parish, TAMPA” so that your donation is credited to our account.  If you do not receive a card in the mail, please stop by the parish office for one.

God has showered each and every one of us with innumerable blessings.  The Annual Pastoral Appeal is a wonderful opportunity to say “thank you” and to share his blessings with our brothers and sisters in need.  May God bless you and your loved ones for your generosity!

Courageously growing together in Christ,

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

 

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 10, 2019

My Dear Friends,

It is hard to express all the blessings I received at World Youth Day in Panama.  To be honest it was such an incredible week, it will take us all a bit of time to process all the graces the Lord showered upon us! Certainly one of the highlights for me was simply witnessing how God was touching the hearts and minds of our young parishioners who went with me.  We all agreed it was truly a blessing to be in a gathering of close to well over 600,000 young people from throughout the world, gathering as one around one altar to sing our one God’s praises!  We were inspired to meet and talk with people from all different ages, cultures, and walks of life and to hear how God was moving in their lives.  And of course, it was a special blessing to see and to worship the Lord with the Holy Father!  You may be surprised to learn that for many of our young people, the ultimate highlight of the week was our time before the Lord in Eucharistic Adoration on Wednesday and Saturday night!  God is so good!

We were also blessed to hear many wonderful speakers including Sr. Bethany Madonna and Bishop Robert Barron.  Bishop Barron gave one of the best teachings I’ve ever heard on today’s Gospel, you can see it on YouTube (https://youtu.be/FtVwMJxgZcc).  He points out that Luke 5:1-11 provides wonderful insights into our journey of faith.  Our encounter with the Lord begins with an “Invasion of Grace.”  Jesus enters our “boat” and invites us to put out from the shore.  This encounter with the Lord changes us.  In other words, the spiritual life doesn’t begin with our worthiness, it begins with Grace.

Jesus teaches us a bit and then calls us to move from the safety of the shallows and “put out into the deep.”  Depending totally on Him, we move beyond our comfort zone and wondrous things begin to happen ... not least of all is the conversion of heart.  Remember, Peter worked all night long and caught nothing.  Try as we might, our efforts are equally fruitless.  We need Jesus.  We need to be open to His “Invasion of Grace.”  “It is not you who has chosen me, it is I who has chosen you!”

It is then that we experience the third spiritual movement: mission.  For Peter, it was to be Fisher of Men, to leave everything and follow him.  What is God calling you to do?  What is your mission?

Is it to be more intentional in sharing your faith with others?  Inviting others to journey with you in faith?  Is it to become more active in sharing your time and talent by volunteering with one of our many wonderful ministries or with local service organizations?  Could it be that God is calling you to step out in faith and share more generously of the financial resources God has entrusted to you with the Annual Pastoral Appeal, the parish, or other worthy causes?

How are you experiencing the “Invasion of Grace” today?  What is your response to the Lord’s invitation to “put out into the deep!”  Open your heart to the possibilities of change and accept His challenge to mission ... the mission to bring His love and mercy to all the world!  

Let us grow courageously in the Lord!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 3, 2019

My Dear Friends,

Tomorrow I leave with a group of 15 faithful parishioners for a mission week with the wonderful Missionaries of the Poor in Kingston, Jamaica.  There we will serve alongside the Brothers and Sisters, caring for the poor, the elderly, the orphaned, those with physical and/or mental disabilities, those with difficult or unexpected pregnancies, and those living with AIDS.  We will live in the guest house of a monastery and follow a monastic schedule as we pray and live alongside the Brothers, cold showers and all!  Like them, we will live on the charity of others, eating only what is donated.  Every day, after Mass and prayer, we will go to different centers to care for the residents.  For me, it is both a joy and a challenge to help people eat, brush teeth, cut hair, share the Good News, and otherwise be Christ to them.  It is definitely a life-changing experience!  Thank you for your prayers and financial support.  I pray you will join us next January!     

Why care for the poor?  As Catholics we realize that faith is far more than a private, personal relationship with God ... it is a way of life!  We are called to love God with all our being and to share His loving mercy with those in need.  We do that at home, in our parish, our community, our country, and throughout the world.  God’s love and mercy knows no borders.  In sum, we care. 

Catholics care.  In fact, we are the largest private provider of social services in Tampa Bay, our state, our nation, and the world!  We care!  That is why I am a proud supporter of the Annual Pastoral Appeal (APA).  Our diocese does so much to help those in need throughout our five-county area.  Last year, Catholic Charities’ Pregnancy Centers helped almost 2,000 clients, helped 149 with adoption services, and 89 received post-abortive counseling.  We provided shelter and services to almost 1,500 homeless, affordable family housing to almost 2,000, special needs housing to over 300, and elderly housing to almost 1400!  Thanks to your support for APA, we provided immigration and refugee serviecs to almost 2,500, medical and respite care to almost 1500, financial and life skills counseling to 799, and disaster relief services to almost 1500!  And all this and much more is possible thanks to your generous donation to the Annual Pastoral Appeal! 

In the coming weeks, we will hear more about this and Bishop Parkes will be sending you a letter asking for your pledge.  I know that you will respond affirmatively to his invitation to help.  Why? Because you care!

That being said, I know that many of you share my concern about the Church’s response to clergy abuse.  Let me assure you that our diocese has always been proactive in its care for children and vulnerable adults.  In my 27 year experience in the diocese, they have always taken credible accusations seriously and when substantiated, have permanently removed the offender from ministry and has ensured that others are informed so that no one is ever put in danger again.  We have always followed the “best practices” of the day.  As a result, we have had very few cases and welcome the statewide investigation by the Attorney General’s office.  Be assured that your donations to APA are not going to pay lawyer fees, insurance premiums, or settlement costs.  The diocese has other sources of funding for these expenses.

If you have any questions about the Annual Pastoral Appeal or any other church matter, please let me know.  I’m here for you.

Growing courageously in the Lord!

 

Father Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 27, 2019

My Dear Friends,

God is so good to us!  This past week, I was blessed to go to Northdale Rehab Center to welcome James into the Catholic faith.  He was baptized in another faith but was searching for more.  In conversations with a man who was visiting a mutual friend at the Center, he realized that he was being called to become Catholic through a profession of faith and the Sacraments of Confirmation and Holy Eucharist.  When I asked him what drew him to the Church, he said it was the Eucharist ... the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ!  How wonderful is that?  If you are interested in bringing Christ to James and other residents of area nursing facilities, please let Deacon Frank know!

As you read this, I am with 23 other members of our parish family are gathered with several million young Catholics from throughout the world in Panamá with  our Holy Father Pope Francis for World Youth Day!  This year’s theme is “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word!” (Lk 1:38).  It offers us a wonderful opportunity to join our Blessed Mother and prayerfully reflect on our call to be disciples of Christ.  Like Mary, we are all called to bear Christ into the world!  Like the 72 disciples in today’s Gospel, we are all called to prepare the way of the Lord through both our words and deeds!  Let’s do it!

World Youth Day was conceived by St. John Paul II.  He once reflected: “I imagined a powerful moment in which the young people of the world could meet Christ, who is eternally young, and could learn from him how to be bearers of the Gospel to other young people.”  Each year, World Youth Day is celebrated on Palm Sunday and every two or three years a special world-wide gathering is held.  These gatherings have inspired countless youth to follow Christ and to serve Him as priests, religious, deacons, and faithful laity!  They truly are a powerful expression of our one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church!

We have been preparing for this week for over a year through prayer, meetings, works of mercy, and yes, fundraising! In a special way, I thank all of you who have prayerfully and generously supported us.  Without you, there is no way any of our youth could have attended.  Thank you!  We would love to share our experience with you in the near future.  Please watch the bulletin for details.

This week is Catholic Schools Week.  Thank you for your support for our exceptional Preschool.  If you get a chance, stop by a visit.  Our staff would love to share our wonderful school with you!  Also, please be sure to stop by the tables of area Catholic schools after today’s Mass and learn more about the incredible schools in our area.  Even if you don’t have a child in school, it will be useful information to pass onto others.  If nothing else, it shows you care about our children and the educational enterprise.  May God bless our children and youth!

Growing courageously in the Lord!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

 

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 20, 2019

My Dear Friends,

Today we celebrate the Feast of Santo Niño or the Holy Child.  As I shared in last week’s bulletin, this devotion began at the very first Christmas when our Lord was born in the humble stable in Bethlehem and was adored by Mary and Joseph, the Shepherds, and then the Magi.  The devotion spread throughout the world as it speaks of the central mystery of our faith ... the Incarnation of God. 

God loves us so much, He became one with us in all things but sin so that we might become one with Him for eternity in heaven.  The Feast of Santo Niño celebrates this great mystery of the Incarnation.  It also challenges us with certain truths.  Our devotion to Santo Niño necessarily means we must share a profound love for our Father, complete trust in Him, and filial respect and obedience.  It also means sharing the joy, humility, and simplicity of the Holy Child. 

O miraculous Señor Santo Niño, we come before You and beseech You to cast a merciful look on our troubled hearts. Let your tender love, so inclined to pity, be softened at our prayers, and grant us that grace for which we ardently implore you. Take from us all unbearable affliction and despair. For your Sacred Infancy's sake hear our prayers and send us consolation and aid that we may praise You, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

Remember this celebration is for all those who love the Child Jesus ... not just Filipinos!  I sincerely hope that you will be able to join us for the Festival Mass at 4:30pm.  (Remember that our normal 5:30pm Mass has been moved UP one hour for this week only!)  If you can’t come to the Mass, stop by for the Sinulog afterwards.  It is an amazing prayer experience in which we not only praise God for His mercy, but ask for mercy for ourselves and for those we love.  Come and praise the Lord!

On another note, I leave tomorrow to join a group of 23 parishioners who are attending World Youth Day in Panama.  It promises to be an amazing week of prayer, reflection, and networking as we gather with the Holy Father and youth from around the world.  The theme is “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).  I’m especially interested to hear the Holy Father’s vision for the youth as a result of the recent Synod on Youth.  This is certain to be a life-changing experience for all those attending.  My prayer is that it will also be a blessing to all those who couldn’t attend as well! 

I thank all of you who have supported us through your prayers and donations.  Without you, our young people couldn’t possibly experience World Youth Day. Thank you and know you are in our prayers...especially during the Holy Father’s Mass next Sunday.  Follow World Youth Day on EWTN and Shalom World. 

Pit Senyor!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

Baptism of the Lord

January 13, 2019

My Dear Friends,

Today formally ends the Christmas Season as we reflect upon the Baptism of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  This mystery is very important as it not only reflects the importance of baptism in the life of a Christian, but also the beginning of the Lord’s public ministry.  After this, Jesus went to the desert for 40 days and nights to reflect on the experience and to prepare Himself for His mission to share the Good News of His Father’s love and mercy to all the world!

As a parish, our celebration continues for another week as we honor our much beloved Santo Niño, or Holy Child!  This devotion is not a new one.  It began on the first Christmas Eve as Mary and Joseph adored the newborn King.  It continued with the visit of the Shepherds and then the Magi.  And it continued down through the ages to this day.  Whether known as the Infant of Prague, Santo Niño, Bambino Gesu, Divino Niño, or the Holy Child ... we gather to adore Emmanuel ... God with us ... and the mystery of His Incarnation!  Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man!

Each night this week we gather at 7:00pm for the Novena and Rosary and at 7:30pm for Mass with a guest presider.  Priests from all over the diocese will be joining us.  Afterwards, there is a delicious Filipino meal sponsored by one of the number of Filipino organizations from throughout our diocese.  For a complete list of presiders, please see our website!

On Saturday, I will preside and afterwards we will have a wonderful rosary procession throughout our campus led by floats of flowers transporting images of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Aparecida, Our Lady of Good Health, Our Lady of Fatima and Santo Niño!  It is an amazing grace to be able to participate and you will truly feel blessed.

On Sunday, the 5:30pm Mass will take place at 4:30pm!  Bishop Parkes will preside over our celebration.  The celebration will begin with a special pageant which relates the story of how Santo Niño came to the Philipines.  Following the Mass, we will process to the Family Center for the blessing of the images of the Child Jesus and the Sinolog.  The Sinolog is a type of prayer dance or movement which expresses both our plea for God’s mercy as well as our need for His mercy!  Cries of “Pit Senyor” or “Praise the Lord” fill the air as people from all over the state as well as the four corners of the world gather to sing His praises.  It is an event you will never forget!  After a delicious meal, the public sinolog will continue!

Remember this celebration is for all those who love the Child Jesus ... not just Filipinos!  Please mark your calendars and please come early for this amazing celebration in honor of Santo Niño!  Pit Senyor!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

 

Epiphany of the Lord

January 6, 2019

My Dear Friends,

Today we celebrate the great Epiphany or manifestation of Christ to the world.  From antiquity, this feast commemorates three events...the visit of the Magi to the Holy Family, the Baptism of Jesus, and the Wedding of Cana.  Our focus this weekend is on the visit of the Magi.  Matthew 2:1-12 tells us little about them and many worthy and pious traditions have developed over the years.

During my Christmas Day Mass, I suggested that it may be helpful for us to consider ourselves to be the Magi of today.  The Magi were known for their wisdom.  The Magi were students of nature and had a questioning nature.  They were seekers of the truth.  When they noticed the unusual alignment of the planets and constellations, they had the courage to embark on a long and perilous journey in search of the Truth.  May we do the same!

For many of our young (and not so young) people, there is a fundamental incompatibility between faith and reason.  It is irrational to believe in God.  How foolish!  Faith and reason are not incompatible.  In fact they are complementary, one builds upon the other.  St. John Paul II wrote in his epic encyclical, Fides et Ratio: “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.”  The more we come to grow in the truth, the more we grow in God, because God is the source of all that is true!

St. Augustine (354-430) had a great love for reason and the sciences and took to task ignorant Christians who did not actively seek and embrace the truth.  When reflecting on the book of Genesis, he wrote: “Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn.”  His basic premise is that “when there is a conflict between a proven truth about nature and a particular reading of Scripture, an alternative reading of Scripture must be sought.”  There is no contradiction between faith and science.  In fact, faith is needed to illuminate both truth and meaning.

Each week in the bulletin, I’ve been presenting a series on great Catholic scientists entitled “Faith and Reason.”  The objective is to encourage all of us to use our minds and our hearts to seek the Lord as did the Magi of old.  So that we may recognize Him...in the stars in the sky, in the smallest sub-particles of matter and energy, in the smile of a loved one, in the eyes of a homeless person, in the cry of the sick and bereaved, and in the person of an Infant born of a young family in Bethlehem. May we fly with both wing...faith and reason...to adore Him!

God bless you as we grow courageously in Christ!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

 

Feast of the Holy Family

December 30, 2018

My Dear Friends,

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

The birth of Christ, the Incarnation of God, is such an incredible mystery, our celebration spills over through an octave of days, each one being a mini-Christmas!  This is the time when we enjoy quality time with those we love and reflect in wonder on the merciful love of our God who became one with us in all things but sin so that we might become one with Him for all eternity!  How good is our God!!!

The octave ends on New Year’s Day as we celebrate the gift of Mary, the Mother of God and pray for peace throughout the world.  It is a Holy Day of Obligation and we offer the celebration of the Mass on New Year’s Eve at 5:30pm in English and 7:30pm in Portuguese.  At 10:30pm we will begin a Holy Hour which will conclude with the Sacred Liturgy.  At midnight we will consecrate the Eucharistic Species and the entire world to the Prince of Peace!

On New Year’s Day, Masses will be celebrated at 9:00am, 12:30pm, 2:00pm in Spanish, and 5:30pm in English.  Please come and honor Mary, our Blessed Mother and the Mother of God!

The beginning of a new year is the traditional time for resolutions.  I pray that you will reflect upon your priorities to ensure that your first resolution is to grow ever more in love with God and His Church.  Resolve to pray every day, participate at the Holy Mass at least every weekend, visit the Blessed Sacrament frequently, and avail yourself of the Sacrament of Reconciliation each month.  Resolve to become active in your parish family.  Resolve to be mindful of the cry of those in need in our local community and throughout the world.  Remember, Christ loves to come to us in the disguise of those most in need ... the poor, sick, elderly, oppressed, and forsaken.

Next Sunday, January 6, is the Feast of the Epiphany.  In many European countries, the visit of the Magi of old is remembered by the annual blessing of homes.  If you would like to participate, please be sure to register online at www.stpaulchurch.com.  There are only six priests and deacons but we will do our best to accommodate everyone!

On behalf of the priests, deacons, religious, staff of our church and preschool, and faithful volunteers, I would like to wish you and your loved ones a most Blessed New Year ... full of peace, joy, and much love!

Growing together courageously in Christ!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

Christmas

December 25, 2018

My Dear Friends,

Merry Christmas!

Welcome!  With all of our hearts, we welcome you to this celebration of God’s love made flesh - the birthday of Jesus the Christ!  We are delighted that you chose to join us as we give praise and thanks to our God for all of our blessings - especially for the gift of the Christmas Child! 

In a special way we welcome all those who don’t normally worship with us.  You honor us with your presence.  We hope you feel right “at home.”  If you are not active in a church, we hope you will consider joining us and becoming members of our parish family.  We are a vibrant, multi-cultural family of faith with over 85 ministries.  I’m certain you will find us to be a good home to grow in the Lord.

If we were to explain the meaning of Christmas in one word, it would simply be “love”.  Christmas is a love story of a God who had a special dream for us before the world began; a God who knitted us in our mother’s womb and fashioned us in His own image and likeness; a God who loves us so much he leapt down from heaven and became one like us so that we might become more like Him; a God who surrendered His life on the cross so that we might live forever with Him in heaven.  Yes, today we celebrate the birth of Love.

What is the meaning of Christmas?  Love!  Love freely given and shared.  My prayer is that this Christmas, our God of Love will fill our hearts so that His love, peace, and joy may pour into the hearts of your family and friends.

On behalf of the priests, deacons, religious, staff of the parish and preschool, and our many faithful volunteers, may you and your loved ones have a most Blessed Christmas!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

Fourth Sunday of Advent

December 23, 2018

My Dear Friends,

As we light the fourth candle of our Advent wreath, we are waiting in breathless hope for the celebration of the Birth of Christ in just a few days time.  My prayer is that our annual Advent pilgrimage has been a blessing to you and your loved ones and has filled you with a peace and joy only Christ can give.

Christmas is a time when we thank God for the gifts we have received ... especially the gift of our Savior, Jesus Christ and the gift of loved ones who fill our lives with so much joy.  I pray that this Christmas will be one of greatest blessings for all of you!

We are blessed with many opportunities to worship the Lord this Christmas:

        Monday, Christmas Eve

· 4:00pm English: Church and Family Center - with children’s pageants!

· 6:00pm English: Church with a children’s pageant

· 6:00pm Portuguese: Family Center with a children’s pageant

· 8:00pm English: Church with LifeTeen choir!

· 12:00pm English: Church - Music prelude beginning at 11:15pm

Tuesday, Christmas Day

· 7:30am English: Church

· 9:00am English: Church with a children’s pageant

· 10:45pm English: Church with the 10:45 choir

· 12:30pm English: Church with the contemporary choir

· 2:00pm Spanish: Church with a children’s pageant

*NOTE: There will not be a 5:30 pm Mass on Christmas Day.

I encourage you to come early and bring your family and friends.  There is extra parking in the Medical Center south of PDQ.

Friday is the Feast of the Holy Innocents.  In honor of these children, we are hosting a special bilingual Mass at 7:30 pm for those who have lost a child.  The evening will begin at 7:00 pm with the Rosary.  A reception hosted by the Hispanic liturgical ministries will follow.  If you or someone you know has lost a child for any reason, please come!

Next weekend, is the Feast of the Holy Family.  Please invite your entire family to come together for a special blessing at each Mass.

May God bless you!

 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

Third Sunday of Advent

December 16, 2018

My Dear Friends,

Today is Gaudete Sunday, a time of rejoicing for indeed, as we proclaim in the Introit from today’s liturgy, “the Lord is near!”  On this day, the children of Rome visit St. Peter Square with the baby Jesus from their family’s creche for a special blessing from the Pope.  Here at St. Paul, we continue that tradition as we reach the halfway point of our Advent journey!

When we think of preparing for Christmas, our thoughts often turn to cards, gifts, parties, and dinners.  Yet as Christians, we are called to prepare for the coming of Christ in a very different way.  As we heard in today’s readings, we are called to prepare for the coming of Christ through acts of justice, charity, and mercy.  We are called to prepare for the coming of Christ by reconciling ourselves to God and with one another.

This week, we will have the opportunity to do just that!  Let us open our hearts to God’s infinite mercy through the Sacrament of Reconciliation!  As a parish, we offer Confession Monday through Friday at 11:30 am and on Saturdays at 10:00 am and 4:00 pm.  In addition, this week, we will join with neighboring parishes to provide opportunities in the evening for those who are at school or work during the day:

· Monday, December 17, 7:00 pm at Most Holy Redeemer

· Tuesday, December 18, 7:00 pm at Saint Paul

· Wednesday, December 19,7:00 pm at Corpus Christi

· Thursday, December 20, 7:00 pm at Saint Timothy

Hopefully at least one of those times will be convenient for you and your family!

Last but not least, this Holy Season is often difficult for those who are grieving, struggling with the burdens of life, or are suffering from physical or mental health issues.  Think of those you know who may need some TLC...and invite them to join you for Christmas Mass.  Let them know you care.  In return, you will certainly be blessed!.

Growing together courageously in Christ!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

 

Second Sunday of Advent

December 9, 2018

My Dear Friends,

I pray that you have really enjoyed our first week of Advent.  Between the Family Advent Gathering, the African Mass, the Parish Mission with Deacon Bill Ditewig, the Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary, and the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, I’d say that we are off to a great start!

This second week of Advent, we continue with our novena in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe each night at 7:30pm in our beautiful Santo Niño Shrine.  This Wednesday, we celebrate her feast with a novena and candlelight procession beginning at 6:00pm.  At 7:00pm we will celebrate the Holy Mass and afterwards there will be a reception featuring a delicious Mexican dinner for all.  Please come and bring a friend!

What is so special about Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Patroness of the Americas?  It all began on December 9, 1531, when a dark-skinned young woman appeared to Juan Diego on Tepeyac Hill near Mexico City.  Juan Diego was a 57 year old widower and recent convert.  Speaking his language, she spoke in endearing terms and asked that a church be built there to honor her.  When Bishop Juan de Zumarraga asked for proof, she appeared a second time, telling Juan Diego to gather nearby roses to place in his tilma (cloak) and take to the bishop.  When Juan opened his tilma, the roses fell out and revealed the image shown here.  The pregnant woman was recognized as Mary, the church was built as requested, and people came to hear the story from St. Juan Diego.  Within a few years, millions of Mexicans converted to the faith.  To this day, it continues to be one of the largest Marian pilgrim sites in the world!

This Friday, you are invited to come at 7:30pm for our annual “Lessons and Carols” with our 10:45 choir.  It is an evening of inspirational music for the season.  This is the perfect event to invite your Catholic and non-Catholic friends to join you!

Next Sunday, we invite the children to come and bring their “baby Jesus’” from home for a special blessing at each Mass.  After the morning Masses, our Knights of Columbus are also offering their annual “Breakfast with Santa.”  Please come!

On an entirely different note, Nancy and Jim Kissane have recently announced their intention to retire at the close of the month.  They have been a tremendous blessing to me and the entire parish family.  Thankfully, Laurie Erickson has graciously accepted my offer to serve as Director of Ministries.  Please join me in extending our prayerful best wishes to Nancy, Jim, and Laurie as they begin their new chapters in their pilgrimages of life!

Let us continue to grow courageously in Christ!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

First Sunday of Advent

December 2, 2018

My Dear Friends,

It is hard to believe that Advent is here once again!  It is one of my favorite times of the year as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of the Lord in history, mystery, and glory.  The first few weeks of Advent, Mother Church asks us to think about the Lord’s coming in glory at the close of time ... whether it is the end of the world or the end of our life here on earth.  For us, death is not the end but simply a portal to eternal life.  Our hearts do not tremble with fear and dread but with joyful hope for the coming of our Lord.

Beginning on December 17th, our focus shifts to the celebration of the Lord’s coming in history ... the Nativity of Christ.  We journey with Mary in pregnant expectation for the birth of our Lord and Savior.

But throughout Advent, we are also mindful that Christ comes to us each day in mystery ... in a special and singular way through His Word and Sacrament, but also through the smiles, laughter, and warm embrace of family and friends.  As Catholics, we are ever mindful that Christ also comes to us through the poor, sick, elderly, marginalized, and oppressed.  The words of Jesus ring in our ears: “As often as you did it to one of these least, you did it to me.”

For many, Advent is a difficult time as they remember those who are no longer here to celebrate the holidays.  For some, the joy and prosperity of others only remind them of what they do not have.  It is tough to be suffering physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually during the holidays.  Let us be attentive to those in need as we journey through Advent.

I encourage you to make this Advent extra special.  Rather than get caught up in the commercialism of our secular world, think of what you can do to better prepare for the coming of the Lord.  It could be simply to start a routine of sitting after supper on your back porch with a cup of coffee, reflecting in the silence of the night upon the blessings of your day.  If you are not praying together as a family before meals and bedtime, now is the time to start.  An Advent wreath on the table will serve as a good reminder to pray.  Another idea is to read a little from the Gospels each day ... a chapter or less.  Start with Luke since it is the Gospel of our new liturgical year as well as the quintessential Gospel for stories about the birth of Christ.  One more idea: perhaps you can do something to be more mindful of those in need such as dropping off food or your spare change to our Society of St. Vincent de Paul, visiting a nursing home, or perhaps reaching out to help a neighbor put up their decorations.  Pray about it!

My prayer is that these next four weeks will be the best Advent ever for you and your family.

May God bless you!

Growing courageously in Christ!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

 

Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

November 25, 2018

My Dear Friends,

I hope you and your loved ones are enjoying your Thanksgiving holidays.  While others are rushing for sales, we come to give praise and thanksgiving to Christ who truly is our Lord and King! 

This Sunday marks the close of the liturgical year.  Next Sunday is our First Sunday of Advent.  I encourage you to take the time this week to think of how you can truly prepare this Advent for the coming of Christ in glory at the end of time. In history, we celebrate His birth at Christmas. In mystery, we encounter Him each day in His Word and Sacrament and in the faces of our brothers and sisters in need. 

This Friday is our annual Advent Family Gathering beginning at 6:30pm in the Pavilion.  Details are in this bulletin.  Please mark your calendars and come!  It is great fun for the entire family!

Next Sunday, you are encouraged to bring your Advent Wreaths to be blessed at the start of the Mass.  We invited Deacon Bill Ditewig to speak at all our Masses.  He will be leading us in our annual Advent Mission December 3-5 at 11:00am and again at 7:00pm each day.  Please be sure to invite all your friends and family to come.

On a completely different issue, a few weeks ago I gave a presentation on the spiritual, medical/ethical, legal, and practical issues pertaining to the end of life.  By way of summary: for us Catholics, death is not the enemy...it is simply a portal through which we must all pass to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  We were created to live forever with Christ our King in heaven and death is a stage of being “born again” into eternal life. 

While it is never appropriate to withdraw care and concern for those who are critically ill, it is not morally acceptable to prolong the dying process through extraordinary, burdensome, or ineffective treatment.  Care, comfort, and pain relief should always be given.  If you have moral questions, we are here to help! 

Planning ahead by writing a living will, a will and testament, appointing a medical health care surrogate, and durable power of attorney can be very helpful in the event that you are incapacitated.  Conversations with your doctor, attorney, and financial planner can alleviate a great deal of problems for you and your loved ones. 

I also encourage people to talk to the local funeral homes and cemeteries about purchasing services ahead of time.  While the Church prefers that the body be present for the funeral Mass and interred intact, cremation remains a viable option as long as the cremains are treated as a body.  Planning ahead can save your loved ones a great deal of money and heartache. 

Be sure to let your loved ones know what decisions you have made so that all the key players are on the same page.  But most of all, we should live each day as our last ... with Christ the King of our hearts!

Let us grow together courageously in Christ!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

 

Thirty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 18, 2018

My Dear Friends,

This week, we celebrate the quintessential American holiday, Thanksgiving.  While Thanksgiving exists in many other countries and cultures, we celebrate it in a unique way as Americans travel to gather with extended family and friends to give thanks to God for blessings received and to enjoy quality time and a sumptuous feast with one another.  (If we are very lucky, the football games will also be good!)

What is missing?  Surprisingly enough, for many Americans, it is prayer.  That is why I’m so delighted to be able to gather with you on Thanksgiving Day for our 9am Thanksgiving Family Mass.  Each year it is such a blessing to gather together and to give God thanks and praise for all the blessings and graces He continues to shower upon us.  This year, a group of our Faith Formation students will be sharing their Thanksgiving skit during the Mass.  We will also be distributing our Thanksgiving Loaves of Blessing.  One hundred percent of our offertory collection will be given to our parish Society of St. Vincent de Paul to distribute to the poor.  Please bring non-perishable food items for the offertory as well as cash or check offerings.  Thank you!

Please join me in thanking God for the work of all our wonderful Society of St. Vincent de Paul members throughout the year.  This past month, our Society gave $25,000 on our behalf to assist those who were devastated by Hurricane Michael in the Panhandle. This is in addition to the $15,000 our parish donated!  Every week our parish distributes hundreds of pounds of groceries and hundreds of dollars to those in need who live in our area.  More than a handout, they provide the “hand up” people need to get back on their feet and resume a productive life.  This Thanksgiving, our Society has supplied all the food for 60 families to have a delicious Thanksgiving meal!  All this is possible due to your continued generous support.  Thank you!

Speaking of support to those in need, I thank all those who will help / have helped this afternoon from 3-5pm with our Catholic Relief Services (CRS) food project.  Thanks to you, our parish will have packed 20,088 meals for those who have nothing to eat throughout the world.  Our cost is $10,044.  I especially would like to thank all those who have helped us meet this financial commitment through your donations.  If you would still like to donate, please contact Michael or Nancy in the parish office.

Last but not least, please be sure to join us on Friday, November 30th, for our annual Advent Family Gathering beginning at 6:30pm.  It is a lot of fun for the whole family.  Please see this bulletin or our parish website for details!

Let us courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

Thirty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 11, 2018

My Dear Friends,

This weekend, we honor all of our Veterans, especially those who suffered physical, emotional, and spiritual injuries.   We also lift up in prayer all those who currently serve our country in the armed forces, especially those deployed far from home.  Please also pray for their families who are often the true heroes.  They sacrifice so much while their fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, and sons and daughters are on active duty.  We also pray for all those who minister to our veterans and their families.  We are blessed with two wonderful Veteran’s Hospitals and wonderful service agencies.  May God bless them all!

I am pleased to announce that we have paid our Annual Pastoral Appeal assessment.  Thank you for your generosity!  For those who have yet to complete your pledge, please do so!  One hundred percent (100%) of the funds paid over and above our assessment are deposited into our Savings Account.  Your donation is very important in helping us meet our financial commitments.  Thank you!

Speaking of financial commitments, please let me share two that I have made on your behalf.  First, our young adults are a priority.  This is clear from our recent parish surveys as well as the diocesan pastoral plan.  I feel very strongly that we should be doing all we can to support our youth adults to grow in the Lord.  To this end, I committed to do all we can do to help our young adults attend World Youth Day in Panama this January.  The cost to attend is significant ($2,650 per person) and there are 28 of us who would like to attend.  Bishop Parkes generously offered to pay $150 a person.  I felt it was reasonable for the youth to pay $500.  The remaining $2,000 is to be acquired by fundraising and donations.  At this point, we are still $15,000 short.  If you can help, please let me know or drop off your donation in a clearly marked envelope to the parish office.  Thank you so very much!

The second commitment is to help feed the poor.  Catholic Relief Services (CRS) provides invaluable social services to those in need, both domestically as well as internationally.  They are busy helping our friends in the Panhandle after the hurricane as well as Christian refugees in Syria and famine victims in Africa.  In one week, on Sunday, November 18, we will have the opportunity to package 20,088 meals to feed the hungry around the globe.  This is almost 5,000 more meals than last year!  However, we need your help!  We will be packaging the meals from 2:30pm to 5:30pm.  Please sign up at www.stpaulchurch.com.  This is a wonderful family activity as everyone from our first graders through to our seniors can help!  Thank you for helping!

The cost for a meal is about 50 cents!  The entire project will cost us $10,044.  We really need your financial help!  Please consider this as part of your Christmas charitable giving.  It is an expense the parish has not budgeted but one which charity demands.  “Whatever you do for these least ones, you do unto me.” Call Michael, Nancy, or Jim at the parish office for more information.  Thank you!

Together let us courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

Thirty First Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 4, 2018

My Dear Friends,

November is a special month for our family of faith.  We begin by recalling the great gift of the Saints ... those men, women, and children who have shown us holiness is possible.  We are all called to holiness through God’s merciful love.  Our response is, as we read in today’s Gospel, an unfettered love for God and to share that love with those in need.

The very next day, we celebrated All Souls Day and offered prayers for all our beloved deceased as well as for the poor forgotten souls in Purgatory.  Throughout this month, we will remember at every one of our Masses, all those names you submitted on the All Souls Day envelopes.  May they rest in the peace of Christ.

At this time every year, I also offer a “Journey to New Life” workshop.  Please join me this Thursday, November 8, at 7:00pm in the Parish Center.  During this evening, we will talk about some of the pressing issues pertaining to the end of life here on earth such as the Christian perspective of suffering and death, spiritual care for the sick and dying, medical care versus treatment, withdrawal of hydration and nutrition, living wills, Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) decisions, health care surrogates, durable power of attorney, wills and testaments, funeral planning, bereavement assistance, etc.  Thankfully, we are blessed with parishioners who are doctors and attorneys to assist me with your questions.  Moreover, our wonderful local funeral homes are present to answer questions.  Overall, it is a very informative evening that will help you to better prepare for the decisions we all must someday make for ourselves or for loved ones.  I know it is difficult for some of you to get out at night; consequently,  the new Young at Heart Senior Ministry has asked me to offer it in the spring during daylight hours.

Every year we celebrate a Healing Mass in honor of Our Lady of Providence and Our Lady of Good Health.  This year, the celebration will take place on Friday, November 16, beginning with the Rosary at 7:00pm at our beautiful shrine in honor of Our Lady of Good Health.  We will then process to the church for Mass at 7:30pm.  We invited Fr. Claudio Antecini, an Italian priest who is fluent in both English and Spanish, to preside.  He is pastor of the Church of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Brooklyn, New York and a member of the Koinonia John the Baptist Community.  This promises to be a very Spirit-filled Mass!  Afterwards, there will be healing teams as well as an opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.  Please come and bring a friend!

Last, but not least, on Sunday, November 18, in honor of the World Day of the Poor, we will again have the opportunity to package meals to be distributed to the less fortunate.  Last year, collaborating with Catholic Relief Services, we processed 15,120 meals in just a few hours.  It was a huge success and a great event for the entire family.  This year, we would like to package over 20,000 meals!  The cost is about fifty cents a meal.  The entire project costs $10,000.  I would like to invite you to underwrite this important work.  A gift of $500 could provide 1,000 meals!  Please consider this as part of your Christmas charitable giving.  It is an expense the parish has not budgeted but one which charity demands.  “Whatever you do for these least ones, you did unto me.”  Call Michael, Nancy or Jim at the parish office for more information.  Thank you!

Together let us courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 28, 2018

My Dear Friends,

Earlier in the month, I hosted two “Listening Sessions” with parishioners.  Those who attended encouraged me to speak more about how the church has responded to the sexual abuse crisis so here I go...On October 17th, I heard that the diocese was subject to a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse of a minor by Robert Huneke.  In 1979, this former priest transferred to our diocese from the Diocese of Rockville Centre with a letter of recommendation from his bishop.  In 1982, he was removed from ministry after an allegation that he had previously abused a child.  At that time, there were no complaints relating to his ministry within our diocese.  Fast track 36 years...in July of this year, the diocese received an allegation about this same priest.  The individual was referred to our Victim Assistance Coordinator and was advised to report the incident to law enforcement.  The diocese informed the state attorney of the allegation.  The diocese respects the victim’s right to litigate and we pray for and stand with all victims of sexual abuse.

What does this say?  It verifies that our diocese has been doing things right according to the best practices of the time.  The priest was interviewed, letters of recommendation secured, and he was assigned ministry.  When an allegation was made, an investigation was begun which led to the priest returning to New York to face the charges.  It should be noted that both the priest and the bishops involved have died so they are unable to present their side of the facts.  

What is different today?  Fingerprint background screening checks, Safe Environment Training, and very specific letters of recommendation are now required.  When an allegation is made, the individual is encouraged to speak to our Victim Assistance Coordinator and contact law enforcement if they feel a crime is committed.  If the allegation is at all credible, we contact the state officials and the priest is removed from duty until the allegation is cleared.  If the allegations are confirmed, the parish is informed.  It should be noted that some violations of the Dallas Charter of 2002 are not civil crimes.  They are adjudicated according to canon law.  In addition, a lay Review Board assesses all reported allegations.  Our diocese is audited annually and again, every three years by an independent on site auditor.  Last but not least, offenses against minors are tried civilly in the United States as well as by the Vatican in Rome.

What can we learn from this?  In my opinion, our diocese continues to do all it can to address this problem according to the best practices of our time.  Historically, one of our biggest challenges has been bishops who transferred their “troubled” priests to us.  Although the Dallas Charter alleviated much of this, more needs to be done.  This is the subject of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ meeting in November and the Holy Father’s meetings in February.  Let’s keep praying for healing and renewal within our Church!

On a much brighter note, this Thursday is All Saints Day...a holy day of obligation.  Masses are a special children’s liturgy at 5:30pm on Halloween (dress as your favorite Saint!) and at 7:30am, 12:15pm, 5:30pm and 7:30pm (Trilingual) on Thursday, November 1.   Friday, November 2, is All Souls Day and Masses are at 7:30am, 12:15pm and 7:30pm.  The 7:30pm Mass will begin with a rosary at 7:00pm in our beautiful Santo Niño Shrine followed by a candlelight procession into our church.  During the Mass, we will pray for all our beloved deceased.  The liturgy will be trilingual as we unite as a parish in prayer for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one.

Also our parish picnic is on Saturday, November 3, from 11:00am - 3:00pm.  There will be lots of delicious food, music, and fun for the young and young of heart!  Come with the entire family for a wonderful day!

Together let us courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

Twenty Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 21, 2018

My Dear Friends,

A few weeks ago I hosted two “Listening Sessions” or Town Hall Meetings with parishioners.  If you don’t mind, I’d like to share with you what transpired.  Both meetings began with brief presentations on how God has blessed our parish family.  By almost every measure, we are growing.  Our liturgies are beautiful, our religious education and faith formation programs are blossoming, our Preschool is truly stellar, and our ministries are vibrant and healthy.  God is so good to us!  Financially, thanks to your generous donations and the contributions of several endowments by deceased parishioners who remembered us in their end of life planning, we are doing very well.  The results of the parish survey were very affirming with some wonderful suggestions for the future.

The elephant in the room is, of course, the sexual abuse scandals in the Church.  The news of the crimes of priests and bishops has truly rocked our world.  This is most evident in the fact that our attendance in our parish has dropped about 200 souls per weekend since the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report was released.

The good news is that our Diocese has always been very proactive in ensuring the health and well-being of the people, especially children.  For at least the last 35 years that I’ve been involved in this Diocese, every man applying to enter the seminary has to undergo extensive psychological testing and interviews.  Psychological readiness to serve is continually evaluated through the formation process.  After ordination, if a priest is credibly accused, he is immediately removed from duty.  If the charges are verified, he is not reassigned, transferred, or in any way compensated. 

Keeping abreast with “best practices,” in 1992, the Diocese began fingerprinting all employees.  Employee records were also reviewed by an independent panel including lay experts to ensure that no one who was credibly charged was still in active ministry.  When Bishop Lynch was installed as our fourth bishop in 1996, he felt that transparency was imperative and published the names of all those diocesan priests who had abused a minor or vulnerable adult.  Counseling and other assistance have always been extended to the victims. 

As “best practices” evolved, so have our policies.  In 2002, the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was promulgated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) meeting in Dallas.  The Dallas Norms were approved by Rome and constitute proper law for the Catholic Church in the United States.  They mandated safe environment training for those working with minors and vulnerable adults as well as for minors and their parents, mandatory background checks, mandatory reporting to law enforcement agencies, independent victim advocates in each diocese, lay review boards to ensure compliance, annual reporting and independent on-site auditing every three years.  The results of these audits are published and available for your review on the USCCB website.  The Dallas Norms also raised the statute of limitations, increased the number of actionable offenses (such as child pornography), and mandated that the norms be periodically reviewed and updated to keep abreast of “best practices.”  In addition, Rome mandated that all credible charges be prosecuted in Rome as well as the civil forums to ensure that the offenders could never be reassigned.

The good news from the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report is that it confirmed that the Dallas Norms work and in many ways, the Church has become a model for other organizations to follow.  Since 2002 there has been a dramatic decrease in cases.  I only wish that every church and institution providing care to minors or vulnerable adults would follow our lead.

The bad news from the Grand Jury Report is the number of cases and the evident history of cover-up and incompetency by the hierarchy.  The Dallas Norms never addressed episcopal accountability.  The letter by Archbishop Viganó only added fuel to the fire.  The good news is that this has forced an honest discussion about accountability for those in the episcopal office.  The resignations of Cardinals McCarrick and Wuerl and the recent “laicizations” of an archbishop and bishop from Chile is a good beginning.  It is never acceptable to place a minor, vulnerable adult, or impressionable seminarian in harms way, let alone abuse them.  Much has been said of a “homosexual climate” within the priesthood.  That is not my experience nor that of Fr. Bob or Fr. George.  I feel truly blessed to serve alongside these holy men at St. Paul Catholic Church.

I know many people feel there is still much we need to do.  And I agree totally.  Yet at this point, I feel it is important to acknowledge our successes as well as our failures and remember why we are Catholic.  It is not our love for the Pope, the Bishop, or a priest.  It is our love for our Lord and our desire to love and serve Him.  We can do our part by praying for our Church and working to ensure all His children are well served.

I assure you on behalf of myself and Bishop Parkes, that our diocese and parish is doing all we can to ensure that our children and vulnerable adults are safe.  As one writer recently shared with me, we cannot ever say that our parish is truly a safe environment.  It is not.  Dale Mabry is rife with convicted sex abusers.  Visitors are on our campus every day.  Safety must be a priority for us all.  I’m amazed by the number of parents who let their children go to the bathroom unaccompanied or run freely around our campus unsupervised.  We must all be vigilant.  If you see something or someone out of place, report it.  If necessary, contact the police.

On the other hand, we must also not overreact.  I can tell you that most priests do not like to minister to children and some even refuse to visit an unaccompanied elderly person at home.  We are afraid to touch a child, let alone give a hug.  We can be accused of grooming if we call a child by name, give a pat on the back, or give a child a rosary.  When I grew up, our parish priest used to babysit us while my mom taught CCD.  I can’t imagine doing that.  The priesthood today is very different from when I was ordained to serve.  It is all very sad.

Please join me in these 40 days of prayer, reparation, and healing for our Church and for all those who have been hurt by her ministers.  May we arise purified and emboldened to say: never again!

Together let us courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

 

Twenty Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 14, 2018

My Dear Friends,

Today our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has canonized seven new Saints, two of whom are much beloved by many of us.  Pope Paul VI led us through the Second Vatican Council and was an ardent promoter of marriage and life.  And the holy martyr; Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador, who sacrificed his life by speaking against the social injustices of his day.   Four others were priests and sisters, many of whom founded religious communities.  The seventh was a teenager, Nunzio Sulprizo. 

Nunzio was born on April 13, 1817 in Italy during a time of great famine.  His father and sister died when he was only three.  His mother remarried but the stepfather rejected him.  When he was six, his mother died and his grandmother took him in.  Three years later, she also died and an abusive uncle took custody of him.  As a result of mistreatment, Nunzio became sick at the age of 14.  Gangrene set in and eventually his leg was amputated.  Never recovering from his illness, he died on May 5, 1836 at the age of 19.  His life, from all accounts, was filled with sorrow and loss; yet, he found great consolation in his faith and the redemptive value of sharing in the sufferings of Christ.  He placed all his trust in God. 

Nunzio Sulprizo’s life is a great inspiration to all those who suffer from physical and emotional abuse and neglect as well as those with chronic illness.  Through his intercession, there were many miracles which led to his elevation today.  Today, let us pray through the intercession of these holy men and women, may we follow Christ and unequivocally share His love and mercy with others!

To help us all grow ever closer to the Lord, we have invited the famed composer and musician John Michael Talbot to join us this Friday and lead us in an evening of prayer and song.  John Michael’s inspirational music is sure to delight you and will surely help you grow ever closer to the Lord.  The concert begins at 7:00 pm and tickets are on sale in the parish office as well as at the door.  Please be sure to come and bring your friends.

Last but not least, please join us for the Diocesan Family Faith Fest on October 27 from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm at Al Lopez Park, just north of Raymond James Stadium.  This free day of worship, concerts, exhibits, games, delicious food, and other activities will be great fun for the entire family!  This celebration of our diocese’s 50th anniversary will conclude with a 4:00 pm Vigil Mass in honor of our patron, St. Jude.  I encourage you to wear your favorite St. Paul t-shirt!

Together let us courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

Twenty Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 7, 2018

My Dear Friends,

Thank you for your “yes” to come and adore the Lord!  This past week, we began offering Eucharistic Adoration after each weekday Mass, Monday through Thursday from 8am through 8:30pm Compline and on Friday from 8am through 8am Saturday morning.  Already we are experiencing great blessings!  God is so good to us!  Please be sure to make time to visit the Lord as often as you can and to bring a friend!

Please allow me to bring up three points: 1) The Church and Chapel are places of prayer.  If you need to respond to a phone call or talk to a friend, please do it outside.  It is important to maintain “sacred silence” if we are to truly listen to the whispers of the Lord!  2) Safety is everyone’s concern.  I suggest you bring your phone into the Church.  If you see someone or something out of place, let us know.  If you ever feel unsafe, call for help.  3) Pray for our parish!  May we truly develop a passion for the Eucharistic Lord!  Finally, if you would like to be a part of our Eucharistic Adoration Society, please follow the links on our website or complete the form in the narthex.

On Thursday, October 11, after the 12:15pm Mass and at 7pm, I am hosting a special listening session.  I’d like to give you the opportunity for you to share some of your concerns about current Church events in the news.  As a Canon Lawyer and priest for 27 years, I’ll share with you what I know.  The sessions will begin with prayer followed by a very brief presentation on the “State of the Union” at St. Paul’s and a summary of our most recent survey.  We’ll spend the rest of the time listening to your concerns and hopefully providing insights to help you sort out the fact from the fiction.

On Friday, October 12th, at 7pm, we will be dedicating our new shrine in honor of Our Lady of Aparecida.  In 1917, this image was discovered by three fisherman in a river.  Called “Our Lady of the Appeared Conception,” she quickly became the center of devotion.  Today, it is the largest Marian shrine in the world with 6-8 million pilgrims visiting annually!  As Pope Francis noted: “She was found by poor workers, may she be found today by all!”

On a totally different note (literally!), I am very excited to welcome back renowned composer, and singer John Michael Talbot to our parish.  I remember so clearly his first concert here many years ago.  Who can’t be moved by “Holy Is His Name” or his many other “hits”?  His music truly leads me into prayer and his spirituality is so profound.  The concert is on Friday, October 19th beginning at 7pm and tickets are on sale in the parish office.  Please be sure to come and bring your friends.

Also please come to the Diocesan Family Faith Fest on October 27 from 10am to 6pm at Al Lopez Park, just north of the stadium.  This free day of worship, concerts, exhibits, games, delicious food, and other activities will be great fun for the entire family!  This celebration of our diocese’s 50th anniversary will conclude with a 4pm Vigil Mass in honor of our patron, St. Jude.  I encourage you to wear your favorite St. Paul t-shirt!

Together let us courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 30, 2018

 

My Dear Friends,

After much prayerful discernment and consultation, we will step out in faith and begin Eucharistic Adoration, Monday through Saturday morning.  Monday through Thursday, Solemn Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament will begin following the 7:30 am Mass and will continue through Compline which begins at 8:30 pm.  On Friday, Eucharistic Adoration will continue through the Saturday 8:30 am Mass.  I invite you to make a commitment to come to Adoration at least once a week, if only for a few moments.  Invite your family and friends to join you.  You will be blessed!

I also invite you to be a part of our new Eucharistic Adoration Society.  As a member, you are committing to fully participate at Mass at least every weekend, pray daily, avail yourself of confession at least monthly, and to visit the Blessed Sacrament each week.  If you would like, you can choose to receive a daily message selected by our young adult Apostles of the Eucharist to inspire a deeper devotion to the Eucharistic Lord.  We are also offering a Mass on each First Friday for the intentions of the members of the Society.  Please join!  The sign up form is in this bulletin and at www.StPaulChurch.com.

In addition, I’m leading a discussion of “The Real Presence” by St. Peter Julian Eymard on my Facebook page.  You only need to “be my friend” to participate.  I’ve found that this format is an excellent way for people to share insights, inspirations, and questions in a healthy and Christian forum.  Copies of the book are available at the Lighthouse kiosk in the narthex as well as online for free at www.CatholicTradition.org.  This book is used by our high school Disciples of the Eucharist and will be an excellent foundation for those who want to begin formation in January to become an  Associate of the Blessed Sacrament.

Why do all this?  Because of WHO the Eucharist is!  We believe that Jesus is really, truly present ... Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Blessed Sacrament.  And Eucharistic Adoration is one of the surest means of growing ever closer to the Lord!  Come and adore the Lord!

As I mentioned last week, on October 11th, we will offer two listening sessions at 1:00 pm and at 7:00 pm.  This is an important opportunity for us to share an updated report on what is happening in our parish and for you to raise your questions and concerns.  This week, Father Bob and I will be at a convocation for priests.  Hopefully we will have insights to share regarding the scandals in the Church.

On a related note, beginning October 1st we will pray for 40 days for forgiveness, reparation, and healing for the Church, her leaders, and those hurt by her ministers.  For more information, see this bulletin or our website. 

Last but not least, please join us for a special novena in honor of Our Lady of Aparecida, October 3 - 11 at 7:30 pm at her new Shrine with a special Festival Mass on Friday October 12th.  All are welcome.

Together let us courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

Twenty Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 23, 2018

My Dear Friends,

Please join me in thanking everyone who helped make this year’s Ministry Fair such a success!  It was great to enjoy quality time with you and to visit the ministries.  We are truly blessed!  If you missed it, I encourage you to pick up a copy of our Parish Resource Directory.  Make a list of the ministries you would like to know more about and give them a call or send them an email.  If you don’t hear back from them soon, call Nancy at the parish office and she will help you! 

The Parish Resource Directory is a wonderful tool.  You can find the ministries grouped according to their mission.  We also have pages which group them according to language and the cultural communities which sponsor them.  Page 20 is one of my favorite pages as it lists our new ministries in formation.  Towards the end of the book are various spiritual and financial reports.  If you have any questions about them, let us know.  This is YOUR parish and we want you to be informed.  The last pages of the Directory list important events in the coming months.  It is my hope that the Directory will be a invaluable resource to you throughout the year to come!

We have begun processing the results from last week’s surveys. Thank you for sharing.  Some comments show that we need to be better at communicating the things we are already doing, others offer suggestions which are easy to implement, and others set goals we can set.  The Pastoral Council and I will be reflecting on them in the coming months.  Again, thank you for sharing.

On October 11th, we will offer two listening sessions at 1 and at 7pm.  This is an important opportunity for us to share an updated report on what is happening in our parish and for you to raise your questions and concerns.  The week previously, Father Bob and I will be at a convocation for priests.  Hopefully we will have insights to share regarding the scandals in the Church.

On a related note, Bishop Parkes has asked us to pray for forgiveness, reparation, and healing for the Church, her leaders, and those hurt by her ministers.  We are offering this as a special intercession for our novena in honor of Our Lady of Aparecida, October 3-11 at 7:30pm at her new Shrine with a special Festival Mass on October 12th.  All are welcome.

Please join me in thanking Gaby Fotopolous for her service to our community as Director of Communications.  She has accepted another position which will help her to better care for her family.  She has been a blessing to us in so many ways.  In the same breath, we welcome parishioner Charles Yezak to our team as Director of Communications.  He comes with a wealth of experience to help us better serve you.  Please join me in praying for him as he begins his new ministry and I thank you for your patience during this period of transition.

Finally, I’d like to thank Eagle Scout candidate and parishioner Joseph Ralston for his work in renovating our butterfly garden by the McClain Residence and the installation of a new bat house.  It is beautiful!  Thank you so much for your service to the Lord and our community of faith!

Together let us courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

Twenty Fourth Sundy in Ordinary Time

September 16, 2018

My Dear Friends,

Praise God!  It’s here!  This weekend we celebrate our 5th annual Ministry Fair!  For me, this is one of the highlights of our year as we gather to share the many blessings God has bestowed on our parish through our wonderful and vibrant ministries.  The Ministry Fair is also a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and meet new ones.  So often we see fellow parishioners at Mass but don’t really have the opportunity to talk with them.  The networking which happens at the Ministry Fair is truly marvelous!  Last but not least, there is free food and drink and games and activities for the kids.  In sum, it is fun for the entire family.  Come!

It is my fervent hope and prayer that each parishioner in our parish is involved in at least two ministries.  For instance, our children should all be enrolled in Faith Formation and hopefully be involved in our choir, altar server ministry, American Heritage Girls, or Scouting.  Our teens should be involved in youth ministry as well as a liturgical ministry or the Disciples of the Eucharist.  Young Adults should jump right in and participate in the Apostles of the Eucharist, Singles for Christ, or in any one of our ministries.  The same is true of us all!  Whether it is a liturgical ministry, faith formation ministry, Bible study, prayer group, Ministry of Mercy, Knights of Columbus, Council of Catholic Women, MDS ... my prayer is that we will all become active in building the Kingdom of God at St. Paul!

The fact is that all we have is a gift from God ... our time, talents and abilities, and material resources.  How we use and develop these gifts is our gift to God.  We call this stewardship.  Giving generously of our time, talents, and treasure to help others is what is expected of all who dare to call themselves Christian.  We are the hands, feet, and voice of Christ in the world.  If the world is to become a better and safer place for our children and grandchildren, it is because of what we have done to make it so!  The ways we have cooperated with God’s grace!

I encourage you to reflect on all that God has given you.  Do you share your unique gifts and talents with others?  Are you a generous supporter of the parish?  Are you known for your care and concern for those in need?  How is the Lord calling you to be more selfless?  More caring?  These are good questions for us all!  Hopefully, today’s Ministry Fair will provide the motivation and encouragement you need to develop the gifts and resources God has given you and to generously share them with others!

One last point, when you leave the Ministry Fair ... if you feel blessed and joyful to be a part of this wonderful parish family.  Tell others.  Invite them to join you next weekend.  Who knows?  Your invitation may be an answer to their prayers!

Let us courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

Twenty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 9, 2018

My Dear Friends,

September 11th marks a watershed moment in American history.  As a parish family, we lift up in prayer all those who lost lives or loved ones due to senseless acts of terror and violence throughout the world.  We also pray for all those who are on the “front line” in ensuring the safety and well-being of all God’s children ... our first responders, military personnel, and civil leaders.  May they know our gratitude for the sacrifices they make on our behalf.

Next weekend is our 5th annual Ministry Fair.  The Ministry Fair is one of the highlights of the year.  For me, it provides a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the incredible things God is accomplishing in and through our parish.  With over 85 vibrant ministries, there is so much I still need to learn!  The Ministry Fair is also a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and meet new ones.  So often we see fellow parishioners at Mass but don’t really have the opportunity to talk with them.  The networking which happens at the Ministry Fair is truly marvelous!  Last but not least, there is free food and drink and games and activities for the kids.  In sum, it is fun for the entire family.  Please mark your calendar and plan on joining us after each Mass on Saturday and Sunday.  (For our Brazilian friends, please be sure to come BEFORE the 7:30pm Vigil Mass.  Obrigado!)

In preparation for the Ministry Fair, we are distributing our annual questionnaire before each Mass this weekend.  Please take a moment to fill it out.  Your feedback is so important and over the years, has really shaped the direction of our parish.  While we can’t meet everyone’s needs, your suggestion may be just what I need to hear in order to serve you better.  Thank you for caring enough to share!

On the reverse side of the survey, I have included an invitation for you to join our St. Paul Eucharistic Adoration Society.  After much prayerful discernment, I am convinced that God wants us to provide more opportunities for us to grow closer to Him through Solemn Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.  In an increasingly busy, noisy, and hostile world, we all need a sanctuary, an oasis of peace and serenity in which to rest in the arms of our merciful and loving God.  To that end, the priests and deacons of St. Paul would like to offer Eucharistic Adoration Monday through Friday beginning October 1st.  Monday through Thursday, Eucharistic Adoration will extend from after the 7:30am Mass through 8:30pm Compline and Fridays for 24 hours.  Eucharistic Adoration will be suspended as needed, for example when there is Mass in the Church.  But generally, the Eucharistic Lord will be available for you.

This can’t happen unless more people come to Eucharistic Adoration.  This is where you come in!  I’d like to invite you to sign up to be a member of the Eucharistic Adoration Society and sign up to adore the Lord.  We will especially need people in October on Mondays and Tuesdays.  We always need more folks in the early morning hours on Saturday (2-5am).  Thank you for responding to the Lord’s call to “stay awake and spend an hour with Him!”

On another note, I’d like to express my gratitude to members of our Pastoral, Financial, Preschool, and Building Advisory Councils.  They offer me wise and valued counsel so that I might serve you better.  This time of the year I appoint a third of members of the Pastoral Council.  This year I chose  Sandra Castillo to serve as our Hispanic representative, Claudia Vitale as youth representative, Maribel Markines as our Filipino representative, and reappointed Alex Pinzkowski to serve for a second term as our Brazilian representative.  New members of our Finance Council include Gessie Lipscomb and Javier Zuluaga.  A full listing of the members of my advisory councils is available online as well as at next weekend’s the Ministry Fair.

Thank you for your prayers and support and know you are in my prayers as well.  May we all courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 2, 2018

My Dear Friends,

Happy Labor Day weekend!

We thank God for the gift of work.  Yes, that is right.  Work.  If you talk to people who are unable to work or who are searching for work, they will tell you how important work is.  Through our labors, we cooperate with the grace of God in supporting our families and building a better world for all.  During this Labor Day weekend, let’s pray for those who are unable to work, those who are unable to find work, those who are struggling in their work.  We pray for those who are separated from loved ones due to their work and whose work is injurious to their health.  Last, but not least, let’s pray for our “Tweeners” - a wonderful ministry which meets every Thursday morning to help people with their job searches.  Have a great weekend and enjoy quality time with those you love!

Please mark your calendars and plan to join us for our annual Ministry Fair after the 5:30 Vigil Mass on Saturday, September 15 and after each Mass on Sunday, September 16.  This year features free food and drinks, fun activities for the kids, and a wonderful opportunity to meet new friends and learn more about the wonderful things God is doing in our parish!

It is my hope and prayer that every parishioner would be involved in at least two ministries.  One should help others ... for instance, serving as a catechist or joining our Knights of Columbus or Council of Catholic Women.  The other should help you to grow in faith ... such as joining one of our bible studies, becoming involved in one of our prayer groups, visiting our homebound, or joining our Panama Mission.  In today’s bulletin, I highlighted some of the opportunities for kids, teens, and young adults to become more involved in our Church as well as opportunities for those who are young at heart to grow in faith.  I also provided a list of prayer groups in our parish.  Ask the Lord which you should join! Also, you may pick up the new updated Parish Resource Directory at the Ministry Fair.

One of the neat things about becoming involved in ministry is, the more you give, the more you receive.  It doesn’t matter if you are involved in our Jamaican Mission with the Missionaries of the Poor, our Society of St. Vincent de Paul, help with our LifeTeen Ministry, or sing in one of our fantastic choirs.  The more you give, the more you will receive and believe it or not, the greater the blessing for your family!

On another note, I’d also like to thank you for your continued financial support for our parish.  Your sacrificial gift is a sign of your love for the Lord and our Church.  Thank you.  I encourage you to sign up for electronic giving.  Not only is it convenient for you, but helps us to serve you better.  See this bulletin or call Michael at the parish office for more information.

Thank you for your prayers and support and know you are in my prayers as well.  May we all courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros

Pastor

 

 

 

Twenty First Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 26, 2018

My Dear Friends,

 Over the years, we have all read the news of the abuse of children and minors by clergy.  I had hoped and prayed that the worst was behind us.  News of charges against Cardinal McCarrick and report by the grand jury in Pennsylvania opened up many old and painful wounds.  I am angry, disgusted, disappointed, and profoundly saddened.  It is a profound betrayal of a sacred trust, a sin against everything I hold dear as a Christian, and a crime against humanity.

I suffer with the victims, including faithful Christians whose faith has been shaken and good and holy priests such as my cousin in Pennsylvania who now live under a cloud of suspicion.  If there is good news, it is that the Dallas Norms, implemented in June of 2002 and audited and updated annually are working.  The grand jury found that since that date, the number of allegations of abuse plummeted and the manner in which such allegations were addressed fundamentally changed.

You should know that our diocese has always been upfront and transparent with every case of clergy misconduct.  When a credible accusation is made, the priest is immediately removed from duty, the authorities informed, and counseling and other assistance is offered to the victims.  And if the accusation is confirmed, the priest is permanently removed from ministry.  He is not transferred and financial support is withdrawn.  The list of those who have been charged is available on the diocesan webpage. CLICK HERE

The bishops of our diocese have always taken this matter very seriously and Bishop Parkes is no exception.  (Please see his letter in this bulletin.)  We are VERY strict in ensuring that EVERY person - clergy and lay alike – who is in contact with children are vetted through a level 2 background screening check and receive Safe Environment training.  If they are coming from another diocese, they must have a letter of good standing from their bishop or superior.  Each year our diocese and every entity in the diocese are independently audited to ensure full compliance with the Dallas Norms and State law.   

I understand why someone in their anger and frustration would walk away from the church.  I am profoundly sorry and pledge that we will continue to do all we can to ensure that we remain worthy of your trust.

I encourage you to remember why we are Catholic ... our love for the Lord and our desire to share His love and mercy with others.  I also encourage you to be a part of the solution.  Child abuse is not a Catholic clergy problem.  It is rife in our society.  Be sure you and your child participate in our Safe Environment training.  If you suspect that a child is being abused, contact the authorities. 

Please pray for us priests and be assured of our prayers for you. 

 

May God bless you as we courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros

Pastor

 

 

 

 

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 19, 2018

My Dear Friends,

Our children are among the greatest of God’s gifts to us ... second only to the gift of faith and life itself!  They are entrusted to you as parents and guardians for a short time so that you might help them develop to their fullest potential in mind, body, spirit, and soul.  As a parish, we are here to help you!

This week, our Faith Formation programs begin with classes for the children and young people.  Every child not enrolled in a Catholic School should be registered and attend Faith Formation classes.  Home Schooled children should be registered so that we can provide materials and other support as you may need.  If your child is enrolled in a Catholic School, you still need to register them if they are receiving the Sacraments of First Holy Communion or Confirmation this year.  I know that it many Latin-American countries, there is only Sacrament preparation programs.  In the United States, we believe that it is vital for children to receive quality faith formation opportunities every year if they are to truly grow to love Christ and His bride, the Church.

As parents and guardians, we encourage you to be involved.  If at all possible, volunteer as a catechist or assistant.  Each week, review with your child what was learned and every night practice their prayers ... Sign of the Cross, Lord’s Prayer, Hail Mary, Glory Be and for older kids ... Act of Contrition, Apostle’s Creed, Hail Holy Queen, and Memorare.  But most importantly, be sure they fully participate in the Holy Mass each and every weekend!

This week, our Preschool also begins.  We are blessed with an amazing Preschool with the best of teachers and staff and are ranked among the finest in the State.  This year, we have also refurbished the classes for the VPK program.  As a staff, we can’t wait to have our Preschool back in full swing!

This Friday will be particularly exciting!  At all begins at 6:30pm in the Family Center with a novena followed by a special concert featuring “Shout For Joy” a group of ten priests visiting from the Philippines to raise money for their seminary.

And at 7pm in the Church, our Spanish community will gather in the Church for the Rosary followed by the Holy Mass.  Hopefully, this marks the beginning of a tradition of having Mass in the Spanish language every 4th Friday of the month.  A reception will follow in the Parish Center.

Why do this?  Simple.  You asked for it!  Each September I invite you to fill out a brief questionnaire and one of the things many of you requested was more opportunities to celebrate the Mass in Spanish.  Spirituality and language are interconnected.  There are many concepts which cannot be adequately translated.  It is our prayer is that this monthly Mass and reception will strengthen our Hispanic community in their journey of faith for years and years to come!

May God bless you as we courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

 

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 12, 2018

My Friends,

This weekend, following our Sunday morning Masses, our Finance Council is hosting our annual Small Business Fair.  I suggested this initiative as a way of building community while assisting our parishioners who are small business owners.  My dad was a small business owner and I know firsthand the struggles they face, especially in today’s market.  I invite you to stop by and support this important initiative.  You are also encouraged to patronize our bulletin advertisers.  Their support enables us to provide the bulletin and other print media at low or no cost to the parish.  May God bless our small business owners!

On Tuesday, our parish and preschool staff are taking a day of retreat.  It is important that we take time with the Lord as we begin a new school year.  Please keep us in prayer.  The parish offices will be closed all day although Masses will take place as scheduled.

This Wednesday, August 15, is the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven and yes, it is a Holy Day of Obligation.  What does this mean?  We should treat it as a Sunday ... attending Mass in honor of our Blessed Mother and trying to refrain from unnecessary work.  Our Mass schedule is as follows: Tuesday, 7:30pm Vigil, and Wednesday at 7:30am; 12:15; 5:30pm, and 7:30pm in Spanish.  Please come and honor our Lady!

The following is a prayer that can be used by your family at home to extend the joy of celebrating this mystery of faith.

In giving birth you kept your virginity; in your Dormition you did not leave the world, O Mother of God, but were joined to the Source of Life.  You conceived the living God and your prayers will deliver our souls from death (Byzantine Liturgy).

May we one day share in the promise of the Assumption!

Last but not least, this coming Saturday, August 18, we will hold our first Shalom World Revival!  We are blessed to welcome Jenson Joseph who will lead us in a Spirit-led morning of spiritual renewal.  The revival will take place from 9-1.  Admission is free and no pre-registration is required.  A love offering will be taken up.  Please come and bring your friends!

May we all courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 5, 2018

My Friends,

As you read this, I’m taking a few weeks of vacation hiking around Mount Blanc.  For 11 days. I’ll walk over 100 miles through 3 countries and past over 40 glaciers.  The elevation gain/loss is over 32,000 feet through 11 passes and 7 valleys.  It will be awesome!

The best part is that I’m going with my best friend ... our Lord.  When I hike, God is every step of the way.  I see him in the glistening peaks, the rich green valleys, and the glorious verdant alpine meadows.  My Dad calls this “God’s country.” 

But it is also a time of conversation.  The private, intimate conversation between friends.  I talk to Him, sharing my heart.  He talks to me, sharing His heart.  This is prayer.

This is also the way of Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, who lived as a discalced Carmelite in Paris for most of his life (1611-1691).  Living a hidden life of holiness, his simple spiritual way of life was known to very few.  It is only when the eulogy given by the Abbé of Beaufort was published with notes from three conversations, a few letters, and spiritual notes found in his room, did others come to know what it means to live in the presence of God.

Brother Lawrence believed that to be holy, one did not need to spend hours reading books, praying devotions, or doing exceptionally pious things.  He said that we only need to desire to be holy, to love God with all our hearts, and to simply whatever we do out of love for God.  He said “This sums up our entire call and duty, brothers: to adore God and to love Him, without worrying about the rest.”

He lived life with an abiding awareness of the presence of God.  The more Brother Lawrence loved God, the more he was able to detach himself from the worries of the world.  The less he worried, the more he was able to love God.  The same is true of us!

But how to we grow in awareness of the presence of God?  Brother Lawrence would suggest that we simply talk with Him.  In fact, he advocated a continual dialogue or conversation with God.  This eventually became so habitual that it was hard for him not to be aware of God.

If you are interested in knowing more about Brother Lawrence and “The Practice of the Presence of God,” I believe there are still copies of his book for sale in the narthex.  They are also readily available online.  I also encourage you to visit my Facebook page for my reflections and the comments of fellow parishioners.

Let us all grow in the practice of the presence of God and courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 29, 2018

My Friends,

Without a doubt, our children number among the greatest of God’s blessings.  They are proof of God’s love for us and an ever-present reminder that we too are called to be childlike at heart ... filled with wonder and joy, growing together in faith, hope, and love.

As Catholics, we believe that the spiritual, physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being of their children is not only a good thing to foster, it is our sacred obligation.  Of course, this is especially true of the parents and others who are entrusted as primary caregivers of children.

Of all the gifts we can give our children, perhaps the most important is the gift of eternal life which is the fruit of a vibrant faith.  Studies confirm that if we really want our children to develop a personal, life-long, passionate relationship with the Lord, it is vital that the parents (especially the Dad) live the faith.  This means praying at home, modeling the faith, and fully participating in Mass each and every weekend.  The home truly is the first church.

Our Faith Formation Team is here to assist you as parents.  We strive to provide the best Catholic Faith Formation opportunities for your children.  Our goal is that your children will grow ever more in love with the Lord and His Church.

Who should register?  As Carmen Cayon, our Faith Formation Director, said at all our Masses this weekend, every child in grades K-12 who is attending a private or public school should register and attend our Faith Formation programs.  For those who are homeschooled, we have special materials to assist you.  Please register.  If your child is attending one of our fine Catholic schools, they only need to register if they will be receiving First Holy Communion or Confirmation this year.

For those who were raised in other countries, religious education may have been limited to sacramental preparation.  In the United States, we stress the need for Faith Formation for all our young people.  Why?  First of all, our culture has never been Catholic.  Arguably, it is no longer even Christian.  Our children need faith formation if they are to learn about the Lord and our wonderful faith in a way which is appropriate for their development.  Otherwise, their understanding of the Lord and His teachings will be severely impaired.

What if you don’t have young children?  We need you!  First of all, spread the word.  Encourage young Catholic families to enroll their children in Religious Education.  Perhaps offer to take or pick up the children if transportation is an issue.  Second, volunteer as a catechist or assistant.  We would like at least two adults in each classroom - the more the better.  This enables us to provide the one on one attention many children need.  If you are bilingual, have experience in working with children with special needs, or enjoy working with teenagers ... we REALLY need you!  Please contact Carmen in the parish office!

The well-being of our children is everyone’s responsibility.  Let’s pray for our children and their families.  May we all courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 22, 2018

My Friends,

First of all, please join me as we welcome Fr. Eva Nnamene “home” to our parish.  Father Eva is a good friend of mine and has been truly a blessing to our parish during his summer vacation.  Father currently on staff at the Catholic Institute of West Africa in Nigeria. Welcome home!

Today Jesus invites us to “come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”  One of the best ways to this is to stop by the chapel and adore the Lord.  The Lord is waiting for you here each and every day between 7am and 9pm.  On Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays (24 hours) we have Solemn Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.  Come and rest a while in the arms of Jesus!  Even better, attend daily Mass!  We are blessed to offer Mass each weekday at 7:30am and 12:15pm.  Come and join us at the Banquet of Life!

Do you need to come to the church to rest in the Lord?  Of course not!  Your “deserted place” could be your prayer corner at home, your backyard, a local park, or even the beach.  It just needs to be a comfortable and safe place, free of distractions, where you feel the presence of the Lord!

When you go to your “deserted place” I encourage you to bring your Bible.  Read a little every day.  A prayer journal is also very helpful so you can record at the end of your prayer time what God shared with you.

When should you pray?  When can you?  Jesus liked to pray in the early morning hours while his friends slept.  Many of us prefer the evening hours.  St Faustina recommended the 3pm Hour of Mercy.  Remember ... pray when you are most alert and least likely to be distracted.

Prayer is communication with God.  It involves opening our heart to God in praise and thanksgiving, contrition and sorrow, intercession and affirmation.  It also involves listening, being attentive to the still, quiet voice of God.  Remember, listen to the Lord.  Don’t just talk at Him!

If you are interested in developing your prayer life, talk to the priest or deacon of your choice.  Also Sr. Theresa Betz offers a wonderful seminar each year to help you develop your spiritual life.  It is not too early to sign up for this year’s seminar.

The important thing to remember is that there is not a right or wrong way to pray.  Just talk to Him!  And may God bless you and your loved ones as we courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 15, 2018

My Friends,

Today’s Gospel is all about discipleship.  Jesus summoned the Twelve and sent them out two by two to proclaim the Good News of God’s love and mercy to all.  He asked them to bring as little as possible, depending upon God’s grace and the generosity of those they met along the way.

Likewise, the Lord is summoning us today, calling us to go forth and to share His peace and joy with all those we meet.  This is called discipleship.  As baptized Christians, we have the right to proclaim the Gospel.  By virtue of our confirmation, it is our duty and obligation.

For many of us, the idea of sharing our faith is pretty intimidating.  Discipleship and evangelization are best left for the “professionals” ... priests, deacons, religious, and trained lay missionaries.  Yet, nothing could be farther from the truth.  It is the responsibility of each and every one of us!

How?  Good question!  Perhaps the most eloquent witness of our faith comes not from what we say, but what we do.  Can anyone tell that we are Christian by the decisions we make?  How do we act?  What do we buy?  How do we drive?  Our respect and care for others?  Our concern for the poor?  People should be able to tell we are Christian by our joy, our passion for life, the smile on our face. 

Ideally,  others should say to us: “I don’t know what you have, but I want it!”  “Tell me why you are always so cheerful!”  “What is the secret for your joy?”

We should also feel very comfortable inviting others to join us for Adoration or Mass.  Offer to pick them up and then go out for a coffee afterward.  Yours may be the invitation they have been waiting for.  If they express an interest in a bible study, prayer group, divorce support group ... etc., offer to come with them!  What is the worst thing that can happen?  That they say “no”?  I’m sure that they will appreciate your thoughtful offer to help.

One of the goals of Bishop Parkes in his new pastoral plan is precisely this: for each of us to become “missionary disciples who are inspired to invite and accompany others.”  This is also our goal as a parish: to be intentional disciples - sharing the Good News of Christ through word and deed.

I encourage you to reflect on how your words and deeds reflect your faith.  Adjust as necessary.  And also, this week, invite a friend to join you at Church.

May we courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 8, 2018

My Friends,

Each year, at our annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinner, the St. Paul Award is given to a worthy parishioner who exemplifies the qualities of our beloved patron St. Paul.  This year, after widespread consultation, was awarded to Zack Marroquin, chair of our Society of St. Vincent de Paul.  Zack and his team of dedicated volunteers work tirelessly to care for those in need who live within our parish boundaries.  The food and money which is collected for the poor throughout the year are distributed by the members of the Society to those who are struggling to feed their families or make ends meet.  Their goal is never to provide a handout.  Instead,  they provide a hand up to break the cycle of poverty and to allow the people to again achieve independent living.  Congratulations Zack! 

Speaking of caring for those in need, this week Deacon Frank and I and a group of eighteen faithful parishioners will be traveling to our sister parish in Montijo, Panamá for a week-long mission.  We are bringing two doctors, two nurses, and other healthcare providers as well as an energetic team of teens, young adults, and adults who are still young at heart!  In the course of four days, we will be serving seven different communities providing health services and education, readers, faith formation, prayer services, and lots of fun!  We will also help the local communities beautify their local chapel.  We will also have a day of retreat and will participate in the local community’s celebration of Our Lady of Carmel.  It should be a very busy but rewarding week!  Please keep us in prayer!

Why go to Panamá?  First of all, it is what Christ has called us to do!  He charged us to go forth and to share His Gospel with the world.  As Christians, we are also called to help our brothers and sisters.  But that is only part of the reason.  It is important for our young people to experience how our friends live in other parts of the world.  The mission helps us grow in awareness of our global neighbors.  Our sister parish in Panamá also has a lot to teach us about faith and life.  As sister parishes, we have a lot to learn from each other.

Of course, we also need to help those in need in our own backyard.  Two weeks ago, many of youth attended the “Good Samaritan Project” and spent a week caring for children living with disabilities in our area.  This weekend, our SOS ministry is taking up a collection of food items for those who have been rescued from human trafficking in our city.  Next month our Knights are taking up a collection of school supplies for poor children living in our area.   As I mentioned above, we are also blest with a wonderful Society of St. Vincent de Paul which distributes carloads of food each week to those in need who live in our parish.  If there is one thing you can say about our parish: We care!

We are certainly a generous parish.  We do all we can to share God’s love and mercy with those in need.  Thank you for opening your heart to the cry of those in need!  May we continue to courageously live the Gospel!

 

Thirteenth Sundy in Ordinary Time

July 1, 2018

My Friends,

Please join me in welcoming Fr. George Gyasi to our parish.  Fr. George hails from the Archdiocese of Kumasi in Ghana West Africa.  In addition to his native English, he also speaks Asante, the language of the Akan people, Spanish, Italian, and some French!  He was ordained on July 14, 2004 and earned an advanced degree in Bioethics in Rome.  May God bless Fr. George as he begins his ministry here at St. Paul!

As many of you know, I host book studies on my Facebook page.  Today we are beginning a study of the spiritual classic “The Practice of the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection.  Brother Lawrence was a humble Carmelite monk who spent most of his life working in the kitchen.  His life and writings reveal the secrets of daily, moment-by-moment fellowship with God.  After his death in 1691, the eulogy shared at his funeral, three conversations, sixteen letters, and spiritual maxims found in his room were gathered and published for the edification of the faithful.  Copies of the book are available online (written and audio).  To join me, simply become my “friend” on Facebook.

Please mark your calendars and come to a special Shalom Revival on Saturday, August 18th from 9-1 in our Parish Center.  Jenson Joseph will be leading us in our morning of spiritual growth and enlightenment.  Please come and bring a friend!

Last week I shared Bishop Parkes vision for our diocese: “Courageously living the Gospel”  We have also been revising our parish pastoral plan.  Our goal is to continue 1) to provide opportunities for all of us to grow closer to the Lord through quality liturgies, and days and evenings of reflection for the parish as a whole as well as for each ministry.  We will also continue 2) to develop on our Faith Formation program.  We believe it is essential that each child enjoy a personal relationship with the Lord as well as a comprehensive understanding of the Catholic faith.  We support our Bishop’s intention 3) to foster strong youth and family ministries.  We have plans 4) to enrich our ministry to our seniors.  To better reach our Spanish- speaking parishioners we will 5) initiate First Sunday “Tapas with Jesus” receptions and Fourth Friday’s Spanish Evening Mass and Reception.  Finally, we will work with neighboring parishes 6) to develop a family-friendly weekend ministry in which we can help those in need who live in our city.

God is certainly blessing our parish.  May we continue to courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros

Pastor

 

 

Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist

June 24, 2018

My Friends,

Today, Bishop Parkes would like to share with you his pastoral vision for our diocese.  I introduced it in last week’s bulletin and today, in Mass as well as here in this bulletin, he will explain more. It is his hope that we will be able to better meet the changing needs of our youth, the elderly, and those in need.  I’m looking forward to seeing how it will be implemented in the coming years as we “courageously live the Gospel!”

An important part of living the Gospel is being attentive to the cry of the poor in our midst.  Next weekend, we will have an opportunity to support our Holy Father’s charities through the “Peter’s Pence.”  Through this second collection, our Holy Father receives the funds necessary to support the mission of the Church throughout the world.  Thank you for your generosity!

This week our children explored “The Mystery of the Mass” during our Vacation Bible School.  It was an amazing week full of laughter, games, and excitement as they learned more about the Holy Mass.  Please join me in thanking our wonderful staff and volunteers who made this year’s Vacation Bible School one of the best ever! 

As you read this, several of our ladies are participating in a “Welcome” parish retreat.  This weekend retreat is truly a “Welcome” encounter with Lord.  Not only will it change their lives but also will be a blessing to their families and our entire parish.  If you would like to go on our next retreat, contact Nancy in the parish office!

This coming week, many of our teens will be traveling to Pasco County to participate in the Good Samaritan Project.  They will gather with young people from throughout our diocese for a week of service projects to local charities ... such as homes for children with disabilities, shelters for the homeless, and food banks for the impoverished.  The days (and nights!) are filled with prayer, fellowship, service projects, and tons of fun!  Hopefully, more teens will join us next year!  (Contact Stephen our youth minister at the parish office for more information!)

We are also hosting the PSA Sports Ministry Summer Camp this week.  This is a wonderful opportunity for our youth to get out of the house, learn new skills, and develop lifelong friendships.  If you’d like to attend, call the parish office first thing on Monday!

Last but not least, this week we say farewell to our good friend Fr. Victor Bartolotta as he begins his well-earned retirement.  Please join me on Monday night at 6pm at the Family Center as we thank him for his service to our parish this past year.  He has truly been a blessing to us all!

As always, God is doing powerful things in our parish as we courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros

Pastor

 

 

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time 

June 17, 2018

My Friends,

A little over a week ago I hosted a “Q &A” session for the parish.  The evening began with reports from our Finance Council, Building Committee, Preschool Advisory Council, Faith Formation Team, and Pastoral Council.  The bottom line is that God has been good to our parish.  By every standard, we are truly blessed!

I also shared a little about our Diocesan Pastoral Plan entitled “Courageously Living the Gospel.”  After months of consultation and prayerful discernment, Bishop Parkes has articulated a “sacred purpose,” namely:

We, the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg, are a joyful community of disciples proclaiming the Good News and inviting all people to encounter the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.

In addition, he articulated nine goals:

1. Each deanery (area of the diocese) will launch a Catholic Impact Initiative which addresses one local community issue

2. The Diocese will establish 8-10 new affordable housing facilities

3. Each parish will establish or enhance youth ministry opportunities

4. The Diocese will hire three regional associate directors of youth ministry

5. The Diocese will establish a new Catholic elementary school

6. The Diocese will increase student participation in college campus ministries

7. The Diocese and parishes will create a program for effective evangelization and family ministry strategies, including hospitality and intercultural competency

8. Each parish will equip parishioners as Missionary Disciples

9. Each parish will enhance or establish family ministries to respond to the diverse needs of families.

It is an ambitious pastoral plan but one which truly responds to the changing needs of our diocese.  In particular, there is a renewed emphasis on ministry to our youth, teens, and young adults, support for families, and help for the elderly and others in need of affordable housing.  In the coming weeks, we will hear more about this plan and how we can implement it as a parish family.  In the meantime, please let us keep this important initiative in your prayers: “May we all courageously live the Gospel.”

While you are on your knees, please join me in praying for our children and volunteers this week during our Vacation Bible School.  May it be a week filled with joy and much growth in the Lord!  Also, please come this Thursday, June 21st at 7pm in the Parish Center, for a special presentation on our parish Divine Mercy Pilgrimage.  Afterward, we will be presenting a special movie on Divine Mercy by a military chaplain who befriended us in Lithuania.  Please come and bring a friend!  (There will be free refreshments!)

Last, but not least, please join me in prayer for the women who will be on retreat next weekend.  May they feel the “Welcome” embrace of our God and be open to all the graces and blessings He wants to shower upon them!

May we courageously live the Gospel!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

PS  Be sure to mark your calendars for Fr. Victor’s retirement party at 6:30pm on Monday the 25th!  Let’s give him a send-off he will never forget!

 

Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

June 10, 2018

My Friends,

Recently I took our parish staff to see the documentary “Pope Francis: A Man of His Word.”  It is an excellent movie which I highly recommend. The issues presented in the film span a variety of topics ... the preferential option for the poor, the innate dignity of the human person, dignity of women, freedom of religion, basic human rights, ecumenism, care for the environment and issues such as abuse of children by clergy, treatment of migrants and human trafficking women.  For many of us, the teachings presented by Pope Francis seem new and perhaps a bit radical.  The fact is, they are well rooted in what may very well be the biggest secret of our time ... the rich social justice doctrine of the Catholic Church.

While our Holy Father’s articulation of these issues is distinctly his own, the doctrines he presents are evident in the teachings of his predecessors for well over 125 years ... Pope Benedict, St. John Paul II, Blessed Paul VI, St. John XXIII ... all the way back to Pope Leo XIII and his 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum.  But to be honest, our church’s social justice teaching is rooted in Christ himself and even as far back as Genesis.  Each and every person is created in the image and likeness of God.  As such, we have an innate and inalienable dignity with basic human rights, most fundamental of all are the right to life and the freedom of religion.

Of course, people of good will can and often do disagree on how our basic rights and liberties are expressed and balanced for the common good of all people.  The ability to enter into civil and considered discussion is an essential tool if we are to truly identify and address the complex concerns and challenges of our age.  This is only possible if we are humble enough to recognize that our knowledge and experience is finite and that only by working with others with different points of view, can we begin to address the complexity of issues confronting us.  Above all, as Christians, we must never lose sight of the fact that we are all children of God and we are called to love our neighbor as God loves us.

One of the things I love most about our wonderful parish is that while we come from very different perspectives, we are united in our faith and in our love and concern for those in need.  For me, St. Paul is a sign of great hope!

On another note, on Thursday, June 21st at 7pm in the Parish Center, I’m hosting a free movie night.  The evening will begin with a brief presentation on our Divine Mercy pilgrimage to Lithuania and Poland.  Afterwards, we will be presenting a special movie on Divine Mercy by a military chaplain who befriended us in Lithuania.  Please come and bring a friend!  (There will be free refreshments!)

Last, but not least, please join me in prayer for the men who are on retreat this weekend and the women who will go on retreat later this month.  May they feel the “WELCOME” embrace of our God and be open to all the graces and blessings He wants to shower upon them!

Growing together in Christ!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

June 3, 2018

My Friends,

This Saturday we were blessed to welcome Bishop Mar Jacob Angadiath and Bishop Mar Joy Alappat of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church to our parish as they ordained one of our own to the priesthood of Jesus Christ: Father Rajeev Philip Vailiyaveettil.  We join his parents, George and Vimala, and sisters Rhea and Rayna, in offering a prayer of thanksgiving to God for the gift of Fr. Rajeev and are certain that Father will certainly be a blessing to all those he serves.

As American Catholics, we often do not realize that the Catholic Church is actually a communion of 23 autonomous or “sui iuris” churches.  We belong to the largest one ... the Latin Rite.  But there are an additional 22 Eastern Rite churches - all in union with the Holy See. Many of these churches boast apostolic roots and developed over time with distinct theological, liturgical, spiritual, and ecclesiological traditions.  Within the territory of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, we are blessed with two Ukrainian Catholic Churches, two Byzantine Catholic Churches, two Syro-Malabar Catholic Churches, and a Maronite Catholic Church.  All have their own Bishop or Eparch who resides in the United States.

When Rajeev’s family came to Tampa, there were no local Syro-Malabar rite churches.  As the number of Syro-Malabar Rite Catholics increased, two missions were eventually formed.  Rajeev was then introduced to his ancestral Church and came to love it as his own.  When he received his call to serve the Lord as priest, it was logical for him to serve within the St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago.  This diocese was formed by St. John Paul II in 2001.  To my understanding, Fr. Rajeev is the second priest to be ordained to serve in the Diocese of St. Thomas!

Fr. Rajeev has graciously offered to preside at our 5:30pm Mass this weekend (Sunday).  Please come and join us for this incredibly blessed occasion.  After the Mass, Father will lead us in a Eucharistic Procession on our beautiful Peace Path.  We will conclude with a reception for Father.  You will have the chance to receive a special priestly blessing from the new Ordinand.  Come and bring a friend!  (And yes, you can receive Holy Communion twice in one day if you fully participate in both liturgies!)

On another note, you are invited to join me for a special “Q&A” at 7pm on Thursday, June 7.  I’ll share a bit about what is happening in the parish and then try my best to answer your questions and concerns on any matter of our Catholic faith or parish life.  Please come!  Refreshments will be provided.

Finally, please prayerfully consider if God is calling you to join us for our first “WELCOME” or Christ Renews His Parish v2 retreat this month.  More information is found in this bulletin.  It will surely change your life and be a blessing to your family!

Last, but not least, Hurricane Season began on Friday.  While it is highly unlikely that we will have a storm any time soon, we know that this is the time to trim trees, purchase extra water, canned goods, and batteries, and just generally prepare.  Be sure to watch out for new neighbors who may not have experienced a hurricane before or those with special needs ... the elderly, physically challenged, and single parents.  Thanks! 

May we grow ever more deeply in love with the Eucharistic Lord!

 

The Most Holy Trinity

May 27, 2018

My Friends,

Today on Trinity Sunday, we thank God for the gift of our wonderful faith and all the blessings He showers upon us.  Among our greatest blessings are our families.  This Wednesday at 7pm, many of our young parishioners will say “Yes” to the gift of the Holy Spirit!  Please join Bishop Parkes as he confirms 135 of our brothers and sisters!  Your presence would be a huge sign of your loving and prayerful support for our young people as they become fully initiated into our wonderful faith!

This Memorial Day weekend we also pray in a special way for the souls of all those who died in service to our country.  May we always remember the sacrifice they made so that we may live in freedom in this beautiful country!

I’m delighted to share that we have met our goal for the Annual Pastoral Appeal (APA).  We presently have over $420,000 in pledges from over 800 families.  Praise God!  This money will help support hundreds of ministries which serve hundreds of thousands of people throughout our five-county diocese ... from providing quality education in our parishes, schools, and seminary ... to providing continuing education and formation for our priests and religious.  From providing food and housing to the poor, elderly, and others in need ... to providing vital counseling services and legal assistance.  Monies raised through APA help almost every aspect of parish life.  Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!

If you have not yet pledged ... please do so!  Any additional funds are deposited directly into our savings account.  If you would like you can also help us with certain special apostolic works.  For example, we would like to send as many of our young people to see our Holy Father at World Youth Day.  Unfortunately, the cost is $2,600.  I’ve pledged that the youth only need to pay $500 and we’d raise funds for the remainder.  Perhaps you can help!  Another special project we would like to save for is an Education Center.  We have outgrown our facilities and in the current age, must consider a more secure building.  Perhaps you can help!  I’d also like to do more to help the poor living on the streets in Tampa.  Again, perhaps you can help!  Just let me know.

Finally, please prayerfully consider if God is calling you to join us for our first “Welcome” or Christ Renews His Parish v2 retreat this June.  More information is found in this bulletin.  It will surely change your life and be a blessing to your family!

May God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit be with you always!

Fr. Bill Swengros,Pastor

PS After much prayer, I, Fr. Bob and Fr. Victor would like to continue offering confessions from 11:30am to 12 noon, Monday through Friday as well as on Saturdays at 10am and 4pm.  Also, we would like to continue to offer Eucharistic Adoration Wednesday and Thursday 8am-9pm and Friday 8am through Saturday 8am.  We have witnessed so many graces and blessings through the Sacrament of Reconciliation as well as Eucharistic Adoration.  Please be sure to spread the good news and make it a regular practice to come.  We are especially concerned that there are at least two people in church for each hour of Eucharistic Adoration.  Please be sure to sign up for an hour on the poster in the narthex or in our website www.stpaulchurch.com.  Thank you and may God bless you!

 

Pentecost Sunday 

May 20, 2018

My Friends,

This Pentecost weekend we celebrate the birthday of the Church, and in a special way we lift up all our young people who will be confirmed by Bishop Parkes next Wednesday, May 30 at 7pm.  Please be sure to mark your calendars and come.  It would be wonderful to see a packed church in support of our confirmandi and our Bishop!

This Memorial Day weekend we also pray for the souls of all those who died in service to our country.  May we always remember the sacrifice they made so that we may live in freedom in this beautiful country!

This week we also received the results of the ACRE (Assessment of Children/Youth Religious Education) tool.  We administer this instrument every year to our 5th, 8th, and 11th graders in order to ascertain how to better share our Catholic faith with them.  The first part measures their faith knowledge while the second part helps to ascertain how they live the faith.

Our 5th graders continue to excel in every domain.  In fact, in the area of moral formation, they surpassed the national average for children enrolled in Catholic schools!  In regard to their lived experience, they seem to have a healthy relationship with God however only a third read the Bible and 37% have ever thought of a religious vocation.  Only 40% talk about God with their friends.  Hopefully, their parents and grandparents will continue to encourage them in these areas.

Our 8th graders have significantly improved from last year although we still are behind the national averages in almost every area.  That being said, they do report a healthy relationship with God.  Only 20% read the Bible, 29% have thought of a religious vocation, and 31% think it is okay for a couple to cohabit prior to marriage.  Only 50% report that they pray together as a family.  Clearly, we must strive harder to share our faith with our children!

The 11th grade is harder to assess since most do not regularly attend our Life Nights.  That being said, the instrument confirms that we still have much to do if our young people are to develop a mature relationship with Christ and His Church.

My conclusion?  We have a great Faith Formation team and wonderful catechists.  Our parents are more involved than ever before.  Despite the effects of an increasingly secular culture, our young people are developing a personal and meaningful relationship with the Lord and His Church.  As our Pastoral Council and staff revisit our pastoral plan, the faith formation of our young people continues to be one of our highest priorities.  Please keep us and our families in prayer!

Last but not least, I’d like to confirm that Fr. Victor Bartolotta has been granted retirement status by his bishop effective July 1.  We will sorely miss him but wish him well as he begins this new chapter of life’s journey!  We will hold a retirement party for Fr. Vic on Monday, June 25th at 7pm.  Please mark your calendars and bring a friend!

I’m pleased to announce that Bishop Parkes has appointed Fr. George Gyasi of the Diocese of Kumasi, Ghana as our parochial vicar.  Fr. George studied Bioethics in Rome and has taught in the seminary.  He speaks English, Spanish, Italian, and his native Asante language.  He will begin his ministry with us on July 1.  Please keep him in your prayers!

May the Holy Spirit of Pentecost fill you all with His peace and joy! 

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

Sixth Sunday of Easter

May 6, 2018

My Friends,

This past few weeks has been an amazing experience of God’s mercy as our small band of 36 pilgrims traveled to Lithuania and Poland to walk in the footsteps of St. Faustina, St. John Paul II, St. Maximilian Kolbe, and Blessed Jerzy Popielusko.  It was a special blessing to pray for your intentions before the famous icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa and the Hill of Crosses.  The need for God’s mercy was never more evident than in the concentration camp in Auschwitz.  It was a pilgrimage we will never forget! 

That being said, I heartily agree with Dorothy: “There is no place like home.”  It is so good to be home with my parish family at St. Paul!  In a special way, I thank Fr. Bob, Fr. Victor, our deacons, religious, and parish and preschool staff for holding down the fort in my absence.  May God bless you all!

This weekend, over 150 children will be receiving their First Holy Communion.  We are so proud of them and so grateful for all their parents and catechists have done to make this day possible.  May God bless you all!  It is always a special joy to see our children so excited to receive the Eucharistic Lord for the first time.  We should follow their example and always receive the Blessed Sacrament as if it was our First Holy Communion as if it was our last Holy Communion as if it was our only Holy Communion!

Today (Sunday), Fr. Bob and a large number of our parishioners will travel to the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle in St. Petersburg to complete their total consecration to Jesus through Mary according to the spirituality of St. Louis de Montfort.  It is certain to be a special celebration with Bishop Parkes and with thousands of people throughout our diocese.  If you are unable to attend, I encourage you to make a small act of devotion to our Blessed Mother before one of our many Marian images on our campus or at home.  Next weekend, we will formally crown her at the beginning of our Masses.

Speaking of Marian devotions, why not take a moment and go on a treasure hunt for our Blessed Mother?  Where on our campus is the image of Our Lady of the Angels, Our Lady of Guadalupe (2), Our Lady of Grace, Our Lady Queen of the Apostles, of Our Lady of Peñafrancia (2), Our Lady of Good Health, the Immaculate Conception, Mary with her mother St. Anne?  Which images did I leave out?  May you always find Mary in your heart!

Growing Together in Christ,

Fr. Bill Swengros

Pastor

 

 

 

Fifth Sunday of Easter

April 29, 2018

My Friends,

I pray that you like our new bronze statue of our Blessed Mother.  I first saw it a few years ago in the Demetz Art Studio in Val Gardenia, Italy and fell in love with it.  The image of Mother and Child is a beautiful expression of our parish family’s love for the Holy Child, Santo Niño, and the Blessed Mother.  I love the way He is represented as the Word of God with a scroll in one hand.  He extends the other hand to us in blessing while proclaiming the truth that there is one God, in three Persons, and that He is fully human and fully divine.  His heartwarming smile and cheerful eyes assure us of his faithful and merciful love!  Our Blessed Mother extends him to us ... encouraging us to sweep him up in our arms and to enthrone him in our embrace.

St. Faustina frequently saw Jesus as a child.  At one point she writes: I saw Our Lady with the Infant Jesus ... . The most holy Mother said to me, 'Take my Dearest Treasure,' and she handed me the Infant Jesus. When I took the Infant Jesus in my arms, the Mother of God and Saint Joseph disappeared. I was left alone with the Infant Jesus.” (Dairy, 608).  Likewise, we are invited to take our Lady’s “Dearest Treasure” into arms and to play with him, sing to him, cuddle with him, and to hold him tight!

The statue is entitled “Regina Degli Apostoli,” Our Lady Queen of the Apostles and was paid for by the donations you submit with our Mother’s Day novenas. Thank you for your generosity!

The statue of the Immaculate Conception is being relocated as an Eagle Scout project to the Peace Path so that our Lady can welcome those who are entering our property through the Stall Road entrance and intercede for all those traveling on Dale Mabry Highway.  It will be lit at night as a beacon of hope for all to see!

Last week I celebrated Mass with the students at Bishop McLaughlin High School.  The principal, Camille Jowanna, introduced the Mass with a summary of the Holy Father’s exhortation “Gaudete et Exsultate.”  She reminded the students that we are all called to holiness of life.  How?  “Do life’s ordinary things in an extraordinary way.”  God gives us the grace we need through prayer, meditation, the Mass, Confession, Eucharistic Adoration, charitable acts, and community outreach.  But we must also work to avoid temptation, especially the “venom of hatred, desolation, and vice.”  Otherwise we will succumb to failure or mediocrity.  Ms Jowanna concluded by challenging the students: “What can you do today to be holy?”

Good question.  Know that you and your loved ones are in my prayers as we grow together in Christ!

In His Peace,

Fr. Bill Swengros

Pastor

 

 

 

Fourth Sunday of Easter

April 22, 2018

My friends,

Last month, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, wrote us a beautiful exhortation “Guadete et Exsultate”, “Rejoice and Be Glad”, on the universal call to holiness. 

As the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council reminded us, all of us are called to be holy (Eph 1:4; Lg, 11).  Unfortunately, many of us think of holiness as beyond our grasp ... a quality which is limited to only a very select few.  We equate holiness with perfection or being sinless.  Instead, holiness is a sharing in the life and love of God. 

Pope Francis reminds us that holiness is found in the love of a parent for a child, the patience of those who care for the sick and elderly, those who struggle to make ends meet, those who speak for those who have no voice ... Holiness comes in various forms ... extraordinary as well as ordinary.  All it requires is an openness to God and a willingness to follow His will.

Our parish is blessed with so many holy men, women, and children.  You can see them as they share our faith with our children, as they pray for us on bended knee in adoration before the Eucharistic Lord, and as they open their hearts and hands to help those in need.  I can tell you that I am so inspired by all the saints in our parish!

That being said, we can all grow in holiness.  How?  First of all, pray for the grace to be holy.  Ask the Lord to help you to discern what is hindering your relationship with Him and to give you the strength to put those things aside.  Also ask Him to show you what you can do to be more faithful to His will.  Remember, holiness is a process not a destination so be patient with yourself.

This week I am on a Divine Mercy Pilgrimage with a group of 36 parishioners.  As we visit those places associated with St. Faustina, St. John Paul II, St Maximillian Kolbe, and Blessed Jerzy Popielusko, know you are in our prayers. 

May the peace and joy of our Merciful Lord be with you and our entire parish family as we grow together in holiness!

In His Peace,

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

Third Sunday of Easter

April 15, 2018

 

My friends,

At a recent meeting with our Bishop, he shared with me all the wonderful things he has heard about our parish from non-parishioners.  Evidently, they visited our parish and were so impressed, they had the share their joy with Bishop Parkes.  They commented how warm and inviting our community is, the number and diversity of our vibrant ministries, our care and generous concern for those in need, and how beautifully we celebrate the Sacred Liturgies. 

Thankfully, this person’s experience is not the exception.  Each week I receive emails, letters, and cards from people who have visited us.  One woman recently wrote: “I can’t say thank you enough for all I have received spiritually and mentally from your whole Church while visiting my mother.  The people, your Church, the Masses, the singing, the shrines outside, the entire atmosphere is wonderful.  You give the joy of Jesus.”  I truly feel blest to be a part of this parish family.  I hope you do too!

What is our secret?  It is YOUR openness to the Holy Spirit, YOUR love for the Lord, and the way YOU share His love and mercy with others.  Thank YOU for your “yes” to the Lord!

Can we do better?  Certainly!  The strategic plan for our parish is now 5 years old and the Pastoral Council is discerning how God is calling us to grow.  For example, almost 4,000 people attend Mass each weekend and more than 8,000 attended Mass on Easter Sunday, yet almost 20,000 people are registered in our parish.  How can we touch those members of our community that rarely attend Mass?  There are almost 3,700 children registered in our parish yet less than 800 are involved in our Faith Formation program.  How can we ensure that no child is left behind?  While we are blest with almost a thousand volunteers, they are still a small percentage of the total community.  How can we invite more to participate in ministry?  In our second reading, the early church community was known for its care for those in need.  To date, less than 700 families have chosen to donate to the Annual Pastoral Appeal (APA).  How can we encourage everyone to participate in supporting the charitable works of our diocese?

I don’t have the answers.  That is one of the reasons why I’m depending on the wisdom of the Pastoral Council and our talented staff.  But I can tell you that an important part of the solution is YOU!  1) Continue to share your faith with others by the way you live your lives.  People see your care and concern, your joy and peace ... and they are touched!  2) Invite others to join you for Mass and other Church functions.  The worst they can say is “no.”  But who knows?  Yours could be the invitation they have been waiting for!  3) Pray.  Let us pray for our parish community.  That we may continue to model the example of the early Christians by our devotion to the Sacred Scripture, Holy Eucharist, community life, and extending God’s mercy to those in need.  May we live our faith!

Growing together in Christ,

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

Divine Mercy Sunday

April 8, 2018

Alleluia!  He is risen!

My friends,

Today is the day of Mercy!  Our Lord told Saint Faustina: “My daughter, tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day are open all the divine floodgates through which graces flow. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. Everything that exists has come forth from the very depths of My most tender mercy. Every soul in its relation to Me will contemplate my love and mercy throughout eternity. The Feast of Mercy emerged from My very depths of tenderness. It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy” (Diary, 699).

Today is the day of Mercy!  Today we are called to turn to the Lord, to bask in the rays of his mercy, to be immersed in his merciful love!  One of the surest means of opening ourselves to his mercy is through the praying of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy before the Eucharistic Lord.  In today’s bulletin, we’ve included how to pray the chaplet of Divine Mercy, given by the Lord to St. Faustina.  I’m sure you will find it to be an incredibly powerful prayer.  Our Lord promised: “Whoever will recite it will receive great mercy at the hour of death.  Priests will recommend it to sinners as their last hope of salvation.  Even if there were a sinner most hardened, if he were to recite this chaplet only once, he would receive grace from my infinite mercy.  I desire that the whole world know my infinite mercy.  I desire to grant unimaginable graces to those souls who trust in my mercy” (Diary, 687).

Today is the day of Mercy!  Mercy, like love, is empty if it is not shared.  Saint Faustina recommends at least one act of mercy a day.  It could be through a “merciful word, by forgiving and by comforting; secondly, if you can offer no word, then pray – that too is mercy; and thirdly, deeds of mercy” (Diary, 1158).  The seven corporal acts of mercy are: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, and bury the dead.  The seven spiritual acts of mercy are: to admonish the sinner, instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, comfort the sorrowful, bear wrongs patiently, forgive all injuries, and pray for the living and the dead.  Let us do an act of mercy today!

Today is the day of Mercy!  May our merciful God shower his blessings upon you and your loved ones!  And may we grow together in Christ!

Fr. Bill Swengros,Pastor

 

Easter Sunday of the Lord's Resurrection

April 1, 2018

Alleluia!!  He is Risen!!  Alleluia!!

Happy Easter!

Welcome! Whether you are a first time guest or a parishioner for many years, we warmly welcome you to this celebration of Easter joy and we thank you for choosing St. Paul Catholic Church as your spiritual home.  Your presence is an eloquent sign of your love for the Lord, gratitude for the many blessings received, and your desire to grow ever deeper in faith.  May God bless you!

This past year has been very troubling for many of us.  Many feel angry, frustrated, disillusioned, and discouraged by what is happening in the world, our country, and even in our own homes.  Easter reminds us that Jesus Christ was victorious over sin and death.  He is the antidote to prejudice and violence.  He is the Light of the World and Hope of the Nations.  When all seems lost and hopeless, Jesus reminds us that goodness and truth will triumph.  Our task is simply to have faith, to trust in Him and to be merciful to others as He is merciful.

Easier said than done, right?  That is why we have Church.  Church is not an institution.  It is a family of people like you and me ... imperfect, broken, sinners ... one and all.   Although we are all fallen, we are also willing to pick ourselves up and to try our best to follow the Lord and to help one another, especially those most forsaken.  Church is a family where all are welcome, and I mean ALL.  It is a place where people care for the poorest, most vulnerable, most oppressed, most broken.  In our parish, we are blessed with over 80 ministries which strive to make the difference in the world through worship, faith development and sharing, community building, and reaching out to help those most in need.  I encourage you to get involved and if we are missing a ministry you are passionate about, please help us form one!  We care!

Next weekend is Divine Mercy Sunday when our Lord promised to St. Faustina that the floodgates of His mercy would be opened to all who seek it.  He asks only that we ask for His mercy, be merciful to others, and completely trust in His mercy.  This week, we will offer the Novena at 3pm, the hour of mercy, in our beautiful Santo Niño Shrine.  The Novena will culminate next Sunday, Divine Mercy Sunday, with confessions at 2pm in the Family Center and Mass at 3pm followed by the chaplet before the Eucharistic Lord.  Please be sure to come.  For more information, please visit www.stpaulchurch.com or download our parish app.

I believe, with all my heart, that this Easter, our Lord is inviting you to grow in faith.  If you aren’t already doing so, pray every day, fully participate in Mass at least every weekend, and faithfully and regularly meditate on God’s Word.  Become involved in our parish.  If there is anything we can do to help you, please let me know.

On behalf of Fr. Bob, Fr. Victor, our deacons and religious, the entire staff of our parish and preschool, and our faithful volunteers, I would like to wish you and your loved ones a most Blessed Easter and a Joyous Easter Season.  May God bless you!

Growing together as disciples of Christ!

Fr. Bill Swengros

Pastor

 

 

Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion

March 25, 2018

My Dear Friends,

Welcome!  Whether you are one of the founding families who faithfully prayed this parish into existence 51 years ago, or if you are here for the first time today, welcome!  Today we celebrate Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion and begin our annual pilgrimage through Holy Week.

Our Liturgy begins with triumphant songs of praise as we wave our palm branches high. We joyfully welcome Jesus our Messiah into the Jerusalem of our hearts.  Yet, mere minutes later we hear ourselves joining the crowd with fist raised high crying out “Crucify him!”  “Crucify him!”  Standing vigil as the One who loves us so much, He became one with us in all things but sin. He surrendered His life for us on the altar of the cross to atone for our sins so that we might be liberated from death to live eternally with Him in heaven.  O how great is our merciful Lord!

I invite you to join me this Holy Week on a journey of faith sure to change your life.

Monday of Holy Week: Come to the Seder Supper at 6:30pm in the Family Center.  You can never fully appreciate the miracle of the Mass unless you understand the wonder of its roots: the Jewish Passover Service.  Please call the parish office for reservations.

Tuesday of Holy Week: All the priests of our diocese will gather with Bishop Parkes in the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle in St. Petersburg for the Chrism Mass at 11:30am.  During this Mass, the Bishop will bless all the oils used in our Sacred Liturgies and will invite the priests to renew their commitment to serve God and you, His people.  Please come!

Wednesday of Holy Week: You are invited to journey with the Lord and our Amor de Jesus Grupo de Oración on the Via Crucis to Golgotha beginning at 7pm in our beautiful Santo Niño Shrine.  It is a very moving drama which you will never forget!

Holy Thursday: The Sacred Triduum begins with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at 7pm.  Tonight we remember the institution of the Eucharist and the Priesthood and the Lord’s commandment for us to serve one another.  Afterwards there will be Eucharistic Adoration until midnight in our “Garden of Repose.”  Come and adore the Lord!  (For more details about today, please see this bulletin.)

Good Friday: Today we remember the suffering and death of Christ on this day of fasting and abstinence.  Stations of the Cross are at noon with our teens and at 9pm on the Peace Path (bring a candle!).  The Passion of the Lord is celebrated at 3, 5 (Spanish), 7 (choir), 7:30 (Portuguese).

Holy Saturday: Today we wait at the tomb of Christ until the Great Easter Vigil at 8pm.  This Mass is the central liturgy of our tradition as welcome the Risen Lord into our midst!  Note: there will NOT be 5:30pm or 7:30pm Vigil Mass.  (For more details on this day, please see this bulletin.)

Easter Sunday: Come join us as we celebrate the Risen Lord.  Masses are at 6am (NEW), 7:30am, 9am (Church and Family Center), 10:45am (Church and Family Center), 12:30pm (English in Church and Portuguese in Family Center), 2pm (Spanish) and 5:30pm!  Come and bring your friends!  Additional parking is available south of PDQ at the Medical Center.

This week is a wonderful opportunity to grow in God’s grace.  May the Lord bless you and your loved ones!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

Download the Diocese of St. Petersburg Mutually-Shared Vision E-Book HERE

Congratulations to our 98 Confirmandi who received an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in May 2019. 

Online Giving

Online Giving

Secure and Convenient Donate now!