Monday, December 24, 2018

An Old Message in Modern Times

NORTH JAVA — Madelyn King delivers her lines during Saturday morning’s dress rehearsal for Holy Family Parish’s nativity play.
As with multiple other churches throughout the area, it’s a Christmas tradition and Madelyn, 11, is among 15 young people participating. The message is a bit heavy at first, with Madelyn playing a daughter talking with her mother about modern holiday expectations and unrealistic goals
Then it segues into the familiar story of Mary and Joseph, and Jesus Christ’s arrival in a Bethlehem manger.
“We’ve been practicing for a couple weeks,” Madelyn said. “It’s fun.”
The church’s Nativity play was written by its religious education students, who range from 4 to 16 years old. It was set to be performed Sunday, as part of the run-up to the Christmas holiday.
Titled “A Christmas Reminder,” it offered a younger person’s perspective in some ways — frazzled parents and frantic smartphone calls, amid the holiday rush, while forgetting the holiday’s religious reality and simple truth.
The young people had been writing and rehearsing the play for several weeks, and it ended with “Silent Night” and “Joy to the World.”
“I think they’re unique kids,” said Molly Haungs, who helps teach religious education at the parish. “They wanted to tell the Nativity story, but they wanted to tell in a way other people would be able to relate to, and would be more meaningful. I think that sometimes traditions allow things to get lost, and you can put a different twist on it, and then it becomes something that’s more heartfelt ... That’s what I think they were looking for.”
Likewise most of the churches in the region as they celebrate Christmas.
Rev. Matt Kawiak, the church’s pastor, said he thanked the kids, their parents and teachers for their sacrifices and work throughout the process, including getting up early on a Saturday morning for the dress rehearsal.
And the play indeed has meaning for the wider congregation and community, he said.
“The adults who are going to witness this tomorrow, I know they’re coming, even though they’re busy with holiday shopping, Christmas cookies and parties,” Kawiak said. “I know they’re coming with a lot of hurt and pain from their daily lives, and the purpose of the Nativity scene is to bring hope to people’s lives. It isn’t about the parties and buying the gifts. It’s about needing Jesus in our lives.
That can include anybody from frazzled parents, to older people living alone, to people in broken relationships, or who lost loved ones over the past year.
Kawiak said the church is inviting anybody, of any faith or background, to attend the church’s Christmas Mass at 4:30 p.m. today. Holy Family Parish is part of the Polish National Catholic Church.
“The bottom line is the nativity is a sign there is a God who cares about us and loves us, despite all the brokenness and hurt in our lives,” Kawiak said.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Do You Need A Healing?


It has been a hard week for many patients. I have had a mother cry in my office whose daughter died last year of a sudden heart attack. Another mom’s son died a year ago just before thanksgiving of a drug overdose. A wonderful Italian woman just returned from visiting  her best friend of 40 years who is dying in her own home. 

Then on Wednesday, I was called to help teachers, aids and staff in a very special school where a third grader died unexpectedly.  Finally, I had a woman share that she had to go back to the hospital a second time this past month. While her doctor was explaining that further treatment would require surgery to correct an electrical problem, someone popped their head through the curtain. The doctor asked if it was OK to let this person into the room. She was surprised because it turned out to be her brother-in-law who is being treated for cancer. He came smiling through the curtain, walked around her bed, pulled up a chair and took by her hand and squeezed it and looked at the doctor and said; “What are you doing for my girl.” Her reaction, why she never felt so loved and appreciated in her life. Imagine this that. This man is battling cancer and yet he found the time to come and visit her.

This coming Sunday, The third Sunday of Advent I will lead an Healing Service. This is what I will say. "This morning you have come to receive a powerful sacrament, the Anointing of the Sick. God is here ready to perform a miracle. Now close your eyes and imagine you are the patient in that hospital bed. Imagine, it is God the Father, the Great Physician, who is talking to you about what he wants to do to help you feel better and take away your pain. Then imagine, it's Jesus who pops his head through that curtain, walks around your bed, pulls up a chair and takes you by the hand and squeezes it and looks up at his Father and says, “now tell me dad, what are you going to do to make my boy, my girl better.” In your heart, what would you tell God that needs to be healed?

Is it a cancer, an addiction, a broken-heart, a past hurt, a pain in your neck, back or knee, or all over. Do you have a bad ticker, or a soul that feels sad and empty. 

Now before you walk up the aisle to have your forehead and hands anointed, take a moment to think what needs to be healed in your life. When you show me your hands, you might say: 'Jesus I want to be healed of my….' and fill in the words or phrase that best expresses what’s hurting you most at this stage of your life. 

And I will say the healing prayer and ask the Holy Spirit to come down upon you to give you His strength, His courage and His healing."

Lord, I pray for all my online Sonshine Friends who are hurting in any physical, emotional or spiritual way that You come beside them now and take their hand and heal them with Your love and peace.


Monday, November 05, 2018

Priest's landscapes Support Comfort Care Hospice

There are many ways to support a good cause. Two years ago, Charlotte Comfort Home was an idea to provide compassion and care to the dying in Wyoming County. Tim Kibler, the hospice director, shared that this project would be a “community effort by the community.” This project has grown from a grass roots effort of local people who plan campaigns that have included wine and spirit nights, theatre by a professional ballet, Arcade and Attica railroad mystery dinner theatre and now the invitation to buy greeting cards for the holidays to provide encouragement and celebration for those special occasions. However, the artist for these cards comes from a local pastor who enjoys landscape photography that parallels his ministry as a storyteller.

Fr. Matt currently serves as “shepherd” (pastor) at Holy Family Catholic Parish in North Java, New York. Since the 90’s he started his journey as a photo journalist taking pictures for science projects. In 2002, he was invited into the home of Mr. OJ Roth, a 45 year photo journalist with Eastman Kodak. “It’s all about the light” OJ would teach as Fr. Matt worked as an apprentice for three years learning the art of storytelling through the lens. While tourist are taking selfies and shooting their travel adventures on their cell phones. “I research each location and work up a sweat moving around the image and capturing every possible angle to tell the story. I am often surprised how one angle may tell a bigger story than another angle. The time of day, the light, the weather, the shadow and pattern can set the image apart from one that is merely a snapshot into stunning moment that makes one stand in awe of God’s wonderful creation.” 


Father Matt served as chaplain at Strong Memorial Hospital from 1992 to 2000. He was a trauma specialist in New York City on 9/11 and acutely aware of how hurting people need support in times of crisis. Charlotte Home will be open to everyone to help provide respite and comfort to families and their loved ones. Currently, the facility will be located in the former St. Nicholas rectory located in North Java. At this time, demolition has been completed and volunteers from the county are being invited to donate their talents. Skilled laborers of all kinds are needed like carpenters, electricians and heating and cooling specialists to redesign the building. Local dealers are being asked to donate materials needed to restore the building into a two-bedroom facility for patients and family. The estimated cost would be over $250,000 but people are being asked to donate their skills and materials to keep the costs under $100,000. The volunteer committee hopes  that patients will be served starting in the Spring fo 2019. Families will not be charged for using this facility.
Fr. Matt enjoys storytelling and focuses his pastoral ministry on making the gospel stories of Jesus relevant and meaningful to his faith community. Landscape photography can tell a story that conveys a mood of comfort and celebration. With the help of his friends at the Norberg Art Gallery in East Aurora where his landscapes are on display. Amanda, the gallery owner, and Marie, a Holy Family parishioner, helped select ten images that will be on sale to support Charlotte Comfort Home. 
The images selected feature: a sunrise over Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park Montana, sunburst over the Athabasca Icefield in Alberta, Canada, Alleghany State Park, Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, Winterthur in Wilmington, Delaware, bluebells in Bethany, bleeding hearts from Nashua, dogwoods in Irondequoit, and reflections from the arboretum in Lexington, Kentucky.
The greeting cards are 5 ½ x 4 ¼ and blank inside so that a personal message may be written. Packets will include five images based on the themes of celebration and encouragement. It is my hope that people will enjoy these images and use them as gifts for their family and friends and know that they are supporting an important ministry of compassion to the people in Wyoming County.
To make a purchase contact Fr. Matt via email address: or call his office at 585-586-8650.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Let Go of the Remote


One evening, I turned on the remote and a message came on the TV. Error CODE 727. This error indicates that the sports program you're trying to watch is blacked out in your area. That’s odd because I have it set to channel 4 watching “Jeopardy.” I switched to channel 220 a NBC Sports Network and the same message appeared. I call Direct TV and the tech responds that she had to report it to another power and they would get back to me. When I inquired when it would be fixed, she had no clue. The following night, the same message appears on our PBS network that didn’t make sense. This time Susan gets on her computer and logs onto the Direct TV chat line. I remark that won’t help. But she’s chatting with a tech who says she will refresh the network feed. I picked up the remote ready to change the channel and Susan gives me that “teacher look” and says “Don’t you dare touch that remote. Let Go of the remote.” To myself, who does she thinks she is talking to like that but in a few minutes, I’m switching channels and this tech had restored our reception with no error message.

Our remote is like our traditions. We hold onto to them so tight that they can become stubborn and our downfall. Sound familiar ladies, you have to tell your old man to let go of the remote. In the gospel story, Jesus had to tell his men friends to let go.
“John said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.’” Now, by all accounts, casting out demons is a good thing. And, truth be told, I don’t think that the disciples were upset about the demons being cast out. They were upset because they were being cast out by someone who wasn’t them. They had the corner on this whole Jesus movement, and if someone else was casting out demons, that’s a threat—never mind the fact that demons are being cast out!
Maybe it’s time the men in priesthood let go of their power and trust their laity to take over the leadership of the faith community. Jesus was stern with his disciples because they felt they were the only ones allowed to heal. Jesus was reminding his men that there is more than one model for being Christian and being the Church. Big screens and praise bands may make some people’s skin crawl. But for others, the ancient liturgies of the Church have a way of snuffing out the fire of the Spirit. The best sermons are the ones the pastor most needs to hear himself. It’s time the priest let go of their remotes, their traditions, that stifle the spirit and let our lay leaders refresh the church and faith.  

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends and, especially brother priests, as we gather for our synod meetings. May we accept the wisdom of Jesus who said: “Whoever is not against us is for us.” In other words, Jesus is saying, “We’re all in this together!” There’s a lot of Kingdom to build, and there’s more than enough work for everyone! In a world that can sometimes feel like everything is falling in on itself, what a welcome breath of fresh air to hear that, no, in fact, the whole world does not depend on its priests. We are all in this together!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Taste Our Goodies

The Polish National Catholic Church has designated 2018 as the Year of the Family. In September, the church will focus on encouraging people to identify their unique talents and skills to enrich their family and the church community.

Holy Family will celebrate this theme by dedicating the new Ed Bartz Pavilion the handiwork of its carpenters and masons who built this structure over the summer. Here the community will celebrate family reunions, anniversaries, weddings, baptisms, birthdays, showers and any occasion where families bring their favorite recipes to the delight of their friends and neighbors.

The children of the parish have written prayers and memories that will placed in a time capsule that will be buried and opened in 2025. Included will be stories about the history of the parish that celebrates over 150 years of faith and love to God and neighbor. In addition, a new teeter totter will be blessed the result of the generosity of many local donor families.

Finally, a Memorial Walkway that leads to the Clayton Playground will be blessed and dedicated and serve as a prayerful journey to remember individuals living and deceased whose gifts of faith and unique talents have helped this parish continue to serve the spiritual needs of this county.

Holy Family’s mission is to welcome all people where the hopeless find hope. Where the lost find direction. Where the hurting find healing. People experience church in a refreshing new way. Where real people talk about real issues. It’s a community where people love God, love others and love our rural lifestyle.

As shepherd of this generous and talented faith community, we invite all parents and grandparents to come with their children and grandchildren and experience the best of who we are. Come and taste our goodies, play on our swings and meet old fashioned country folk who have open minds and open hearts. The celebration will being with our “Mass in the Grass” at 10am, followed by a bring a dish luncheon and old fashioned games for the kids.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

There's a Hole in the Heart That Will Never Heal

A mother whose son died twelve years ago shared that there is a hole in her heart that will never heal.
Jesus taught: “whoever wants to be my disciple must deny one self, take up thier cross daily, and follow me.” What does Jesus mean by this?
First, it means accepting that suffering is a part of our lives. Accepting our cross means we have to make peace with the fact that frustration, disappointment, pain, misfortune, illness, unfairness, sadness, and death are a part of our lives and they must be accepted without bitterness. As long as we nurse the notion that pain in our lives is something we need not accept, we will habitually find ourselves bitter—bitter for not having accepted the cross.
Second, taking up our cross means that we may not, in our suffering, pass on any bitterness to those around us. There’s a difference between healthily groaning under the weight of our pain and unhealthily whining in self-pity and bitterness under that weight. The cross gives us permission to do the former, but not the latter. Jesus groaned under the weight of his cross, but no self-pity, whining, or bitterness issued forth from his lips or his beaten body.
Third, carrying our cross daily means accepting that God’s gift to us is often not what we expect. God always answers our prayers but, often times, by giving us what we really need rather than what we think we need. The Resurrection does not come when we expect it and rarely fits our notion of how a resurrection should happen. To carry your cross is to be open to surprise.
And finally, taking up your cross means living in a faith that believes that nothing is impossible for God. This means accepting that God is greater than the human imagination. Indeed, whenever we succumb to the notion that God cannot offer us a way out of our pain into some kind of newness, it’s precisely because we have reduced God down to the size of our own limited imagination. It’s only possible to accept our cross, to live in trust, and to not grow bitter inside pain if we believe in possibilities beyond what we can imagine, namely, if we believe in the Resurrection.
Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends that you give them the patience to wait and give up their bitterness so that they we will take up their cross and believe in the Resurrection.

Saturday, September 08, 2018

I Love You

These words, addressed to you by God, are the most important words you will ever hear because, before you hear them, nothing is ever completely right with you, but, after you hear them, something will be right in your life at a very deep level.
These are simple words, but they capture what we ultimately try to do when we “lift mind and heart to God” in prayer.
We need to open ourselves to God in such a way that we are capable of hearing God say to us, individually, “I love you!”
This might sound pious and sentimental. It’s anything but that.

In the Gospel of John, we meet Jesus as an adult right on the first page and the first words out of Jesus’ mouth are a question: “What are you looking for?” That question remains throughout the rest of the gospel suggesting that beneath everything else a certain search is going on. A lot of things are happening on the surface, but underneath, there remains always the nagging, restless question: “What are you looking for?”

Jesus answers that question on the morning of the resurrection. Mary Magdalene goes looking for him, carrying spices with which to embalm his dead body. Jesus meets her, alive and in no need of embalming, but she doesn’t recognize him. Bewildered, but sincere, she asks Jesus where she might find Jesus. Jesus asks her: “What are you looking for?” Then he answers it. With deep affection, he pronounces her name: “Mary.”

In doing that, he tells her what she and everyone else are forever looking for, God’s voice, one-to-one, speaking unconditional love, gently saying your name. In the end, that’s what we are all looking for and most need. We need to hear God, affectionately, one-to-one, pronounce our names: “Carolyn!” “Julia!” “Steve!”  Nothing will heal us more of restlessness, bitterness, and insecurity than to hear God say: “I love you!”

Moreover, prayer is meant to be a mutual thing, it’s important too that we respond in kind: Part of prayer is also that we with affection, occasionally at least, say the same thing to God: “I love you!” In all our relationships, we have to occasionally prompt each other to hear expressions of affection and reassurance. It’s not good enough to tell a marriage partner or a friend just once “I love you!” It needs to be said regularly. The relationship of prayer is no different.

Prayer is not meant to change God but us. And nothing changes us as much for the good as to hear someone say that he or she loves us—especially if that someone is God.

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends and let them know that “I love them.”