Sunday, December 27, 2015

Jesus Birthday Card


If you ever wondered what kind of relationship you might want with Jesus you could think of it in this way. It can be silly one moment and serious the next, sometimes somber, apologetic and then comforting. Christmas might be your opportunity to rekindle a relationship that makes you a holy person.

Next time you look at your manger scene, think of God’s promised to be there in our painful moments. The Savior's name is Emmanuel, a name that means God-is-with-us.

God is with us when we come home dirty and exhausted after another long day in the field, driving the tractor, hauling the manure, and nursing a sick animal.
God is with us when we are shocked by the news that our grandchild, daughter or husband has some serious disease.
God is with us when we learn that our spouse is being deployed to a foreign country for work or to defend our country from terrorist.
God is with us when we have been rejected by our children for Christmas and we could not see our grandkids.
God is with us when our child faces a sentence of life in prison or a mental institution.
God is with us when a grandparent is shocked to learn that their 19 year old grand-daughter was found dead due to a drug overdose on Christmas Eve.

How do we handle these tragic situations in life that bring us to our knees in tears? How do we turn things around from this darkness and find God to give us strength and courage?

That beautiful birthday sums up where we need to be at this moment, chatting with our friend, pouring out our hurts, asking our friend to be our comfort and peace. Know that God hears all of your fears and comes now to wipe your tears and hold you close until you find your peace. Let us pray:
“May God have pity on us and bless us; may he let his face shine upon us.
So may your way be known upon earth; among all nations, your salvation.” (Psalm 67: 2-3).

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who are in pain this holiday. May God bless you with his mercy and know that you are in my humble prayers.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Christmas Message

I am humbly blessed to serve as “shepherd” of Holy Family Catholic parish.
On Sunday, December 6th, our parish celebrated the Feast of St. Nicholas inviting our children to bring “refreshed” toys from their toy boxes to be donated to needy children in the community. 

Our goal is to help these kids learn to be children of gratitude. What better way to show our kids how fortunate they are than to help out those in need? Angel Action is the local community service agency that identified over 150 families in Wyoming County. Our kids’ parents along with other local churches contributed gifts to these families in their time of need. St. Nicholas came to our church to receive their toys and gifts and help deliver them to the families in the community.

Let this Christmas note express my sincere gratitude and thanks for all the special favors, counsel, support and prayers that you have offered our family in the past year. For help in cutting down 500 trees, to collecting 14 tons of debris for an elderly neighbor, repairing tractor hitches, uploading computer software, donating to the parish playground fund, enjoying concerts and hockey games, sharing Christmas cookie recipes and a million other favors that bring joy to my ministry.

From all the kids and St. Nicholas, may the Christ Child enter your heart and bring you and your family good health and a gentle peace.

Father Matt, Shepherd Holy Family Catholic Parish
4316 Route 98, North Java, NY 14113
Sunday Mass at 10:00am. First & third Sunday social hour after Mass.
Check out our updated website and join our facebook.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Who am I to Judge?

Dust both sides & hinges of all doors: up & downstairs
Vacuum out bottoms of all cabinets: up & downstairs
Clean microwave & range hood & nearby kitchen cabinet
Wash/wipe down cabinets & appliances fronts kitchen/laundry
Put away Fall plates/cups-get out Christmas plates/cups/napkins
Sort coat closets—make space/hangers for guests
Wash tile & wood floors-under bench-make room for guest boots
Dust/wash picture frames & glass: up & down
Plan meals to cook—food shop
Christmas gifts & cards
Vacuum & dust guest room
Donations to Salvation Army
You’re kidding, you might be saying. So despite your grumbling that you didn’t get all your shopping done on Black Friday or Cyber Monday let me focus your attention that this is also Advent, a time for new beginnings.

This new church year is being referred to as the “Year of Mercy.” What better way to begin then to go through our list “housecleaning our souls” in preparation for the coming of Christ. But how do we do that without condemning ourselves for the sins of the past?

Perhaps the single, most-often quoted line from Pope Francis is his response to a question he was asked on a particularly-dicey issue. His, infamous-famous reply: Who am I to judge?

Although this remark is often assumed to be flighty and less-than-serious; it is, in fact, on pretty safe ground. There is judgment; except it doesn’t work the way it is fantasized inside the popular mind. According to what Jesus tells us in John’s Gospel, judgment works this way:

God’s light, God’s truth, and God’s spirit come into the world. We then judge ourselves according to how we live in the face of them: God’s light has come into the world, but we can choose to live in darkness. That’s our decision, our judgment. God’s truth has been revealed, but we can choose to live in falsehood, in lies. That’s our decision, our judgment to make. And God’s spirit has come into the world, but we can prefer to live outside that spirit, in another spirit. That too is our decision, our judgment. God judges no one. We judge ourselves. Hence we can also say that God condemns no one, though we can choose to condemn ourselves. And God punishes no one, but we can choose to punish ourselves. Negative moral judgment is self-inflicted.

Jesus teaches us that the Holy Spirit is the spirit of charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness, and chastity. Only when we are living inside of these virtues are we living inside God’s spirit.

So then, this is how judgment happens: God’s spirit (charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness, and chastity) has been revealed. We can choose to live inside the virtues of that spirit or we can choose to live instead inside their opposites (self-indulgence, sexual vice, rivalry, antagonism, bad temper, quarrels, drunkenness, and factionalism). One choice leads to a life with God, the other leads away from God. And that choice is ours to make; it doesn’t come from the outside. We judge ourselves. God judges no one. God doesn’t need to.

When we view things inside this perspective it also clarifies a number of misunderstandings that cause confusion inside the minds of believers as well as inside the minds of their critics. How often, for instance, do we hear this criticism: If God is all good, all loving, and all-merciful, how can God condemn someone to hell for all eternity? A valid question, though not a particularly reflective one. Why? Because God judges no one; God punishes no one. God condemns no one to hell. We do these things to ourselves: We judge ourselves, we punish ourselves, and we put ourselves in various forms of hell whenever we do choose not to live in the light, the truth, and inside God’s spirit. And that judgment is self-inflicted, that punishment is self-inflicted, and those fires of hell are self-inflicted.

God watches over us as we pray: “Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments.” (Psalm 119:66).

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends that we be less judgmental in our lives and let the spirit of the light guide our behavior and we be more prone to say: “Who am I to judge?”

Sunday, November 01, 2015

All Saints Day Children's Mass

 If you were not able to attend the All Saints’ Day Children’s’ liturgy at Holy Family, you missed a truly “holy experience.”

The children walked in procession led by the bumblebee cross bearer. At the sanctuary, twenty little ones sat on the steps and shared their favorite treats from Halloween night. “Hershey’s chocolate” was the kids favorite! Then Spiderman and Bumblebee read from the scriptures, while I shared the story about the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes.

Each of our little ones shared how they came dressed for this special All Saints’ Day Mass. Some were princesses, a clown with a large red nose, Olaf (snowman character from the 2013 film Frozen), and my favorite a cowgirl. They learned that "Hallow" means holy and the word Halloween refers to the night before the feast of all holies, or All Saints Day. And then I shared that each of them is a “child of the light” and they are to walk in the light of Jesus.

At the beginning of Mass, I told all our parents, neighbors and many visitors that our children’s smiles, laughter and joy are simple gifts that God gives us to erase our sadness and fear.

We then walked to the side altar where our parishioners had placed photos of loved ones who have died. When I asked the children where are these people who walked on this earth with us, they shouted together “in heaven!” Once again these children became a light to the grownups in the pews and taught us that their smiles can erase hatred, evil, pain and sadness. The light in us is just like Jesus' light. This is the blessing prayer for all our children and you are encouraged to offer this blessing for your children at home.

“God who created pumpkins and people, bless our beautiful Halloween light.
This light reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world. Jesus shines through the darkness and turns the night into day, sadness into joy, hate into love and tears into smiles. Bless the candies that we gathered on Halloween night. Let them be a reminder that we are your sweet creations, lighting up the smiles and hearts of our friends and family. Bless the happy pumpkins we have carved so that everyone who sees them might never be afraid of the darkness because your wonderful light is with us. Our choir then sang a rendition of "This Little Light of Mine.”

If you ever get discouraged again, I ask you to come back to this Sonshine message and spend a moment looking at the following picture of a little elephant peaking over the edge of the pew saying in so many words:
“Do worry, I will be with you always.”

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Don't You Get It

The apostles keep misunderstanding his meaning, message and mission.  St. Mark tells two stories about blindness. The first story depicts a blind man who sees fuzzily, squinting, he says that people look like tall trees walking around. Then Jesus places his hands on him and then the man sees clearly.
In recounting this first incident, Mark is insinuating a parallel with the apostles. They are also blind and their faith in Jesus, like this man’s, is coming very slowly, in stages. In the second story, however, where Bartimaeus sees instantly, Mark seems to be admitting that the apostles seem to be finally getting it.

And what are they getting? Listen to this: Discipleship with Jesus means an upside down world where the first are last and the last first, where one forgives one’s enemy seventy times seven, where the one who loses his life will save it, where the miserable, chest-striking publican in the back of the Temple is more worthy than the triumphant Pharisee in front, where proud fathers run to their wayward sons instead of the other way around, where one gives his coat when only asked for as shirt, where enemies are to be prayed for, good deeds are to be done in secret, and the one who wishes to rule over all must be the servant of all.

Talk about this radical teaching! Think about what you just heard. That’s a tough Christian mission that won’t get you very far in a world of greed and me-first. No wonder the apostles had trouble seeing Jesus and his message, and maybe, if they did see, they didn’t want to and pretended to be blind. Yes, seeing Jesus like Jesus brings a lot of difficulties.

The truth is, if we will admit it, that in some areas of our hearts, in some areas of the spirit, like the apostles in Mark, we have misunderstood Jesus and his message, that we have spiritual blind spots.

But Jesus is calling us: What do you want of me to do for you?” he asks. Right away we can think of a million things, but a more reflective response should be that of Bartimeuas: “Lord, I want to see.”

God walks by our say as we pray: “From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight.” Psalm 72:14

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends to humbly see more clearly what you need us to change to walk in your spirit of wisdom and peace.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

My Gift to You


Selling what you own is a pretty radical thing to do. Just think what you own: a barn, a tractor, and a truck. And that’s just the beginning, isn’t it? There’s also the computer, the cell phone, the flat screen TV—and on and on.

Early in Christian history, people who sold everything they owned set up religious communities, so that they could live together and share what they needed. And so Jesus’ teaching to sell what you have and give to the poor is usually taken as a call to the religious life. Understood in that way, Jesus’ advice to the rich young man is one of the counsels of perfection. It explains what you have to do to be perfect in this life.

But here’s a puzzle worth noticing. If selling all he has and giving it to the poor is what the rich young man needs to do to inherit eternal life, what about everybody else? Does everybody have to sell what he has in order to attain heaven? If you don’t sell everything you have, are you going to hell?
The solution to the puzzle is to think about the description of the man asking Jesus the question: he is the rich young man. In other words, his gifts lie in his wealth. 

Now think about your unique gifts. There are gifts of learning, of music, of many other things. But a person’s gifts are meant to be given back in service to the Lord. You cannot bury your talent—your gifts—in the ground and hope to please the Lord. So here is what you need to do to inherit eternal life: You need to follow Jesus and use your gifts to the full when you do.

I have a Sonshine friend who serves as chair of a committee that awards scholarships to college students who exemplify the spirit of Jesus on campus. It was “Parents Weekend” on campus so the families were invited to Mass and attend the award ceremony. My friend took everyone to breakfast as his gift. He’s not rich but his gift is to share his faith and help these students grow in their faith and vocations.

Let us reflect as we pray: Many seek the favor of the generous, and everyone is a friend to a giver of gifts. (Proverbs 19: 6).
Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who daily give their time, their smiles, their friendships and generosity to those in need. Bless the work of their hands and let their good works go before them into heaven.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Apology to All Divorced Catholics

It’s been 43 years since that tragic moment and I am sure she was not the only divorced person to ever receive this rejection by her pastor. At this moment, I want to apologize to all divorced Catholics. It was and still is a hurtful thing to say to anyone in public. “Father” was only following the norms of the church and he never realized the pain and hurt he caused. Yet, it certainly is not the way of Our Lord’s teaching about compassion and mercy.

Pope Francis issued a powerful call for the church to embrace Catholics who have divorced and remarried, telling a gathering at the Vatican that such couples “are not excommunicated, and they absolutely must not be treated that way!”

“They always belong to the church,” he added, calling on pastors to welcome Catholics who have remarried without an annulment, even though such Catholics are currently barred in most cases from receiving the Eucharist.
“The church is called to be always the open house of the Father. … No closed doors! No closed doors!”

Since he was elected in 2013, Francis has said that the church must be more merciful and open, and he has encouraged debate on changing pastoral practices to allow, for example, divorced and remarried Catholics to take Communion. Current teaching says such Roman Catholics cannot receive communion unless they abstain from sexual relations because their first marriage is still valid in the eyes of the church.

In my current ministry to help a parish reboot itself after being closed due to the shortage of priests. The Polish National Catholic tradition welcomes all divorced Catholics to receive Holy Communion without fear of sin or rejection. However, both traditions strongly encourage Catholics to seek the annulment process to have your first marriage annulled and your new marriage blessed. Many people prefer to abstain from this process since it results in bringing up the trauma from the past and requires a judgment from a marriage tribunal that the marriage was null and void. For many, this only adds further pain and anger thinking that their former marriage can somehow be negated by the system.

Let me conclude with this story that speaks of mercy and compassion:
In Frederick Buechner's novel The Final Beast there is a scene in which a member of a congregation is begging the pastor to declare forgiveness to a deeply disturbed woman in their church—a man or woman who has been divorced and remarried and are living a good Christian life. The pastor replies that the woman already knows that he, the pastor, has forgiven her, to which this other member replies, "But she doesn't know God forgives her. That's the only power you have, pastor: to tell her that. Not just that God forgives her for her poor adultery. Tell her that God forgives her for the faces she cannot bear to look at now. Tell her that God forgives her for being lonely and bored, for not being full of joy every day in a household full of children. Tell her that her sin is forgiven whether she knows it or not, that what she wants more than anything else--what we all want--is true. Pastor, what on earth do you think you were ordained for?”

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Neighborly Love


My next-door neighbor has a new roof that doesn’t leak anymore and upgraded electric system that won’t set her house on fire. With the help of a generous friend, we cleared over 14,000 pounds of debris off her property. It was mostly trash that was never taken to the town dump.

You see she gave up her car to have money to live on. I helped her apply for a senior discount on her phone bill. With the savings, she could now get trash service. But, she still needs more money to live on because half of her income goes to pay mortgage and taxes. I noticed that she was paying 6.5% interest on her mortgage, yet most mortgages go for about 3.5%.  Her bank never suggested that she could refinance her mortgage to save money to buy groceries.

I asked my neighbor if she would be willing to check to see if she could get a better interest rate to save money and she agreed. Last week, we went to the bank together. The bank mortgage manager must have reviewed the neighbor’s mortgage because within a few minutes she had a plan where this senior could save herself $80 per month and get her mortgage rate lowered to 3.5% interest.

On the way home, my neighbor asked me, if I owed the woods where she likes to rest after taking a walk in our woods with her dog. I told her that the local farmer sold the parcel to another person for a profit and I was never asked to make a bid for the parcel. She enjoys walking in our park and takes a rest on a log in the woods. However, one day last week, the new owner came on his gator and pointed out to her that the log was on his private property. She did not know he owned that part of the woods where the log sits. He told her not to comeback since he did not want to be liable if she fell on his land.

When I told this story to my best friend, she went to the shed and pulled out a lawn chair and plot it into the woods on our side of the border. She told me to call our neighbor and tell her that she could rest with her dog anytime.

That my friends is what it means to be being neighbor. It’s not the minimum you can get away with that gets you eternal life; it’s the great soul within each of us. With this message of love, take this message and walk the talk.

God watches over us as we pray: “ Those who despise their neighbors are sinners, but happy are those who are kind to the poor.” (Proverbs 14:21).

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who lend a helping hand to their neighbors. May their good works be their ticket to heaven.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Which Soul Are You Today?

Another way to understand metanoia is to imagine there are within each of us two souls, a little soul and a great soul. On any given day we tend to identify more with one or the other of these and we are a very different person depending upon which soul is growing within us.

Thus, if we take our identity from our little soul we will inevitably feel bitter and angry.  It is the little soul, where we are petty, afraid, aware of our hurts, and constantly nursing the sense of having been cheated and short-changed. In our little soul, we are paranoid and defensive. When we relate to life through it, we become shortsighted, impatient, despairing, and constantly looking for compensation.

But we also have within us a great soul. When we let it grow, we become a different person altogether. We relate out of our great soul when we are overwhelmed by compassion, when everyone is sister or brother to us, when we want to give of ourselves without concern of cost, when we would willingly die for others, and when our arms and heart would want nothing other than to embrace the whole world and everyone in it.

I witnessed this “great soul” of compassion when a nurse was caring for a survivor of senseless violence. He had been shot and the bullet grazed his head that required ten stitches to close up. She listened to the young man’s panic and fears and after his story gave him a hug and told him that the staff would always be there for him. This is the great soul.

Let us pray to the Lord and remember: “Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and shield. “ (Psalm 33: 20).

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends that the “great soul” grows strong in our hearts. May we be the eyes of Jesus who accept anyone who comes through our doors, the ears of Jesus listening with compassion to their hurts and fears and the tongue of Jesus reminding our family, neighbors and patients that we need to forgive one another and love each other as sisters and brothers in Christ.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Regrets, I Had a Few

“I should have listened to my professor and finished my thesis and get my degree. I should not have filed for that divorce. I should have bought the farm, instead of working on these boring machines from 9 to 5. I should have gotten our kids baptized like grandma asked. I should have had my camera ready for those birds flying over the bay."

Some were a bit more serious, for example, one individual said I would go back to when I was 20 and NOT smoke that first blunt. There were more than a couple of people who agreed with that post.

Some were truly heartbreaking, like this one: I wish I could go back and tell my daughter that she would be OK and stay in treatment instead of getting the news that she committed suicide from an overdose. Or, I wish I could go back to the person I married and tell them I regret being addicted to my alcohol and drugs and get back to my family and have my kids respect me.

Regrets, I’m sure, we’ve all had a few… Some in the grand scheme of things aren’t too big a deal (I should have gotten that tractor in green instead of blue); while another might be a life-altering moment that puts us on a different track - that, in hindsight, is a bad decision. A decision that because of our blindness, stubbornness, ignorance, whatever the reason – we made that choice and it has affected us for the rest of our lives.

Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said “this saying is hard; who can accept it?. . . as a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.

I’m sure for Jesus that it was hard watching someone make a decision that he knew, eventually, they would regret.

What is striking though is that the choice here is whether to stay and continue to follow Jesus or not. The choice to stay didn’t mean that the doubts disappeared (really, we are going to be eating your flesh?). The choice to stay didn’t mean perfect understanding that what Jesus was saying would eventually come to light (how does that piece of bread that cup of wine at Mass become Jesus’ body and blood?).

But then again, just look at those who did stay. Peter and the twelve would prove more times than not how little they understood what Jesus was saying to them, and how often their doubts would re-appear and make them screw up.

Yet, they stayed despite all of those doubts and confusions because Jesus hadn’t given them any reason not to trust Him. Yes, “this saying is hard” – but Jesus offers that if we trust him, stick with him, continue to follow him – it won’t make things easier – in fact things will probably become harder. But it’s a choice we will never regret. Because we too will come to make Peter’s words our own – We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who are troubled with regrets from their past. May your spirit of understanding and truth bring people back to the church. May the faith community, your parish and neighbors welcome you back with open arms and the spirit of God’s love and mercy.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Face of Joy


Last Sunday, this parish community was beaming with joy and happiness. The sunshine, the children playing and visiting neighbors, relatives and friends were like a healing elixir. There was a moment when I was taking pictures of the kids trying to hit the piñata with a baseball bat to get at the candy. At best they could, they did not have the strength to knock the candy out of the bag. While taking pictures, I heard voices, let Father Matt take a swing. My first thought was, no way. I know what’s going to happen. So, like a good sport, Brandon took the bat, but first he had to be blindfolded. Then he went up to the batters box and felt the bag with his bat. He took a mighty swing and sure enough, someone, no names, grabbed the rope and raised the piñata ten feet above his head. He swings and misses. Yep, my instincts were right, make fun of the priest and that counts as a mortal sin. Make fun of poor Brandon, its only venial.

It seems some people were making fun of Jesus in the gospel. He’s teaching again about bread and this time he says, “unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you will have no life.” The response from some of the people was that this teaching is outrageous. Eating someone’s flesh and blood is barbaric. Why is Jesus saying this?

Let me share a little history about bread. In Scotland the finest white bread, known as "manchet," was reserved for royalty and the great landlords. "Cheat," the second finest grade, was found in the homes of the upper-class tradesmen. "Raveled" bread was made from the whole grain flour just as it came from the mill to be consumed by the country folk and villagers just above the servant class. "Mashloch" was baked for the very poor and the servants. It contained only coarse bran mixed with rye. In the castle, the mistress or housekeeper carried the keys to the food safe where the fine bread and best grades of other food were kept to avoid tempting the servants to acquire a taste for the higher priced products. Later, the government passed a law requiring the brown bakers to add a certain percent of wheat germ to the mashloch to improve the health of the working class.

This history story speaks of “reversals.” What we think is good for us, may not be. And in the end, it may turn out that those receiving the 'worst' are actually receiving the very best: the best, which leads to life. I think of this when I think of the bread that is Jesus --- of how in Jesus things are always getting turned upside down. And that you and I eat the bread: the body of the Unlikely One who was shamed, crucified, on a cross. And this leads to life.
God prays for us as we reflect:  “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.” Proverbs 9:5

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who are need of a little joy to meet the challenges of life. Next time, you need a boost to your spirits, come back to this Sonshine message and take a look at the sheer joy on the face of this child. Remember, that’s how God wants you to feel at this moment, simply put your faith in God’s love and mercy.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

North Java Church to dedicate playground Sunday



North Java church to dedicate playground Sunday

By Matt Surtel | Posted: Monday, August 3, 2015 12:53 am

NORTH JAVA — All it took was 37 days.
When Holy Family Parish’s congregation first started considering a playground, the idea was very well-received, and everybody got behind it. The playground and park space are nearly complete, after instant and dedicated work by the parishioners and surrounding community.The area will be dedicated Sunday, Aug. 9 as “Clayton Park,” with a Mass and “old-school” community picnic.

“This playground isn’t just for parishioners or the church,” said parishioner Molly Haungs, who was part of the effort. ‘This is the church’s gift to the community, to show we’re here, we’re family oriented, we’re open and we’re here to stay.”

The playground and park are in memory of infant Clayton George, who died at 15 days old in March 2013. They include a small rock wall, several swings, some slides and monkey bars.

Parishioners and local residents raised $15,000 for the effort, with the playground located on the church property. The church is hoping to add a new sidewalk and some additional equipment — such as teeter-totters — in the future.

Mass will be conducted at 10 a.m. Aug. 9 at the church on  3416 Route 98. The park’s sign will be dedicated at noon, and the picnic following through 3 p.m.

As with the picnic’s old-fashioned community nature, the church will provide meat, while those attending are asked to bring a dish to pass. The afternoon will also include some traditional games and a face painter.

“What people like about Holy Family Parish is its sense of community,” said Rev. Matt Kawiak, the church’s pastor. “Clayton Park is a reminder that while the tragedy of a death of a child is devastating, the faith community can provide comfort and support to grieving parents.” Kawiak — who’s now with the Polish National Catholic Church — was chaplain for Pediatrics at Strong Memorial Hospital in the 1990s, and said he’s acutely aware of the anguish parents feel when a child has died.

“The dedication of this playground is intended to bring healing and restore the joy to the hearts of all people whose hearts have been broken by the death of their loved ones,” Kawiak said.

“In the midst of great sorrow, the local families of North Java and the neighboring communities who represent many faith traditions have joined together to make Clayton Park a visible sign of God’s love and compassion,” he continued. “I want to extend my personal invitation to all families in the area to come to Holy Family to play, learn and pray with their children. We need these kids to inspire us and bring joy back into our churches.”

Holy Family Parish was founded after the closure of the former St. Nicholas Roman Catholic Church in 2007, and the congregation has worked actively to open new people.

“We don’t care who you are, what you do, we just want people to always feel welcomed, and that’s the other reason we’re doing the dedication at noon,” Haungs said. “People can arrive and stop by. See you at the dedication and enjoy the picnic.”