The Third Week in Advent

Third Sunday of adventI have been blessed to have taken 4 pilgrimages to the Holy Land. My first 3 though prevented me from going to the site of the Visitation because my arthritic knees would not permit me to climb the hills. Even the thought of walking those hills to get the Church of the Visitation made me cringe.

When I think of Mary traveling to be with her cousin Elizabeth in Judah, I imagine how difficult that journey up those hills must have been for her. She was a young woman and while I am sure she had good knees, she was in her early stages of pregnancy. As I thought about Mary making the journey from Nazareth to the hills of Judah (about 90 miles) walking and/or riding on a donkey suffering from symptoms of possibly nausea, headaches, backaches and tiredness, I was amazed at her self-sacrifice. She was determined to get to her cousin Elizabeth to help her in her time of need.

Elizabeth was an old woman who was likely suffering similar symptoms to Mary’s and she may have even had worn out knees. She was very near to giving birth to her son, John the Baptist, and Mary had to get there to assist her through her pregnancy and to help her with her newborn son. She put herself aside to help her cousin. No wonder God selected this woman to raise his son. She was selfless.

Mary set out in those days and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. Lk. 1-39

VisiationI finally made it to the Church of the Visitation at the top of the Judean Hills (see the picture to the right) on my last pilgrimage and was awestruck looking out over the scene. It was not only one of the most beautiful sites I have ever seen but knowing what happened there made me more conscious of focusing on other people instead of my own troubles. The view along with this  reminder was well worth the wait.

Dear Lord, help me to always put others in need first as Mary, Your Mother did. Don’t let me trip over my own problems on the way to helping others, particularly as I look around at this time of the year and see so many others who require help.

Cathy O’Toole

 

 

What I am about to tell you will hopefully change the way you perceive the homeless!

Jesse

I am a student at Archbishop Moeller High School and was given the opportunity to spend a week at Xavier University through The Mayerson Foundation. The Mayerson Foundation works with many organizations helping to solve problems in the city of Cincinnati. One of their programs shows high school students the real side of Cincinnati by showing us people experiencing homelessness. Now I said that in a very particular way. People aren’t homeless, they are just facing a difficult time. They are experiencing homelessness.

 

We have the wrong perception with those suffering homelessness. We think they are druggies and they do bad things. Yes, they may have done those bad things, but often they wish they hadn’t.

A worker at the St. Francis-St. Joseph Catholic Worker House said, “When taking these drugs, you only get a minute rush and then it is over. These guys want to get off this stuff because they know it is making them poor and unhealthy. But once they cross this imaginary line, it is difficult to go back.”

When talking to these people, I realized they aren’t nasty. I talked to one guy experiencing homelessness and we started talking about restaurants, he loves Raising Cane’s. Those undergoing difficult times shouldn’t be discriminated against. They are people too with feelings and souls. We shouldn’t treat them like they are garbage.

Be Devoted to one another in Love.  Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:10

A lady experiencing homelessness talked to us also. Her name was Melisa. Her story stuck with the entire group through the whole week. She has been in poverty her whole life. She was born in Dayton and lived there for a few years and then moved to California at a young age. She was an outcast. She thought about suicide, but decided not to because “things happen and you can overcome them.” She got married and had 5 kids and then got divorced. She only had custody of 1 of her children. She knew her life was in shambles. She eventually did become poor enough that she started living on the streets. Every day she had 3 choices: eat, work, or shower.

Now, she works with the Homeless Coalition. Her main theme was to not treat people experiencing homelessness in a bad manner. If you just smile at them or nod your head at them that could help them through the day. They need that little encouragement that they are still there. They are not invisible.

The Lord is my light and my salvation whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life of whom shall I be afraid?  Psalm 27:1

The second day of this journey we went to the Shelter House for Men. This is where men, who pass a test, can sleep and try to get on their feet again. They have to pass a very long test. The intake person asks many questions. He tries to ‘read’ the candidate to see if he can fit in at the Shelter House or not.

Then we took a tour. Living in the shelter house isn’t great. They keep the lights on 24/7 so people have to sleep in light. The beds are like college dorm rooms with mattresses that are very thin and very uncomfortable. Life there would be better than the streets, but way, way worse than the life we have.

One of our group leaders told me, “Every time I go there, it feels like I am in a zoo. We are walking around where they live, sleep, and eat.” When we were touring one of the rooms a guy passed us. He had a comment that has stuck with me since my experience. He said, “Hope you guys never end up in a place like this.” These people don’t want to be homeless. They work hard so they can get their own place and live on their own. They want to buy their own food and make better decisions.

Then we sold StreetVibes. This is an alternate newspaper reporting on local stories that don’t often get reported. StreetVibes are sold to people experiencing homelessness for 75 cents. Then they sell them for $2 each. This is how homeless people earn money for their food for the day. They can buy a hot dog by just selling one, but just selling one would be a good accomplishment because people often ignore them.

My group was put on the street just like the homeless to sell StreetVibes in downtown Cincinnati.   People are sometimes so unfeeling; they don’t care about the homeless or other people. I was one of the lucky ones. Some just passed by and said “I would if they had the money” or “Sorry, no thank you.” But some of the other guys in my group weren’t so lucky. One guy in my group got the worst from a nasty business man who passed him and said, “Thank you for interrupting our conversation. We would have passed the restaurant if you hadn’t interrupted me.”   They don’t know how much $2 will help them and they may not care.

When we got back to Xavier University dorms, the place we were staying, we had a long talk with a facilitator. In this discussion, most of the group cried. I almost cried. Some of the teens have never been exposed to this world. They are used to in their own community and don’t venture into the city. They don’t know how harsh the real world is. I knew a little bit about this world but not this much.

This experience has changed me. The rest of the week just kept supporting how we shouldn’t judge people based on how much they make and their looks. Surprisingly, we learned that the average age for those in poverty is 9 years old. Yes, you read that right, 9 years old. Children are the ones who need help the most.

Also, this past year, the morgue ran out of room due to the number of overdoses in one day. They had 176 bodies. They have never seen so many people overdose in one day. And, day laborers make very little money. For example, if they worked paving roads, they would make $100. When they get on the bus, they are given their uniform, helmet, food, and anything else they need. They work for 12 hours a day. When they get off the bus, they are given a check for $40. What happens to the $60 they lost?   Well, they have pay for the uniform, the helmet, the food, the bus fee, and anything else they need. It seems these people are getting ripped off.

Be strong and courageous.   Do not fear or be dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you Deuteronomy 31:6

This week long experience was life changing for me. I hope this has helped to transform how you view people experiencing homelessness, I know it has mine.

Dear Lord, be our guide and our protector on our journey in life.  Watch over us, protect from accidents and keep us safe from harm of both body and soul.  Support us with your grace when we are tired, help us to be patient in any trouble which may come our way. Let us see You in everyone we meet, not matter how impossible that may seem to us. Keep us always mindful of Your presence in Love.  Amen.

 

Father, forgive Them, They Know Not what They Do.

goodthiefDuring his lifetime Jesus had repeatedly taught his disciples not to respond to violence with more violence but rather to forgive. In his final moments on earth he forgives the very man who had condemned him and those who drove the stakes through his body. Luke 23:34

When one of the crucified criminals joins in the course of derision that accompanies Jesus to his death, the other confesses his sins and ask for mercy. Luke 23:39-43 It is appropriate in light of this gospel scene and in light of our daily struggles for forgiveness and reconciliation to share this excerpt from the best-selling book, Dead Man Walking.

The author wrote, Lloyd LeBlanc, the author of the book said he would have been content with imprisonment for Patrick Sonnier (who murdered Leblanc’s son David). He went to the execution, he says, not for revenge but hoping for an apology.  Patrick Sonnier had not disappointed him. Before sitting in the electric chair he said, “Mr. LeBlanc, I want to ask your forgiveness for what me and Eddie done.” Lloyd LeBlanc nodded his head signaling the forgiveness he had already given.

LeBlanc says that when he arrived with sheriff’s deputies in the cane field to identify his son, he knelt by the boy’s body… lying down there with his two little eyes sticking out like bullets, he prayed the Our Father. When he came to the words, father forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, he had not halted or equivocated and said, “Whoever did this I forgive them.”  Mr. LeBlanc acknowledged that it’s a struggle to overcome the feelings of bitterness and revenge that well up, especially as he remembers his son David’s birthday year-by-year and loses him all over again: David at 20, David at 25, David getting married, David standing at the back door with his little ones clustered around his knees, grown-up David, a man like himself whom he will never know. Forgiveness is never going to be easy. Each day it must be prayed for and struggled for and won.

Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

Deacon Tim Schutte is a life-long member of St. Andrew, the Apostle Church. He has been a Deacon for more than 10 years.

The Giving Tree

Because of the commandment, help the poor, and in their need, do not send them away empty-handed. Ben Sira 29:9

Each year during Advent the St. Vincent de Paul Society at St. Andrew collects Christmas gifts for needy persons in our community. Parishioners take a tag from the Christmas Tree at the beginning of Advent which contains a name and a wish for a specific person. Parishioners purchase that gift and return it to church and place it under the tree.

But what happens after this point????

Members of St. Vincent de Paul sort the gifts after the last Mass on Collection Sunday. Each tag is color coded and then sorted based upon this color coding.  Lists are checked and double checked, packages are loaded for delivery to 4 different agencies for distribution to those who had previously requested these gifts.  The Vincentians also have a great time working on this project as you can see below!

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul would like to thank all the St. Andrew Parishioners who participated in the Giving Tree Project this year. Once again you have been very generous in serving the poor in our community.

The St. Andrew Conference of The Society of St. Vincent de Paul addresses the material and spiritual needs of people primarily in the Milford/St. Andrew Parish area. They offer tangible goods, food and financial assistance to the needy. A Vincentian determines the need of the client by personal contact with the persons requesting aid through home visits or appointments. The Society serves as an outreach arm of St. Andrew Parish by accepting donations from parishioners and outside sources and distributing them to people in need.

The Ozanam House (named for the founder of St. Vincent de Paul Society), which is located across the street from the school, is owned by the Parish and operated by St. Vincent de Paul. It is a transitional home for homeless families working to find a solution to their housing problem. The house gives them a period of time to accumulate savings toward rent deposit or down payment and advance toward self-sufficiency in their housing needs. The Ozanam House is not an emergency shelter.

If you are interested in more information on becoming an active member of The Society of St. Vincent de Paul at St. Andrew you could talk to a Vincentian or call the Parish Office 513-831-3353.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here I am. You called me?

I was a practicing Catholic for the first seventeen years of my life and attended St. Andrew School with my 3 brothers and 2 sisters. As I got older, life became more complicated and I just drifted away from the church. Five years ago, God called me back and I went to the only church I knew, St. Andrew. I had so many thoughts, insecurities, and I was always afraid that I would not be welcome back to the church since I had been gone for so many years. Curiosity got the best of me and I did come back to see if I was making the right decision and guess what? “The doors opened wide at the thought of my coming!”

I started attending mass weekly and making new friends. I attended a Christ Renews His Parish Weekend and strengthened my relationship with Jesus and also made some lifelong friends. God called me not only to come back to church but to become church. The friends I made at Christ Renews involved me in the parish Hospitality Committee whose primary responsibility is serving meals for special events around the parish and welcoming new people. I loved that since I had been so welcomed myself. I’m involved the Ladies Sodality helping out around the church by assisting with cleaning the church on Fridays and watering the flowers so that everyone can enjoy the beautiful altar at St. Andrew. I also help with the annual rummage and plant sale the proceeds of which are used to beautify the church.

My husband John, who was not catholic, started attending mass with me weekly. He liked the Church so much that he went through the RCIA program and became Catholic two years ago. And now we are on the RCIA Team working with those people interested in joining the Church. He also attended a Christ Renews weekend and we work together to clean our beautiful church as a means of worship to the Lord. St. Andrew has become such an important part of our life that John and I renewed our vows in 2012 in the Catholic Church.

In the hymn, Here I Am Lord, God asks “Whom shall I send?” And the answer in the hymn is “Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord? I have heard you calling in the night. I will go, Lord, if you lead me.”

God led me back to the Catholic Faith after a long absence. I decided I didn’t just want to come to church, but I wanted to be church to others. I wanted to volunteer my time to make this church a wonderful place to worship and to be a welcoming place for our community.

The Lord Called Samuel a third time. He said, “Here I am. You called me?” 1 Samuel 3:8

Is God calling you to come back to church and/or to volunteer your time and your talents for St. Andrew? The Hospitality Committee, Ladies Sodality, RCIA and many of the other ministries may be calling you to become church for others. Will you answer, “It is I, Lord?”

Phyllis Jean Strathmann has been a member of St. Andrew’s parish for the past five years. She is a member of the Ladies Sodality, the Hospitality Committee and the RCIA Team. Jean is married to her wonderful husband, John, and they have 3 grown daughters and 4 grandchildren.

untitled

 

If He Cries Out To Me, I Will Listen; For I Am Compassionate. Ex. 22:26

I have been a Roman Catholic all of my life.  When I was 25 years old and living in San Diego, California, I attended a Bible Study group for the first time. That as the beginning of me seriously and purposefully reading Holy Scripture and my long and loving relationship with Jesus Christ.

Twenty years ago, my father Lenny, died in my arms.  He was at home in Cincinnati and on hospice care. I journaled the last 3 weeks of his life, recording what he said and the conversations we shared.  I was a nurse but never thought of myself as a care giver until I became my fathers’ caregiver. He taught me very well about the dying process.  This experience pointed me in a new direction as a hospice nurse.

Since that time, I have been privileged to have been a caregiver for my mother, my brother, my children’s baby sitter, neighbors, my aunt and uncle, my dearest childhood friend and my mother-in-law.  Often times, I experienced days where I just didn’t want to be the one to give the care to those I loved.  A friend suggested I attend a support group for folks who are caregivers.  The meetings were once a month at St. Andrew.  I am someone who thinks I can do it all just fine by myself, although, I went to a meeting. I learned that it’s ok to accept help and that God wants us to come to Him for strength and guidance.

Today, I am one of the facilitators of our Caregivers Support group at St. Andrew and have  led this ministry for 12 years. We meet the 1st Tuesday of every month in the church basement from 7-8:30pm. What is expressed is respected and confidential.  We share concerns and knowledge and at times, we cry and laugh about our experience which is in itself healing! All are welcome to volunteer or to come for discussion.

Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy.  Mt. 5:7

Marcy Schutte is a recently retired hospice nurse with 3 children and 3 grandchildren.  She has been active in the parish in various ministries for many years.  Marcy loves to cook, travel to visit grandchildren and is a master gardener.  She has 13 separate flower beds and finds it is in the garden where she feels most at home with God.  She and her husband, Deacon Tim have been married for 23 years. Marcy Schutte

She Came Up Behind Him and Touched His Cloak

(This painting is behind an altar in the Church of St. Mary Magdaline in the town of Magdala in Galilee.)

Touched Cloak

I have been a member of the Healing Ministry Team at St. Andrew Church for 7 years.  It is a privilege and joy to have been called to this special parish ministry. The people with whom I serve are faith-filled, loving women who share their love of God and others in the sacred space of our sessions. I am also deeply touched by the faith and gratitude of those who attend. This ministry has brought me closer to our loving, merciful God and more open to respond to the needs of others with increasing love and compassion.

She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. Mk 5:27

As members of the Body of Christ, we are called to serve one another with compassion and generosity. The Healing Ministry follows Catholic traditions of prayer and care combined with the principles and techniques of the accredited educational nursing curriculum of Healing Touch Program. We welcome and serve everyone – those experiencing illness or recovery and those who wish to support wellness in their lives.

Sessions are usually offered on the second Saturday of each month September through May at 9:30, 10:10 and 11:00. Join us in a peaceful, prayerful time with God and the members of the ministry. Those who are interested in learning more about the St. Andrew Healing Ministry are invited to attend our sessions, consider volunteering as a greeter or enroll in a weekend Healing Touch Program Level 1 class prior to becoming a member of the ministry team.

Lord, you have chosen us to know, love and serve you. Help us to discern how we may honor you and serve your people through the ministries of our parish. Amen

Pat Meisner is a retired elementary teacher and administrator. She has been a parishioner for ten years and a member of the St. Andrew Healing Ministry for seven years. She is on Christ Renews His Parish – Team 10, and previously participated in Bible Study.  In addition to being a Healing Touch Practitioner she is a member of the first cohort of the Living School for Action and Contemplation of the Rohr Institute in New Mexico.                    Pat Meisner

 

 

 

Prayer Is a Path To a More Intimate Relationship With God

(This Sunday is the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time.  In Sunday’s Gospel, Luke tell us that as Jesus is praying, one of His disciples asks, “Lord teach us to pray. . . .”  This blog post seems to be very timely. Lk.11:1-13)   

“Pray without ceasing!” 1 Thes 5:17

I spend a great deal of my day in prayer, not necessarily on my knees. But, I do pray in a variety of ways for others (some of whom I do not know), situations, and my personal needs. There are many ways to pray. The most important and most powerful prayer is the Mass, which I am blessed to attend daily. I often spend time in Adoration conversing with Jesus face to face. I also pray the rosary alone and with others. I try to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy daily, and always do so when I am told someone is near death. I pray novenas for special intentions! I pray to the saints to intercede, a couple of them I consider my best friends! I pray traditional Catholic prayers, we are so blessed by these prayers! I pray simple prayers throughout the day for people who come to mind or strangers I just pass along the way. I fast as a prayer periodically, especially when someone I know is suffering greatly. And, I try to always remember to offer my own sufferings and hardships that I encounter daily for the needs of others…turning a difficulty to a positive good!  Do I fail at this? Yes. Do I get distracted? All the time! But I persevere, and the more I do, the better I get at it! Prayer is a work in progress, and it will never be perfected until we reach Heaven!

Prayer chains are a great way to communicate the needs of others. St. Andrew Parish has a prayer chain which began years ago.  Ruth Berger began the prayer chain many years ago, it was a phone chain.  Years later Chris Nunner added email and currently, there are over 400 people who receive the prayer chain. I am hopeful that many who receive it pray for those requesting prayers and I encourage everyone in our parish to be a part of this ministry! If every parishioner at St. Andrew received and prayed for those in need through the prayer chain, imagine the power of all of those prayers for each individual or situation in which we pray!

Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God. Phil 4:6

If you do not receive the prayer chain and would like to, email me at andrewprayerline@aol.com. Use the same email address to send prayer requests.

JoAnne Lacey has been a parishioner at St. Andrew for almost 20 years. She is married to Ken Lacey and they have three children who attended SASEAS School. JoAnne has served on Parish Council, was actively involved with the SMILE Youth Group, was a regular Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, and was coordinator of monthly Adoration. She currently coordinates the parish prayer chain. JoAnne Lacey

 

It is More Blessed to Give Than Receive

While enjoying an ice cream with Sister Lucia Castellini one evening after Monday night Mass at St. Andrew Church, Ray and I received an invitation to volunteer at Hope Emergency Program. Sister Lucia, a parishioner of St. Andrew, and a Brown County Ursuline Sister is the Director of the Hope Emergency Project.  Ray and I were recently retired and we couldn’t say no to her invitation to help on Wednesdays.  We didn’t realize how serving others could be so rewarding.

We started volunteering in January of 2014. We love the ministry of helping the needy of Brown, Clinton, Highland and Adams Counties. The Hope Emergency Project serves hundreds of families, helping approximately 1,000 people every month.  Some families need services for a short time in order to recover from a loss of a job or personal disaster while some need more long-term assistance to make their income stretch to cover their necessities. Everyone who comes for food, clothing and household items must qualify and then receive services at no charge.

In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ Acts 20: 35

Hope does have a few paid employees but couldn’t serve so many households if they didn’t have volunteers. On Tuesdays and Thursdays food deliveries and donations are accepted, catalogued and set up for clients who come on Wednesdays for distribution. Ray and I do a variety of things at Hope. Each week we pick up bread from Panera for distribution at Hope, we help clients make decisions on produce, frozen meats, bread, canned goods, and toiletries and even help clients to their cars with their groceries.  We have also delivered the items collected from St. Andrew parishioners for our Year of Mercy Project to Hope Emergency. We have gotten to know the people and look forward to seeing them weekly, they are always so thankful for the food and appreciative of our work.

If you are interested in helping people and are looking for a volunteer opportunity, please consider Hope Emergency. We are very thankful to be involved in serving others. It has enriched our lives, humbled us and each week brings us closer to God.

We thank you Lord for all the gifts you have bestowed on us. Open our hearts to share our gifts and talents with those less fortunate.

Sharon and Ray Lamping have been members of St. Andrew Church since 2003. Ray serves at weekday Masses and is a Lector.  Both Sharon and Ray are Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. They recently returned from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with other St. Andrew and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parishioners. Both are retired and enjoying traveling and babysitting their grandchildren.  Lampings