2018-2019 Parish Financial Report

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

The Parish Finance Council is pleased to provide the Annual Financial Report of St. Mary-St. Catherine of Siena Parish for fiscal 2018-2019.

We are grateful for the continued energy of our Parish thanks to the members of the community who engage in the life and support of the Parish. We welcomed 149 new registered parishioners, celebrated 66 baptisms and 20 weddings and had an increase in the number of students in religious education. The more people that connect with the Parish, whether newly arrived or newly supportive, the stronger and more dynamic our Parish will become.

God has gifted each of us with talents and skills and we welcome and encourage you to share those in whatever way possible with the Parish. Only a fraction of all the registered families have established giving plans or become active in our many ministries and social activities. We are working on several initiatives to engage busy members which include: our new on-line newsletter, increasing the number of parishioners using on-line giving and re-launching the young adult group.

Your financial generosity to the weekly and monthly Offertory, as well as the Grand Annual Collection, is the foundation of Parish operating budget. While the Parish staff and Finance Council work diligently to manage our expenses and budget, health and property insurances costs have risen dramatically in the last few years, the need for Food Pantry assistance has increased along with food costs, our old buildings require significant ongoing maintenance, and there are always unexpected expenditures.

Running a Parish is costly. After finishing 2017-2018 and 2016-2017 with operating surpluses of $31,390 and $21,728, respectively, we finished this fiscal year with an operating deficit of $82,975. Major factors that contributed to this deficit were: Grand Annual down $21,791, Sacramental Offerings down $9,902, Gifts & Bequests down $30,850 and Monthly Offertory down $9,348 versus 2017-18. Our budget for 2019-20 projects another deficit. Our expenses have increased and if contributions do not do the same, we will unfortunately need to take further measures to reduce Parish services and activities.

This was a unique year in that we launched the Inspiring Hope Campaign in the Fall to fund the interior painting and restoration of the artwork of our beautiful church, and various other ministries in the Archdiocese. Through the generosity of 126 parishioners, we were able to raise in excess of $600,000 in gifts and pledges – of which $125,000 will fund ministries in the Archdiocese. The remainder of the funds will stay with the Parish. It is important to note that these funds are legally restricted to this capital project and cannot be used for operating expenses. The project will be getting fully underway within the next month. As we move forward with this project and begin to see it come to fruition, we would ask that those who have not contributed or are new to the Parish consider contributing to the effort.

Despite the operating deficit, our Balance Sheet remained strong with $1.2 million in Net Assets as contributions from the Inspiring Hope Campaign more than offset this year’s operating shortfall. (A complete set of financial statements, including a detailed Balance Sheet, is available on our Parish Website,

Capital projects during the year included the completion of the Marilyn Doherty room along with an update to the security system at the Parish Center and a small upgrade to the sound system in the church. We still have a long to-do list of projects but getting bids has proved difficult for retaining walls at Parish Center and Food Pantry. There is also masonry work needed at the Church.

The Good Shepherd School renewed its lease for the next five years, continuing to strengthen our Parish community. The Parish is grateful for the ongoing support from parishioners and the Charlestown community for the Harvest on Vine Emergency Food Pantry. In addition to semi-monthly distributions of food and fresh produce to the ever-increasing number of those in need, Harvest on Vine was able to provide a food distribution to government workers during the government shutdown.

The Parish Finance Council is deeply appreciative of your past support and would earnestly ask that you consider increasing the level of your of financial commitment to the Parish so that we can return to a balanced operating budget without impacting any of our wonderful Parish services.

Rev. James Ronan (Chair), Nancy Higgins (Vice-Chair), Brian Fleming, Dennis Hanson, Maureen Moore, Tom Mosel, Robert Rooney, Kevin Walsh, James Santosuosso (Ex Officio)

Just the way I am

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

As I was walking to my car, parked on a side street in a small town on Long Island, my nephew ran excitedly alongside me. When we arrived at the car, parked a block or so away from the apartment of my brother and sister-in-law, I asked my nephew, “Chris, do you want to drive?” This handsome child stopped in his tracks and looked at me seriously as he said, “I can’t drive, I am only five years old!” That scene took place a long time ago and I recall it fondly as a wonderful example of maturity. Maturity is nothing more than knowing who you are and accepting that truth.

It sounds so simple, yet for so many of us we are unsure about ourselves and often unaccepting of the person we believe we might be. What does it take to move us from doubt, uncertainty, and the insecurity of our own sense of self to a place of acceptance and peace? I am not sure if there is a magic formula but I am sure that the journey is a long and complicated one.

We are social beings. We define ourselves in relationships with others; how another speaks to us, sees us, cares for us, accepts us, and more are all fundamental in how we come to see our very selves. For example, there are numerous stories and studies of how a child performs in school to meet the expectation of the teacher. If a teacher, for whatever reason, has decided the child is slow and not too bright – too often the child’s performance is just that. The opposite applies equally. I recall having a slow start in college and in my sophomore year, turning in a sociology paper to my professor. Later, the professor called me to his office, held out the paper to me and said, “Ronan, you can do beer than this – here, do it.” I walked out of that office fuming . . . and then went and wrote a better paper.

Research is stunning about the low image teenagers have of their bodies. Both boys and girls in amazing numbers think they are not handsome or pretty. In fact, most people do not even have a clear sense of acceptance of their own body until they are in their 20’s. Whether it is one’s body, personality, aptitude or overall general appearance, how we get to a healthy place of self acceptance is a challenge.

For the Christian, however, there is another essential part of the journey. We celebrate that we are God’s creation, made in the image and likeness of God. Furthermore, we celebrate that God loves us unequivocally and constantly. Our relationship with Jesus as friend is for many of us a deep source of strength and a fundamental aspect of our maturity. By that I mean, as I recognize myself as a man, with all kinds of strengths and weakness, hopes and dreams, failures and embarrassments, I also know that I am loved by God.

The life and teaching of Jesus continually has taught that God’s love is neither dependent on my level of perfection nor impeded by my imperfections. God loves us because God is God and God is love. For young and old and everyone in between, maturity is saying “yes” to who and what I am and knowing that each of us is a work in progress. God is not yet finished with us – we are on that journey and maturity does not mean that our work is finished or we are perfected – it simply means accepting where I am today – and knowing that place is fine with God.

– Fr. Ronan

October 20 ~
Twenty-ninth Sunday Ordinary Time

“Remain faithful to what you have learned and believed. . . proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient”. Paul makes it very clear that the scriptures we hear are God’s inspired word for us. Therefore, when we pray with the Scriptures, we can be confident that God shows us where and with whom we are to “proclaim the word.”
So as the familiar hymn proclaims,
“Take the word of God with you as you go.
Take the seeds of God’s word and let them grow.


150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

Walking through the barrios of Guayaquil, Ecuador one of
the first impressions one has is the number of dogs that are
everywhere. My old uncle had a saying, “You could always
tell a poor man – because he has a dog; you can always tell a very poor man, because he has two dogs!”
Even when there is limited food for everyone in the family – the dog is in the midst of the family and receives a little of whatever there is. Of course here in Charlestown the whole dog thing is huge – and I confess that I add to the affection folks have with dogs with my own Labrador, Lily.

Yet, I find it troubling that the emphasis we place on our pets seems more
than our concern for people, especially people in need. When a person is found to be abusing an animal, that story might make headlines, especially if the person is some sort of a celebrity. On the other hand, when a person is found to be abusing another person, it is not such a big deal. But it is a big deal.

Naturally, human relationships are more complex than our relationships with our pets. Intimate relationships between friends and spouses are especially complex. When all is healthy, people understand the need of each other to express self in open and honest ways grounded in genuine love and care for the other. Yet all too often all is not healthy and one person in a relationship seeks to control the other by the use of physical, emotional, verbal, financial and/or sexual abuse. When this happens, it is called domestic violence.

The best definition of violence I have ever heard is: “Anything done or not done that diminishes the dignity of another”. When you think about that – all of us have been violent and been victims of violence. Yet domestic violence is the systematic use of violence to gain and maintain control over another. Perhaps the first response to this definition is to think I am speaking about something that is uncommon and certainly not in the neighborhood where I live. Sadly that is untrue.

Domestic violence affects anyone regardless of age, gender, identity, sexual
orientation, race, country of origin, ethnicity, culture, ancestry, socioeconomic status, religion, etc. It is estimated that 85% of domestic violence victims are women costing our country $5.8 billion each year. Recent statistics in the United States report nearly one in four women experience violence by a current or former spouse or boyfriend at some point in her life. The picture is clear – Domestic Violence is a huge issue and needs to be brought out of the closet and into the light.

The more our community is aware of these realities the safer all persons in
our community will be. And while the men and women impacted are many, it is the children who are in families where there is violence who are profoundly impacted and often emotionally crippled in their own development. So what do we do? October is DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AWARENESS MONTH. Look around. Learn about resources that are here in Charlestown and in our city that can help someone in an abusive relationship. Talk with a member of the local clergy, speak with a close friend. Often speaking about one’s suffering can be the first step toward receiving help – for everyone concerned.

In God’s eyes, each of us is precious, each life is to be respected, and no person, ever in any way shape or form, has the right to abuse another. When this happens, both the person abused and the abuser need help and need to find healing and support.

Fr. Ronan

HarborCOV 24-hour Hotline 617.884.9909 (Crisis Only)
P.O. Box 505754, Chelsea, MA 02150
Business Phone 617.884.9799

Twenty-eight Sunday
Ordinary Time
October 12/13, 2019

In today’s Gospel, we hear of the ten men afflicted with leprosy, and the one who glorifies God for being healed. It is a dramatic scene of gratitude. But in order for the miracle to happen in the first place, these men had to start walking in faith before their diseased conditions change one tiny bit. Good stewards of their faith realize that they cannot wait until their problems are over to start walking in faith. They praise God even in the darkest of nights, and in the worst of circumstances.
Do we walk in faith, offering the Lord our gratitude even when we are in difficult circumstances?

October is Respect Life month

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

My Dear Friends in Christ:
Each October during Respect Life Month, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops launches a new cycle of the Respect Life Program – a year round, nationwide effort to help Catholics understand, value, and help cultivate respect for human life.

As Chairman of the USCCB Committee on ProLife Activities, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for all you do to build a culture of life on a daily basis. Your efforts on behalf of the unborn, the dying, the elderly, the imprisoned, the poor, and so many others have a profound impact, both now and in the life to come.

This year’s theme, Christ Our Hope: In Every Season of Life, is particularly suited for the times in which we live. The attacks against human life seem to grow more numerous and callous by the day. Despite these challenges, we know that Christ has conquered sin and death once and for all. Through our Christian hope in the Resurrection, we are given the grace to persevere in faith. Our sacrifices on behalf of the Gospel of Life can contribute to the redemption of this current culture of death.

During the 2019-2020 Respect Life Program cycle, we also celebrate the 25th anniversary of the papal encyclical Evangelium vitae (The Gospel of Life), written by St. John Paul II. The Church’s teaching on the value and inviolability of every human life remains an indispensable source of truth for all people. As Evangelium vitae highlights, “together we may offer this world of ours new signs of hope, and work to ensure that justice and solidarity will increase and that a new culture of human life will be affirmed, for the building of an authentic civilization of truth and love” (EV6).

We bishops need your help. While there may be opportunities for decisive political action, we know that to build a true culture of life, we must seek to change hearts and minds. And your witness is essential.

It is the vocation of the laity to go out to be leaven in the world, a light in the darkness. Your daily activities take you to places I cannot go; they bring you to those I will never meet. May you allow Christ to renew and strengthen you, that He may work through you in each moment of every day. Be assured of my prayers for you and for our common efforts to bring about a world in which every life is cherished. And so together may we “hold fast to the hope that lies before us. This we have as an anchor of the soul, sure and firm” (Heb 6:18- 19).

Most Reverend Joseph F. Naumann
Archbishop of Kansas City, Kansas
Chairman, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
Committee on Pro-Life Activities

October 6 ~ Twenty-seventh Sunday Ordinary Time

In today’s second reading, St. Paul reminds us of our responsibility as disciples saying, “Stir into a flame the gift of God that you have…”
When we feel that we do not have the courage to speak about Christ to others, Paul also reminds us that “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love…” When the disciples were worried about their mission they turned to Jesus and asked for an increase of faith.
How about us?
Will we take God’s word to heart and share it with courage?

An Age Old Question

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

Almost 40 years ago, Rabbi Harold Kushner published a book with a captivating title: “When Bad Things Happen to Good People?” Everyone can relate to that question that has become part of common parlance. Rabbi Kushner wrote his reflection, almost as a meditation, after his young son was diagnosed with a fatal disease. Like millions of others, I read his book and it contains a wisdom and a compassion that has been a source of solace for many over these years. The question is, in fact, haunting and one that as a parish priest I have heard all too many times. Doubtless, you, too, have posed the question in one way or another.

It seems to me that one of the first responses many of us has when something bad happens is, “What did I do to deserve this?” Somehow, we want to connect our behavior with what happens to us; and often that is the case, but not always. In fact, the very nature of the question rather implies that bad things should happen to bad people and good things to good people. When we cannot find the “bad” we have done that seems to merit the suffering, many feel a sense of unfairness and anger toward someone, often God. Of course, we always want someone to blame for our suffering.

Yet, each of us knows that life is not fair and suffering is a part of life. Your mother suffered to give you birth; your father suffered to care for you and both parents suffered to raise you. The beginning of suffering is in the very nature of our broken human condition. A Christian traces this brokenness to The Garden and original sin. That original sin was placing human interest and will over God’s and ever since, we struggle with the consequences of that choice.

As I consider my own journey, now in its 74th year, it seems to me that we spend our entire life learning to let go. This begins when we have to let go of the safety and comfort of our mother’s womb and the “letting go” of our self-interest and selfishness continues from infancy into childhood through adulthood and finally arriving at our senior years. All along the way, we have to learn to “let go” and that is hard and often painful. The process means we live into the truth of our mortality; life is oh so brief and our destiny is not to be found here on earth.

For me this “letting go” about which I speak frees me to find and embrace what gives my life meaning and direction – a relationship with God. There is nothing more meaningful, more fulfilling and more capable to make whole my broken human condition. For this relationship brings me to Christ, the source of all that is Love. Living in a relationship with Christ leads me to others offering the hope and joy, the suffering and sorrow we know together. In the gift of these relationships of family, friendship and community, we find the authentic experience of love, learning to let go and to embrace – almost in practice for our final letting go and embrace.

Fr. Ronan

Twenty-sixth Sunday – Ordinary Time September 28/29, 2019

In today’s Gospel Jesus offers a warning about living selfishly in his parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. The Rich Man holds sumptuous feasts and dresses in fine clothes. But despite his affluence he does nothing to relieve the painful hunger and debilitating condition of his neighbor Lazarus.
He neglects to love his neighbor as he loves himself and is sent to hell for his lifestyle and desire for self-gratification.
The Rich Man represents those who spend their money on their own personal pleasures with no regard for sharing their material possessions with the poor and needy in their own neighborhood.
Good stewards realize the practical implications of not only loving God, but loving their neighbor as they would love themselves.
Who are the less fortunate in our neighborhood?
Do we share a portion of our own blessings with them?

To Wonder

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

We walked along the sidewalk and there were flower gardens, lawn, shrubs and trees all along the way. He was holding my hand – it was a stretch for both of us for he was only 2 years old. The weather was warm and lovely, typical for springtime in Virginia, and there were ants and various bugs crawling everywhere celebrating the rites of spring. My nephew caught sight of these critters and nothing would do but he had to let go of my hand and crawl along following a busy colony of something. He was lost in amazement, completely outside of himself in wonder as he crawled through puddles and over rock in pursuit of the mystery of this life.

I have always held that memory as a classic understanding of what it means to wonder. Wonder is very different than thinking about, analyzing, processing, discussing and debating, working through and a dozen other ways in which most adults stand in front of daily reality. With a “hands-on-hip get the job done” attitude none of us seem to have much time for … wondering. In fact wondering is likely considered a waste of time in many circles and that’s a shame.

Abraham Heschel, the late and brilliant Jewish theologian and philosopher, wrote a lot about wonder. I like these words: “The beginning of our happiness lies in the understanding that life without wonder is not worth living.” To me the issue relates to how one stands in the world in front of the mystery and beauty of creation and all life. Not to wonder seems to leave two options: dismiss the great mysteries of life or believe everything can be understood and figured out. The latter opens one to unsustainable arrogance and failure and the former seems nothing short of foolish.

It is only our capacity for wonder that opens us to the transcendent and the mystery that is life and the universe. In one of his writings, Heschel says that the person who never wonders cannot find God. Is it possible that our present time of efficiency, productivity, and astonishing advances in so many levels have come at a price? The cost has been an increase of secularism and a diminishment of wonder – be it in art, music, theatre and religious practices.

Professor Heschel’s formula for a life well lived is as follows: “Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement. ….get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.”

Once again, our children can teach us. Jesus was clear in His teaching – we are to become like children and perhaps that is so we can re-capture our sense of wonder in our everyday life for as Heschel says, “Wonder rather than doubt is the root of all knowledge.”

Fr. Ronan

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time September 21/22, 2019

In Jesus’ parable of the Unjust Steward, we encounter a financial manager who has wasted his master’s wealth and faces dismissal from his position. To overcome the crisis confronting him, the steward reduces some very considerable debts owed by poor neighbors to his master in order to help them out. Though the steward has sinned against God and his master by squandering what belongs to someone else, both the prudent way in which he goes about resolving the crisis coupled with relieving people who are in need can be seen as a way to better steward the gifts entrusted to us by God. Although good stewards today acknowledge that they may never use their God-given gifts in a way that completely conforms to the demands of the Gospel, a commitment to using their gifts with prudence and for the purpose of helping their neighbors wins God’s favor.

Human Consequences of our Immigration Policies

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

Immigration is as ancient as recorded history. It is driven by multiple factors — people move because they are afraid, oppressed, or to escape violence and chaos. Immigration is often accompanied by human tragedy. But not always — people also move because of hopes and dreams. They move to find new opportunities, and they move to contribute to their new country. Having worked with immigrant communities throughout my priesthood, I have seen how deeply patriotic they are when they are welcomed to this country.

Immigration in our time has far exceeded previous experience. The World Health Organization estimates that one billion people are migrating today. We live in a globalized world; in that context, movement is perpetual. Ideas move, products move, money moves. But people do not migrate easily. Obstacles abound.

Part of the reason is that our globalized world is structured and governed by sovereign states. It is a basic function of states to establish secure boundaries, defining the territory where they exercise sovereignty.

Security and sovereignty are part of the reality of immigration, but they are not all of it. Sovereignty has moral content, but it is not an absolute value. The immigration policy of states should combine security with a generous spirit of welcome for those in danger and in need.

That necessary combination of values is seriously lacking in the United States today. Principal responsibility for this moral failure must rest with the federal government, where policy is a product primarily of the president and Congress. But it also must be recognized that, as a society, we are deeply divided over immigration. Our divisions have produced severe human consequences — it is imperative to acknowledge some of them.

First, the most dramatic and dehumanizing consequence is to be found on the border with Mexico. To be sure, the challenge — thousands of adults and children seeking asylum every day — is unprecedented in recent history. But even a challenge of this severity, in a country of our resources and capabilities, cannot justify how these children and families are being treated. The overarching policy of the US government lacks justification.

Rather than a humane plan, existing policy in word and deed is more focused on castigating and confining young and old, male and female, in conditions often pervasively unfit for human life and dignity.

Second, rather than focus the efforts of all relevant agencies on the relief of suffering at the border, there are continuing threats made that the government will scour the country to remove people who have settled here and whose children are citizens.

Third, the dysfunction of our policy is acknowledged across the political spectrum of our country. The crisis at the border and the focus on removals leave the broader policy agenda unresolved in the executive and legislative branches of government.

To be sure, there are thousands at the border who require immediate attention. But there are also 11 million unauthorized immigrants in our midst with no policy to stabilize their existence and provide a path to citizenship — a policy objective advocated by the Catholic Church for decades.

Among the 11 million people are 3.6 million people brought to the United States as children, of which only 700,000 have temporary protection from deportation through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which is itself under threat. There are also over 400,000 people with Temporary Protected Status who are living in limbo. They have come to the United States for various reasons — for some, their countries have suffered natural disasters and they have no viable option to return home. There are no policies in place to allow TPS holders, the majority of whom have lived in the United State for more than 20 years, to earn lawful residency and move forward in their lives.

The point of identifying these broad categories and consequences of existing policy is to highlight that practical, concrete choices are available to correct a dysfunctional policy. First, we should recognize that economic assistance to El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Mexico could assist people to remain in their home countries. In addition, the historic “guest worker” program, which provides temporary visas for workers, can contribute to the needs of the United States as well. However, our policies on Central America seem exclusively focused on threats, coercion, and punishment. This is surely misguided.

Developing positive solutions does not seem to be the motivating concern of existing policy. Instead, the current emphasis, we are told, is on “deterrence,” a term at home in military policy that is now being advocated to confront people with no power of any kind. The targets in this case are not an armed array of hostile attackers. They are women, children, families.

Fourth, while deterrence can have some role in law enforcement and has been used by other administrations, much depends on the spirit and motivation that animates our broader immigration policy. Current US policy and practices combine to project an attitude of animus toward immigrants. Most evident is the language used at times to describe people on our borders; it is often degrading and demoralizing.

Beyond language, there are the policies to reduce the number of refugees the United States will welcome. The numbers have been reduced substantially, and threats exist to reduce them to zero. The federal government recently announced it will expedite removals of undocumented immigrants without judicial appeal or oversight and move to provide for unlimited detention of families seeking asylum. The tenor, tone, and result of these policies communicate a distinct message: We have no room in our hearts and no space in our country for people facing life-and-death situations. This hostile spirit toward immigrants extends to proposals to expel some of those receiving crucial medical care. A similar spirit of lack of compassion and generosity is manifested in new proposals to focus immigration increasingly on merit-based applicants, leaving the poor excluded.

Our present moment requires civility and charity among the citizens of our society and toward those hoping to become citizens. As a country it is a good time to remember the biblical axiom: To whom much is given, much is expected.

Cardinal Séan P. O’Malley

Twenty-fourth Sunday Ordinary Time Weekend of September 14/15, 2019

Among the primary themes in today’s Gospel when we hear Jesus’ well-known parable of the Prodigal Son is forgiveness and the need to repent. But from a stewardship point of view what is also interesting is one of the secondary themes: the failure to use responsibly the gifts that have been so generously bestowed. The youngest son who demanded his inheritance and left home broke no laws or religious commandments. His wrongdoing was that he wasted his inherited wealth, the abundant gifts given to him. His sin was in his extravagant living; squandering his gifts in pursuit of selfish pleasures. Good stewards acknowledge that everything they have comes from God, and they are required to cultivate these gifts responsibly.
What are our God-given gifts?
Do we use them responsibly?
Do we exercise good stewardship over them?

Change is Tough

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

I was twenty years old and finishing my second year of college when my parents decided it was time to sell the family home in Dorchester. Some of my older siblings had already moved on and I was the youngest. The neighborhood had changed a lot and my Dad planned to semi-retire and make a move to a smaller home in the suburbs. I spent a lot of that summer cleaning, moving and packing, and remembering. What a great old house that was and how hard it was to say goodbye – to change and to move on.

My story and memories are no different then those of so many of you as well, I imagine. We have all gone through changes in life – it is simply part of the journey. And if there has not been too much changing in your life – just wait a minute – something will come along real soon! Changes in the Church are sort of like changes in our homes and families – they are so close and personal to us. Of course we all come to realize that change is inevitable in all but the most fundamental things.

For example, our faith that sustains us daily; the love we share in families and friendships and the hope that is ours for tomorrow and into the future. These are all constants and we depend upon them each day. Our faith, hope and love may grow, be challenged and be taken for granted – but they are cornerstones of our life. It seems so much else changes. People, relationships, experiences, work, institutions, products, places and on and on – all come and go, leaving us to cope with an ever changing landscape.

And how do we cope as men and women of Faith with the changes in our lives and world? Some see changes as conspiracy and are threatened by change. Others see changes as exciting and inevitable and positive. Some are indifferent, others passionate about holding on to whatever.

For me, 6 Percival Street is gone – forever. All that was important in my life that happened at 6 Percival Street is a part of me and my brothers and sisters and our lives. Saying goodbye was hard as it often is. But, saying goodbye usually means we are saying hello as well. And if my history is any indication of my journey, and maybe yours, God has always been active in both the goodbyes and hellos – sustaining, helping guiding. In fact, it is in exactly the act of letting go of what is comfortable and familiar that we are invited to trust in the God who knows us so well and loves us so much. Sustained by this trust, we can go forward with hope.

Fr. Ronan

Follow me !

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time September 7/8, 2019

At the conclusion of today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus tell a “great crowd” that “… anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.” A few of Jesus’ immediate disciples, such as Peter, John and James, did just that: They responded to Jesus’ call, renouncing everything to follow him. How do modern disciples of Jesus respond when confronted with this apparently harsh command of Jesus? Surely the renunciation of possessions need not mean literally giving all one’s possessions away, does it?
Questions we might ponder this week though:
Do our possessions keep us from encountering Christ at Mass?
Do they distract us from our parish family?
Do our possessions interfere with our relationships?
Do they make us insensitive to those less fortunate?

Labor Day Weekend

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

For as long as I can remember that phrase, “Labor Day Weekend” contained within it more emotion then I ever cared to face. Of all of the transitions that happen within the course of a calendar year, none seems as profound, as challenging and frankly as sad as this one. Summer is over. OK, I have said it, even though I don’t really accept it. There are still some weeks of beautiful weather ahead; everyone knows sailing and the best swimming are in September. And on and on, I try to push back to the sorry truth, summer is over.

I am certain I am not alone in this reaction to Labor Day. While parents of school age children secretly or otherwise rejoice that summer is ending and their children will return to school in a matter of days, most of us lament that the beauty and the loveliness of the summertime is ending.

In 1894 the U.S. Congress established Labor Day as a federal holiday to be celebrated on the first Monday in September. Today the weekend is embraced as a final fling of summertime for young and old. Family reunions, cookouts, parades and other kinds of social gatherings mark this weekend. The Sunday before Labor Day is called Labor Sunday. On this day it is recommended one reflect on the spiritual and educational aspects of work and the labor movement.

We all earn our daily bread by our work, in one way or another. Some of us are blessed with work that is more a vocation and it is deeply fulfilling and meaningful. Yet I think many do not find their jobs pleasant and enjoyable. Rather their work can be drudgery. The large numbers of workers who daily labor at one or two minimum wage jobs are an example. Over the brief history of workers in our country, it has been the labor movement that has brought relief for workers who had known abuse and exploitation. Many of us recall the stories of our parents and grandparents about the struggles of the immigrant workers in our cities. Those struggles continue for many immigrants today.

The Catholic Church has long been a committed friend of the worker. From early on the Church supported labor unions and the rights of workers to organize. Catholic Social Teaching would hold the following: The economy must serve people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living: it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation. While the unions of today face many challenges they are nonetheless the hope of many workers for a decent wage and fair and safe working conditions. For all of these reasons and more, we gratefully celebrate Labor Day, 2019.

Underlying the rights of workers is our belief in the dignity of each person, as a child of God. This dignity pervades all that we are and do and infuses all the seasons of our lives with an awareness of God’s plan that all people have what they need to live with dignity and hope. Clearly we have a lot of work to do to make that dream a reality.

Fr. Ronan

Don the cloak of Humility

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time September 1, 2019

In today’s Gospel, Jesus challenged the social structure of the Pharisees and teaches his hosts and their guests some profound lessons in humility. Pharisees maintained deep social divisions between who they considered “holy” and “unholy,” rich and poor, honored and despised. They didn’t invite someone to a banquet or dinner who couldn’t reciprocate. And the lowly, the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind had no capacity to reciprocate. Good stewards realize that if they embrace a humility that allows them to be generous to those who cannot repay them, they give evidence of having the kind of heart that will enjoy the Lord’s intimate friendship. This week let’s reflect on our attitude towards those who cannot repay our generosity. What is the extent of our hospitality toward others? Are we generous with those who cannot repay us?

Living With A Dog

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

Children, by their very nature, are open to so much they find all around them, whether it is in the sky, in the air or under the sea. Whether in forests or cities, a young person can sense, feel and know so much. There is that magical capacity of a child that seems to absorb and learn – even though there is no obvious lesson around. Further, children know if people like them before there is any clear evidence one way or the other. All of this and so much more we experience around our children. Many of us lose some of these gifts as we grow older. I think we shift our experiences from the heart and senses to the head!

I have come to believe that dogs, in their own way, often have some of the abilities of a child. Those of us, who are so blessed to have lived with a dog, have many stories about amazing, unexpected behaviors on the part of our pets. They are stories of awareness, helping, responding, anticipating and apparently understanding and appreciating and so much more. There are many examples.

On the topic of how a dog has helped a person deal with grief and loss, there are numerous accounts and, frankly from an objective point of view, they are almost hard to believe. Yet I now know they are likely true. The presence of dogs among the elderly and infirm is an increasing phenomenon and for a good reason. Dogs can reach people where they find them, even if that person is suffering from dementia, severe handicaps or Alzheimer’s disease.

On more than one occasion, on request, I have brought Lily, my English Labrador retriever, into a hospice unit to comfort a dying patient. The situations were difficult: sounds, smells and many off-putting aspects of the scene. However, Lily, with my leading her, passed by all of this and any other distraction, to go to the suffering person and allowed herself to be patted – licking the hand of the terminally ill person. The effect was a joy to behold.

The more I live around dogs, and that certainly is easy to do in Charlestown, the more I am amazed and humbled by the beauty and gift of this animal. Increasingly, I realize that a pet, a living, breathing miracle of creation, is none other than one more of God’s wonders. When one lives with a dog for awhile, one can see and appreciate the wonder of God’s work of creation. And if one becomes too busy to notice all of this, in all likelihood a good dog will change that. When I have been working long hours and have not taken a break, Lily is in the habit of walking over to my desk and poking me with her snout – it is time to quit and go for a walk – and she is right!

I had an old uncle who once told me a wonderful Irish saying: “You can always tell a poor man, because he has a dog. You can always tell a very poor man, because he has two dogs!” When I look at Lily snoring on the other side of the office, I think, maybe I am not poor enough; and than I look again and know I am very rich.

~ Fr. Ronan ~

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time August 24/25, 2019

The Gospel reading today starts with a question: “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” Jesus offers only a simple reply: Strive to enter through the narrow gate. Many will try to enter and will not be able. Good stewards know there is only one, narrow gate. Not everything will fit. This narrow gate has no room for our accomplishments. No room for our money. No room for our possessions. No room for anything else but those who’ve been good stewards of the Gospel. We can’t custom build our own gates either. There is only one, narrow gate that happens to be open for a time, but for how long? What is our plan of action to get through that gate?