Living Hope Newsletter – February 2012
Welcoming all on a Journey of Faith
Lent is a special time of spiritual reflection as we voluntarily add a sacrifice or change our daily routines in other ways to be closer to Jesus. Lent is also the time for a shared journey of faith for each of us—a journey to examine, remember, and renew all aspects of how we are living our faith. We may choose to share our journey with others in our parish as we pray the Stations of the Cross, or we may choose to share our journey privately with Jesus and his saints. Either path leads us to strength and peace in our faith, and to gratitude for Christ’s suffering to enable our salvation.
In addition to fostering devotion to St. Jude and maintaining the National Shrine of St. Jude, the Claretian Missionaries minister to families and individuals struggling with heavy needs. The Claretians commit to build parishes of true community. They lead and accompany their parishioners on the difficult journeys so that even in the face of much adversity, the faithful truly know that God is good.
This issue of Living Hope focuses on three varied Claretian parishes in our country, and the journey they share with the faithful of each community. The parishes are places where newcomers find welcome, and where families establish roots that sustain them.
The sacramental life of the church is at the heart of these parishes, with the goal that it becomes the heart of the life experience of the parishioners. The Claretians work on faith, spiritual and physical health, leadership development, youth outreach, education, and violence intervention programs as they build healthy communities—always working with the people.
“Sometimes people tend to see a parish as just a sacramental structure,” says Rev. Bruce Wellems, C.M.F., a Claretian priest who serves on the leadership council of the Claretians’ U.S. Province. “But for us it is far more than that; it is the heart of where the community gathers to live and celebrate the gospel.”
Our Lady of Fatima Parish
A visit into the church of Our Lady of Fatima in Perth Amboy, New Jersey reveals much about the character of the parish community. The church walls are lined with statues of the Blessed Mother, each one representing her as she is venerated in the many countries where the parishioners have come from. “All of our groups make it a point to participate in prayer and celebration united in Marian devotion,” says Rev. Richard Todd, C.M.F., pastor. “This living mosaic is a sign of our united journey in faith.”
At Our Lady of Fatima, the Claretians were originally called to minister among the growing Puerto Rican community starting in the 1940s. Today parishioners come not only from Puerto Rico but from the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala, and other Latin American countries—all reflected in the parish motto of “Only One Faith in Many Cultures.”
Catholic youth make up more than half of the parish population, so the needs for young people are many. Parishioners are raising funds to rehab a nearby building to provide a safe space for catechism classes, after-school youth activities, and meeting space for other parish groups. “There is a distance yet to go to realize the capital needed for such a project,” says Father Todd, “but we will get there so that we can properly care for our youth population.”
Corpus Christi Parish
The melding of diverse cultures is the life force of the Claretian parish of Corpus Christi, located in Stone Mountain, a city outside Atlanta, Georgia. The parish was built as a diocesan parish, but went through a difficult time and was in need of much healing. At the request of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, the Claretians took over the parish as one of their own in 1992.
The first stop for many Catholic immigrants and refugees to our country is to find their Church and begin to establish their faith activities in their new country . . . much as the varied European and Mediterranean immigrants have done throughout our country’s history. With a reputation for being truly welcoming, Corpus Christi has become the center of worship for the majority of these peoples. The parish serves them in sacramental life and assists with informed guidance on basic necessities like housing and job placement.
"The greatest gift of Corpus Christi is our gathered assembly of every race, language, and way of life,” says Rev. John Molyneux, C.M.F., pastor. “Our community celebrates a unity in diversity that is truly stunning. We are all colors, yet we gather as the same Body of Christ—the same Corpus Christi. We continue to be enriched by what is different, and work for the good of the whole Body.”
The Claretians’ relationship with the many refugees from Sudan at Corpus Christi exemplifies their dedication to seeing the world through the eyes of those they serve. Also known as the “Lost Boys” of Sudan, these parishioners experienced tremendous hardships as children who, to escape a life of slavery, were forced to leave their families. The Claretians have welcomed the Sudanese at Corpus Christi, providing assistance with every facet of settling in to a new and foreign place without the comfort of your family. And they have also accompanied a group of the now adult Lost Boys back to Sudan, reuniting them with families they hadn’t seen since childhood—a genuine shared journey of faith.
Sacred Heart Church
As the only Catholic Church in Prescott, Arizona, Sacred Heart is home to people from all walks of life seeking a Catholic faith community. The Claretian commitment to living and preaching God’s word through parish ministry is vital and strong at Sacred Heart. The elementary school provides Catholic education to children of the parish. A host of varied pastoral ministries engages the lives of the parishioners and serves their needs.
“In the spirit of St. Anthony Claret (founder of the Claretians) regarding sharing the love of Christ, we Claretians have played a special role in developing the Sacred Heart community since 1915,” says Rev. Art Gramaje, C.M.F., pastor.
Father Art is dedicated to the parish mission, which is ultimately about “joyfully living the Gospel.” The ministries at Sacred Heart include reaching out to all using every means possible. For Father Art, that has included a focus of outreach on the Internet, offering everything from videotaped homilies to sharing news, prayer, and information via the platforms of Facebook and Twitter.
The Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation ministry at Sacred Heart is what Father Art calls a leavening ministry for the parish. “This ministry is taking steps to be part of—and to leaven or enliven—all of the ministries of the parish toward our Catholic social teachings. This extends to the promotion of life and even the care of the environment God has given us."
Sacred Heart welcomes people with a rich array of backgrounds who come to worship and find community. “We embrace the rich and the poor, the Spanish speaking and the English speaking, the young and the old, the traditional and the progressive,” Father Art says. “It’s these dichotomies that make for a lively process of harmonization on our shared faith journey here.”