Nov 282019

Being a better Christian

better Christian Liesel [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

This Sunday we celebrate the First Sunday in Advent. It is also the first Sunday of the new liturgical year. This start of the new year for me is more important than the new year we all celebrate on January 1. For me it is a chance to work to be a better Christian. It is a chance to work toward be more like the Christ that we will welcome as a child in a few weeks. We should all use it as an opportunity to be a Christian, not just in name only.

Being a Christian is not easy. It requires taking a serious look inside ourselves and finding those dark spots that need to be illuminated. We must look at the dirty parts of our being and work to clean them up. It is our job to look at removing the plank from our own eyes before we try to remove the speck from our fellow human beings eyes.

And we must also ask ourselves hard questions. Why don’t I help the homeless more? Why don’t I participate more in church or my faith walk? What is keeping me from loving my neighbor as myself? What is keeping me from loving my enemy? And why can’t I be more like Jesus?

Here at Saint Francis we are committed to giving you the tools you need to walk the walk. One of the things we are doing this year is to offer Taize services on the Saturday’s of Advent. So on December 7, 14, and 21 at 6:00 PM at 2321 Lumpkin Road in Augusta, GA, you can join us for this transformational service. In the Taize service we meditate on and pray for peace and unity in our world. So we will take this time to ask that we transform into beacons of love, light, peace and unity to the world around us.

Then and only then can we truly be an effective witness of God’s love to the world.

Come experience a totally different way to be Catholic!

Nov 162019

Support our community

community

Saint Francis Parish has been plugging along in the CSRA for almost 8 years now. We have been a parish community since 2003, but only under the name of Saint Francis for the past 8 years. Our parish has always been there for those who are in most need in our community.

We have struggled to build up a parish here in the CSRA since we started. A progressive, loving, welcoming, affirming parish that preaches God loves everyone is not what people in the south want. However, that has not stopped us from faithfully being present to those who need us. And it has not stopped us from faithfully offering mass every single Sunday.

At last count thousands of people have viewed our Mass video’s on Vimeo. Many more have used Roku and Amazon Firestick to watch them. Obviously there are those who enjoy the celebration of the Mass that we offer.

We started the Blessing Bag program last year and have worked to distribute bags to those most in need of food and daily supplies in our community. We continue to strive to build this very important program up so that we can reach even more people in most need.

However, very few actually come to our Masses and even fewer support our work financially. If we are to continue for the next year, we need your prayers and your financial support.

We cannot thank our generous benefactors who have donated monthly to keeping our parish and mission alive this long. Without their support, we would have closed 3 years ago. Thanks to them, we are still moving forward and working to bring the light of a loving God to everyone we meet.

It is time for our community, those who watch our Masses and who say they want to make a difference in the community, to step up and support our parish. Now is the time to commit to supporting this parish and ministry so that we can continue to do all these good works. Just $10 from each of our Mass viewers would make it possible for us to have our own facility and expand our blessing bag program!

We are asking you today to prayerfully consider making Saint Francis Parish a part of your monthly financial donation plan. We have even made it easy for you to do by visiting https://oursaintfrancis.org/donations/2020-operating-expenses/ or https://oursaintfrancis.org/support-us/.

You can ensure that we continue to be a beacon of hope and love in a world so filled with darkness and hate!

Nov 082019

Pastoral Care in the Parish

Pastoral Care

As a pastor, one of my many jobs is to provide pastoral care to those in our parish. As part of our on-going commitment to provide the best care possible to our parishioners, I have been in a Pastoral Care Practicum Class at AU Hospital. This class teaches up the best practices when visiting patients in the hospital or nursing home.

One of the thing I have learned is how multifaceted Pastoral Care can be. When working in a parish, the dynamic can be different. It can take years to develop relationships with your parishioners and to see any noticeable changes in their spiritual walk. However, in the hospital or nursing home, you see more of an immediate result or connection. The opposite can also be true. You can see an immediate mistake or missed opportunity to connect with someone.

I believe this class is also helping me to be a better pastor. Many of the skills I have learned and continue to learn in the hospital setting, I can apply to my work in the parish as well. Not just when a parishioner is hospitalized, but also when they need Pastoral Care while dealing with a crisis in their lives.

At Saint Francis Parish, we are always looking for ways we can improve not just the parish, but our ministry team as well. In the next few weeks, you will start to notice those changes. One of those changes is the start of our new Hospitality Team. Some one from the parish will be stationed at the front door of the mission and the parish to greet visitors and regular parishioners as well. It will be their responsibility to help visitors find all the information they need on our parish. They will also give them the materials they need to participate in the Celebration of the Eucharist.

This is all part of our continued effort to make you feel more welcome and included in our parish family. We will also start hosting our monthly potlucks starting in December. As always, you do not need to bring anything to come and enjoy our potluck. It is just a time to visit and fellowship in a more relaxed environment.

It is our hope and prayer that you will come and support Saint Francis Parish. We are trying to live a different way to be Catholic!

Nov 012019

All Saints, All Souls and Mrs. Muriel

All Souls

Today the church universal celebrates the Feast of All Saints. Tomorrow we pause to celebrate All Souls. These two feast fall near the end of the liturgical year for a reason. All Saints reminds us of those who lived Godly lives as an example to us. All Souls reminds us of those who impacted our lives and now live in peace and love with our Creator.

This Sunday we will pause as a church to remember All Saint and All Souls as well as to remember the life of Mrs. Muriel Widener. Many of you do not know Mrs. Widener. So I will take the opportunity to share a little bit about this remarkable parishioner.

Mrs. Widener was 88 years old and had 7 children. As a member of the Navy, she served her country at a time when women were not exactly welcome in our Armed Forces. She was a devoted daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and great, great grandmother. She was a devoted women of faith. Even when she was unable to attend Mass herself, she made sure her children were educated in and practiced their faith.

I met Mrs. Muriel in February of this year when her devoted granddaughter called me to come visit her. It was after many calls to Roman Catholic parishes. Each parish told her they were too busy for someone who had not been to church in 40 years. Confession and communion were all Mrs. Muriel wanted. And I was happy to provide her with both.

Each week I would visit her. She would tell me story after story about her family, her life as a child in Philadelphia, and all her travels around this country as a child and adult. She could tell a story better than any Broadway playwright! And I enjoyed each one. I enjoyed learning of her time in the Armed Forces. The stories about each child and grandchild. And her eyes would dance with love and excitement as she spoke.

And she would always ask about the parish and my own family. She loved to hear about my daughter and her journey through high school and into college. Her eyes twinkled as she listened. “She is an amazing young lady. You did a good job raising her,” she would say.

Mrs. Muriel attended each Mass that was posted on Roku. She would talk about the sermons and how much she enjoyed watching the Mass. She was truly a part of each and every Mass. More than once she said that if she were not bed-ridden she would be there with us every Sunday. However, Mass came to her every Tuesday when I would give her communion. And tears would well up in her eyes each time the Eucharist touched her tongue. She loved our Lord and could not wait for the next chance to receive him.

Monday night, one of the last things she said to me before ordering me home to rest was, “Please give me communion.” And so I did. We both knew that it would be the last time until she was embraced by our Lord in her new body. When I got the call Tuesday morning early to return to her side, I knew God was calling her to him.

She died peacefully. Surrounded by the love of her family and the prayers of our parish and the OCCI as a whole. She walked into the eternal love and light to see her husband, parents, sister, and her two daughters. And oh what a celebration heaven had that night.

I will miss her. Even now I cry because of the loss of my friend. But I know I shall see her again. And that is what All Souls is about. It is remembering those we love, but also remembering that we will see them again. We are reminded that they still pray for us and still cheer us on. They are never far from us and will be ready to welcome us home when our time comes.

I ask you to come visit with us this Sunday as we celebrate the life of Mrs. Muriel Widener and all the great people we love.

Come experience the different way to be Catholic that Mrs. Muriel discovered.

PS. Mrs. Muriel gave her permission weeks before she died for me to post these details. She was honored that I wanted to memorialize her in our parish history. Rest in freedom and love, my friend.

Oct 252019

Blessing others

Blessing

In our world today, those who have little to nothing find themselves ignored by those who have their every need met. Our parish is working to be a blessing to those who are homeless and in greatest need in our community. We do this with the support of our national church, but very little local support.

In our readings this coming Sunday, we are reminded that God hears the cry of the poor and orphan. God hears their cry for mercy and justice and will act on their behalf. Like the reading from Amos a few weeks ago, we are warned that by ignoring the cries of those in need, we will be judged by God.

Starting this Sunday, we will start offering Blessing Bags in front of the parish for those who need it most. No questions asked. No strings attached. If you need something, you can take it. If you don’t, take a bag anyway and pass it to someone who does need it.

We are kicking our Blessing Bag program into high gear. In the next few weeks we will begin to offer times that the public can come and get Blessing Bags to pass out. You do not need to be a member of our parish to come and get bags to share. It is not important if you attend our church, a different church or no church at all. What is most important is that we have those around us who need it most.

If you would like to help with our program, you can visit the link below to donate money or to purchase supplies and have them sent to us. Either way, we will continue to help our family and friends who find themselves without.

I don’t want to stand before God and have to answer the question, “Why did you not answer the cry of the needy and orphan?” Do you?

If you want to help, you can donate via https://paypal.me/saintfrancis or visit our Amazon Wishlist at https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/3RH2DTASDCBWI.

Oct 112019

A little thank you can save a clergy person’s life

thank you

October is clergy appreciation month and this Sunday is Clergy Appreciation Day. It is one of those celebrations that very few people actually know about and even fewer actually celebrate. I don’t expect people to say thank you to me for the work I do, but it does my soul a lot of good when they do. Especially when I am struggling with my depression and PTSD.

I wrote almost a month ago about the statistics concerning clergy. It is rather eye opening to see the number of clergy persons who struggle with mental health issues, financial struggles and educational inadequacies. I struggle with all three of those and sometimes all at the same time.

I try to keep my posting on social media and my blog postings here light and upbeat, but even that can be a struggle at times. Sometimes though, I need to just talk about the dark times and let out the sadness that I feel.

In many cases, I turn to fellow clergy for this support. And I have so many great people who love and support me. If it were not for them, I would not be here today. You see, I am one of those sad statistics concerning clergy. In the past, I have twice tried to commit suicide. Thankfully, I failed both times. (Or this blog post would be a Halloween spooky story of posting from the great beyond!)

Clergy are there for people on the darkest days of their lives. We stand with you when you have lost loved ones, suffered heartbreak or divorce, or have lost everything and are facing financial or physical ruin. We cry with you, laugh with you, pray with you, counsel you and stand with you when others walk away.

And I love helping others so much. All of us do to some degree or another or we would not be clergy. Sometimes it hurts to hear what people say about us and think about the work we do. I have been told by people that I need to get a “real” job. Others ask me if I am a child molester. Some question whether or not I am educated enough to do the work of the ministry. And some seem to go out of their way to say the most hurtful things possible to wound me.

And yet, I still answer the phone and show up at the hospital when needed. I still provide care and concern for those who have hurt me most. Because that is what I am called to do.

Take time today to thank your pastor for all their hard work. Thank them for being there when you need them most. Show them some small sign of appreciation for their dedication to a calling that we can never shut off.

You might actually help save them from a very dark day by doing so.

Oct 042019
changes

Today I went to see my primary care doctor. It was a routine visit. However, as is the case in most of life, nothing is really routine. He encouraged me to continue making little changes to my routines and life to become more healthy. The idea of little changes is one that Saint Francis spoke of a lot.

Most of us view Saint Francis as the kind of person who walked in and made radical changes to the world around him. However, Saint Francis’ story is one laden with little changes that created a ripple effect. Take for instance is renunciation of his father’s wealth. While not a huge change that effected the world in that moment, it started a ripple that would change everything in the church.

His rebuilding of the chapel in San Damiano was a small step that involved just him at first. But as he worked to rebuilt the chapel, others joined his efforts. Saint Francis did not start out to form a religious order. He just wanted to be closer to God. However, today there are 4,688 communities, 30,068 members (not counting the Third Order or lay orders), with an additional 20,289 priests. And that is just in the Roman Catholic Church! That does not include the Anglican/Episcopalian or Old Catholic/Independent Catholic orders in the world.

Saint Francis did not envision his work to help the poor and sick becoming a world-wide movement of people dedicating their lives to the service of others. I am not sure any of the founders of the main religious orders started out with that goal. But along the way, that is what happened.

Our little changes in life can have a big impact. In my own life, I have started to eat more vegetables and I go to the gym to exercise several times a week (5 times if possible). In the past year and a half, I have lost 42 lbs and I feel much better. My doctor encouraged me to remove processed foods and diet drinks from my diet as well. And today I started that process.

Here at Saint Francis Parish, we are committed to making little changes that we hope will impact others lives for the better. We need your help to make that happen. Whether it is financial support (via https://paypal.me/saintfrancis) or by volunteering your time and energy to help us grow. You can make a difference in our world by committing to little changes. Join us for Sunday Mass at either of our locations. Volunteer to help at Mass. Sign up to help with the blessing bag program. Let us know what your strengths are and how you would like to help our parish.

Your help can be a little change that sets the world on fire!

Sep 272019

To be an authentic Christian requires action

christian

Being an authentic Christian requires more than talk, it requires action as well. This is a hard lesson to learn, but one that is vital to our salvation.

As a small parish, we don’t have a lot of parishioners. That does not mean that the work is any less important or that the struggle is any less difficult. In some ways, the struggle is greater. We have fewer people to help with vital programs that our community needs.

We started a new mission in Graniteville South Carolina in the hopes that we will be able to grow a parish in the Midland Valley area. Our attempts at growth in Augusta Georgia have been difficult. Sadly, the South is a difficult area for liturgical churches, especially progressive ones.

One of my greatest fears as a pastor is that the parish will fail. After 7 years of attempts in Augusta, that fear is becoming all the more real. Yet, we continue to try. We look for new ways to reach out to those who are in most need of our help. Our parish started the Blessing Bags program to aid the homeless in our area. We are working to find a location to place a Blessing Box that the parish will keep stocked with basic food items. We are reaching out to the ministries in the area to provide assistance to programs already in progress.

And every Sunday, Father Matt and I celebrate Mass for the needs of our church and the community at large. This Sunday we are offering Mass for all our beloved homeless who are in such great need. Just like Lazarus in this Sunday’s Gospel reading, they are ignored and abused by those who could be helping them.

So many people wish to call themselves a Christian, but lack the desire to actually help those in need. Our ministries and parishes in the OCCI continue to astound me as they work to provide much needed services to those in most need. We don’t just talk about helping others, we actually do it.

At Saint Francis Parish we decided that despite the lack of people in the pews, we would build programs to help others. We are continuing to help those in need with the meager resources we have. And thanks to our family in the OCCI, we continue to build blessing bags stocked with much needed supplies.

And you can help too. All you have to do is come to Saint Francis Parish in Graniteville or Augusta and volunteer to help. Become an active part of our parish ministry and help us help others.

And in doing so, you will experience a new and authentic way to be a Catholic Christian.

Sep 212019

Serving two masters and a new mission

serving

This Sunday we read about how serving two masters is impossible. We also hear that the Lord remembers how we treat the poor and needy in our midst. These are hard readings to hear sometimes. Especially in our society where the poor are dismissed and abused and the rich are praised and exalted.

Our new mission that opens this Sunday sits in a unique location that affords us the opportunity to help people of various walks of life. Saint Francis Parish – Graniteville sits in an area that will afford us the opportunity to help those who need it most.

Our mission will continue our work to help the homeless with food and supplies they need most. We continue to work to build up our blessing bag program. A list of supplies we need will be posted soon so that you can help support this ministry.

The vision of the new mission is to build up a faith community that then goes out into the world to live the Gospel. It is not just enough to preach the Gospel with our mouths, we must also preach it with our very lives. This is what is meant by not serving two masters. We must serve the God of compassion, love, and service rather than the gods of greed, hate, and selfishness.

In order to do this, we need your help. We need you to come be a part of our parish family. We need you to commit to supporting our work and efforts by tithing with your money and your time. It is our hope that we will someday be in a building that we own so that we can offer even more services to the community as a whole. However, we will need your help to make it possible.

Please join us this Sunday, September 22, as we launch Saint Francis Parish – Graniteville. We will celebrate Mass at 10:00 AM at 6 Hickman Street in Graniteville, South Carolina. We meet on the campus of the Hope Center School. You can also join us for Mass at 3:00 PM at 2321 Lumpkin Road in Augusta, Georgia at the beautiful Saint Alban’s Episcopal Church.

It is our parish family’s commitment to be a beacon of hope, light and love to the CSRA. Come and experience a different and exciting way to be Catholic!

Sep 132019

Please thank your pastor today

Thank your pastor

This past week a pastor commented to me how tired they were and how they are rarely if ever told thank you. I understand that feeling of tiredness and being unappreciated. I also understand how hard it is sometimes to feel so alone in a ministry field. Please take a moment to read this entire blog post. Your pastor’s life may depend on it.

I and my fellow pastors need you to understand a few things about how ministry works. Take a look at these numbers:

  • 72% of the pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week.
  • 84% of pastors feel they are on call 24/7.
  • 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families.
  • 78% of pastors report having their vacation and personal time interrupted with ministry duties or expectations.
  • 35% of pastors report the demands of the church denies them from spending time with their family.
  • 66% of church members expect a minister and family to live at a higher moral standard than themselves.
  • 57% of pastors believe they do not receive a livable wage.
  • 57% of pastors are unable to pay their bills.
  • 75% of pastors report significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry.
  • 80% of pastors and 84% of their spouses have felt unqualified and discouraged as role of pastors at least one or more times in their ministry.
  • 52% of pastors feel overworked and cannot meet their church’s unrealistic expectations. 
  • 54% of pastors find the role of a pastor overwhelming.
  • 40% report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once in the last year.
  • 35% of pastors battle depression or fear of inadequacy.
  • 26% of pastors report being over fatigued.
  • 28% of pastors report they are spiritually undernurished.
  • Over 50% of pastors state the biggest challenge is to recruit volunteers and encourage their members to change (living closer to God’s Word).
  • 70% of pastors report they have a lower self-image now than when they first started.
  • 70% of pastors do not have someone they consider to be a close friend.
  • 57% of pastors feel fulfilled but yet discouraged, stressed, and fatigued. 
  • 1 out of every 10 pastors will actually retire as a pastor. 

I know that is a lot of statistics, but I feel you need to hear what we go thru. On top of all those, the one thing I hear most from my fellow pastors is that they rarely are told thank you. It may seem like a really small thing, but trust me, it is huge to a pastor.

Right around the corner is Clergy Appreciation Month. We take the entire month of October as an opportunity to thank those clergy people who serve us in ways we do not fully understand every day. And yet, so many people fail to take time to thank their pastor.

Why not start now? Why not take a moment to thank your pastor?

If you would like to show your appreciation in other ways, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Say thank you to your pastor on a regular basis. This is the most simple way to show your gratitude.
  2. Give your pastor a gift. It can be something as small as a handwritten note telling them how thankful you are for them and how they impacted you in positive ways. Or it can be something as elaborate as a gift card to a nice Resturant or their favorite coffee spot.
  3. Donate to the church in their honor. Most pastors spend hours on top of hours worried about their church’s finances. You can help to alleviate that worry by donating and say thank you by doing it in their honor.
  4. Volunteer at church. Most pastor’s end up doing a lot of work at church because there are not enough hands to help. You can help lighten their load by volunteering to help in the parish. You can do something as simple as cleaning the bathrooms or refilling the paper towels. That is one less job your pastor has to do.

These are just a few simple ways you can show your gratitude. This will help to lift your pastor’s spirit and keep them from possibly burning out.

Please join me in celebrating Clergy Appreciation Month just a little early!

Log in here!