Saturday, March 29, 2014

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, March 30

Last weekend we held our annual Pledge Renewal Commitment Sunday. It was a great success. Many thanks to our witness speakers and to all who filled out a commitment card! If you have not already done so then I encourage you to please fill out a commitment card. They are located in the blue folders in the pews. THANK YOU!

This weekend at St. Ausitin is the Christ Renews His Parish (CRHP) retreat for the ladies of the parish. Over two dozen women will be participating in this as retreatants, and at least as many again in putting on this intensive spiritual experience. It is a great blessing for all the ladies involved, both giving and receiving.

Next weekend is a crucial one for our parish school, as it is GRAND TOUR on Saturday. This is the largest fund raiser of the year for the school, when students ride their bikes on the Velloway. Family and friends pledge a certain amount for every mile ridden, and the event raises over $90,000!

And then we are into Holy Week and all the wonderful activities that brings! With all the activity around here you might not notice that our attendance has not quite kept up with previous years. It seems from the figures we have been tracking that attendance at Masses and activities such the Lenten Stations of the Cross and Soup Suppers, the Advent and Lenten Communal Penance Services, and just in general, is down almost 10%. Religious Education attendance, however, is up!

Since Austin is growing, one would normally assume that we, as a parish, should be growing too. Perhaps the continuing increase of traffic and downtown disruptions (races, events, etc.) has something to do with our diminished attendance. Perhaps people are just not going to church as much as they used to. Perhaps we are not doing something right. The parish staff and parish council will be studying the figures to see if we can notice some sort of trend or pattern. If you have ideas or suggestions, you can pass them on to one of the staff or the parish council members. I believe we have something very good and special here in St. Austin’s parish community. I encourage you to not keep this to yourself, but invite others to join us as well. As we saw in the witness talks last weekend, many good things happen here. But we need to reach out and let others know about it, and invite them to taste and see!

God bless!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A note from Fr. Chuck -- March E-news

Last weekend at all the Masses we heard from several parishioners about their involvement at St. Austin and how much they value our amazing and active parish. I found it an encouraging pleasure to listen to them. These lay witnesses reinforced what Fr. Bob, Fr. René and I have been sharing with you during our homilies (and in my column!) over the past few weekends.

I hope you were able to attend Mass and hear one of our excellent volunteers speak! If not, recordings of the talks will be posted on our YouTube account soon, hopefully by early next week. Thank you to Adam Ragsdale, Kevin and Barbara Barry, John Schwartz and Charles Vernor for their efforts in sharing some of the many great things about St. Austin Catholic Parish, and how St. Austin’s community has touched their life and brought them closer to Jesus!

THANK YOU to everyone who turned in their commitment card already! If you were unable to attend Mass last weekend, you should be receiving a letter from me and a commitment card in the mail later this week. I don’t want you to be left out! Also, commitment cards will still be available in the pews this weekend. You can turn yours in by placing it in the offertory basket, dropping it off at the parish office or mailing it in the return envelope provided.
I encourage everyone to complete a commitment card. The action of making that commitment is important, whether you can afford only to pray for our parish, or to give a dollar, or to give more. Having your completed commitment card helps us to recognize you for your generosity, to plan for the future needs of the parish and to prepare a budget for the next fiscal year.

Do you give online? Great! I highly encourage everyone who is comfortable with doing so to set up online contributions to St. Austin. I do. It saves the parish money because payments post to your record in our database immediately, without the need for staff to manually enter data.

It is quick and easy to set up with our secure database, ChurchDB. If you’d like to set up your regular contributions online for the first time, click the Give Online button on our website and complete the online form. For our new pledge year, which begins May 1, 2014, select “Stewardship: Offertory 2014-15” in the drop down menu under the blue box that says, “Apply My Donation to The Following Fund Account.”

If you have an existing online contribution and your total dollar amount will change for the new pledge year beginning May 1, if you checked the box on your Commitment Card indicating that we can increase your contribution by the amount listed, then we will make the change for you. If you did not check this box or you are unsure, just email our bookkeeper, Pat Lucksinger, and let her know it is okay to change the amount of your transactions.
If you have any questions about your pledge or contributions, you can always contact Pat Lucksinger via email or at 512-477-9471 ext. 322 or Jennifer Anderson via email or at 512-477-9471 ext. 325 anytime. You can also contact me via email or at 512-477-9471 ext. 328, though I am sometimes more difficult to reach.

Thank you for your continued support of St. Austin Catholic Parish!

Wishing you a very blessed Lent,

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, March 23

I want to say THANK YOU to all of you who fill out and turn in a pledge card this weekend. I personally appreciate your concern for and your commitment to our parish. St. Austin’s parish community is not perfect, but it is still something truly special. It has been around for over a century, and I hope it will be around for at least several more. Meanwhile, this community of faith has been entrusted to us to grow and develop. We have a charge and a mission, to help spread the GOOD NEWS of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ. We do that first and foremost by embodying the Good
News, by living it out in our relationships with each other. Then we embody this Good News in how we welcome those who come to us, how we reach out to others in our area to invite them to share with us the joy and healing we have found in the Gospel, and how we respond positively to those we are able to help with assistance, direction, or just a listening ear. Your concrete action to support our parish by your prayers and by your financial pledge are vital to this work. THANK YOU!

I also want to say a word about the Paulist Pre-Assembly gathering that took place last week in Las Vegas. While some of you may have been on Spring Break, the Paulists gathered to look to our future, and specifically to generate concerns and issues for the Paulist General Assembly to take up in May. The General Assembly happens every four years. It is a legislative body that passes resolutions, setting the course and tone for the next four years for the Paulist Community.

At the Pre-Assembly about 65 Paulists gathered, along with all of our seminarians and novices. About an equal number of “collaborators in mission” (i.e., people who work with us in our foundations) and lay Paulist Associates were there as well, so we were about 50% clergy and 50% laity. Deacon Billy Atkins represented the collaborators of St. Austin.

As a community the Paulists are facing some very tough challenges: shrinking numbers of Paulists, limited and insufficient finances, Bishops who want to have more say in campus ministry (one of our traditional ministries), a lack of interest in organized religion by the young, and the aging of the Paulist membership. Nonetheless, there was a positive and hopeful sense to the discussions, with a lot of reliance on the guidance and support of the Holy Spirit. The Paulists as a community will be smaller. That is just the facts. We hope and pray however that we will still be faithful to the call to spread the Gospel and serve the Church. God will have to provide the rest.

Please keep the Paulist Fathers, and our wonderful St. Austin Catholic Parish, in your prayers.

God bless!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Fr. Chuck's Column for Sunday, March 16

Recently I was flipping through the channels on our rectory TV and by happenstance came across an episode of Thomas the Tank Engine. This children’s show from Britain has been running since the early 80’s. It is very colorful, and I paused flipping channels for a while to watch it.

One of the things that impressed me is that all the engines were concerned to please the owner of the railroad, Sir Topham Hatt. They wanted to do a good job to make Sir Topham Hatt (STH) happy. At first this put me off, since STH looks like nothing less than the characterization of the worst sort of industrialist-capitalist oppressor of the working classes. But as I watched, this soon faded, and what came to the fore was the genuine concern and desire of the engines to fulfill their responsibilities, do a good job, be reliable for all those who depended on them, and to please their owner. And that is really rather charming.

All of us, I would argue, have in us an innate desire to be responsible, to do well, to discharge our duties faithfully, to give a positive return for our life. This desire to be responsible is not just, nor even primarily, about our particular career or work, but rather our whole sense of what our life is about. Are we just leeches that only take in life, or do we somehow make a positive contribution that makes things better than what we found them?  I think this urge is strong in children. I love seeing the kids participate in the Catholic Relief Services packing of thousands of meals for Africa that we have done the last couple years here. Children don’t just want to be recipients and drains on the family. They have a desire to know that they contribute something to the wellbeing of the family. Children may resist doing chores around the house, but it is really important for them to know that they are contributors to the family and not just a burden. Kids who have it too easy really lose out, and eventually lose their sense of being a contributor. That is so important to a sense of self-worth.

The same is also true for adults. We have all been blessed with wonderful gifts: time, talent, treasures, supportive relationships and many others. Not least among these is the wonderful gift of Faith that makes life full of meaning, of purpose, of sense. These gifts are not given to us just for us to enjoy, just to receive, as if we are drains that gifts flow into but nothing ever comes back.

Rather we have been entrusted with these gifts to build up the common good. As St. Peter in his First letter states: As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” (4:10) 

The call to service is not a burden, but rather an opportunity to become who we were created to be. We find ourselves, and our worth, not in focusing on our own selves and our own needs, but in service to others. That is what good stewards do.

This week and next you will be hearing about Christian Stewardship, the call from God to use the gifts you have been blessed with to build up the Kingdom of God. That takes place, of course, in many ways. Specifically we are going to be talking about stewardship in the parish. We are blessed with an active, dynamic, parish. I believe we do a pretty fair job of helping people to discover Christ in each other, to worship, and to move forward together on the way to the Kingdom of God. It really is a big job, one that requires the active participation of ALL of us. It claims our time, our talent, and our treasure. We have been called to serve, and that call is truly precious. It gives us meaning and purpose and direction.

I hope that you will take time to reflect on your role as a steward of God’s varied gifts. Lent is a great time to do that. Open your mind and your heart to the message in the homilies this week and next. Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we approach our annual Pledge Weekend next weekend. Like Thomas the Tank Engine, you will be glad you did!

God Bless,

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, March 9

We are very fortunate at St. Austin to be serving the community of the University of Texas at Austin because UT is a world class school. Recent evidence of this was provided by a full page ad in the February 18, 2014 New York Times, listing the winners of the 2014 Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowships. The 126 fellowships represent the most promising scientific researchers working today. Their achievements and potential place them among the next generation of scientific leaders in the U.S. and Canada. Of the 126 fellowships, going to all the prestigious schools in North America such as MIT, UC Berkeley, U of Chicago, McGill U, John Hopkins U, Stanford, Princeton, Boston U and many others, THREE were granted to researchers at UT Austin. They were Guangbin Dong in the area of Chemistry, Pradeep Ravikumar in the area of Computer Science, and Amir Mohammadi in Mathematics. Congratulations to them!

Now perhaps you notice something a bit striking or unusual about these three names. It immediately jumped out at me, and that is of course that all three of these researchers are MEN. I am sure that there are also women doing very fine research at the University of Texas at Austin, but I guess it was just not their year for this research award. I look forward to this being redressed in next year’s Sloan awards.

Another thing to note, which may have slipped by you, is that these three are not traditional central Texas names. “Guangbin” is probably not a common name in AISD, and Ravikumar and Mohammadi probably are not either, at least not this year. In fact, it is highly probable that all three are either immigrants or children of immigrants.

This reveals to me two interesting things: The University of Texas at Austin is a world class research institution that draws brilliant people from all over the globe. Secondly, immigrants are VITAL to keeping the United States at the forefront of scientific research and keeping our economy healthy and strong. Thank God for immigrants!

God Bless,

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, March 2

Happy Mardi Gras! This coming Wednesday is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. Please see this bulletin and the Lenten calendar of the parish for many opportunities for spiritual growth and renewal during the holy season of Lent. (St. Austin's bulletin is online at

There is one activity that I highly recommend to you for this Lent in particular, and that is to read and pray over Pope Francis’ recent Apostolic Exhortation, The Gospel of Joy. I think this could be a very good exercise for us as a whole parish to do for Lent. I am encouraging each small Christian community, each ministry, each grouping in the parish to spend some time together talking over and sharing about this significant document.
In addition I will be leading two book discussion groups during Lent on The Gospel of Joy. On Mondays March 24, 31, April 7 and 14, I will lead discussion groups at both Noon and at 7:30 p.m. Interested individuals are invited to join me at either Noon or at 7:30 p.m. People can switch between the two from week to week if their schedule so dictates. All are welcome. I don’t know if we will be able to cover the entire Apostolic Exhortation in four weeks, but we will get a far as we can, and perhaps continue on after Easter for those who are interested. The idea is not to complete the document, but for us as a parish to wrestle with some of the issues our Holy Father raises, with an eye to living out more fully the strong call Pope Francis gives us in this document.
There are two ways to get The Gospel of Joy. The first is to go on the United States Catholic Bishops, website,, click on the BOOKSTORE tab, and find their edition of “The Joy of the Gospel: Evangelii Gaudiem” and purchase it there. It is $13.95 plus tax and shipping. OR, just go to the Vatican website and download the document for FREE. Just go to Choose the English tab. You will see a photo of Pope Francis, and under him a line with Apostolic Constitutions, Apostolic Exhortations, Apostolic Letters. Choose the Apostolic Exhortations and click on that. Since Pope Francis has issued only one of these, the selection is easy. Click on “Evangelii Gaudium: Apostolic Exhortation on Proclamation of the Gospel in Today’s World.” Finally the document will come up, with 50 pages of text and about 8 pages of footnotes. This is the text I will be using for the book discussion group. (Or just click here: Aren't you glad you're reading this online instead of in the bulletin?) 

Even if you are not going to discuss this document with some formal group, I encourage you to do this with your family or read and reflect on it on your own. Again, it is not as important that you finish the entire document as that you take time to reflect on what the Pope is calling us to. Some sections will be more pertinent to you than others. There is one section, for example, addressed to preachers. That may, or may not, be of interest to you. 
But I think it will be a worthwhile exercise for us together as a parish to undertake this task for Lent, giving us something in common to discuss, to reflect on, to pray over. The subject matter of the Exhortation is wide-ranging, and much of it speaks to our daily lives. Pope Francis is a great gift to the Church. His Apostolic Exhortation is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on how we put our faith into action in our daily lives. It is an almost ideal activity to do for Lent. Please join us. Have a Blessed Lent. 
God Bless,