Saturday, February 28, 2015

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, March 1

If you made a donation to our parish school in 2014 and did not see your gift on the contribution statement from St. Austin Catholic Parish that was mailed to your home a few weeks ago, I would like to explain the most probable reason why:

The school has hired an Advancement Director, Ms. Bedina O’Neill, who has been diligently seeking grants for our school, and doing well at it. However, there are corporations, family trusts, charitable institutions, etc. that will make grants to SCHOOLS but not to CHURCHES. Therefore, to be able to apply for grants from these entities, we have acquired a separate tax I.D. number (or E.I.N.) for St. Austin Catholic School.

This transition occurred during the fourth quarter of 2014. Therefore, depending upon when your donation to St. Austin Catholic School was made and to which office your envelope or check was addressed, it could have been recorded under the parish’s tax I.D. number or under the school’s. If your donation was recorded under the school’s tax I.D. number, then you should have received a receipt and acknowledgement from the school separate from the parish’s records.

I encourage you to check your statement. If you have any questions or spot any discrepancies, please let us know. You can contact Pat Lucksinger regarding parish records at 512-477-9471 ext. 322 or at For school records please contact Bedina O’Neill at 512-477-9471 ext. 312 or

Going forward, all donations to St. Austin Catholic School will be recorded under the school’s new tax I.D. number and all acknowledgments will come from the school, not from the parish. We hope that this eliminates confusion and will make for clean records in 2015.

This in no way separates the school from the parish. St. Austin Catholic School remains a ministry of the parish, and the parish is committed to the school. Separate tax I.D. numbers simply make it possible for the school to apply for more grants from more donors, and we hope it will pay off for years to come.

Thank you for your patience and understanding.

God Bless,

P.S. Please note: the parish’s annual Adopt-A-Student and Fr. Jim Wiesner Scholarship Fund appeal will still be recorded through St. Austin Catholic Parish. This appeal is a show of the parish’s support for the school, and funds are collected and distributed by the parish.

Monday, February 23, 2015

It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John.  On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him.   And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
At once the Spirit drove him out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.  He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.
After John [the Baptist] had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:  “This is the time of fulfillment.  The kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
The Gospel of the Lord.

      You may have noticed you got a little bit extra of the Gospel of Mark this morning than what is called for in the reading.  Don’t worry: No extra charge.  But I think it is important to understand the setting.
      Jesus has just been Baptized.  The Holy Spirit comes upon Jesus and God’s voice from the heavens proclaims “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” 
      How do you think Jesus felt?   Well, can you imagine if you heard God from heaven proclaim, “you are my beloved child and I am so proud of you!”???   You would feel great!  And no doubt Jesus did too.  It must have been wonderful.  Jesus must have felt ready to burst.
      But Jesus was not allowed to stay there, not allowed to luxuriate in that sense of being special, being cherished, being loved.   “At once” the Spirit drove Jesus into the desert.  Other translations say “Immediately” the Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness.  I think “wilderness” catches the sense better.  This is not just a dry and barren place, but it is hostile, full of dangerous wild beasts, it is untamed and uncivilized, it is not only desert, it is wilderness.
The Spirit drives, or literally, throws Jesus into the desert, to be tested, to be tempted by Satan.  This is not a polite invitation, but a strong push.  Jesus is driven, compelled by the Spirit.
In the desert Jesus is tempted by Satan.  The word translated as “tempted” literally means to be put to the test.  Now testing, while usually not comfortable, is not necessarily a bad thing.  Testing allows us to see if we have what it takes to make the grade.  An ambitious athlete wants a challenge that will test his or her strength, endurance, agility, talent.  It is only in a challenge that they can prove themselves and excel. 
          Well, in our Gospel It is like Jesus is being pushed into the track of a race.  Jesus is the spiritual athlete par excellence, and Jesus proves his ability to hold firm, to not give in to Satan. 
          Mark cryptically tells us “He was among wild beasts”.  Not just wild animals, but  more importantly the kind of wild beasts all of us face: all those powers outside us that work for destruction, such as war, crime, discrimination, poverty, disease; and all those untamed beasts inside us as well: rage, fear, lust, greed, envy, despair.  Jesus is struggling with all these wild beasts.
          But St Mark also mentions, “and the angels ministered to him. “ Jesus is also supported by God’s grace.
          My brothers and sisters, the church gives us this Gospel at the beginning of Lent to be a sort of plan or pattern, (or for those who like 25 cent words,) a “paradigm” for us in this holy season.  We have been Baptized, like Jesus.  We too are therefore God’s beloved children. 
God sends God’s Spirit on us, and God is well pleased in you, and me, and every Baptized person.  That is wonderful!  But we cannot just stay there, basking in God’s pride in us.  We have work to do.  We have a mission. 
          And so just as Jesus went into the desert for 40 days to be tested, so we enter into this holy season of the 40 days of Lent, and we are tested.  We are tested and tried in order to grow: in compassion, in forgiveness, in generosity, in chastity, in honesty, in courage, and of course, in love.  We do works of penance, not in order to be miserable, not to lose weight, but to become stronger as Christians, as disciples of Christ.
For example, this Lent our generosity, and probably our patience, is tested by the many special appeals with which we are presented.  Catholic causes love to make their appeals in Lent.  And as always, the needs are great.  Most obviously, we are in the midst of our capital campaign to renovate the front of our church, the Faithful To Our Mission campaign.  Last weekend we had a second collection to support Catholic higher education and campus ministry in the diocese.  On Ash Wednesday we had a second collection for World and Home Missions.  Two weeks from today we take up our monthly collection for Persons in Need.  The following week, on March 15 we collect for Catholic Relief Services, and shortly after that we have our in-pew solicitation for our Capital Campaign.   Then the last weekend in March we take up our Grand Tour Collection to support our St. Austin Catholic School.  Later that week, on Good Friday, we have a collection for the Holy Land.  And then its Easter!   
That is a test.  The Spirit pushes us.  But taken in the right way it can make us more generous, more compassionate, more genuine Christians.
          We enter into this Lenten wilderness to be tested, so that we might be pulled, stretched, challenged, and grow. 
          ¿And what happened to Jesus after his 40 days of training?   Well, John the Baptist was arrested.  John was thrown into prison, and it was pretty clear he was not going to be coming out alive.  Jesus knew this was the fate of the prophets, and that if He started down that road, He too would eventually be killed.  It did not take divine foresight to figure that one out.  So when John was arrested, Jesus could have shirked his mission, kept a low profile and lead a simple and quiet life as a Judean peasant.  But He didn’t.  St. Mark states: “After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel."
          Jesus passed the test.  He proved his mettle.  He was up to the task.  He not only endured, but thrived.  With God’s grace, we will do the same.   

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, February 22

Well, here we are back again in Lent. Lent is not just a time of giving up sweets and maybe going to the Stations of the Cross or a weekday Mass. Those are good things, but the deeper meaning of Lent is taking stock of where we are spiritually. Traditionally this is called an “examination of conscience.” Usually that is done in preparation for celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation (a.k.a. “confession”). But I think it helpful just to examine where we are presently in our spiritual journey and spend some time reflecting on where we have been, where we are presently, and where we hope to go as persons with a deep and lasting – indeed eternal – spiritual dimension.
However, in our hectic modern life we often do not give our spiritual dimension sufficient time and attention. This is hardly a new problem. In the 1870’s, Fr. Isaac Hecker, main founder of the Paulist Fathers, the group of priests that have staffed St. Austin since 1908, wrote, “If we look at it closely, two-thirds of our time is taken up with what we shall eat, and how we shall sleep, and wherewithal we shall be clothed. Two-thirds of our life and more is animal – including sleep. We do not despise the animal in man, but we go in for fair play for the soul.” Without even invoking 19th century concepts of fair play, I think we can realize that we do not always give the spiritual aspect of our very selves sufficient attention and time.
Lent is a reminder to re-arrange and improve our priorities.
So I invite you to use this Lent well. It is an opportunity to awaken and strengthen the spiritual aspect of the reality that is you. Often in Lent we put the emphasis on sorrow, contrition, a firm purpose of amendment, and generally trying to live better as disciples of The Lord. Certainly nothing wrong with that. But I wonder if that is really the best place to begin, especially if you are a bit out of shape spiritually, a little rusty in discernment.
I think a better place to start off in Lent is not so much contrition as gratitude. First of all take stock of all the wonderful ways you are blessed. Every breath, every moment is a gift. Most of us need to be more conscious of our blessings. When we begin to feel, perceive, see and realize just how incredibly blessed we are, and especially what a phenomenal blessing Faith in Jesus Christ is, then I think we will naturally progress to the deep realization and understanding that these blessings are for a purpose, that with our blessedness comes an obligation, that our being chosen at Baptism includes a call to live in a certain way and for a certain purpose. Then comes the realization of our shortcomings, and with it true contrition both for what we have done wrong and also for what we have failed to do with all the opportunities and blessings we have received.
This Lent I urge you to pay attention to your spiritual life, and if you are uncertain or confused about just where to begin, start by seeing just how blessed you are. When we come to Easter you will certainly have reason to truly celebrate.
God bless,

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, February 15

Faithful to Our Mission Capital Campaign
Fr. Chuck’s Frequently Asked Question
Why not wait till we know exactly what we will renovate and how much it will cost before raising money for the church & rectory renovation?
While it makes logical sense to figure out first exactly what we are going to do in the course of our renovation, find out how much it will cost, and then ask for money for the project, there are several reasons that do not make this a good option for us at this time.
First of all, the driving force of the church and rectory façade renovation is safety. Raising funds while we are still working out the details of the construction (and hence of the cost) shortens the time during which we continue to live with a building in an unsafe condition. Raising money now shortens the time of our liability, minimizing the chance that people could possibly be harmed by falling stone. That is important to us, as hundreds of people walk in front of the most troublesome eastern façades of the church and rectory every day.
Secondly, by conducting the campaign now, we will build up a reserve to use when construction finally begins. If we wait until we know the final details of construction to launch the capital campaign, in order to begin work we would have to either wait until the campaign pledges have all been collected before we begin construction or borrow funds from the Diocese of Austin at a higher rate than the average commercial loan. The longer we wait to begin, the higher the likelihood that construction costs will increase. If we borrow, we pay more for the money than necessary and add to our existing debt load instead of reduce it. In either case, the cost of the renovation has gone up considerably. This is why our Property Committee and Finance Council decided that conducting the capital campaign now is the best fiscal option.
Third, a renovation like this is difficult to pin down completely. In new construction, you know exactly what you are doing and how much it will cost. In repairing an aged structure, there is always the possibility of “unforeseen conditions.”  Already we have discovered that the south and west faces of the church are considerably different than on the east and north faces. We are attempting to eliminate as many potential surprises as possible by performing thorough studies and sample work; for example, we know from testing that we are not dealing with any asbestos.  But until we remove the crumbling façade, we will not know the true scope of the project, so it is not possible to quote the construction cost to an exact amount prior to beginning work.
We are designing a renovation and construction project to a budget limit of $3,250,000, which includes all of the architect, permitting, licenses, and other soft costs, and construction as well as contingency funds. Our renovation and construction plans will not exceed this budget unless some truly extraordinary event or condition is discovered (if, for example, the tower is ready to fall over).
A fourth consideration for timing is competition from other major fund-raising campaigns.  We anticipate that both the Diocese of Austin and the Paulist Fathers will run major campaigns in the near future. We would not be allowed to solicit funds during the time of a Diocesan campaign, and running a parish campaign concurrent to a Paulist campaign would jeopardize one or both campaigns. In addition, St. Austin Catholic School will celebrate its centenary in 2017, and it is likely that a fund drive will be associated with it.  Right now is the best time to conduct this campaign.
Other considerations for timing include the fact that if we wait, the condition of the buildings may worsen and cause other problems, Fr. Chuck may complete his term and be moved to a new parish before we can finish, and people may lose interest and enthusiasm for the project. 
For these reasons we believe it is appropriate to conduct the capital campaign while finalizing the renovation plans. It seems that the right time to address this is now, and by conducting the capital campaign in advance, we will have the funds necessary when construction begins.
God Bless,

If you have any questions regarding this information, please contact

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, February 8

We will soon have something NEW in Austin that we have never had before! And that is an Auxiliary Bishop. Fr. Danny Garcia, formerly pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in North Austin and currently the Vicar General of the Diocese of Austin, will be ordained a bishop on Tuesday, March 3 in the afternoon. The episcopal ordination (meaning the ordination of a bishop, NOT that Fr. Garcia will be an Episcopalian) will be celebrated at St. William’s Church in Round Rock. Because of the expected large turnout it is a ticketed affair, so unless you have a ticket, don’t plan on attending.
Since this is a new thing for us here in Austin, I thought I would give an overview of auxiliary bishops. Auxiliary Bishops are helper bishops. Bishop Joe Vásquez will still be our spiritual shepherd. He is what is known as the Ordinary. A good case can be made that Bishop Joe is truly extraordinary in many ways, but technically he is the Ordinary, which means he is in charge. That will not change.  
But now, rather than have to do all “bishop things” in this diocese by himself, Bishop Vásquez will have the assistance of Bishop Danny Garcia. Mostly that will involve celebrating Confirmations and Ordinations, as well as the duties already done as Vicar General. Many dioceses have auxiliary bishops, and I believe it is long overdue for the Diocese of Austin to have at least one. I was stationed in the Archdiocese of San Francisco for 8 years, and they have two auxiliary bishops. But the Archdiocese of S.F. covers a mere FOUR counties, while the Diocese of Austin covers over 24 counties – a much larger area. In addition, according to the 2012 Official Catholic Directory (the last year we have purchased, we can’t afford it every year) San Francisco had FEWER Catholics than the Diocese of Austin: only 433,163 compared to 518,940, and I am sure the disparity has grown since 2012. So it is overdue for Bishop Joe to get some episcopal help. Pope Francis is the one who decided it was now time for us to have an Auxiliary Bishop, and I for one am glad he did.
However, Auxiliary Bishops are something of an anomaly. The Catechism of the Catholic Church never mentions them. The ancient ideal was that the bishop was in a sense the “spouse” of the church where he was bishop. Having several bishops in single see (i.e., diocese or archdiocese) is sort of the spiritual equivalent of polyandry (one wife with several husbands). In the ancient church this idea of the bishop as married to his local church also caused problems when a bishop transferred from one diocese to another. Partly for this reason, Auxiliary Bishops are named as Titular Bishops of some long abandoned and forgotten place that at one time had a bishop. These places often are in North Africa, where there was a Christian community in the 5th century with a bishop that was overran by Vandals or by Moslems (or both) at some time. So for example the two auxiliaries in San Francisco are the Titular Bishops of Proconsulari and of Gemellae in Byzacena, towns that probably do not now exist and have not been in business for millennia or more. I do not know yet what phantom diocese of which Fr. Danny Garcia gets to be the Titular Bishop. It will be interesting to see which “see” he has (sorry). In Catholic thought you have to be Bishop of someplace – you can’t be a “free-range” Bishop.  
Anyway, I ask you to pray for Bishop-elect Danny Garcia. We are a growing Catholic community, and for the first time ever have an Auxiliary Bishop assigned to Austin.
God bless,