Saturday, June 27, 2015

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, June 28

Welcome to Fr. Linh Nguyen, who is with us to preach the annual Missionary Co-Op Appeal, appealing for the Diocese of Lexington, KY. Please make Fr. Linh feel at home.

I am happy to report that as of last counting for our Faithful to Our Mission Capital Campaign we have received 52 declines, 95 one-time gifts, and 499 pledges! I hope that someone or some family will soon step forward and make it an even 500 pledges. Our total of gifts and pledges now stands at just over $4.5 Million. THAT IS GREAT! Thanks to all of you who have participated in this campaign for the future of our parish. God bless you!

The Parish Property Committee has received cost estimates for the renovation project. Adding all the costs together–fund-raising costs, a 4% allowance for non-collected pledges, all construction, $750,000 for debt reduction, a new roof on the church, architect and permitting fees, independent testing, taxes, bonds, insurance, hardware and furnishings, and a contingency fund, etc.–we come out almost exactly to $4.5 Million. It is pretty close, and in these kind of projects the costs always grow, but we are on very solid footing financially to move forward. YAY!!!

We are planning to meet with the Diocese of Austin Facilities Planning Committee on July 10 and get their approval for the next phase of architectural plans. We are on our way!

On another front, St. Austin Parish and School have scheduled our first ever financial audit. Surprisingly, while there have been financial reviews in the past, as far as we can tell, there has never been a full financial audit by an outside accounting firm. We are engaging Atchley and Associates, LLP for this audit. They were recommended by the Diocese of Austin and conducted the last audit of the Diocese. So they should be familiar with how the Catholic Church and the Diocese are structured financially. A date has not been set, but we are hoping for late July or early August for this audit. This is something both the Paulist Fathers and I have been asking for, and I am very happy to see it finally happening. It is a big step in our commitment to financial transparency.

Meanwhile, you can always see our annual financial reports and the annual budget, along with summaries of the parish Finance Council meetings, on our parish website, Click on About on the banner near the top, then on Parish Councils on the drop down list, and then lower on the page under Finance Council you will see links to the reports that are currently available. After we receive approval from the Diocese, the Fiscal Year 2015-2016 budget will be posted. Eventually a report from the accounting firm of our fiscal audit will also be posted.

God Bless,

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, June 21

Happy Father’s Day to all Fathers!!! Your vocation is both very special and especially difficult. You deserve our gratitude and praise, and today we tell you THANKS!
This week we celebrate the Nativity of John the Baptist. During the Church year we celebrate only three birthdays liturgically: Jesus (on Christmas, of course), Mary (on September 8), and John the Baptist on June 21. So Happy BD John the Baptist!
John’s ministry consisted of pointing away from himself and pointing instead to Christ. John is a role model for us all. For 18 years here at St. Austin parish Mr. Michael Flahive has been pointing people to Christ as the Director of Adult Faith Formation.  Having faithfully and successfully served in this role, he is now retiring as of the end of this month. An opportunity to congratulate and thank him on a job well done will take place this Tuesday evening, June 23 at 7 p.m. There will be a short prayer service based on Evening Prayer (Vespers) and a more formal thank you, followed by a reception in Hecker Hall when everyone will have an opportunity to thank Michael personally and directly. I hope you can attend.
Unfortunately, a good friend from my Alaska days, Mr. Lou Gazay, has just died and I will be presiding at his funeral out of town on that day. I will be with all of you thanking Michael Flahive, just not in person. He has done a great job of both educating and bearing witness to our Catholic Christian faith.
Fortunately he is NOT moving away. Instead he is moving his office down the hall and will transition into a ministry of spiritual direction. He has completed the Diocesan program and certification for spiritual directors and will continue offering spiritual direction as his new ministry. Congratulations, Michael.
A team of parishioners has been assisting me in interviewing replacements for his position. Given our Paulist emphasis on evangelization, and in keeping with the recent change of the Diocese of Austin moving from an Office of Catechesis (i.e., religious education) to a new Office of Evangelization and Catechesis, I wanted to change the title and direction of Michael’s position to Director of Discipleship Formation.
We all need to become more active in promoting and sharing our faith. We all need to move as parishioners from being passive customers to active disciples who share their faith, who evangelize. I see this not as a major change from our previous practice, but another step in our growing understanding of discipleship. Jesus calls us to be disciples. I hope the new person in this position will assist and motivate us to more fully live our discipleship.
I am not entirely sure just exactly what this change entails, but I am excited and enthusiastic about the possibilities. This is an opportunity for all of us to learn, to deepen our faith, and to actively share it with others. The Gospel is GOOD news and should be shared. So I ask you to keep our search committee in your prayers. Thanks.
God Bless,

Sunday, June 7, 2015

HOMILY Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ June 7, 2015

          Many years ago when I was in Our Lady of Sorrows grade school in St. Louis, we had a very fine choir director in the parish by the name of Mr. Diehl.  And in 4th grade you could try out for the school choir.  Now I very much wanted to be a part of the school choir because they got out of class to go sing funerals.  And the donations they received were used to have a fantastic picnic at the end of the school year.  And so with high hopes I tried out for the school choir.  But I did not get chosen.  I was passed over and other 4th graders were chosen instead.  I was crushed.  But ever since I have gotten my revenge by singing loudly.
          Most of us have been passed over at some time or another:  Passed over for a team, passed over for a project, passed over for a promotion, passed over for an office, whatever.  Being passed over is usually not a happy situation.
          But once there was a time - long, long ago - when being passed over was not only good, it was a matter of life and death.  To be passed over, in God’s odd way of doing things by reversal, meant that in fact you were chosen.  If you were passed over it meant you were part of God’s chosen people.
          Who did the passing over and what was it all about?   God was passing over and executing judgment on the Egyptians.  We read in the book of Exodus, chapter 12: 
It is the LORD’s Passover.  For on this same night I will go through Egypt, striking down every firstborn in the land, human being and beast alike, and executing judgment on all the gods of Egypt—I, the LORD!    But for you the blood will mark the houses where you are.  Seeing the blood, I will pass over you; thereby, when I strike the land of Egypt, no destructive blow will come upon you.
          God struck down the first born of every human and every animal as the tenth and most terrible of all the plagues God sent on the Egyptians, which finally convinced Pharaoh to let the Hebrew people go.  To be passed over meant you stayed alive.  And this terrible scourge brought an end to the bondage of the Hebrews, just like the terrible scourge of our Civil War brought an end to the slavery of African-Americans in our country.
          So for the Hebrews, Passover was a great thing. It was all about liberation, about being set free from bondage, of escape from slavery, of FREEDOM. 
And now, millennia later, Jews still celebrate Passover as a festival of liberation and freedom, brought about by God’s action.
          Today, we here celebrate the feast of the Most Sacred Body and Blood of Christ.  My friends, this is OUR Passover.  Every time we celebrate the Eucharist, or Mass, we are celebrating Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself for us in order to set us free.  Not free from slavery in Egypt, but rather free from the slavery of sin, to live in the glorious freedom of the children of God.
          In our short Gospel today about the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper, St. Mark mentions Passover not once, not twice, not thrice, but FOUR times.  St. Mark emphasizes that Jesus clearly and deliberately chose the Passover as the setting for the great gift of His Body and Blood under sacramental signs. 
          WHY?  Because His giving us His Body and Blood under the signs of bread and wine is the exact same sacrifice that Jesus would make in giving His Body and shedding His blood on the Cross on Good Friday.  They are one and the same reality in different modes.  And that reality is all about salvation, all about being set free from sin to live in the glorious freedom of the children of God.  And so Passover – which is all about liberation and freedom - was the perfect setting for instituting this great sacrament.  As Jesus states in the Gospel today:  This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.”
          Slavery under the ancient Egyptians was pretty awful.  But slavery to sin is even worse.  Because we were created to be in union with God.  That is what our deepest nature, our truest and strongest yearnings are all about.  And even though physical slavery is awful, a slave can still be in deep union with God.  But we cannot be in union with God when we are in the bondage of sin.  Then our deepest nature is frustrated.  We seek fulfillment in created things that can never satisfy the infinite longing of our hearts.  Sin brings only frustration and disappointment and ultimately despair.  Because union with God is what we most deeply seek.
          The Eucharist, the gift of Jesus’ Body and Blood, offers what we most deeply want. 
As we hear in today’s second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews: 
how much more will the blood of Christ,
who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God,
cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.”
          We become what we eat and drink, so that Jesus’ life lives in us.  We live as He lived, in harmony with others and in obedience to the Father.  And in doing so we become who we most truly are, that is, children of God.
          Brothers and sisters, this Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ reminds us of our Passover, how by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus we too pass over from death to life.   The Eucharist is both the means of our salvation and the celebration of that salvation. 

          It is good to be passed over.  AMEN