Wednesday, April 12, 2017

My blog for Easter Sunday: And the lotto jackpot is.......

Have you ever dreamed of hitting it big in the lottery?  A Nobel Prize winning economist would argue that you already have.

Angus Deaton is a professor of Economics at Princeton University whose work centers on health and economic wellbeing. Deaton compares countries based on two things:  average life expectancy (health) and the possibility for upward mobility (economic well-being).  His conclusionthe biggest factor contributing to an individual's health and economic well-being is the country in which they were born.  i.e. the luck of the draw

Deaton’s award winning book shows that even the poorest countries are seeing improvements in life expectancy and income mobility. The title of the book comes from the growing number of these countries, Vietnam and Thailand for example, whose populations have made what he calls "The Great Escape."

The tragic part of Deaton's book is the countries whose populations are experiencing shortened life expectancies and less opportunity for upward mobility.  These countries have one thing in common:  long term civil unrest.  

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has been immersed in a civil war since the 1940’s and  comes out on the very bottom of each of the book’s statistical tables.

The Archdiocese of Newark is in the final steps of preparing to welcome 51 refugees from several countries including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Syria and Iraq.

The social concerns ministry of St. Mary's is hoping to get on board by sponsoring one of these families.  We have invited a representative from Catholic charities to give a presentation on the process. 

E-mail me at or call the parish to be on our Social Concerns mailing list.

Congratulating you on your lottery win and wishing you a blessed Easter,


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

What They Have Been Saying (Part II) Palm Sunday Cycle A

Previously on Designated Survivor…….

My 14 year old daughter and I have been hooked on Designated Survivor and watch it when we’re together on Monday nights.  Before watching the second half of the season this past month we did a mini-binge re-watching the first and last episode from the fall.  I get chills each time Kiefer Sutherland pulls the blinds of the safe-room open.  

A few weeks ago, a high school choir from Minnesota sang at our 9 a.m. liturgy.  In the weeks prior to their arrival I wondered (OK, I worried) about how they would perceive liturgy at St. Mary’s.  I didn’t expect them to come away with a Designated Survivor-like “Wow!” I just hoped that they wouldn’t describe their experience like the mwah-mwah-mwah of the adult voices on a “Charlie Brown Christmas.”  

As one of the 2 fathers on the parish staff that aren’t priests, I think a great deal of what young people take away from liturgy.  Part of this is personal.  I know that despite attending Catholic high school, my younger daughter will probably follow her older sisters’ lead and find the church less and less relevant in the upcoming years. 

What about your children?  Are they on board? Or are they just plain bored?  What about you?

Previously at St. Mary’s….

A man is dead and has been buried in a tomb for four days.  Another man commands him to come out.  The women shriek, “No! The stench,” but Lazarus comes out of the tomb bound head to foot. 
That’s a pretty good story- line.  How about this week?  A man is betrayed by the members of his group and dies on a hill.  Wait a minute is this the Gospel of John or a Designated Survivor spoiler?  

A song from last week (the week Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead) remains at the forefront of my thoughts.  It was for me and several people with whom I spoke; a moment of powerful prayer and participation.  The verses to “Roll Away the Stone” (#179) give voice to our human doubts by ascribing them to what “they” have been saying.  The voice of faith enters on the chorus exclaiming; “Roll away the stone, see the glory of God.” (See more of last week’s liturgical notes at  

Are our children bored or are they saying something different? Might they be saying “Our doubts have been dismissed and our questions have gone unanswered by adults who haven’t taken the time to consider their doubts and find answers to their questions?” 

I do not know.   Here’s one thing I do know.  

A small group from the Minnesota choir presented me with this dilemma just before mass was about to begin.  What they said brings a smile to my face each time it comes to mind:  “If we are singing during communion, when can we receive the Eucharist?”  

Blessed to be in ministry at St. Mary’s,



What They Have Been Saying (part I) 5th Sunday of Lent Cycle A

“Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”

                                                             Martha, the sister of Lazarus    John 11:27

From the age of 15 through 27, I worked with a priest who used today’s gospel for every funeral at which he presided.  His homily spoke of Martha’s affirmation of faith as a way of overcoming the doubt that creeps in when we are confronted by the death of a loved one.

The gospel stories of the past two weeks contain similar affirmations.   The man who Jesus heals of blindness says “I do believe, Lord” when Jesus reveals to him that He is the Son of Man.  Many Samaritans begin to believe in Jesus because of the words of the woman who shared her belief in Jesus after encountering Him at the well.

These three stories of faith are crucial elements of the journey of the catechumenate; the adults who are in the process becoming in full communion with the Catholic Church.  They are also important for us cradle-Catholics at a time when our faith can feel so counter to the culture in which we live.

Today’s offertory song, “Roll Away the Stone” (#179) captures this counter-cultural nature of our faith in a unique way.  Unlike most of the songs we sing, the text is not full of faith in Jesus, words of scripture or church doctrine.  Instead, it gives voice to the doubts that have crept into the faith lives of the followers of Jesus since His death and resurrection.  

                           They have been saying all our plans are empty.   
                           They have been saying, “Where is their God now?”

                            From “Roll Away the Stone”   Words and music by Tom Conry 

I find the honesty of these words refreshing. They allow me to give voice to my own doubts and insecurities.  They help me think of the inner dialogue; (the things I say to myself) that holds me back from living as God wants me to live.  Perhaps they will help you do the same. 

How then, can we deal with this?

For me, one possibility comes from something Matthew Kelly in his series “Best Lent Ever” when talking about habits.  He said it isn’t enough to will one’s self to stop a bad habit.  The bad habit needs to be replaced by a good habit so it has no room in which to grow back.  

In other words, we need to crowd out our inner dialogue of doubt by replacing it with one of faith.  Thus like the woman at the well, the man with restored sight and Jesus’ beloved friend Lazarus we may see the glory and goodness of God!

Blest to be serving at St. Mary’s,


Supporting Refugee Relocation: Doing the Math 4th Sunday of Lent Cycle A

“Whenever I meet someone in need, it is really Jesus in His most distressing disguise.”

                                                                                                          Saint Theresa of Calcutta

On the fourth Sunday of Lent Jesus encounters and heals a blind man.  This rather long story is full of many interesting details. For the purpose of this article, I would like to focus on the change that transpires during the course of the story.  

In the beginning of the story Jesus meets a man whom the recorder of the gospel describes as “blind from birth.”  By the end of the story, the man (whose sight has been restored) sees that Jesus is the Son of Man.  The Pharisees, on the other hand, become blinded to this by ignorance and sinfulness.

Today’s gathering hymn (which will be sung before the procession) comes from a poem that was originally written in Gaelic and set to a traditional Irish melody.  Be Thou My Vision (#394) is a fitting prayer as we come to meet God in Word and Sacrament.  The offertory song “Open My Eyes” (#390) is a more modern composition where we pray that God open our eyes, ears and hearts.

We continue to sing Ricky Manalo’s “In These Days of Lenten Journey” (#127) as our recessional hymn.  Despite our singing verse 4, I encourage you to look at consider each of the verses which call us to:

                                Reach out to those who are homeless

·                              Open our eyes to the hungry

·                              Open our ears to the weary

·                              Call on the Spirit of justice

It’s in this spirit that I share part two of this note.


The Archdiocese of Newark has committed to assist approximately 12-16 household resettle in the Archdiocese.  These refugees will be coming from Syria, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq and Afghanistan.  The initial communication from the Archdiocese asks for donations of housing supplies (furnishings, kitchen items, linens etc.) and of course, financial donations.

I’ve been thinking and praying on this for several months now and hear the Holy Spirit saying, “Bruce, You can do more.”   

I’m thinking that 12 -16 parishes of the diocese meet this need head on by finding the resources to:  subsidize the cost of housing, help adults find employment and navigate things like utilities, transportation and school systems for one of these families.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m neither mandating nor committing to do this on behalf of the parish. I’m also not suggesting that we do our own thing outside of the diocesan effort. 

 I’m just doing the math:                         

  a           12-16 families hitting the immigration jackpot the same as our great-grandparents

___ =c    __________________________________________________________________  = c

  B          12-16 of the best parishes and communities in the Archdiocese


If you get the same answer, contact me at or call the parish office to be part of our social concerns ministry.

Blessed to be in ministry at St. Mary’s


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