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The Pastor's Column (Archive 2006)

Fr. Gray's 2006 Columns in the Parish Bulletin

December 31

I would like to wish every member of the parish a very happy new year.

On January 1st, we begin our new year by dedicating it to Our Blessed Mother on the feast of Mary, Mother of God. Because this day falls on a Monday, it is not a holy day of obligation. One Mass will be offered on New Year's Day at 9:00 am.

Father Don and I would also like to take this opportunity to express our deep gratitude for the kind gifts and cards that we have received from so many in the parish. We have both felt very warmly received since our arrival at St. Vincent's and we appreciate your support.

I have also noticed that many parishioners have increased their regular contributions to St. Vincent's. I am encouraged by the tremendous spirit of generosity that exists in this parish. Each of us, sacrificing according to our means, are united in one vibrant parish family. I would like to thank each of you for your faithful commitment to our beloved parish!

December 24

On behalf of Father Don and all the staff at St. Vincent de Paul, I wish each of you a very merry and blessed Christmas!

I have asked the Education Commission at St. Vincent de Paul School to coordinate an alumni association. St. Vincent's has been producing junior high graduates for about forty years. An alumni association will give us a chance to see how the St. Vincent student family has grown and where life has taken our graduates.

I am asking for your help to find our alumni. Some of our graduates live in the Peoria area while others have moved further away. If you have contact information for a graduate of St. Vincent's, please share it with us on one of the forms available in the Church. There is no fee and every graduate is automatically a member. The members of the association will receive a newsletter with updates about St. Vincent's School, and invitations to special alumni events.

Thank you for your help with this project.

December 17

Christmas is just over a week away! I would like to draw your attention to the Christmas Mass schedule.

Please note that the Mass schedule for the Fourth Sunday of Advent is unchanged. These Masses are offered as usual on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. Christmas Eve Masses begin Sunday afternoon and Christmas Day Masses are offered on Monday morning. Please make arrangements to attend one of the Masses for the Fourth Sunday and Advent and one of the masses for Christmas.

Some of our Masses on Christmas Eve will be crowded. Please note that individual persons will not be permitted to hold places for expected friends or family. The ushers will seat those who attend as they arrive. Therefore, I encourage you to arrive in a timely manner and enjoy the prelude music prepared by our choirs.

May the Love of Christ, born for us, reign in our hearts!

December 10

Advent is a good time to take advantage of the sacrament of confession. To help, Fr. Don and I will hear confessions on some Thursday afternoons and Friday mornings. We are adding some additional time on some Saturdays. Please note the confession schedule at the bottom of this page of the bulletin.

I would also like to notify the parish that the upgrade to the phones at St. Vincent's Parish and School are now complete. While none of our phone numbers have changed, parishioners should notice that the voice mail prompts, the Mass schedule recording, and the access to both the school and parish extensions have been improved. As a help, the extension numbers of our staff have been printed on the cover of our bulletin.

December 3

I would like to wish every parishioner a blessed Advent. May this four week preparation for Our Lord's birth be spiritually fruitful.

Please note that the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (December 8th) is a Holy Day of Obligation. Please make arrangements to attend Mass Thursday evening or Friday during the day. Additional Masses are scheduled to provide you several options for meeting this obligation.

I would also like to notify the parish that the upgrade to the phones at St. Vincent's Parish and School are now complete. While none of our phone numbers have changed, parishioners should notice that the voice mail prompts, the Mass schedule recording, and the access to both the school and parish extensions have been improved. As a help, the extension numbers of our staff have been printed on the cover of our bulletin.

November 26

Advent comes from the words meaning "to come to." In advent we are on a journey toward Christmas and welcoming the birth of Christ. This is a time to prepare ourselves to welcome Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh. We ponder his second coming, when he will come to judge the world, but we also meditate on his first coming through the Blessed Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit.

John the Baptist calls us to prepare the way of the Lord. As this is a time of preparation, we should make every effort to avoid sin. We are called to live upright and holy lives. Advent is a good time to plan to make a confession, especially if we have been away from this sacrament for some time. As Advent continues, Fr. Don and I will schedule additional times for confession to make this sacrament readily available.

Advent is also a time of prayer. This is a good opportunity to consecrate this special season by our personal prayer and our prayer with our families. Please consider attending daily Mass, reciting the Rosary, or embracing another spiritual devotion during Advent to make this a special time of preparation for the coming of the Lord.

Come, Lord Jesus!

November 19

The parishioners who serve on St. Vincent's School Commission and many of our school families are already aware of the quality education that our parish school provides. We have recently received the results of the Terra Nova tests that our students completed earlier this year. We have also received the report from the annual visitation that was conducted by the Diocesan Office of Catholic Schools. I would like to share this positive news with the entire parish.

The Terra Nova test was taken by our 3rd, 6th, and 8th grade students. The composite score for our third grade students was in the 79th percentile. Our sixth graders scored in the 81st percentile. And, our eighth graders scored in the 78th percentile of all students throughout the country. The Office of Catholic Schools congratulated us especially on our eighth grader reading and math scores which were in the top 10% nationwide.

I would like to thank and congratulate our principal, Mr. Mike Birdoes, and each of our teachers at St. Vincent's School for their hard work and their successful accomplishments.

November 12

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was enacted in 1996. HIPAA protects employee's health insurance coverage, provides standards for electronic health care transactions, and insures the privacy of your health data. As a result of this legislation, hospitals have become very scrupulous in protecting the privacy of your medical information. This means that no one, not even your parish priest, can be notified that you are in the hospital unless you give your consent.

It has come to my attention that some parishioners have been sick in the hospital, but have not been visited because the clergy and Eucharistic ministers did not know they were in the hospital. If you or a family member is admitted to the hospital, please ask the hospital to list you as a parishioner of St. Vincent de Paul Parish, and ask them to include you in the list of Catholic patients to be visited by Catholic ministers.

November 5

The Diocese of Peoria has recently begun a program of periodically auditing the parishes of the Diocese. The diocesan auditor has just completed his review of our parish. I welcomed this audit as an opportunity to insure that the management of our financial assets is carried out in a responsible and accurate manner.

The verbal report that I received from the auditor was very positive. He indicated to me that we have good procedures in place for the handling of our parish funds as well as the funds from our parish and school organizations. Even so, there is always some room for improvement. In the coming days, the diocesan auditor will send me a written report with recommended action items to improve our accuracy, promote accountability, and enhance the security of our assets. When I receive that report, I look forward to sharing it with the parish finance council and the members of our parish and school organizations.

Homily given on October 29: Parish Financial Report

October 29

I am taking the opportunity this weekend to present to the parish a financial report of our 2005-2006 fiscal year. I believe that it is important for both accountability and transparency that this report be made to those whose contributions support the day-to-day work of St. Vincent de Paul parish and school. I have provided three previous years of data to give a context to our income and expenses. I would like to express my profound gratitude to our trustee and each member of the parish finance council for their advice and guidance.

Please also be aware that there is a Holy Day of Obligation this week. The Solemnity of All Saints is celebrated on Wednesday, November 1st. Please make arrangements to fulfill this obligation by attending one of our Masses on Tuesday evening or Wednesday. I also ask for your prayers for the poor souls in Purgatory on All Souls day, November 2nd.

October 22

There are three important announcements this weekend:

First we salute all the students who have recently received the Sacrament of Confirmation! The celebration last Sunday was prayerful and moving. Please congratulate these candidates. Their names appear in this week's bulletin.

Second, we welcome Fr. Don Roszkowski. I am very grateful to him for accepting the Bishop's assignment to this parish. I know that Fr. Don is anxious to begin his assignment and looks forward to getting to know the parish.

Third, we bid a fond farewell to Fr. Martin Mwongyera. He returns to Leuven, Belgium at the end of the week to begin his doctoral studies in cannon law. Therefore, this weekend will be his last weekend with us. Because I know that I could not meet the sacramental and spiritual needs of St. Vincent's by myself, I am personally very thankful for his willingness to fill in for these two months. Please join me in wishing him all the best as he continues his studies.

October 15

When I was appointed to St. Vincent de Paul, I noticed that the school and the rectory were not connected by a common phone system or common internet service. I was surprised that a parish of this size did not have a connected system.

The lack of connectivity has several implications: Our parish and school pay for a large number of phone lines. Our parish and school have separate internet service providers. It is not possible to transfer calls between the parish and the school. Members of the parish and school staff cannot call each other directly. By connecting the rectory and the school, we will not need as many phone lines and will save money through reduced phone and internet costs. More importantly, this connection will allow the parish and the school to collaborate more effectively and operate in greater harmony.

I have recently made arrangements to have an underground cable run between the school and the rectory. You may have noticed some of this work being done over the past weeks. I am confident that this improvement will help the parish and school provide better service to our parishioners and school families.

October 8

Deacons are ordained for service and can assist in celebrating many of the sacraments. Deacons aid in the celebration of the Mass by reading the Gospel, preaching, and assisting at the altar. Deacons are ordinary ministers of the Eucharist and can distribute Communion at Mass or to the sick and homebound. Deacons can also celebrate exposition and benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Although deacons cannot offer Mass, anoint the sick, nor absolve sins, they can baptize, witness marriages, preside at funerals, and give blessings. Deacons are called upon to offer service in other non-sacramental ways and are to be ministers of charity. There are many ways in which deacons can offer service including teaching, caring for the sick, and working with the poor.

Our deacons perform many of these functions at St. Vincent's. Their ministry in the parish is a great help to me in meeting the needs of our parishioners, since it would be difficult for me to do all this work on my own.

However, I have recently asked our deacons to take on some additional responsibilities. Although our deacons generally preach on Saturday mornings, I have asked them to begin preaching at some of the weekend Masses. I have also asked them to help administer the sacrament of Baptism. With their help, we will now increase the times available for Baptism by offering this sacrament both on some Sundays after Masses and also on some Saturday afternoons.

I am grateful for the service which our deacons provide and I am thankful for their willingness to take on these additional responsibilities.

October 1

On Saturday, September 23, a group of parishioners from St. Vincent's traveled with me to Champaign to visit St. Matthew's Parish and School. St. Matthew's just completed a construction project that included a school gym and a parish hall.

The group from St. Vincent's included individuals from the school education commission, school teachers, parish finance council, as well as some of those who investigated possible improvements to our school building. Once we arrived in Champaign, we were greeted by the pastor, Fr. Mark Merdian, and the school principal who gave us a tour of their school and new gymnasium, as well as their parish hall and parish offices.

Each one of our group from St. Vincent's found the trip to be very, very informative. We learned how St. Matthew's went about studying the needs of their parish and school and how they developed their plans in consultation with their parishioners. We learned about what went right and, more importantly, what they wish they had done differently. Our opportunity to see a real, functioning school building gave each of us new ideas and a fresh perspective we can bring to our reflection on our parish school, church, and rectory.

In the upcoming weeks, I will be meeting with representative from our school commission and our school teachers to learn about their understanding of the needs of our school building. As these consultations proceed, I look forward to keeping the parish informed of our progress.

September 24

I am happy to announce that Fr. Don Roszkowski will be assigned to St. Vincent de Paul as Assistant pastor in October.

Fr. Don was ordained in 1997 and served as assistant pastor at St. Philomena after his ordination. Because he has served in Peoria, many of you may already know Fr. Don. For the past three years, he has been the pastor of St. John's Parish of Clinton, and Sacred Heart Parish of Farmer City. I am grateful to Bishop Jenky for assigning Fr. Don to St. Vincent. I am also grateful that Fr. Don was willing to give up his position as pastor to help fill the need we have in this parish for a second full-time priest.

Fr. Don is a creative and energetic priest who has shown himself to be dedicated and hardworking in his previous assignments. I look forward to the additional vitality that he will bring to this parish. Because of his nine years of experience as a priest, I also look forward to the ideas and perspectives he will bring from his previous assignments.

Please join me in giving Fr. Don a very warm welcome when he arrives.

September 17

St. Vincent de Paul Parish has had a great reputation for having well trained altar servers who are among the most dedicated, hardest working, most faithful and best trained. As we enter into the fall, I encourage each one of our servers to maintain their commitment to excellence when serving. It takes a lot of hard work to develop any skill, and more hard work to sustain that skill. The good work of our servers is an important service to the prayerfulness of our liturgies.

I would like to thank the servers for their dedication. I appreciate your efforts to arrive early to set up for Mass and your dedication to finding a replacement when you must be absent. Above all, altar servers should be young men and women of prayer, entering spiritually into your service at the altar.

I am most grateful to the parents for your encouragement and assistance. Many of our parents give great witness by bringing your children to church to serve at Mass and by encouraging them to be dedicated to this service. Your efforts are most appreciated.

I ask the entire parish to join me in supporting our servers. Please thank the servers for the work they do to make our Masses prayerful. Please encourage them by pointing out the things that they do well. Please pray for them that they may give good witness to the faith not only when serving, but throughout their lives.

September 10

Last weekend, I announced that Fr. Michael Angarola is taking a leave of absence for personal reasons. I encourage everyone to keep him in your prayers during his leave. We all look forward to his speedy return to full-time priestly ministry.

I am grateful to Fr. Michael Bliss, Chaplain of OSF St. Francis Medical Center, for making available one of the priests who has worked with him in the hospital to assist us at St. Vincent de Paul. Please join me in welcoming Fr. Martin Mwongyera of the Diocese of Kabale in Uganda. He is a student of canon law and will return to Louvain, Belgium in a few months to continue his studies. I am thankful that he is able to help us with Masses and confessions. Your warm welcome during his time with us is very much appreciated.

I personally appreciate the offers of support I have received from so many parishioners. It is my privilege to care for a parish with so much energy, generosity and ability. With your prayers and encouragement, I have no doubt that our parish will only grow stronger in the weeks to come.

September 3

In May, many parishioners were invited to participate in a feasibility study that explored potential for improvements or additions to our grade school building. The Cosgriff Company has completed the analysis of the data collected and has given me a written report of their findings. A representative from this company came to St. Vincent's this week to make a formal presentation to the members of my finance council and other committee members who have worked hard on this project.

Approximately 250 parishioners participated through either a personal interview or through a survey. First of foremost, I would like to express my most sincere thanks to each person who participated in either an interview or who completed a survey. I have carefully read each of the comments made by the participants which are reflected in the report. Your participation has been extremely helpful in allowing me to become familiar with this parish and the needs of our school. I appreciated your responses for their candor and their sincerity.

This feasibility study has overwhelmingly confirmed one thing that has been obvious to me from my first days here: This is a strong parish with tremendous potential and a profound sense of dedication to our parish school. I have asked that a thorough and detailed review of our school building be performed so we know what is required to keep it strong for years to come. As we move into the fall, I look forward to sharing the results of this feasibility study with you and keeping you well informed of our progress.

August 27

For the past several weeks, we have been privileged to have Fr. Mike Adrie with us. I am grateful for the assistance he has given to St. Vincent de Paul Parish through offering Mass, hearing confessions and visiting the sick. As a sign of our gratitude, the second collection this week will be sent to the Society of African Missionaries to benefit the work of Fr. Adrie's order in Ghana and throughout western Africa. There are also many people in need in our own country. The work of rebuilding in the wake of Hurricane Katrina remains daunting, even a year after that disaster. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has approved a national collection for hurricane relief. The proceeds from this collection will be used to help the Archdiocese of New Orleans and the Diocese of Biloxi to rebuild, as well as providing the relief funds for others who may be affected by hurricanes during this season. We will take up this second collection next week (September 2-3). May God bless you for your generosity in responding to these needs.

August 20

We Look forward to the celebration of Confirmation on October 15th!

Many of you may be aware that the plans for a regional Confirmation at the Civic Center have been cancelled. Consequentially, I have made arrangements for our young people at St. Vincent de Paul to receive the sacrament of Confirmation this fall as has been our custom. I sought the advice of the parish staff and our school's education commission who advised me. After submitting our request, I am happy to announce that Bishop Jenky will confirm our students on Sunday, October 15, 2006, at 3:00 PM at St. Mary's Cathedral. More detailed information will be made available to the students in our parochial school and our CCD program as we get closer to this celebration.

The Church wishes all Catholics to receive this wonderful outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Are you a high school student or adult who has not yet been confirmed? Please consider joining us to complete your Christian Initiation and receive this sacrament! If you have not been confirmed, please contact me or a member of the staff so arrangements can be made for your instruction and preparation for this celebration.

August 13

I am grateful for the warm welcome that I have received from so many of you as I have arrived at St. Vincent de Paul Parish and been present to greet you after Mass and at school registration. I look forward to having many more opportunities to get to know each of you better. As we move into the fall, I ask for your help with two things:

First, please join with me in preparing to celebrate the special solemnity of the Assumption of Our Lady. Please make arrangements to attend Mass with your family on this Holy Day of Obligation, either Monday evening, August 14th or Tuesday, August 15th. Please consider joining the group that prays the Rosary each weekday at 7:25 a.m. on that day. This is a wonderful time to renew our dedication to our Blessed Mother.

Second, RCIA classes will begin soon for those who are interested in joining the Catholic Church next Easter. Once the class begins, I look forward to working with the other clergy and staff of the parish to provide catechetical instruction in the faith. However, I need your help to find those who might wish to become Catholic, and to invite them to consider taking classes. Please keep your eyes open and encourage anyone who is interested to see me or one of our priests or deacons.