Walking with Leaders - January 14th, 2021

Moonlit Masses, Amazing Offertories, & Christmas Hope

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (Rom 15:13)

Pastors across the country were confronted this year with the challenge of Christmas celebrations in the midst of a pandemic. But despite those challenges, it was inspiring to hear from the parishes Catholic Leadership Institute serves that there were moments of joy, generosity, and gratitude.

Mary Inspires Mass Attendance & Amazing Advent Offertory

St. Joseph Parish in Carpinteria, CA, was focused on finding unique ways to be with their fellow parishioners during the holiday season – in particular, they are holding special outdoor masses. Their Christmas Eve Mass was illuminated by Christmas lights as Mass was offered outdoors at night. On December 12, the parish celebrated the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe with breathtaking views of mountains in the background and a beautiful flower-adorned shrine to Mary – they recorded their largest outdoor attendance of the year! “In addition to outdoor Mass, we are live-streaming in English and Spanish,” says Msgr. Richard Martini, pastor. “We have walked the streets with the Blessed Sacrament to be there with the people. And we are offering faith formation classes on Zoom.”

Msgr Martini goes on, “What surprised me is that our Christmas collection was similar to last year even with limited attendance. This was alongside the amazing response we had for food collection and the support of families in need. Generosity is alive and well!”

Parishes as Beacon of Comfort & Community

Fr. Matt Rader, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Tiffin, OH, is seeing clear signs that parishioners want to return to Mass, and he finds hope in the actions of parishioners who support each other in times of need. He shares a story of a family struggling in his parish:

“When I saw the family at midnight Mass, I was filled with hope,” said Fr. Matt. Even with all the struggle and disappointments, they sought comfort in the Lord. This family reminds both Fr. Matt and all of us that parishes are here to support our fellow Catholics at all stages of their lives. May we all be inspired to turn towards the Lord in both our times of joy and need like this family.

New Parishioners Virtually Attend Christmas Mass

"Some people stayed away from coming in person for fear of large crowds,” said Fr. Chris Walsh, pastor of St. Raymond of Penafort in Philadelphia, a comment echoed by Fr. Philip Kaim, pastor of Holy Family in the diocese of Rockford. Both pastors indicated that attendance was lower on Christmas than it was during the previous Sundays; however, there was no shortage of faith. Fr. Chris says that attendance on live stream is up and many who attended live stream masses were not previously parishioners. “Wow, it is amazing that new parishioners are seeking the Lord at this time.” Fr. Chris says, “I was inspired by the comments from our parishioners expressing gratitude for the parish staff during this painful time.”

Faith and Generosity Alive and Well

The message of hope and inspiration shines through these comments from priests and pastors. It is clear that people desire the community of our faith and are attending Mass remotely.

Fr. Abraham Lotha, pastor of Transfiguration Parish in Highland Park, NJ, sees that “The desire for community is still in the people,” and this gives him hope and inspiration.

Even more, the priests themselves are finding hope and inspiration in the actions of parishioners. The acts of caring and generosity shine through the darkness.

Fr. Mike Eckley, a priest in the Archdiocese of Omaha, shares, “I was inspired by hearing how families decided, in particular, this year to ‘adopt’ a family in need and get food and gifts to them. This happens every year in some way, but this year it seems exceptional!”

Yes, our faith, generosity, and caring are alive and well. So are the parishes, priests, and people who Catholic Leadership Institute is privileged to serve. And that gives us all hope.

by Terry Poplava

January 14, 2021

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