Today, on the Feast of St. Catherine of Siena, I offer you a message and a reflection by Msgr. Hans Brouwers, pastor of St. Katharine of Siena Parish in Wayne, PA. Catholic Leadership Institute is blessed to have St. Katharine Parish participating in our Next Generation Parish endeavor.
I hope you will click the link below to read the special announcement from Msgr. Brouwers in which he introduces this initiative to his parishioners and shares his hopes with them… I was especially inspired by his idea of “bouncing forward.”
Msgr. Brouwers also graciously crafted the following beautiful reflection just for our CLI community. As a patron saint of many causes – including nurses and the sick – St. Catherine is certainly someone to whom I will offer prayers during this challenging time!
p.s. If you would like to make a gift of any size towards St. Katharine’s participation in Next Generation Parish, your gift will be MATCHED by a generous benefactor!
A Message from Msgr. Brouwers on the Feast of St. Catherine of Siena
St. Catherine of Siena lived during a very difficult time for Europe and the Church. She was born in 1347 in the town of Siena, the 24th and second-to-the-last child of her family. She was born in the middle of the Black Death, a terrible plague that began in 1333 and swept through Eurasia and northern Africa, killing 100 to 200 million people. Half of her siblings, including her twin sister, did not survive childhood. And, the Church was torn, caught in the midst of ecclesiastical discord. This was the time of the Avignon Papacy, when there were two and, some would say, even three popes reigning at the same time.
Rather than retreat from the struggles around her, Catherine, who began to have visions at a very young age, consecrated herself to Christ at the age of seven. When she was sixteen, she became a Third Order Dominican. She experienced a mystical marriage to our Lord when she was 21 and began her service to the poor and sick, often giving away her family’s food without asking for it. Understandably, her family was not pleased with her behavior, but her charismatic personality won them over. In fact, she began to gather followers, forming a wonderful spiritual community united by the bonds of divine love.
When she was 23 years old, Catherine had another series of mystical experiences. She received a command from God to enter the public life and began to write letters to people around the world, including popes and princes. Since she could hardly read herself, she had a secretary write her letters to people with influence and power, calling them to peace and justice at a time of great civic and ecclesiastical discord and injustice. She wrote more than 400 letters over the course of her life. Her letters to Pope Gregory XI may have helped to influence him to leave Avignon and return to Rome, bringing much-needed unity to a deeply divided Church.
Due to her many struggles with her own health and her care for the sick, St. Catherine is the patron saint of the sick and nurses; how appropriate for us at this time! She was a remarkable woman, strong in her faith and in her resolve to do God’s will, regardless of the difficulties entailed in doing so. Surviving a plague and calling on reform in the Church during one of its darker times, she is truly an inspiration for us today.
We live in very challenging times, struggling through a pandemic and at a time when all religious denominations in the Western World are deeply divided within themselves and becoming more and more irrelevant to the world around them. As we face these challenges and emerge from this pandemic, I want to ensure that our parish will, as a recent commercial declares, not just bounce back but bounce forward. I hope that our involvement in the Next Generation Parish initiative will help us to do so. As a graduate of Good Leaders, Good Shepherds – CLI’s priestly training program – I am very familiar with the dedication of the Catholic Leadership Institute team to assist Church leaders throughout the country in developing more vibrant communities of faith. I am looking forward to this partnership with CLI in responding to the many challenges we face, especially now as we gradually recover from the effects of this pandemic. Like St. Catherine of Siena, we want to become ever more open to the promptings of God in our midst and cooperate with God’s Spirit as we look forward to bringing new strength and vitality to a parish that has long enjoyed a strong tradition as a strong faith filled community. And, like our patron saint, we at St. Katharine of Siena Parish, Wayne, PA, need to face the challenges with strong faith in God and an openness to his will for us.
Thank you for your support of the Catholic Leadership Institute. I can attest to their invaluable service to me as a pastor and hope that you will continue to provide the support CLI needs to continue their important apostolate throughout our country.
--Msgr. Brouwers, Pastor
St. Katharine of Siena Parish, Wayne, PA