September 12, 2021
Today we celebrate the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time. As I return to writing a weekly column, today’s readings challenge us to answer one of the most important questions of our lives, “Who do YOU say Jesus is?” All of us need to answer that question if we are to truly be His disciples. It can’t be who Sister told us He was in Grade School, nor our parents, our pastors, or even our dearest friend. “Who do You say Jesus is?” In today’s first reading, Isaiah gives a description of the ‘Suffering Servant’. We can immediately picture the prophet speaking about Jesus. The prophet says, “He is near who upholds my right.” That folks are disciples of Jesus. In the Epistle Lesson, St. James discusses the relationship between “Faith” and “Works.” We see that faith without putting it into practice is lifeless. Disciples live their faith in Jesus by performing works that continue His ministry, His work, in our daily lives. We do so because of our faith and relationship with Jesus. And thus the Gospel asks that all important question. Look at your answer today. If you’ve never answered it, take time today to do so. It will change your life.
Over the summer months the Archdiocese has begun an intensive two-year plan of Strategic Planning that will result in many changes to the Church as we know it. In the past several weeks we have posted several graphs of the current situation and future of the decline of active clergy available to serve our 180 parishes. The Archbishop, along with a task force, has begun to assess the greatest needs of our local Church to ensure we are being missionary disciples. The planning process will entail looking at current registered parishioners, attendance at weekly Mass, and the financial viability of maintaining our current number of parishes. The Archbishop has issued a moratorium on transfers of priests for two years, in addition to restricting any capital improvements in parishes. As I look at the current number of registered parish households here, (200), the weekly revenue, (which is not sufficient to maintain our expenses), the number of registered parishioners who regularly attend Mass, and the needs of maintaining our deteriorating buildings, the small number of active organizations and ministries here at St. Luke’s, I am concerned that we will see changes as the Strategic Planning Process unfolds. We all need to be aware that life as we currently know it may change. Do we need three parishes, (St. Luke, Little Flower, and Immaculate Conception), to serve the needs of the Maplewood/Richmond Heights communities? Will the smaller number of priests by 2026 necessitate changes? I certainly don’t want to be an alarmist, but I do think we all need to be aware of the hard facts that our local Church is going to have to make some difficult changes, and we may very well be part of that.
Over the summer months I also spent time evaluating our financial situation here at the parish. I am happy to announce that St. Luke’s received a generous bequest from parishioner Joe Welsch that will help us. In addition, Joe also left a bequest to the St. Vincent de Paul Society which will bless the work of our tireless Vincentians and the people they serve. I thank Joe for his generosity and thoughtfulness. Without these unforeseen bequests we would not be able to make improvements to our parish due to our current financial situation. Without a monthly subsidy from the Oratory of Ss. Gregory and Augustine, without rental income from the International School House and rental property, we just wouldn’t make it. The reality of it all is that St. Luke’s is not unique. This scenario is happening throughout the Church. I simply ask that we all strive to be good stewards of the blessings God has given us and use our gifts wisely. I can assure you that I, as your pastor, along with our ever-vigilant Finance Council, are doing what we can to ensure we are being faithful stewards.
Finally today, now that Labor Day has come and gone, I look forward to returning to regular meetings of the Parish Council and Finance Council where I assure you we will be discussing all the issues I have outlined in my column this weekend. Please remember that all meetings of the Parish Council are open to parishioners. If you would like to address the Council during the meeting, please contact Chairperson, Ann Deer, to be put on the Agenda for our Open Forum segment.
God Bless! Have a great week!
Please continue praying 3 Hail Marys.