Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It’s that time of the year in which we prepare ourselves for the 40 days of suffering, deprived of what we like the most, trying to remember to avoid meat on Fridays. It’s also known as Lent! This time is often seen by people as a difficult time because of the penances that we choose, and because we have to go to confession; as a time that takes our spiritual life up a notch.
I would propose we see Lent in a different way. Instead, we could imagine this time as a Spiritual Retreat, or even as a Spiritual Vacation! Instead of focusing on the hardships, deprivations, sacrifices as something negative, let’s spin it around and look at it from a different perspective. Would you be happy to receive graces, give up bad habits, be kind to people, and get closer to God? This is what Lent is about!!! I remember once a homily in which the priest was asking how not drinking coffee, soda, or alcohol, eating candy or watching TV would help a person to love Jesus more. He went on asking people that instead of giving something up, someone could do something else! For instance, one could start going to daily mass, pray the rosary every day, read one chapter of the Gospel a day, pray the stations of the cross every Friday, etc. Of course, there is a spiritual value for us to abstain from something we like out of love of God, but his point was to do something else as well. The priest finished by suggesting that we could abstain from TV, food, radio, and use that time to pray, to read a spiritual book.
I invite you to see what our parish has to offer this Lenten season. We will continue to have our daily masses at 7:30am (with Adoration from 6:30am-7:30am). We will also have stations of the cross every Friday at 6pm in the Upper Church in English, at 7pm in Spanish in the Upper Church, and 7:30pm in Portuguese in the Chapel. Adoration and Confession will be offered every Wednesday in the main Church from 6pm-7pm. “The light is on for you” is an initiative in the Archdiocese of Boston in which confession will be offered in the parishes on Wednesday evenings. Two priests will be in the Church to hear confessions every Wednesday. In case someone cannot come on Wednesday or Saturday (from 3-4pm), please call us at the office and we will be happy to schedule another time for confession. In addition to that, the Archdiocese will hold two all day workshops on discipleship on March 7th & 28th. Lastly, starting on March 9th, we will have a series of one hour talks on Mondays and Thursdays at 7:30pm in Meehan Hall – the school hall. These talks will be given by a team from the Neocatechemunal Way. Benedict XVI said that “…to help the men of this our time to meet Jesus Christ, man’s redeemer, constitutes the mission of the Church and of every baptized person. The Neocatechumenal Way is part of this ecclesial mission of the Church as one of the many ways raised up by the Holy Spirit through the Second Vatican Council for the new evangelization.” Saint John Paul II said that “The parish can grow authentically in the experience and on the basis of the neocatechumenal experience; it would be like the renewal of the early community that grew out of the catechumenal experience.” Pope Francis also spoke of this reality as a “gift of the Holy Spirit for the Church”. These talks are for everyone, adults and youth ages 13 and up. If you have younger children, please bring them – the parish will provide child care for those who need it. Whether you are going through a difficulty, a problem, have questions, or are simply looking for a way this Lent to help you to grow in and deepen your faith, I want to encourage you all to come and to listen and enter this time of Lent with an open heart.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today we will have a break from the discussion on the evangelization initiatives to talk about another important topic, VOCATIONS! When I visit families, I often ask the children what they want to be when they grow up. Among the many, many responses, priesthood or consecrated life is seldom an option. Personally, in my own life, it wasn’t an option, because no one ever asked me. Well, my thoughts did not change when someone did ask me. Not originally! After that questioning, I did start asking myself, what if God does call me? I quickly dismissed the thought because I thought that I was not a good enough fit, or was not “priest material.” The truth is that God is the one to decide that through a process of discernment. In my case, after some resistance to God’s call, I participated in a retreat to help me solve the question. Well, 12 years later, I found out the answer!!! Saint Gregory, the Great, says that questioning one’s vocation is already a sign that the person has a vocation.
I would like to encourage all of you to talk about vocation to religious life (nuns and monks) and to the priesthood to the children and young adults. It’s never too late. Next week there will be a 3 retreats to help those interested or curious. For young adults (18-30) the retreat will be Friday through Sunday Feb 21-23 in Medway. For men over the age of 30, the retreat will be Friday through Saturday, 21-22 at Pope John XXIII Seminary. For young women between the ages 18-35, it will be Saturday 22 at St Paul’s parish in Cambridge. For more information, please contact Fr. Carlos Suarez, from the vocation’s office by phone (617) 746-5987 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to approach one of us at the parish to help with any inquiries or questions.
Saint John Paul II, exhorting the youth said, “Take heart young people! Christ is calling you and the world awaits you! Remember that the Kingdom of God needs your generous and complete dedication. Every vocation, every path to which Christ calls us, ultimately leads to fulfillment and happiness, because it leads to God, to sharing in God's own life.” Let’s help them with our prayers, our support, and asking the question!
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Imagine that our favorite band is coming to town, a great movie is coming out in the theaters, or the opening day of a promising season of your favorite team is tomorrow. How excited would we get? Wouldn’t we share that with our friends and post lots of comments and pictures on social media? Or imagine now that we were given great tickets to attend an event, and we get 10 extra tickets to bring friends. We would try to bring our friends along? Maybe one of them might need some encouragement and convincing to understand how great the event will be. When we speak about Christ, our faith or a Church event, somehow, we do not have that same excitement. Truth to be told, having a personal experience of Jesus Christ beats any famous person that we can meet backstage. What better story is there than the story of our salvation? Imagine how we can get excited about Ash Wednesday as the first day of a promising (Lenten) season!!! Having experienced the love of God, we should be telling all our friends that we have free tickets (front row if you want) to attend the best of all events, Christ giving himself to us at Mass! If someone has not gone to Church in a while, let’s invite that person for confession. What better feeling is there than having all of your sins forgiven? Jesus Christ tells us in this week’s Gospel that WE ARE THE SALT OF THE EARTH! Salt is one of the most important minerals in the world. For Centuries, it has been used all over the world as a way to preserve food, heal wounds, and even for purification. Salt is essential for human life. On a daily basis, salt can bring excitement to a boring, tedious, tasteless meal. Now imagine that Jesus Christ calls us to do the same in the world, that is, to bring healing and preserving the world from going bad. We are also called to give meaning to the lives of the people whose lives have lost their meaning. How can we do that? How can we become disciples and disciples makers?
Thinking on the mission that Christ calls us to spread his word, we are about to start some initiatives to help us evangelize. One of these initiatives is called DISCIPLES IN MISSION. This is the start our parish becoming a center of evangelization. There will be an informational session this Wednesday, February 12th at 6pm in the Lower Church Hall. Representatives from the Archdiocese will explain what the process is, and we will answer any question you may have. Then we will have 2 all day workshops “Forming Disciples” and “Forming Leaders” on March 7th and 28th, respectively. During Lent, we will have confessions every Wednesday from 6-7 PM to help us get ready for Easter. I will write more about confession next week to help alleviate some difficulties that we have approaching this sacrament. We will also have a series of talks throughout Lent on Mondays and Thursdays starting March 9th . Soon we will also roll out a new and better way of communicating with the parishioners. Through a new program called Flocknote, we will be able to send email messages to parishioners, important reminders, and much more. Stay tuned! For the teenagers (grade 7-12) there will be a great speaker, Jason Evert, coming to Boston on the days of March 15th and 16th. We will have a bus leaving from the parish to send our youth to listen to him. Next week we will have more details.
I think it’s important to share a fruit of the evangelization that we are already doing here at IC. One of our second graders, Connor Long, after learning about baptism in our school, has asked to be baptized. This gives us a little glimpse of the awesome work that teachers and staff are doing in our school. We would like to invite everyone to participate at Connor’s baptism next Sunday, February 16th, at the 9am Mass. It is a very important event for our parish/school community. Our parish is doing a amazing work, but much more needs to be done! Let’s pray to get excited about our faith! As St. Ignatius would say, let’s set the world aflame with the fire of the Holy Spirit.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Immaculate Conception School has been providing a quality Catholic education for Marlborough area students since 1910. Our school leadership is committed to maintaining Immaculate Conception School as a thriving Catholic community for our students by providing a faith based education for all. We know that many parents who wish to provide a Catholic education for their children are not able to do so financially. We know many parents who cannot afford to send all of their children to Immaculate Conception School, and parents who are not able to afford tuition because of illness, family circumstances, or employment issues. Although these parents would like nothing more than providing a quality Catholic education for their children, they simply don’t have the resources to pay tuition. Catholic schools across the country are facing the challenge of declining enrollment. This is due in part to necessary tuition increases resulting from changes in staffing. Catholic schools are no longer staffed by religious sisters who played a vital role in our Catholic schools. The leadership of Immaculate Conception School has developed a strategic plan to address the challenge of declining enrollment, but we need your help.
As I mentioned in last week’s bulletin, there is a way that we can help. With your help we can provide a quality Catholic education to every student that wishes to attend Immaculate Conception School. Your donation of $7,150.00 will provide full tuition for a student for one year. If you are not able to provide full tuition for a student, two donors who are willing to give $3,575.00 will cover the cost of one student. Or even four donors willing to give $1,775.00 can help a student receive a Catholic Education at Immaculate Conception School.
I realize that not everyone who is reading this letter has the financial ability to make such a generous donation. Any amount that you are willing to provide to help offset the cost of tuition for a family who wishes to provide a Catholic education for their children would be greatly appreciated. Many parishioners donating $50.00 or $100.00 can provide the gift of a quality Catholic education to a deserving student. Please also consider whether your gift would be eligible for your corporate matching gift program. Your donation will help ensure the future of Immaculate Conception School, and our ability to provide a thriving Catholic community for our students.
Please know that I am always grateful for the generosity of those connected with Immaculate Conception Parish, and please be assured of my prayers. I also ask that you pray for the leadership of Immaculate Conception School and for the future health of an institution that has been providing a quality Catholic education to our students since 1910.
Father Steven Clemence