Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It is with a heavy heart that I write you this letter, and it’s not because of the departure of Fr. Przemek. As I was about to start working, news of the Russian invasion of Ukraine took over all news outlets. There were a lot of threats and suspicion these past days, but it is very sad that in 2022, after a long battle against Covid, we are back at full-fledged invasions of a country. There are some local conflicts around the world, but either they are civil war or military coup. As I was preparing the homily for this week, and connecting with the war on Ukraine, the Lord inspired me to speak about two things in this letter. The first is that there are times in which we also can wage a war against someone else and the second is if we don’t fight the battle he will sneak up on us and defeat us at every battle.
On a pilgrimage with the youth to the World Youth Day of Poland, we passed by Auschwitz. It was impressive to see the size of that concentration camp and how methodically the Germans were in killing other people. After a time of prayer over there, there was priest that opened the eyes of the youth to see that they too kill over people with words, thoughts, gestures, and in their hearts. Somehow, I had never made this connection that we too can become just like them. Although we may have never pulled a trigger, nonetheless, we could have killed many people spiritually. Hatred, bitterness, indifference, antipathy are feelings that are very easily harbored in our hearts, and they can remain there for a long time. This week in which we see the hostility of Russia towards Ukraine, the Lord invites to reflect in our own relationships and our own actions towards other people. Let’s first perceive the wooden beam in our eyes before we can attempt to remove the splinter in our brother’s eyes. I don’t mean to use the conflict of Russia or the holocaust lightly, but I think there is room for us to associate our own hearts with what’s happening out there.
The second element which originally I was inspired to write you is the battle against the devil. As Ash Wednesday approaches in a few days, we are called to conversion, and to practice penance to help us to turn our hearts from the things of this world back to God. In these forty days of Lent, we are called to fast, pray, and give alms. We don’t do these things as a diet like someone who wants to look prettier, but rather someone who is sick and needs to be healthy. Sin has always been associated with illness throughout the scriptures. Therefore, this time of Lent comes first to help us realize what’s happening in our hearts and our lives. How far are we from God? How far are we from our neighbors (and not just the people that we like, also the people we dislike as we heard last Sunday)? Paul in the letter to the Ephesians reminds us that our battle is not against the flesh, but against the spirits of the world. In other words, our struggles and our scuffles are not towards one another, but against the Devil that wants us to hate God and our neighbor. Every Lent we always hear on the first Sunday how Jesus overcomes the temptations of the devil by fasting, praying, and renouncing the desires of the flesh. Our energy should not be wasted fighting one another, but rather fighting these spirits that only desire our condemnation by tormenting our lives already here on Earth.
I urge you brothers and sisters to take advantage of the beautiful time of Lent that we are about to enter. On Ash Wednesday and every Friday during Lent, in which we are called not only to abstain from meat, but also to skip a meal, be close to the Lord, make an examination of your conscience, let the ashes by a symbol of our finite nature, that soon we will return to dust, for we are dust. We don’t have much time left on our hands, let’s find strength in the Lord to forgive others, to be patient with them as the Lord has been patient with us. We will also have stations of the Cross every Friday at 6pm in English, 7pm in Portuguese in the Upper Church and 7pm in Spanish in the Lower Church. We will continue to offer 2 hours of confessions on Saturday (1-3pm) and Tuesday 5-6pm. If someone prefers to come to the office for confessions, we can also arrange that by reaching out to the secretary.
Courage, brothers and sisters, on the battle against the devil, we are much stronger when united with Christ, who already defeated him. Now it’s our turn!
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today for a change, I (Fr. Przemek), would like to share my thoughts and experiences from the time being here in Marlborough as a vicar. Prior to becoming a priest, I was formed at the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Boston. This seminary has been crucial in shaping my priesthood and I have a deep gratitude for the formation I received there. For those who did not have a chance to hear my announcement in person last week, I would like to share with you the news. Cardinal Seán O’Malley has appointed me as an administrator in St. Patrick in Brockton. I will officially start there on March 1st, 2022. I myself received this information recently and it has been a big surprise for me.
Since I received this news, it has been a roller coaster of feelings and emotions. The very first thing that hit me was a thought of my limitation in speaking and understanding Spanish. In St. Patrick the majority of parishioners are Spanish speaking. “How am I going to be able to help people that I have difficulties understanding?” I thought. However, as I am reflecting upon it, this is exactly where God wants to manifest himself and work through me. It is not me who is helping others, it is God through the Holy Spirit that can change the heart of man. I am just a poor instrument which God decides to use. If I think that I am in control of everything, I would be a bitter and proud man. This limitation (and many others) is a blessing for me. To experience being incomplete is necessary for me to have a space inside of me so that the Lord may shower his tenderness on me. In this way, I can experience his providence and care for me.
The above limitations are a great blessing but also the abundance of love that I have received here in Marlborough is also another blessing. God through this Parish has been very generous with me in many different ways. Fr. Steven was my first Pastor, and this was a gift from God. I was very much helped by him through my first years of my priesthood. He was always very supportive and caring. It really helped me to gradually unpack the gift of the priesthood that God has given me. In a different way, equally important, was your (parishioners) love towards me. Many times, your affections and kindness were helping me in difficult times of an adjustment. You always need to remember that a priest is also a man and not a machine. Each one of us has many battles that we have to face every day. Let’s face it. The devil does not like us and will do everything to interrupt a mission that God has entrusted to us. I remember many times receiving cards from you (especially in the Christmas and Easter season) with the words of encouragement and appreciation which brought a smile on my face that would sooth my heart. Even gifts and treats left on the porch of the house were a sign of support and love. Little things that would say so much!
Right now, I am embarking on the new journey prepared by God going to Brockton. I see that He is very tender and gradual in leading myself towards Himself. If somebody would have told me some years ago that I will be a priest or that I will end up in the USA or that I will be studying philosophy and theology or that I would spend three years in Kiribati in the Pacific or that I would visit in my mission places like New Zealand, Fiji, Majuro, Guam, Hong Kong, Hawaii, Rome, Alaska without earning money or that I would learn English or that I would live in the seminary with the guys from nine different nations I would say … you are insane! And here I am writing as a future administrator (pastor) in Brockton. All these steps were led by Him gradually with tenderness and love. God is really creative in His plan, and it seems like He is just warming up!
Again, I want to thank all of you for your support and prayers. I will always remember you and this wonderful parish which was truly a honeymoon of my priesthood! Thank you and please pray for me!
Dear Brothers & Sisters,
For a few years now, our parish has been served by priests formed at Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan Missionary Seminary, which was opened by Cardinal Seán in 2005 to form priests for the New Evangelization of the Church and for the missio ad gentes (mission to the faraway).
As priests, we are honored to serve you and the more we get to know you, the better we understand our vocation and the mission that the Lord has entrusted to us. Part of this mission is to pray for vocations and to realize that we all have a responsibility to transmit the faith to the next generation and to promote and support vocations to the priesthood.
Therefore, after praying about this matter and discussing it with our Parish Finance Council, I have decided that, starting this Lent we will begin tithing regularly from our weekly offertory to support the formation program at Redemptoris Mater Seminary. This seminary does not have an endowment and lives entirely from the generosity of benefactors and the Providence of God.
I know that I speak for myself, but also for other priests who are familiar to our parish including Fr. Israel, Fr. Adriano, Fr. Andrea, that the Lord has always been generous to us and that we never lacked what we needed in our formation. Among us there are also a number of seminarians that attend our parish regularly: Gabriel, Mateus, Javier, Aaron, Michael, Rafael, Alexander and Henry and I am certain that this initiative will be as much a help to the seminary as it will be a grace for our parish.
Whether in our prayers or in our conversations, let us speak well of God and especially encourage the young people to be bold and generous as they ponder what to do with their lives. And let us pray that they may not be afraid to fall in love with God in the possibility of a consecrated life of service to the Church through the gift of the priesthood.
Dear Brothers & Sisters,
This weekend’s Gospel is very dear to me and to my vocation. We hear Jesus jumping into Peter’s boat and ordering him to go to deep waters, where after the miraculous catch, he invites Peter to become a fisher of men.
The first element of this Gospel is quite challenging, and at times frightful. When we go to the beach, we always feel very safe when we stay at waist depth. Even though there might be some current, we can stand our ground. When we go deeper to the point of losing our foothold, then our natural reaction is to panic (even if it’s a controlled feeling). This is a survival response that we are no longer “safe”. That fear can be overcome when our swimming skills are strong to the point that we feel safe. When Jesus invites Peter, and by extension all of us, to go to deeper waters, he wants us to no longer rely on our strength or our securities, but to risk leaning on him alone. There is always an undertone that unless we risk through God, things won’t change. To experience following the command of Christ, we have to leave our comfort behind, and experience relying on Christ’s command. It is similar to when a child goes to into deep water for the first time with his parents. Although it may be frightening, uncomfortable, and unreasonable, the presence of parents calms the child to the point to where he allows himself to be carried in their arms.
Once we go into the deeper waters, we realize that the crowds are left behind, and now it is only Jesus and us. We don’t have friends, family, or relatives around, it is just us. There is another level of fear, when we are alone. But then once again, we need to realize that we are not alone. Christ is with us. Then comes the best part when Jesus tells something that does not make sense at all, to throw the nets once again just as he instructed Peter who had been trying fishing the whole night.
Christ speaks to us, whether giving directions, pushing us to do something, or indicating what we should do. But it’s very hard to comprehend. The problem is not what he is telling us, it is how we receive it. Going back to an example with children, when they ask questions about what they see, such as why the sky is blue, it is difficult for them to understand what is beyond their reasoning. Imagine how impossible it is to tell a child that the sky is not blue if their senses tell them otherwise. Once more, Christ invites us to rely on him instead of ourselves. It is an act of trust. There is a definition of faith in the Jerusalem Bible that defines it as “an act of faith and of self-abandonment by which people no longer rely on their own strength and policies but commit themselves to the power and guiding word of him in whom they believe.” Therefore, if you feel called to something that may not make sense to you, but it comes from Christ, be not afraid of following that voice.
Lastly, the call of Peter to become a fisher of men is fundamental to his vocation. This call is usually used for all the people of God to become missionaries. Traditionally, it was focused on the vocation to the priesthood. There are many men who have felt this call, and have indeed become fishers of men. But a question that I would like for us to reflect on is how can we participate actively in the promotion of vocations. How can we help the men who are struggling with their call, or even those on the path to becoming priests? Is it about this that Christ invites all of us to go to deeper waters, coming out of our comfort zone? Does he invite us to do an act of obedience or faith to put into action his command? As individuals, parishioners of IC, members of the Archdiocese, or Catholics, the vocation to the priesthood is something that impacts all of us, and those that will come after us. Cardinal Sean has repeated many times, “The life of the Church and its vocations are everyone's business,” I would like to invite all of you to think about these questions posed to us this weekend and to see how we respond to Christ. Peter when he arrived ashore, “left everything [behind] and followed [Jesus].”
Father Steven Clemence