Letter from Father Kevin
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I would like to share with you this reflection on my first year of the priesthood. First, I cannot help but notice how quickly one year has gone by. I remember arriving a week before the Solemnity of Corpus Christi; I was newly out of the seminary and aware that I would have to adjust to my new life as a parish priest. To my surprise, the adjustment period was very short and now I'm well on my way to my second year! As I reflect on this past year, the phrase that instantly comes to mind is "God is Faithful." God is indeed faithful because He is the one that accompanies me in this vocation.
As some of you might know, God called to me to the priesthood during my teenage years, but I put the call on hold until I entered college. Even though my studies were going well, I was not fully content; I understood God was calling me to something different. This is when I made the decision to enter the Redemptoris Mater Seminary of Boston. Initially, I thought that one year in the seminary would help me to confirm that the priesthood was not for me. After all, I'm an introvert, and speaking in front of crowds was not particularly my cup of tea. The funny thing is that the opposite happened; nine years went by, and God confirmed my vocation with many signs that I could not ignore. Throughout my years of seminary formation, I began to experience the action of God in my life; He granted me many graces that convinced me that his power is greater than all my weaknesses. The culmination of all these blessings was the Ordination to the Priesthood, where the Lord confirmed my mission as a priest. The first destination of this mission was Immaculate Conception Parish in Marlborough.
As I arrived in the parish, I was kindly welcomed by the priests, the staff, and all of you! I have felt truly at home and God has granted me beautiful experiences. Celebrating the sacraments for the community is a great joy because it makes me a witness to the wonderful things that God is doing in your lives. The various encounters that I have with many of you also help me to grow both as a Christian and as a priest.
Having the time to talk to adults and youth about reconciliation confirms to me that we have a Father in heaven who is truly merciful. Being able to visit people in their homes and in the hospitals to give the anointing of the sick helps me to see that Christ is especially close to the sick and that he doesn't abandon us in difficult times. Accompanying couples as they receive the Sacrament of Matrimony helps to see how much Christ wants to be at the center of all families. The Celebration of the Eucharist every weekend confirms to me the love that God has for each of us that He gives himself completely to us so that we might have the certainty of his presence in our lives. All these experiences are truly a blessing; in them, I experience the fidelity of God who is accompanying me in this first assignment.
As a new and young priest, I'm aware that there is still more to learn and more people to meet. This parish houses three communities; I have been working with two: the English and Spanish speaking. Fr. Steven has asked me about the possibility of learning Portuguese to help the Brazilian community. I'm more than happy to be able to learn another language to help this community and better serve the parish. So, I ask for your prayers as I will go to Brazil for some weeks during September to familiarize myself with the language.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
God calls us to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth. That means that we are called to be his witnesses here on earth. We have many opportunities throughout the day to share God’s love with other people, whether by word or deed. On this upcoming Labor Day, September 5th, we will have an unique moment to do so at the Marlboro Labor Day Parade. As last year, we will have a float from the Parish to display our faith to the world. The theme this year will be Jesus, Divine Mercy.
We live in a world that violence, hatred, and division is displayed everyday and everywhere. Whether our local news or threats or war elsewhere in the world, we end up being surrounded by that message. Sometimes it seems that there is no hope and that we are doomed. Therefore, we are called to be a sign of hope to everyone. This year’s theme of Divine Mercy was chosen to give hope to everyone. Not only do we need unconditional love shown to us, but also forgiveness. Can you imagine how people are out there who have not met God’s unconditional love for them? There are many people who think that God does not love them at all. Or how many people think that they do not deserve or can’t be forgiven because of their actions they did? We may not need to go too far. Sometimes we ourselves don’t feel God’s love 100%, or we have a hard time forgiving ourselves for what we did. If we have those difficulties, how much harder will it be for others?
When Jesus appears to Faustina Kowalska he wants his message to be given to everyone. There are some other apparitions that Jesus reveals how sad that people don’t ask him for graces, or don’t accept his forgiveness. Somehow we get stuck with the mentality of God’s wrath and punishment and we shield ourselves from his love and mercy. Even in the Old Testament God speaks through the prophets that He wants mercy not sacrifice (Hosea 6:6), or He does not wish the sinner to die, but to turn back to him and live (Ezekiel 33:11). Only by feeling loved and forgiven can we love others and forgive them. The petition found in the words of the Our Father become true only after we are forgiven.
Therefore brothers and sisters, let’s become messengers of his Divine Mercy to the world on this Labor Day. We don’t have all the details sorted out yet, but usually we meet up at the parking lot across the street from the Collins Funeral home and get ready for the march. Hopefully the seminarians will be able to join us this year once again to help us sing with joy! This is also a great opportunity for all the communities of our parish to come together as one body. We will be singing in all 3 languages, chanting, and spreading lots of God’s love. We invite especially the children to come as well! As last year, they were all on the float showing that our Church is very much alive and vibrant. In the meantime, I would like to invite you to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy every day to help us be prepared for this moment and to ask God to open people’s hearts to receive his message. This weekend’s Gospel we hear Jesus saying that only those who enter through the narrow gate will be saved. Well, let’s take with us as many people as we can!!!
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Every year our local parishes participate in the mission appeal of the church by receiving a missionary from different orders to contribute to the evangelization of the world. You may remember (pre-Covid) the different priests who have visited us. Next week, Fr. Pacifique Tsongo from the Augustinians of the Assumption will visit us at all masses.
Founded in Nimes, France in 1850, the Venerable Father Emmanuel d’Alzon gave as the motto to the Augustinians of the Assumption “Thy Kingdom Come” to underline “the coming of the reign of Jesus Christ for ourselves and for our neighbor is what we propose before everything else.” Presently they number close to 900 priests and brothers working in 30 countries. They have specialized ministries in Greece, Turkey, Israel, Madagascar, and they are present in some countries of South America, Africa, and in Asia.
From the very beginning, the Assumptionists, as they are known, have been engaged in a wide variety of apostolic works. All that advances the coming of the Reign of God has always been deemed worthy of their apostolic energy. It’s a preference for the poor, in response to the Gospel and to the Church calling us today to be on their side. For them too it’s a consequence of their own vow to live as poor men.
The Province of North America and the Philippines is specifically responsible for the mission in East Africa (Kenya and Tanzania), Mexico and the Philippines. They provide personnel and financial assistance that is indispensable in order to maintain their charitable works (schools and nurseries) and formation programs for both laity and clergy in these countries. Many of their apostolate in these countries specifically work to better the living conditions of the impoverished brothers and sisters they live with and minister to. In the Philippines, they sponsor education and aid programs for the underprivileged villages both in the Manilla area and in other mission centers. Their newly founded parish in Orizaba, Veracruz, Mexico minister to an underserved indigenous community.
NEXT WEEK, we will have a second collection at all masses to support their mission. You can either bring cash or write a check to IC with the memo: Mission Appeal. Once we collect all the donations, we will pass the amount collected to them. I personally invite you all to be generous. Not only because God has always been generous with us, but it is an opportunity that we have to contribute to the building of God’s kingdom here on Earth. I have lived, participated, and visited many missions in different countries. They rely solely on God's providence. We can participate in God’s work and help those in need. There are times that I have had people asking me about different organizations if the funds really go to the missions.
Father Emmanuel d’Alzon’s vision comes from the Gospel of this week. He says, “The apostle loves the One who sends him; he must also love the one to whom he is sent, for his mission is one of love and of mercy. To share the mind of Jesus Christ who said: “I wish to bring fire on the Earth, and how I wish it were blazing already.” (Lk 12:49) The only desire of my life is to enkindle souls with this Divine Fire.” Let his words also inspire our hearts that we may be renewed in our zeal to make present God’s kingdom also in our houses and to those around us.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We have a lot of things happening this week. Yesterday we celebrated the day of the Transfiguration of the Lord. This upcoming week we have the celebration of St. Dominic (Monday), Edith Stein, Lawrence, and Claire. All great and very important Saints for the Church and for us. But what about today, the nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary time? Is there anything special about it?
Once I heard someone saying that extraordinary things happen in ordinary times. We live in a culture that only gives importance to things that are new and hyped, such as Tik Tok, new iPhone, etc. The old and the quiet don’t get much attention. Maybe they are not as charming and attractive as the rest of things. One of the pilgrimages I did with the youth was in New York City. In the morning I brought them to a very nice Zoo to admire God’s creation. They loved it. Then we took a ferry to Staten Island, where we got to see the Statue of Liberty, and we spoke that we are on a journey towards heaven where we get to see beautiful things. The next stop was Times Square. Once they saw all the lights flashing and all the stores, instantly they forgot all that we had seen on that day. They were mesmerized with it. They started taking pictures and admiring all the billboards and the artists of the area. Once we gave them some free time with the chaperones, they ran into the stores to buy things. Some of them spent all their time (and money) at the stores buying clothes. When the whole group came together, their eyes were glowing. They were so hyped that it was a bit difficult to control their emotions. The next stop was St. Patrick Cathedral. Surprisingly they did not have the same reactions. It was a somber experience. After a quick explanation of the building, we walked into the blessed sacrament chapel where they experienced something different. There were no flashing billboards, stores, or people calling their attention. There they were at peace. A peace that they often don’t experience in other places. After the trip many of them said that what they liked the most was visiting the Cathedral, because it reminded them of heaven. That was exactly the idea. They were able to see the difference between the life of heaven and the one on earth. One is very quiet, peaceful, and awe inspiring. The other was flashy, hyped, and new.
The experience that the youth had is similar to what happens in our lives. We watch the news every day, we are tuned to the latest happenings in the world, we watch all the new movies and series and get very excited about all of them. In the liturgical language we use the expression “allurements of the world” to call what is so attractive in the world. Instead, God is always quiet, as if He was waiting for his turn. Waiting for the door to be opened and to be invited into our hearts. He is very patient, and for some of us, He has been waiting a long time to come in. On this weekend when we hear Jesus speaking about the faithful servant who is vigilant to the return of his master, I invite you all to do the same. No matter what we do or where we are, we should always live in God’s presence. The Jewish men wear the Kippah (a skullcap cloth) to be a reminder that God is watching over them. If we spend our lives looking and consolidating perishable things, we will miss out on the return of the master. Instead, if we miss out on the world waiting for God's arrival, then we will be given everything.
Some of you have heard or seen Fr. Mike’s Podcast called Bible in a Year. It was a great production of Fr. Mike reading (and commenting) on scriptural passages through 365 days. It was a massive success. Now he is preparing another series called Catechism in a Year. It’s funny because we don’t see any hype or excitement about it. Some of us may not even have heard about it. Therefore, I invite you brothers to look for the Lord. Seek Him in different ways. Whether attending daily mass, adoration, confession, daily rosaries, reading small passages from the Gospel and meditating about them. The prophet Isaiah urges when he writes, “Seek the LORD while he may be found, call upon him while he is near.’ (Is 55:6) It is in ordinary moments when God operates the extraordinary, like this weekend’s mass, just as in the lives of the Saints we celebrate this week.
Father Steven Clemence