Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Each year, the Archdiocese of Boston requires pastors to provide all parishioners with a report of the finan- cial health of their parish. This report covers fiscal year 2020, which began on July 1, 2019, and ended on June 30, 2020. [These reports will also be available on our website.] For four months of the past fiscal year, our families were going through a difficult time with the COVID crisis. The same is true of our parish family. I am very grateful for the generous support of IC parishioners. Although IC Parish struggled financially at the beginning of the COVID crisis, our financial condition would have been much worse without the support of the IC community.
In addition to the generous support of our parishioners, we were also proactive in pursuing assistance. We were awarded a Paycheck Protection Program loan from the SBA. We expect this loan to be forgiven be- cause 100% of this loan was used to satisfy our payroll obligations in keeping with the loan program require- ments.
In addition to seeking assistance when necessary and prudent, we also did on a parish level what many families had to do in their own homes. We cut expenses where we could. This process started two years ago, but increased in urgency due to the COVID crisis. We are continually looking for ways to decrease spending so we can focus our resources on the central mission of our parish.
During this past fiscal year, we hired a new business manager who worked diligently on the expense side of our finances, and she will continue to do so in the coming months. This position was vacant for many months and her assistance was greatly needed. The end result of the review of the expense side of our an- nual report is that our parish operating expenses were reduced by 11% in fiscal year 2020 (exclusive of nec- essary capital improvements and expenditures related to the fire and support provided to the school).
I would like to share a few more financial highlights and concerns as we turn our attention to fiscal year 2021. First, the COVID crisis continues in fiscal year 2021 and with that comes a reduction in our offertory. Signing up for on-line giving helps us a great deal as it makes our offertory more predictable. As is the case any time I speak of parish finances, please know that I am truly grateful for the generosity of our parishion- ers and I am also mindful of the struggles that so many of our families are experiencing due to the COVID crisis.
Second, one of the reasons IC Parish was able to maintain relative financial health this past fiscal year, was due to the generous donations from parishioners, over and above their weekly offerings, which totaled $53,000. With countless numbers of our parishioners struggling financially, those that were able to do so provided much needed financial assistance to the parish.
Third, as we conclude the main work of the post-fire restoration, we will now turn our attention to the finan- cial health of the parish. Although the bulk of the restoration work is behind us, we will need to raise funds at some point in the future to pay for some of the work that has already been completed that was not covered by insurance. This initiative will be introduced to the parish as a formal fundraising program once the COVID crisis is behind us.
Although the main focus of your priests is always the spiritual care of souls, we also continue to work dili- gently to be good stewards of the temporal goods entrusted to us.
God bless, Fr. Steven
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This past week I witnessed a beautiful moment that I would like to share with you. It touched me profoundly to hear such a wonderful expression of love from a mother to her child. One might imag- ine many occasions in which it could have occurred, but never at her child’s burial. The mother wrote this letter for her child and she read it at the end of the burial service. It moved me so much that I asked her to share it with you, hoping and praying that it may bring consolation and healing to any parent who lost a child at any age. May God, the father of all consolation, and Our Lady Com- forter of the Afflicted, intercede for those in need today and every day of their lives. Please let us know if there is anything that we priests can do for you or anyone that you may know.
God Bless, Fr Steven
My Sweet Andrea,
On the day I discovered that I was pregnant with you, I was at first nervous and unsure of myself. But after attending Mass later that morning, and listening to the message conveyed in readings, in music, and in the homily, I knew in my heart that it was God’s will that I be- come a mother. I was so happy that after all this time, God granted us a miracle of life during such a dark period. We were both excited about becoming parents, reading all about and preparing the way to provide you with what was needed. Your Dad made sure I ate healthy and provided you with what you needed to grow, and I got resources together to care for you in the future. I felt that becoming a Mom was the best thing in my life and the best thing that ever happened to me.
When I went for your first ultrasound, they showed me your heart beating on the monitor. It was an amazing thing to see, although I couldn’t share it with anyone because of COVID guidelines and hospital policy. It was proof you were alive. Although the changes I was ex- periencing in my body was the primary way I experienced you, and felt your presence every day. Dad and I read about and looked at pictures of what your development was each week, and went on walks together- I sometimes walked with Nana. We marveled at all the changes to our lives that were coming soon, and thought about ways to plan for your arrival in the world.
At the second ultrasound our hopes were dashed when there was no longer a heartbeat de- tected. We were told by the doctor that by your size and visible development, you may have died the day before, when you were just 9 weeks and one day old. It was not God’s will that we meet you in this life after all. God had called you to himself in heaven, where I hope you have met other members of the family or at least hopefully will never be alone.
While I don’t know whether I will ever become pregnant again or carry a child full-term, I do know two things deep inside me are true. I love you and will always be a mother to you; and that my life is forever altered because of the grace and gratitude I have been given from God after having bonded with you and after having shared a body and bloodstream with you, lov- ing you, and growing closer to God because of you. I thank God for the gift of having you in my life, even for a short time, and for the realization of the precious gift that life is.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Traditionally the month of October is known as the month of the Rosary and Respect Life Month. It is very difficult to speak of those themes these days without sounding political. Nonetheless, the Rosary and Re- spect for Life are of utmost importance for Catholics during the month of October, and every other day of the year. This is non-negotiable part of being a Catholic, not a political statement. As I have mentioned before, I am a Brazilian National who has permanent residency (Green Card). I’m not affiliated with any political par- ty, nor do I vote in the United States. Therefore, this reflection is the sole product of the teachings of the Church and the saints.
When we speak of Respect Life or the sanctity of life, often people think on the issues related to abortion. That is only one part of it. The Church always refers to the wholeness of life, from conception to natural death. That also includes everything in between the beginning of life and end of life. It has been my desire for a long time to clarify Catholic regarding end of life issues. Usually this is a topic that we are not so com- fortable talking about, but the Covid crisis, and other illness make us think about it. Although it can be fright- ening, when we look at the big picture (that we are created for heaven and eternal life) fear of death sub- sides. That doesn't mean that as Catholics we can take any action or participate in any action that would hasten death of a person with terminal illness. It only means that as Catholics, we should not fear death.
This week, reading St. Cyprian of Carthage (De Mortalitate), I was very much enthusiastic about heaven. He writes in his letter, “The kingdom of God, beloved brethren, is beginning to be at hand; the reward of life, and the rejoicing of eternal salvation, and the perpetual gladness and possession lately lost of paradise, are now coming, ... already heavenly things are taking the place of earthly, and great things of small, and eter- nal things of things that fade away. What room is there here for anxiety and solicitude?” He continues “Since, therefore, to see Christ is to rejoice, and we cannot have joy unless when we shall see Christ.”
We were not only created for God, we were also created by Him. He is the sole giver of life. Therefore, our lives are not our own, but a gift that God has entrusted to us to be dealt with prudently. There are many cir- cumstances in life that can be frightening and that may seem inescapable. We all know of these situations like a college student who finds herself pregnant, an adult child with older parents that require care and at- tention when they are already overwhelmed taking care of their own children, someone who has a painful illness that seems to be unfair, or actions of certain individuals that devalue or disrespect the lives of others. In all these instances, God always has special graces to assist us in making the right decision. As challeng- ing as they may be, or even as “impossible” as these situations may seem, remember, FOR GOD NOTH- ING IS IMPOSSIBLE. There are many men and women who have faced the same problems, and they sided with God and the problem was addressed. The saints always have said that God does not remove our prob- lems, but gives us the strength to overcome them. The solution is not to get rid of the problem, but aided by faith, to find God in them.
In Scripture, we often hear how God protects the innocent, the stranger, and the orphan. It is also our duty as Catholics, Christians, and humans, to protect, promote, and defend every life, born and unborn, regard- less of age, ethnicity, religion, or social status. We area called to do so in accordance of what is in our pow- er. That is, in our conversations, our daily actions, in our civic duties (voting), and supporting financially the institutions that help vulnerable persons. This month we have the opportunity to support Birthright Pregnan- cy Center, World Missions (on Sunday 18th), St. Vincent de Paul, and the Food Pantry at the Walker Build- ing. And as always, we continue to pray for those in need, and for a greater respect for life.
Let us therefore ask the assistance of Our Lady, through the powerful prayer of the rosary, that we may be like her, to persevere in our troubles, be constant in our faith, and intercede for the whole world as she inter- cedes for us. This weekend we have another opportunity to come to pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament for 24 hours. Come and Pray! We also join our Spanish Community on Sunday as they celebrate their Pa- troness, Our Lady of the Rosary, and the Brazilian Community as they celebrate Our Lady of Aparecida. Therefore, let us entrust ourselves and those in most need to the intercession of our Blessed Mother as we pray, “O Mary, Mother of Jesus and Mother of us all, we turn to you today as the one who said "Yes" to Life. "You will conceive and bear a Son," the angel told you. Despite the surprise and the uncertainty about how this could be, you said yes. "Be it done unto me according to your word." Help us at the moment that we may recognize your Son, Jesus Christ, in every person, and assist in every way we can. Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us.
God bless, Fr. Steven
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This weekend we will hear in the second reading St. Paul exhorting us to “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. (Phil 4:6). I know that it can be hard not to be anxious, but we trust in the Lord, because GOD IS GOOD, ALL THE TIME!!!
Last weekend in my homilies I was wondering what was the will of God for each one of us. Whether it’s a call to serve someone in some capacity, or to do something, we always need to ask the Lord in our prayers what is His will for us. Certainly we have our own plans and ideas, but not always our plans lead us to salvation. God’s plan, ALWAYS leads us to salvation. As unorthodox or crazy as it seems, God continuously brings us to a path that leads to joy, peace, and the fullness of happiness. As you may know last week, the city of Marlboro was declared to be high-risk or in the “red zone”. As cases have recently increased, we as a parish need to – as Cardinal Sean said- “take care of each other” – by taking the necessary precautions. Besides taking the temperature and names of everyone coming into the church, we are instructed to avoid gatherings as well. One of the major af- fects has been the suspension in person CCD classes. Due to this we changed our model of CCD to a homeschool version.
Another impact of being in the red zone, would be the series of talks that we were going to start this week. After speaking with the priests, parishioners and the team we decided to postpone the catech- esis by the Neocatechumenal way to a later date out of caution. In the meantime, we will continue to discern God’s will as to what we should do in the parish. Our next event will be the 24 hours of Ado- ration that will take place from Sunday Oct 11th after the 5pm Mass through Monday at 6:00pm.
As St. Paul exhorts us, let us not be anxious!!! The fact that we are in the “red zone” does not mean that there is an outbreak of cases in Marlboro. Last week I came across a very interesting article from MassLive titled “Is your Massachusetts hometown in the ‘red’ and considered high risk for COVID spread? Here’s what you need to know”. They quoted Douglas T. Golenbock, Chief of the Di- vision of Infectious Diseases and Immunology at UMass Medical School, who says that " cities or towns at or around the floor of the high risk threshold don’t necessarily need to shut everything down again — only to ensure they’re following the health guidelines with more caution, and keeping watch over the rate of disease in their area.” He added that the methods used by the State in classifying the cities could be “somewhat arbitrary, but that measuring the rate of illness using a comparable popula- tion size helps health experts keep track of the presence of the virus in communities.”
Let us continue praying for the Lord, putting all our trust in him, and see which direction He is leading us.
God bless, Fr Steven
Father Steven Clemence