The “Good News Blog” is where we share the fruits of ministry at St. Francis of Assisi. Click the link below to read some good news.
http://stfrancispastoralministries.wordpress.com/

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May 29, 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As you know from a previous column Gladys Whitehouse has changed responsibilities from Coordinator of Family Life to Coordinator of Evangelization.  With Gladys’ new responsibilities she will help us to place a renewed emphasis on small church communities and also lead our process of Christian Initiation for those seeking to deepen their faith by joining our Roman Catholic Church.

Jason Lillis will serve as our new Coordinator of Family Life beginning this week.  Jason comes to us with a background of coordinating and leading ministries, a broad foundation in religious and theological studies, and a wide range of skills in organization, communication, and technology.   Jason hails from Iowa and is a graduate of St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, where he received his B.A. in Religion, and holds an M.A. in Catholic Studies from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Most recently, Jason has been employed by the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University providing administrative support for the staff directors.  As a volunteer, he currently co-leads the Young Adult Group at Immaculate Conception church in Durham, NC.  Jason’s wife, Julie, is currently pursuing a PhD in Religion at Duke. As Coordinator of Family Life, Jason will lead the ministries related to “family life” to include:

– Sacramental preparation for marriage and baptism (up to age 7).

– Enrichment to marriage and families.

– The ministries related to men, women, seniors, GLBT parishioners,   young adults, and parishioners with African ancestry.

Many thanks to the search committee, who gave of their time and insight so generously:  Leon Cooke, Tricia Henry, Theresa Baumgartner, Joseph Pietrus, and Linda Bedo.  Please join me in welcoming Jason to our pastoral staff.

Recently Bonnie Angel submitted her resignation as Coordinator of the Franciscan Coalition to be effective June 30.  Having retired once from UNC, in this second retirement, Bonnie desires to spend more time with her husband Al, their grandchildren and looks forward to a more restful retirement.  Bonnie has served on the pastoral staff for over a year, initially as interim Coordinator of Program Development in the Franciscan Coalition for Justice and Peace and more recently as Coordinator overseeing all peace and justice ministries.  Although I had hoped Bonnie would remain in leadership for a longer tenure, I am nevertheless grateful for her contributions to the Coalition’s administrative stability through a period of transition in staff and organizational structures.  Bonnie looks forward to offering her gifts and talents as a volunteer in the life of our parish after helping with the transition to a new Coordinator of the Franciscan Coalition for peace and justice. 

Moving forward, Trevor Thompson, Director of Pastoral Ministries, is putting together a search process for Bonnie’s successor, and will provide the oversight of the Franciscan Coalition ministries and events.  Ministry leaders and staff who need assistance during this time of transition may contact Trevor or Kathleen Owen, Administrative Specialist in the Franciscan Coalition.

In the peace of Christ,

 Fr. Mark

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May 22, 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Congratulations to the boys and girls of our Catholic Community who have celebrated their First Eucharist last weekend and this weekend!

Last weekend, Tim Fischer and Shawn Subasic, members of the pastoral council offered words of congratulations to our young people as well the following update on our strategic initiative process.

Fr. Mark

I would like to share with you the Strategic Initiative process the pastoral council has recently completed.  As keeper of the mission statement, the Pastoral Council establishes Strategic Initiatives that focus the direction of the parish in terms of setting goals and priorities for our community.  This process is done through listening sessions, questionnaires, town hall meetings and most recently through the Best Parish Practice and partners in ministry forum. Thank you to the over 700 parishioners who provided input.

Now a brief update on the Strategic Initiatives. In 2008, three Strategic Initiatives were introduced: Foster and Celebrate the Diversity of our community; Create a culture of stewardship; and Engage our Youth through family and community.  Considerable progress was made on all three initiatives and we want to thank all of the staff and parishioners for their contributions.  In addition our parish continued to support the growing in faith together (Gift campaign).  Thank you for your support of this effort which created invaluable space to grow our many ministries.  This along with the previous Strategic Initiatives, strengthen our outreach to the community.

All of the objectives for the Diversity initiative were met and a ministry will be formed to continue celebrating diversity within our community. Highlighted events included: Latino community outreach, after mass hospitality sponsored by diverse groups, diversity in liturgy through music, and signing for the deaf.  We will continue to enhance our Stewardship and Youth initiatives given the scope and importance of these programs to our growing parish.  Highlighted events included: called and gifted workshops; more community events for stewardship; creation of youth ministry core team; and workshops and ministry fairs to educate about youth involvement.  Additionally, we have added a new initiative for 2011 entitled Engaging our Community.

Our parish continually faces the challenge of inviting all into the life of our community to live their baptismal call.  With our new great facilities and vibrant ministries, we are inviting you to become more engaged in our community.  Our focus is to encourage everyone to connect with other parishioners and grow spiritually regardless of where you are on your faith journey.  I encourage you to get more involved in some ministry to help foster a sense of small community for your family and to enable you to grow a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. Thank you again for your continued support.  May our strategic initiatives to youth, stewardship, and engagement strengthen our commitment to build God’s kingdom on earth.

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May 15, 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The leadership of our Franciscan Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus has issued this reflection concerning the death of Osama bin Laden. I share it also with you.

Letter to the Friars regarding Franciscan Reflection on the death of Osama bin Laden

Fr. Mark

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May 8, 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

 April 25 is the anniversary of the founding of our parish.  Each year on or near this date we celebrate those who serve our parish celebrating anniversaries of employment.  Please join me in offering thanks and appreciation to the following:
Fr. mark

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May 1, 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Easter Greetings of peace as we continue to celebrate the octave of the Risen Lord.

This Tuesday, May 3 Fr. Emmet will celebrate his 25th anniversary of ordination by presiding at the 9:00 am Mass.  It is the actual day that he was ordained at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Manhattan.  Emmet was a Franciscan Friar for 30 years before he was ordained.  He has had many varied ministries over his 55+ years as a friar.  We are fortunate to have his presence here at St. Francis.  Following the Mass we will have a reception in the Assisi Café. 

Thank you to all who gave so generously this past weekend to Catholic Parish Outreach and our efforts to provide support and relief to the many in our area whose lives were impacted by the tornados and storms.

In mid-April I received a letter from Bro. Thomas Cole, O.F.M., Director of the Franciscan Missionary Union expressing gratitude for our support of the relief efforts in Japan.  In part he wrote: “Fr. Russell and the friars in Tokyo have been hosting about 50 evacuees at the Franciscan Chapel Center and the friars in Kiryu are hosting a number of families.  Your generosity will enable them to provide nourishment, shelter and compassionate aid to people whose lives were radically changed in a matter of minutes.  Your financial assistance is greatly appreciated but your prayers are also requested.  You might join us in praying this prayer written by Archbishop Leo Jun Ikenaga SJ of Osaka:

“Merciful God, you never depart from us even in the worst of times; Be with us in both our joy and in our sadness. Grant your aid and encouragement to those who suffer in the face of this great calamity. We, too, continue to offer you our prayers and sacrifices for their sake. Bring us with all possible haste to the day when all can live in safety. May all those who have lost their lives in the devastation find peaceful repose in your presence.

Mother Mary pray for us.  Through Christ our Lord.”

In the peace of Christ,

 Fr. Mark

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April 24, 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Happy Easter! 

Congratulations to all who have received Easter Sacraments of Initiation this weekend.  We welcome you to the Catholic Community of St. Francis of Assisi.  Thank you to all who have enriched our Lenten experience, helping us to renew our baptismal promises and celebrate the new life that comes to us through the cross of Jesus Christ.

This past year we have experienced tremendous growth on our campus and within our pastoral staff.  In the past 12 months we have opened four new buildings, Elizabeth Hall, Assisi Community Center, St. Mary of the Angels Chapel, Siena Center for Lifelong Learning, and renovated Clare Fellowship Hall.  We have added some new parking and many new programs.  With these additions there has been much excitement as we have begun to “live in” these new spaces.  Reflecting back upon the history of our parish, our campus has always been changing as we’ve responded to the growth of our community.  Twenty years ago, we added the ministry of a preschool (early childhood learning center) to our parish and ten years ago we added the ministry of an elementary / middle school.  With these additions, new life springs forth on our campus as we continue to be faithful to our mission.  In particular, Tricia Henry, Coordinator of Community Life, has enriched the mission of our parish in the past year with many new community events, some of which are highlighted in this week’s bulletin. 

You also may have noticed that throughout our campus we have installed security cameras to “watch” both our parking lots and the entrances of our buildings.  Regrettably, we have had experiences of vandalism and theft and are looking for ways to keep our campus safe and secure.

We continue to welcome with joy new parishioners and invite them into the life of our community.  We’ve recently surpassed 5000 households registered as parishioners — this translates to about 14,000 members.  Honestly, I’d say about half are actively involved as stewards, sharing their time, talent, and treasure with us.  In the coming year, the pastoral council has created a strategic initiative to “engage” those who are registered but not yet stewards.  The Stewardship Committee continues to work on our current initiative to “create a culture of stewardship” within our parish.

As Ben Whitehouse (Director of Operations) shared in this column three weeks ago, our offertory has been flat — which means we’ve had to make cuts that have impacted our programs and forced a reduction in staffing.  Our finance council continues to provide astute oversight, ensuring that we are faithful to our financial principles to live within our means.  Your contributions are needed and greatly appreciated as we together strengthen the fabric of the Body of Christ within St. Francis.

Our pastoral staff is dedicated, competent and faithful to the mission of our parish.  To a person, they serve us tirelessly and with great compassion and commitment.  We friars are fortunate to be partners in ministry with them and with all of you.  As we journey together this Easter Season, embracing the paschal mystery, may we witness to the new life God gives to us in the gift of one another and this Catholic Community of St. Francis of Assisi.

 In the peace of Christ,

Fr. Mark

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April 17, 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As we begin the holiest week of our liturgical year, aptly called “Holy Week,” we celebrate the paschal mystery (the life, death and resurrection) of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  As we journey together this Holy Week, embracing the paschal mystery, may we witness to the new life our God gives to us in the gift of one another and this Catholic Community of St. Francis of Assisi.

Lifelong Faith Formation takes many forms at St. Francis, from preschool through adult education and of course most importantly our celebration of the Eucharist.  One of the most comprehensive ways parents form their children is through our St. Francis preschool and Franciscan School, where learning takes place through the lens of faith.

Since the retirement of Christine Miesowicz as Director of Evangelization in February, I’ve asked Jennifer Bigelow to serve as Principal of TFS and Director of Catholic Education and Formation.  The simple goal is to better integrate all of our efforts at Catholic Education and Lifelong Faith Formation throughout the parish.  Since the inception of TFS we have always had one faith formation program. 

At first glance, it may seem overwhelming; however, the principal is already a part of the lifelong faith formation team representing both the Preschool and Franciscan School.  Jennifer will now provide the leadership for all aspects of lifelong faith formation in the parish, which will lend itself to increased opportunities for collaboration.  As Jennifer prepares to begin her fourth year as a leader on our pastoral staff, she has proven to be a capable administrator and educator.  I am grateful she will extend her leadership abilities to help us integrate and better serve the needs of our parish for Catholic Education and Formation.  In the coming months, Jennifer will assess the needs in this area and hire personnel to meet the lifelong faith formation needs for the parish.

In the peace of Christ,

Fr. Mark

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April 10, 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In mid-February, Donna Smith let me know that she is planning on moving to California in early Summer and therefore will be resigning from our pastoral staff effective May 13.  Donna has made great contributions to our pastoral staff in many ways.  She joined the staff eight years ago as an administrative specialist.  Her passion for the gospel and its expression through ritual and liturgy led her to become a master catechist in the diocese and receive a certificate in the Loyola Ministry Program with a specialization in pastoral ministry.  Most recently, Donna has served us as Coordinator of Liturgy with responsibilities for RCIA.  She has been a welcoming voice and helpful hand in responding to those who seek to join our Catholic faith through the process of Christian Initiation of Adults.  And Sunday after Sunday she has helped us celebrate and be the Body of Christ through our Eucharistic Worship.  I am grateful to Donna for her faithfulness and tenacity to detail which has helped us to fulfill the mission of our parish.  In her resignation letter, she reflected:

My experience with St. Francis has been extremely rewarding.  I appreciate having had the opportunity to work for such a wonderful community.  The past few months have been difficult for me as I prayed over this decision for quite some time.  There comes a time in everyone’s life when change is for the better and I have decided it is time to make changes in my life.  I would like to express my gratitude for all the benefits The Catholic Community of St. Francis of Assisi has brought to my life.  I have gained valuable ministry experience and personal growth.  My love of ritual and passion for liturgy has flourished and I am proud of the way I have helped this community worship more fully.  I am renewed and exhilarated as I journey each year with new candidates and catechumens seeking full communion with the Catholic Church.  I am proud of the RCIA leadership teams that I have helped form and nurture.  I will miss collaborating with the entire pastoral staff, liturgy committee, ministry volunteers, parishioners, and diocese.

I am grateful to Donna for the long notice she has given and her desire and commitment to help us celebrate Lent and Triduum well.  At Donna’s request, on Friday May 13 at the 9:00 am Daily Mass, we will have the opportunity as a community to celebrate her ministry among us and wish her well as she moves to the West Coast.

In light of Donna’s departure her responsibilities will be divided among two current pastoral staff members. Jim Wahl our Coordinator of Music Ministries will take on additional responsibilities and will serve us as Coordinator of Liturgy and Music Ministries.  His background and education has already prepared him for this and he looks forward to taking on this additional responsibility.

Gladys Whitehouse, our Coordinator of Family Life, said to me “I don’t really want to retire, I just want to work less.”  After conversation and time for discernment, Gladys will move into a newly created part time position as Coordinator of Evangelization.  Her responsibility will include the Catechumenate (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and Children), Small Church Communities, Adult Confirmation and Returning Catholics.  I am excited about the possibilities that a renewed focus on Small Church Communities with Gladys leadership will provide for us.

In the peace of Christ,

Fr. Mark

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April 3, 2011

Dear friends,

With Easter being quite late this year (April 24), I find myself experiencing Lent and Spring in a new light.  Lent has been my time for reflecting on where I am on my spiritual journey and how I am being tested in my own desert. 

I frequently find myself a little down as I think of the many ways I have failed to be open to God’s unconditional love for me.  However, at the same time, Spring is bursting forth around me in beauty and new life.  It has helped me to have some balance in my self-reflection while being aware of the great potential with the coming Resurrection to create new beginnings and new opportunities.  It is through this lens of Lent and Spring that I would like to take a moment to update you on our parish financial situation.  As Fr. Mark and I shared with you in the Autumn, offertory has been down significantly resulting in the elimination of programs and staff to accommodate this shortfall.

Areas of Concern 

  • Parish offertory budget for FY10-11 was reduced by 10%  to be in alignment with actual offertory giving.  The revised budget is 5% less than last year’s actual offertory.  Offertory for the past 4 years remains fairly constant  ($2.9M to $3.1M).
  • Parish membership appears to be stabilizing around 5,000 families.
  • The parish continues to control expense by eliminating positions, programs, volunteer/staff appreciation, and staff professional development.  We are planning for zero growth in next year’s parish program expenses and are working toward all programming becoming revenue neutral.
  • The parish 2010 response to the Bishop’s Annual Appeal (BAA) was short $27,000.00 of our goal.  Our BAA goal is guaranteed for two years (last year and this year) after a capital campaign and any shortfall is made up by parish offertory.  We are still well short of our 2011 goal and any shortfall must be covered in next year’s budget.
  • The GIFT project added $8M to parish debt for a total of $10M funded by a combination of offertory and school tuition.  As part of our financial plan to finance this debt, we will pay off the TFS construction loan for Thea, Juniper, Jacoba and Bonaventure Halls in June 2012, three      years early.
  • School enrollment and the resulting finances at TFS and the Preschool remain stable however TFS and Preschool still have openings for next year to reach capacity.

How can I Help

  • Continued and consistent prayerful commitment to our parish offertory.   Consider taking advantage of automatic bank withdrawal (call Pat Kowite at 847-8205×229) a secure and convenient method for meeting your parish commitments.
  • Support for our Bishop’s Annual Appeal as we are still well short of our 2011 goal.
  • Support for debt reduction (4th Sunday of the month) using the appropriate envelope.
  • Continued generosity in sharing your many and diverse gifts and talents.

As I consider our parish financial position through this lens of Lent and Spring, there are still areas for concern, but on balance, we continue to be blessed by the generosity of our parishioners and our great potential to continue building the Kingdom of God.  Please feel free to contact me with any questions or    concerns at ben.whitehouse@stfrancisraleigh.org or stop by to see me in the Clare Hall offices.

Peace and all good,

Ben Whitehouse, Director of Operations

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March 27, 2011,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The next three Sundays of Lent we will be celebrating at the 11:30 am Mass, the scrutinies with the Elect of God (those in our midst who are preparing for Baptism.)  You may notice the book of the elect at our baptismal font. The scrutinies are meant to uncover and then heal all that is weak, defective, or sinful in the hearts of the elect; to bring out, then strengthen all that is upright, strong, and good. 

The gospel stories these next three weeks are stories of conversion that help us all to examine (scrutinize) who we are, the areas of our lives where we are tempted, or seriously sin — in what we do and what we fail to do.  The example of the woman of Samaria who receives life giving water, the man born blind who receives sight, and Lazarus who untied and set free – are for us as well – and they invite us to deeper conversion as we reflect upon their stories in our lives this Lent.

For those of us who have been baptized, we will celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation next week on Sunday April 3 (for the youth of our parish) and Monday April 4 both at 7:00 pm and Wednesday April 6 (for the “wisdom figures” of our parish) at 11:00 am  We all need healing and the strength that can come from the support of our sisters and brothers as we too name the sin that has crept into our lives and strengthen all this is upright, strong, and good.

I encourage you to make plans and join in this communal celebration next week.

In the peace of Christ,

 Fr. Mark

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March 20, 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

You know that we friars are members of the world-wide Franciscan family. That family is broken down into geographical Provinces. We friars at St. Francis are members, then, of the world-wide family as well as our own family, called Holy Name Province. Some of you may have met our leader, our Provincial, Fr. John  O’Connor, O.F.M. He comes to St. Francis from time to time. Our parish Mission Statement has the spirit of our Province, especially the priorities which identify us friars and our mission. One of these priorities states that we are brothers working for and witnessing for justice. That’s a priority of our Catholic Church, as well. Recently our Province issued a statement acknowledging the rights of workers. We friars make this statement our own and share it with you. In this way you know some of that which identifies and guides us.

In the peace of Christ,

Fr. Mark

Statement Supporting Worker’s Rights

We are well aware that difficult economic times call for hard choices and diligent financial responsibility on the part of federal, state, and local governments to promote the common good. At the same time, as heralds of the Gospel, we must voice our concern that basic principles of social justice be maintained in these decisions.

That workers have the right to organize in order to negotiate with employers for a just wage and for adequate medical, disability, and retirement benefits has been a principle of Catholic moral teaching for more than a century. The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (CSDC)(2004), summarizing this tradition, recognizes “the fundamental role” of labor unions, calling them “a positive influence for social order and solidarity, and…an indispensable element of social life… more fitting and necessary than ever” (#305).

Just two years ago, Pope Benedict XVI reminded us of this fact in his encyclical, Caritas in veritate, observing that:

Governments, for reasons of economic utility, often limit the freedom or the negotiating capacity of labor unions.  Hence, traditional networks of solidarity have more and more obstacles to overcome. The repeated calls issued within the Church’s social doctrine, beginning with Rerum Novarum (1891), for the promotion of workers’ associations that can defend their rights must therefore be  honored today even more than in the past [#25].

That labor unions are still needed in the U.S. is quickly evident when we consider that as union membership has declined (from 30% of the workforce in the 1950’s to less than 12% today), so too have the relative incomes of working and middle-class Americans.  Simultaneously, the concentration of wealth in the top 1% of earners is now greater than any time since the 1920’s.  In the words of Peter Steinfels, “our democracy has become the most economically unequal nation in the advanced world”  (Commonweal, Vol. CXXXVIII, No. 5, p. 5, 20). 

Catholic social teaching on the rights of workers can be viewed as a modern echo of the teaching of Jesus who insisted:  “whatever you did for one of these least brothers or sisters of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25:40).

Labor unions have the obligation of seeking not only the good of their members (subsidiarity) but also, in cooperation with the government, the common good of all (solidarity).  They must not “lose contact with their specific role, which is to secure the just rights of workers within the framework of the common good of the whole of society” (CSDC, #307). 

As states work to balance their budgets and to contain the spiraling costs of worker wages and benefits, they may legitimately seek to renegotiate past contracts with union workers.  But they must not deny the collective bargaining rights of workers in a frantic scramble to arrive at fiscal solvency.  Nor should union workers alone be made to bear the burden of eliminating government deficits flowing from the current severe economic recession, while that same government continues to afford tax breaks for the most wealthy. As John Paul II wrote in Laborem Exercens (1981):  “The thing that must shape the whole economy is respect for the workers’ rights within each country and all through the world’s economy.”  (#17)

Economic justice for all must remain the goal of both unions and government, whose relations “must be marked by cooperation; hatred and attempts to eliminate the other are completely unacceptable” (CSDC, #306).

We appeal to everyone – government officials, union members, and ordinary citizens – to move beyond divisive words and actions and work together to build a society where there truly is “liberty and justice for all.”

Provincial Council
Franciscan Friars, Holy Name Province
8 March 2011
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March 13, 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

After 10 years of serving as a member of our faith formation team, Leo Moreda recently resigned his position serving our community effective March 31.  In reflecting upon the prayerful discernment process that led to this decision Leo shared:

In the book of Ecclesiastes we read, “To everything, there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven”.  My daily prayer is that I am able to hear God’s voice clearly to distinguish what season and what the purpose of my life may be.  I have recently entered another season in my life at the celebration of my fortieth birthday and have been prayerfully discerning the course of my life.  This community has been a blessing to me personally and more importantly to my family as we have come to appreciate St. Francis’ hospitality and genuine desire for living out the Gospel.  It has been a pleasure to minister with the families, adults and youth of this community.  Recently, I have had the exciting and humbling privilege to serve with a gifted committee of adults from the community on the parish’s “youth strategic initiative” and have started setting a plan in place that will move youth ministry to a new dynamic and exciting season of its own.  I have been blessed in so many ways to serve, in this capacity, with this community.  Our family will remain an active part of the community moving forward.

I am grateful to Leo for generously sharing his gifts and talents with our parish community.  His dedication and devotion to the youth of our faith community and their families, has been inspirational.  Leo is a lifelong learner who has walked with many of our youth encouraging the development of their faith journey.  In particular I am appreciative of the many retreat experiences Leo has created and led from the ocean of Trinity Center to the mountains of Ski weekends.  Leo (and his family) have made many sacrifices so that he could accompany and be present to our youth as they deepened their relationship with Jesus Christ. 

In all the many ways he has ministered with and among us Leo has shared his passion for the gospel by opening his heart to us.

We have much to be thankful to Leo.  Sunday March 27 at the 5:30 pm Mass there will be an opportunity for us to gather as a parish community to show our appreciation to Leo and pray God’s blessing upon him.  A reception will follow in Clare Fellowship Hall.

Leo has graciously offered to ease the transition for his successor.  Rather than begin a search process right away, I’ve asked Mr. David Vogelpohl to serve as Interim Coordinator of Life-long Faith Formation for Families with Youth, and Dave has agreed.  A process of transition began this past week.

Dave and his wife Ann have been members of the parish for about 9 years.   They have 3 children who live in Orlando, FL and one grandchild who was born last year.   Together they have, co-chaired the Eucharistic Ministers and our Liturgy Committee.  More recently, Dave has been a volunteer working with the parish’s strategic initiative focused upon engagement of our middle and high school aged youth.   Professionally he has held many leadership and executive positions for over 30 years working for such firms as AT&T and Lucent Technologies.  Currently Dave has his own business coaching practice.  Dave sees a tremendous opportunity to transform our youth ministry here at St. Francis, by engaging the adults and parents of our parish.   “I welcome and encourages anyone who is interested in helping to form the faith of our youth to join in this journey of transformation.  Together we can make a huge difference for our youth and families,” invites Dave.

In the peace of Christ,

Fr. Mark

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March 6, 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In early January the friars of Holy Name Province met for our triennial chapter in Maryland.  Last week the administration of Holy Name Province met to discuss personnel changes within the province which routinely occur after a chapter. I am sorry to share the news that Fr. Julian will be reassigned to Assumption Parish in Woodridge, NJ. www.assumption-parish.org.  Julian came to St. Francis following his ordination and our chapter three years ago.  In moving to a second assignment, our provincial has asked Julian to continue to share his many gifts and talents and continue to grow and develop as a priest and minister of the gospel.

During his time with us as Associate Pastor, Julian has given of himself generously celebrating the sacraments with and for us, sharing his enthusiasm and energy for ministry. Under his leadership as Coordinator of Pastoral Care, Julian has also remained attentive to the spiritual needs of those facing unsettling circumstances in our community.  He helped nurture several new ministries including a support group for those with Alzheimer’s and Dementia, one for the unemployed called Job Connections, and CANCOPE, a ministry that reaches out and supports those dealing with cancer.  Julian brought many new parishioners into positions of ministry leadership and he always sought out ways to deepen their faith journey. 

During his short tenure with us, he has also been instrumental in developing a group of parishioners interested in Franciscan life and spirituality.

 At the 11:30 am Mass on Sunday, March 20 we will have the opportunity to celebrate Julian’s many gifts and pray God’s blessing upon him as he continues his faith journey to serve the good people of Assumption Parish.

Please note the new column being introduced this weekend to help us learn more and understand the meaning of the Eucharist we celebrate.  It is just one of the many ways we will be looking to catechize ourselves about the new Roman Missal.

In the peace of Christ,

Fr. Mark 

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February 27, 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Beginning with the Advent Season (November 27, 2011) the Roman Catholic Church in the United States will be introducing a new Roman Missal.  The Roman Missal is the ritual text containing prayers and instructions for the celebration of the Mass.  The revised English translation of the Roman Missal will include updated translations of existing prayers, including some of the well-known responses and acclamations of the people.  Among other things, the revised edition of the Roman Missal contains prayers for the observances of recently canonized saints, additional prefaces for the Eucharistic Prayers, additional Votive Masses and Masses and Prayers for Various Needs and Occasions, and some updated and revised rubrics (instructions) for the celebration of the Mass.

How can the introduction of the revised Missal be an opportunity for renewing the faithfulness and vitality of our congregation’s full, conscious and active participation at Mass?  This was the question that the liturgy committee and I asked ourselves at our February meeting.  In the months leading up to Advent we will be responding to this question and looking at how the changes that the missal will bring about can be understood in a way that will deepen our experience of worship, strengthen our faith, and draw us into greater relationship with Jesus and one another as the Body of Christ.

The Church has never subscribed to the adage “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.”  Rather, one guiding principle for understanding the liturgy it is “always reforming.”  It’s not that change is welcomed for its own sake; rather, if Christian worship is to remain vital and vibrant, it must adapt to the many cultures in which people seek to encounter Christ in the Eucharist from one generation to the next.  Of course some things never change: the fundamental tenets of our Faith and the doctrines explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church for example are constant.  These “core” elements, at the heart of our Faith are part of our lasting Tradition (capital “T”).  But some of the practices of our faith (what we might call tradition with a small “t”) can and do change as the needs of God’s people change.  Not often, but occasionally, the Magisterium (the teaching office that is entrusted to the bishops) of the Church decide changes in our practices need to be adopted by the faithful so that we can more fully unite with the universal Church.   While these changes will require us to learn some new language, more importantly, the arrival of the new missal offers us a wonderful opportunity to deepen our understanding and appreciation of the Eucharist.  To this end, there will be catechetical forums offered in the upcoming months as we prepare for the implementation of the new texts.  In the words of Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of Christian life.  Anything we can do to understand our liturgy more deeply will draw us closer to God.

To help us as a Catholic Community understand the changes that the new missal will bring, beginning next week the bulletin will feature a column Encountering the Living Christ in the Eucharist with a goal toward helping us deepen, nurture, and celebrate our faith through the renewal of our worship and the celebration of the Eucharist. 

In the peace of Christ,

Fr. Mark

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February 20, 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Gladys Whitehouse is retiring from her position as Coordinator of Family Life at the end of April.  Gladys and her family moved to Raleigh in 2000.  Almost immediately, Gladys joined the parish staff as Administrative Support for Faith Formation.  In 2006, Gladys became our first Coordinator of Family Life bringing together a number of ministries that reflected the Bishop’s vision and our parish’s continuous work to aid families of all kinds to become “domestic church.”  During her tenure as Coordinator of Family Life, Gladys’ gentle and caring presence and her grounded and prayerful spirit have touched many.  She was particularly instrumental in bringing several new family and marriage enrichment programs to the parish, including Active Parenting, Third Option, and Great Date Nights.  Often Gladys and her husband Ben were the ones leading these programs and witnessing about their 45 year marriage and life with 9 children and 7 grandchildren. 

Also, among her accomplishments during her time on staff was her oversight and support for our many ministries including strengthening our sacramental preparation for baptism and marriage.  In particular her guidance implementing our strategic initiative to develop a comprehensive senior program has increased a vitality to our growing “baby boomer and beyond generation”.  More recently, Gladys led the parish’s current strategic initiative for Diversity.  Past and present, Gladys has been an active volunteer in many of our parish’s ministries.  In the Spring we will have the opportunity to celebrate Gladys’ gifts as a member of the pastoral staff at a weekend liturgy.

Bishop Burbidge has extended an invitation to all in the diocese to participate in a pilgrimage to Immaculate Conception Shrine in Washington, DC in April.  This will be in the Lenten Season and may be a wonderful opportunity.  Please consider joining Bishop and other pilgrims from around the diocese.

In the peace of Christ,

Fr. Mark

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February 13, 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Last week Fr. David and I had the great opportunity to attend a lecture given by Cardinal Roger Mahoney, the archbishop of Los Angeles, at UNC Chapel Hill.  The title of his talk was For Goodness Sake: Why America Needs Immigration Reform.  We each spoke about Immigration, and the need for reform of our nations laws in our homilies.  Our Catholic church advocates for laws that allow for the unborn to be protected, the elderly to die a natural death, an end to the death penalty, and the reform of immigration laws.  Regrettably many Catholics are not familiar with the teachings of the church, especially the wisdom of the bishops when it comes to immigration.  I encourage you to take the time to enjoy Cardinal Mahoney’s talk at www.dioceseofraleigh.org/news/view.aspx?id=1019  The US bishops’ pastoral letter is also worth reading.  Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope.  It may be accessed at: www.usccb.org/mrs/stranger.shtml

Last weekend at Mass Mr. Kevin Rooney spoke after communion to conclude our Catholic Schools Week Celebration.  Kevin, his wife Stacy and their sons Michael and Jack have been parishioners at St. Francis for three years. I found it to be a great reflection on the value that our preschool, elementary and middle school offer us as a parish, and offer Kevin’s words for your reflection.

“We have been a St. Francis family since moving to the area three and half years ago. Our sons Michael and Jack are in the 4th and 3rd grades and both are thriving as part of this Catholic community. As we wrap up a wonderful “Catholic Schools” week and dedication of the new Siena Center for Lifelong Learning, I want to describe this wonderful ministry of the parish to those of you who may not know as much about it.  The Franciscan School is something that we can proud of, a ministry of St. Francis that is building the church of today and tomorrow.  To those of you who might consider Catholic education for your children – I have two words that I hope you will remember as you prayerfully consider your decision – Sacrifice and Benefit.

It’s a real sacrifice to write those tuition checks. For Stacy and me it is because we get a value for what we spend. The value is in our sons who are being prepared for the next phase of their lives academically, morally, and socially. I have heard over and over from parents of TFS graduates how well prepared their kids were for high school. First, I hear that they are prepared academically better than most.  But I also hear that they have a “sense of themselves”, an ability to integrate well into their new environment, and an ability to have a positive impact on that environment. I believe this is because they head to high school with a God-centered view of life, an empathy toward others, a foundation of faith that can nourish them through their entire lives. This combination of academic, moral, and social teaching is what makes that sacrifice worth it. Sacrifice and benefit.

To those of you who came before us, and whose time, talent, and treasure created the pre-school 20 years ago and TFS 10 years ago, you have our humble gratitude. It is your vision that we live today. To those of you with children at The Franciscan School, thank you for partnering with the Franciscan School faculty and entrusting your children’s development to them. To those of you who are not a part of the school, but could be with elementary or middle school aged children, I invite you to investigate our parish school further. It is a place where learning takes place through the lens of our Catholic faith; integrating strong academics with strong social and religious teachings. It’s worth the sacrifice.  And lastly, to those of you who don’t currently have school-aged children, I invite you to get involved. Volunteer to be a secret reader to the kindergarteners. Serve as a judge for the school’s annual science fair. Or come teach a class about your career, your life experience, your journey to God. TFS is a ministry of your parish – I promise you the benefits you receive from being a part of this ministry will far outweigh your own sacrifice.

Lastly, I leave you with this thought from someone far more insightful than I – “The church is a living, breathing organism that is never more than one generation away from extinction”. I think you’ll agree that our world is in desperate need of the work of the Catholic Church. It’s needed in far-away places devastated by war or famine, and it’s needed right here in Raleigh. For all its imperfections, the Church, the Body of Christ, is needed today, and it will be needed tomorrow. What better way to build the church of tomorrow than by sacrificing a little today?”

In the peace of Christ,
Fr. Mark

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February 6, 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Monday, January 31, 2011 was a great day for The Catholic Community of St. Francis of Assisi.  We were honored by the presence of our Bishop, Michael F. Burbidge, and our Minister Provincial of Holy Name Province, Fr. John F. O’Connor, O.F.M., who helped us celebrate the mission of our parish as a gospel faith community.

We began with a wonderful celebration of the Eucharist.  In his homily, Bishop Burbidge reminded us of “Our Gifts, Our Call, and Our Mission.”  This is the theme of the Bishop’s Annual Appeal, to which so many of you have given generously.  The Eucharist was a great foundation for the day as we began our celebration of Catholic Schools Week.  Bishop Burbidge dedicated the Siena Center for Lifelong Learning by blessing the cornerstone and each classroom.  Following the dedication, the bishop entered into dialogue with small groups of students, from preschoolers through eighth graders.

In the afternoon, the pastoral staff and members of the leadership councils met to share with Bishop Burbidge and Fr. John how we live out our mission.  Both Fr. John and the bishop reflected to us how impressed and proud they are of our faithfulness to the mission of the church.  They also congratulated us on the strengths of our parish and acknowledged our commitment to addressing the challenges that we continue to face. 

Later in the afternoon, the United States Green Building Council presented us with three gold-level LEED medals, one each for Elizabeth Hall, The Assisi Community Center, and St. Mary of the Angels Chapel.  (The Siena Center will also be LEED certified, but it will take about 6 months to complete the paperwork.) 

We received great accolades as a community.  Fr. John O’Connor congratulated us on behalf of the Franciscan family throughout the world for our commitment to the values of Francis of Assisi.  US Representative David Price, on behalf of the United States Congress, presented us with a flag which was flown over the nation’s Capitol.  He expressed how challenging it is to qualify for gold-level certification and applauded our faith community’s commitment to the environment.  Representative Price also commended Mr. Bill Laxton, chair of our building committee, for all that Bill has done in serving our nation through his work with the Environmental Protection Agency.  Mayor Charles Meeker applauded our faithfulness to the environment as well as our involvement in reaching out to those in the City of Raleigh who hunger and thirst for human dignity.  Mr. Dee Freeman, NC Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources, echoed words of praise for our community’s commitment to the environment.  He shared a story of the effort needed to keep our “Carolina blue sky” blue.

Following the awards presentation, Bishop Burbidge joined the students in grades K-5 of our lifelong learning program, sharing with them stories of faith and answering their questions on a variety of topics, from church to sports.  In the evening, the bishop met with middle and high school youth to learn about the ways in which they are involved in the church.  Their conversation afforded an opportunity to talk about the challenges of adolescence.  The bishop was proud to receive a T-shirt which the youth had created.

Thank you to all who participated in the Bishop’s pastoral visit to St. Francis.  It was a great day of celebration!

In early November, Christine Miesowicz shared with me her intention to retire in 2011; her retirement became effective on February 1st.  Christine began her ministry with us as a volunteer when she moved from Boston to North Carolina in 2003.  In July of 2004, she joined the pastoral staff as head of our middle school faith formation program.  With the development of the Evangelization Ministry Group (liturgy, music and faith formation), Christine became the leader of the group and a passionate advocate for lifelong faith formation.  She has been active in helping us begin to implement the US Catholic Bishops’ pastoral plan for adult faith formation: Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us.  In retirement, Christine is planning to renew her passport (which expired while she was on staff!) and looks forward to traveling with her husband Fred.  She hopes to become more active as a spiritual director, retreat guide and quilter.  I imagine she will also be seen using our new labyrinth in the chapel amphitheater, which she was instrumental in creating.  As a parish community, we will offer Christine our blessing at the 11:30 a.m. Eucharist on Sunday, February 27th.

In the peace of Christ,

Fr. Mark 

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January 30, 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Thank you to Rick Miller-Haraway and LaTonya Agard of the Raleigh regional office of Catholic Charities.  They each spoke at different masses from their heartfelt experience of how grateful they are for our generosity to the Bishop’s Annual Appeal (BAA).  They truly depend on us to be able to serve the needy in Wake County and throughout the 54 counties of Eastern North Carolina through many regional offices of Catholic Charities.  Thank you to so many who have already turned in your pledge cards through the mail and many more who completed them during Mass last weekend.   I am optimistic that we can increase our participation by having all households partner with our bishop in sharing in the ministry of Jesus Christ.  Please know how grateful Bishop Burbidge and I are for your ongoing generosity to the Diocese of Raleigh.

Bishop Burbidge will be with us on Monday, January 31 for a pastoral visit to our parish.  He will be joined by Fr. John O’Connor, O.F.M., the Minister Provincial of Holy Name Province.  Please join us for the Eucharist at 10:00 am (no 9:00 am Mass) in which we will celebrate the dedication of the Siena Center for Lifelong Learning and Catholic Schools week.

In addition to celebrating the Eucharist at 10:00 am on Monday, in the afternoon Bishop Burbidge will visit with each of the children in Preschool and TFS.  He will also meet with our children in the Monday afternoon Lifelong Faith Formation program.  All middle and high school aged youth are invited to meet with Bishop Burbidge in the Cupertino Room of the Assisi Community Center at 5:30 pm

All parishioners are welcome to join us at 3:30 pm in St. Mary of the Angels Chapel. The United States Green Building Council will recognize The Catholic Community of St. Francis of Assisi for our commitment to the environment.  Our recent construction project has achieved “Gold” level in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system for three of our buildings:  St. Mary of the Angels Chapel, Elizabeth Hall, and the Assisi Community Center. Though not official yet, the Siena Center will also be LEED certified.

Mr. Dee Freeman, the NC Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources will speak as will Mayor Meeker.  In addition to speaking, Congressman David Price will present us with a flag flown over the US capitol.

We have much to be thankful for as a Catholic Community this week.  All week we will celebrate Catholic Schools Week.  Catholic education is all about teaching the richness of our faith.   St. Francis Preschool and The Franciscan School exist as ministries of the parish to provide our children with an opportunity not only for an academically-excellent education, but also, integrated throughout the curriculum, a faith formation that will serve them for the rest of their lives.  In all of our parish’s ministries the threads of our encounter with Jesus and his life-giving message are woven into the fabric of our human experience. This forms a tapestry that lifelong faith formation continues to weave within us throughout the joys and sorrows of our lives.  Thank you for the many sacrifices, large and small, that you make to contribute to building the Body of Christ at St. Francis.  Your stewardship and partnership with The Catholic Community of St. Francis of Assisi are greatly valued.

In the peace of Christ,

Fr. Mark

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January 23, 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This weekend, we celebrate the launch of the Diocese of Raleigh Bishop’s Annual Appeal, Our Gifts, Our Call, Our Mission at St. Francis.  We welcome Rick Miller-Haraway and LaTonya Agard from Catholic Charities who share this weekend stories of how our contributions to the BAA make a difference to the people of eastern North Carolina. Joining with them, I am asking for your generous support of this year’s Bishop’s Annual Appeal (BAA).

The Bishop’s Annual Appeal is our opportunity to support the work of the Catholic Church in Eastern North Carolina. The services provided by the funds raised help to do Christ’s work in our Diocese. There are many needs beyond our parishes’ capacity to serve. The Diocese helps to meet these needs through the ministries of the Bishop’s Annual Appeal uniting our Diocese.

The services that the Diocese provides reflect our belief in the sanctity of human life, the dignity of the individual, and the central role of the family in life and society. As a result, the agencies, institutions; and programs funded by the Bishop’s Annual Appeal serve all of God’s people, without regard to race, age, handicap, or financial status.  Your financial support to the Bishop’s Annual Appeal is one way to partner with our Bishop to carry out Christ’s mission in eastern North Carolina by sharing generously in his good works.  Your gift will provide financial support to the more than thirty diocesan ministries.  It will be a blessing to the lives of the unborn, the student, the infirm, the elderly, the widow, the homeless and those suffering from injustice.

Please prayerfully consider partnering with our Bishop and supporting this year’s BAA.  A gift to the Bishop’s Annual Appeal will make a difference in the lives of others.

This past week has been very exciting as we have moved into The Siena Center for Lifelong Learning.  This Saturday January 29 you are invited to participate in an Open House for our Catholic Education Ministries; preschool in Elizabeth Hall beginning at 12:30 pm and our elementary and middle school in Jacoba Hall beginning at 2:00 pm.

In the peace of Christ,

Fr. Mark

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January 16, 2011

CIVILITY

For this past week our hearts and minds have been in Tucson. Who of us has not grieved over the senseless violence resulting in the deaths of 6 good people, including a 9 year old child, and injury to 13 others, one of whom fights for her life. Despite our political allegiances, President Obama spoke for all of us last Thursday evening, expressing the country’s sense of loss as he celebrated the lives of the victims, and called us all to a renewed sense of civility. Civility. It’s a word, a concept, that’s being used a lot these days. What is it? And, how do you nourish civility in yourself and for you who are parents, in your children? Let me turn to the Word of God.

A main figure in the Bible is John the Baptist. John knew who he was and who he was not. He had a big following and lots of disciples. People came from all over to see him, to hear him. His reputation was strong, positive and growing. But he knew who he was not. He was not the Messiah. In other words, John was a modest man. He knew he was not God. He knew that he and other people – and he was not afraid to tell them – were sinners. His baptism was a baptism of repentance for your sins.

There are two half-truths we should never forget. One half-truth is that we humans are made in the image and likeness of God. Scripture says that “He made us less than the angels.” But there is another half-truth. The other half truth is that we are not God. We are people who fail; we are people who sin; we are weak people and we are ignorant people. That is to say we do not know it all. Even at our best, we still need to listen to others. Yes, and to others who can help correct our ignorance. Another word for civility is modesty. Modesty lies at the heart of civility. Despite his power to speak, to heal, despite his oneness with God, Jesus of Nazareth was a modest man. What does John say when he sees him? He says: “Look, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” And this means a great deal to those who first hear it. The lamb metaphor pops up all over the place in scripture. It turns on all kinds of light for people. The people most likely recall the Passover lamb, the lamb their forebears killed and ate to nourish them in their journey from slavery to freedom. They recall the lamb led to the slaughter who is mute before his shearers, who opens not his mouth. Look the Lamb of God. A modest man, a civil man, if ever there was one.

In a wonderful scene from Nikos Kazantzakis’ book on Jesus, Kazantzakis has John scolding Jesus for being “too modest, too soft, too merciful, full of sympathy…” And Kazantzakis tells John: “We’re looking for a thunderbolt to save the world and what do you send us? A lamb!” Jesus of Nazareth was a modest man. He prayed; he sought the companionship, as well as the partnership, of others. And like a good Jewish boy, he listened to his mother. Teenagers, take note! And while he himself was sinless, he knew what was in our hearts. He loved us, but he did not for that reason canonize us. When you lose your sense of your own sinfulness you cannot hope to be civil. At worse, you’re a narcissist. And narcissists know it all. They can only have a conversation with themselves. They have direct access to the truth. They prefer monologue to dialogue. Forget modesty. Incivility rules the day.

On January 17th we honored Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was a modest man, a man of civility if ever there was one. Dr. King, in his acceptance speech receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo in 1964, said:

“…This award which I receive on behalf of the [peace} movement is a profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time – – the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression. Civilization [that is to say: civility] and violence are antithetical concepts. Negroes of the United States…,” he goes on to say,” have demonstrated that nonviolence is not sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation. Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood, If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”

The great theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, put it best. “Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore, we are saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our own standpoint. Therefore, we must be saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness.”

So we grieve over the deaths and wounds of those massacred in Tucson, indeed over all the deaths and wounds of the innocent everywhere. And while we know how good we are…made a little less than the angels…we also know that we are sinners, in need of God’s grace to set aside all rancor and incivility one toward the other. And that will only come about if we are modest in our appraisal of ourselves, and modest in the way we speak to and respect one another.

David J. McBriar, O.F.M.
January 16, 2011

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January 16, 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Those who have been around the parish for a long time and remember when Anthony Hall was our worship space will also remember that the vestibule leading into the multi-purpose fellowship hall (gym) matched the length of the doors of the hall leading out.  As part of our GIFT expansion, we have finally been able to return the vestibule to its original format.  This will allow for gathering space prior to entering into Clare Fellowship Hall.  The parish library in Anthony Hall is also being enlarged to better serve the needs of our parishioners.  By January 31st  when Bishop Burbidge comes to dedicate the Siena Center for Lifelong Learning, these projects are expected to be complete.

Bishop Gossman, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Raleigh, continues to need our prayers.  He has recently been moved to the skilled nursing facility at the Health Center at St. Joseph of the Pines.  This move will allow him the opportunity to have more interaction with other patients and to be in close proximity to medical therapy services.  He welcomes cards and letters at:

St. Joseph of the Pines
The Health Center
103 Gossman Drive
Southern Pines, NC 28387

In the upcoming weeks we will begin the 2011 Bishop’s Annual Appeal.  This important appeal of the diocese supports and gives the people of eastern North Carolina the opportunity to demonstrate their belief in giving back some of their blessings from the Lord to reach out to those less fortunate. Please know that your gift does matter very much. We can only achieve our potential as God’s Church for carrying out the mission entrusted to us if we each do our part.  In the weeks ahead I encourage you to begin to thinking about how you might best contribute to this worthwhile effort.

In the peace of Christ,

Fr. Mark

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January 9, 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Thank you to all who were able to make “end of year” gifts to the parish.  Our offertory income continues to be less than it was one year ago – all the more reason that your generosity is deeply appreciated and much needed to fund the mission of our parish and the ministries which allow us to reach out to those who hunger and thirst for human dignity.

While offertory donations have declined since our fiscal year began on July 1, our Growing In Faith Together (GIFT) Expansion Campaign has been on track.  Thanks to your generosity, we have been able to complete the Siena Center for Lifelong Learning which will serve as a middle school by day and an adult education center in the evenings and on weekends.  This past week the coordinators of Life Long Faith Formation, Liturgy, and Music moved into the administrative area of the Siena Center.  During the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend, the students and classrooms from grades 6, 7, and 8 will move into the classroom portion of Siena.  The 4th and 5th graders who have been learning in modular classroom units (on the soccer field) will move into the second floor of Thea Hall.  Located in Siena’s administrative area will be workstations for the middle school teachers and offices for the support and administrative staff.

You are invited to join us in a great celebration on Monday, January 31.  At 10:00 am, Bishop Burbidge will begin the day with celebration of the Eucharist.  As a part of this liturgy, in addition to observing Catholic Schools Week, we will bless and dedicate the Siena Center for Lifelong Learning.

At 3:30 that afternoon in the Assisi Community Center, the United States Green Building Council will recognize The Catholic Community of St. Francis of Assisi for our commitment to the environment as demonstrated through achievement of the “Gold” level in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system for three of our buildings:  St. Mary of the Angels Chapel, Elizabeth Hall, and the Assisi Community Center.

LEED is a third-party certification program and the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings.  To be awarded LEED certification for one building is a noteworthy achievement; to receive LEED certification for three buildings (Siena will be our fourth) is a remarkable achievement for a church community and demonstrates our commitment to stewardship of the environment.  More information about what LEED entails is on display in the stewardship center.

I’m hopeful that many will join us for our celebration on Monday, January 31.

In the peace of Christ,

Fr. Mark

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January 2, 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

New Years Greetings of peace.

Many thanks to all who labored to enrich our Christmas liturgies.  The simple beauty of the church was stunning, the music uplifting and the generosity of so many ministers welcoming.  Thank you to all.

Sincere thanks to all who made an end of year gift to St. Francis.  Your generosity is greatly appreciated as we attempt to fulfill our mission as a gospel faith community and reach out to those who hunger and thirst for human dignity.

This week, the friars will be attending our triennial chapter beginning Monday afternoon January 3, the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus.  We belong to Holy Name of Jesus province – A Fraternity in Mission to the People of God.  With more than 350 men serving the people of God in a wide variety of settings — colleges, parishes, urban ministry centers and diverse social ministries along the East Coast as well as in overseas missions — we are the largest of seven provinces in the United States belonging to the Order of Friars Minor. Like Franciscans world-wide, we strive to continue our Order’s 800-year-old mission, bringing the Gospel into the everyday experience of men and women through our life in fraternity and compassionate service to all.  This weeks provincial chapter has been dubbed by those who are planning it “Crossroads 2011.” The dictionary defines “crossroads” as:

1. a point at which a choice must be made
2. a small community
3. a central meeting place
4. a point of common ground between differing opinions

All of those definitions fit the context of a Provincial Chapter at which decisions are made, a community (re-)forms, a group gathers, and the search for common ground occurs. But for friars who believe they have been, and continue to be, called by Christ to come and follow him, the “crossroads” can also be that intersection of the world’s great need with our own