Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This Sunday afternoon (September 29) the Pastoral Council and I will host our annual Partners in Ministry gathering with the volunteer ministry leaders of our parish. It is a time for us to dialogue about the future of the parish including our strategic initiatives. This year we will be discussing the possible purchase of 10.64 acres of contiguous land adjacent to our parish (next to the parish athletic fields, across St. Francis Drive) which currently houses Bethany Hills Baptist Church. The leadership of Bethany Hills approached us some time ago about the possibility of purchasing their property.  The pastoral council and finance council of the parish have been discussing this for the past several months in earnest and are now seeking the wisdom and guidance of the ministry leaders. Ben Whitehouse, Director of Operations, for our parish has set up a tour of the church so that we can see the facilities from the inside. I look forward to a fruitful discussion with the ministry leaders this afternoon.  In August, the pastoral staff walked through the buildings and there was no shortage of ideas on how we could put the facilities to use in keeping with our mission to proclaim the reign of God.

This coming week we celebrate the feast of our patron Francis of Assisi whose feast is Friday, October 4. Among the many ways we will commemorate Francis’ birth to eternal life is with a transitus prayer service 6:00 pm, Thursday, October 3, 9:00 am Mass on Friday, October 4, Blessing of animals on Saturday morning led by Bishop Burbidge followed by Confirmation of our teens with the Bishop at 11:00 am on Saturday, October 5.  FrancisFest will take place all afternoon on Sunday October 6. Please plan on joining in celebrating our feast!

Last week, Pope Francis made headlines with an interview that appeared in Jesuit publications around the world.  In the United States it appeared in America magazine.  It is worth the time to read the entire interview at http://www.americamagazine.org/pope-interview.  In the article, our Holy Father dreams of a church that is a mother and shepherdess, who welcomes like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, not a church who scolds.  God is greater than any sin, Francis reminds us. “Instead of being just a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open, let us try also to be a church that finds new roads, that is able to step outside itself and go to those who do not attend Mass, to those who have quit or are indifferent. The ones who quit sometimes do it for reasons that, if properly understood and assessed, can lead to a return. But that takes audacity and courage,” he concludes.  One of the ways we are trying here at St. Francis of Assisi to “find new roads” is through a program called Awakening Faith for people who have been away from the church. Perhaps you or someone you know has been away and is wondering about coming back. Awakening Faith might be just the way to explore coming back. For those who are looking to deepen their faith, Small Christian Communities is a way of doing so – joining with others in the parish once a week for a determined time commitment of six weeks in Autumn, reflecting on life through the lens of the Sunday scripture.

In the peace of Christ,

Fr. Mark