Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I always enjoy going on a trip, whether it be a vacation or a pilgrimage, and one of the aspects of such a voyage is the anticipation, the preparation, as I look forward to what will be. These weeks leading up to Lent are a time of anticipation and preparation. What are you looking forward to this Lent?  How will Lent 2014 be different, perhaps better, than any previous Lent?

As you prepare for Lent, I encourage you to participate in one of several presentations offered by Jim Wahl, our Coordinator of Liturgy and Music, to help us have a better understanding of the ritual we celebrate. The first of the series will be presented twice, on Sunday afternoon, February 23, and Tuesday evening, February 25. Jim is a great presenter, both interesting and informative.  Another intentional way to make this Lent more meaningful is by joining a Small Christian Community (SCC) and allowing the scriptures to come alive by reflecting upon the stories of Jesus and the early disciples in light of our own stories. Lent can be a kind of meaningful pilgrimage right here within our parish, if we intend it to be and prepare for it.

Two other pilgrimages still have some openings. Our pilgrimage to our sister parish in Guatemala affords us the opportunity to learn from our Mayan brothers and sisters about our Catholic faith, which for them is rooted in a native Mayan Spirituality that is deeply connected with the earth. As we visit our brothers and sisters in Las Margaritas II and learn about their culture and traditions, we will also enjoy hiking a volcano in Antigua and learning the history of Guatemala as we remember martyred Bishop Juan Gerardi and visit his memorial garden. This pilgrimage is June 20 to 28 and is geared for a pilgrim who enjoys being active.  For more information, please contact Sheila Read.

The pilgrimage to Franciscan Italy, departing on Labor Day weekend 2014, has only a few openings. For more information, please contact Joan Port.

Our new Play and Pray Ministry kicked off last Sunday. Both children and caregivers seemed to have an enjoyable morning, while parents returned from their peaceful worship at Mass refreshed and renewed! The children learned about being the light of Christ to others by using the light of a flashlight as a model. This program serves children ages 12 months through 4 years. The younger groups, ages one and two, are staffed with the same caregivers each week; the threes and fours are staffed with a rotating base of well-trained volunteers. The children hear bible stories, sing songs, and engage in learning centers based on our Catholic Tradition. All young parish children are welcome to participate. Please visit our parish website to register. For more information, contact Cathy Ashton at cathy.ashton@stfrancisraleigh.org.

In the peace of Christ,

Fr. Mark