Greetings to all in this new year. As I write these words on Sunday, January 4, I am preparing to fly out to Los Angeles for a gathering of ten other parishes which are part of an organization called “Parish Catalyst.” These parishes have met twice before, including my first session last summer in Dallas. The meetings have to do with sharing ideas on best practices for parishes. St. Francis was chosen from many other parishes over a year ago to be part of this gathering, a nice badge of honor for us.

It feels as though Christmas came and went like a blur. For the friars, we each had two masses at the Butner Federal Prison on Christmas Eve morning, and then the regular schedule here. A word of thanks to everyone who helped to decorate the church and to set up the gym for the two afternoon masses on Christmas Eve, and for all those who helped to serve the liturgy. One of the great appeals of St. Francis is the involvement and contribution of the laity – thank you to all! I had the mass at midnight on Christmas Eve. There is always something deeply beautiful about coming over to the church before the mass, the dark night sky above with maybe a lone star shining, and the church all lit up inside, the choir singing Christmas songs as people gather. These were beautiful days here at Christmas.

You may have heard that I had a series of listening sessions that I opened to the people of the parish. These were held in November and December, in groups ranging from four up to fifteen people. Each session had a facilitator and a scribe. My goal in having these sessions was to hear the people of the parish in a small setting. What came through in these sessions is a sense that St. Francis, over the past 30+ years of its existence is seen by people as a “welcoming” community; also that people love the fact that there are numerous ministries for people to get involved in, including peace and justice and outreach ministries. There was some concern expressed that the parish is too big and it can be hard to find a way in for those who are just arriving. Most of what I heard in these sessions I had already heard through more informal conversations with people over the past few months, and still, it was good for me to have the opportunity to listen to people in small group settings. Thank you to the scribes and facilitators who helped out at these sessions.

Over the next few weeks you will be hearing more about a new option at St. Francis for electronic giving, through a company called Faith Direct. This will allow you to make your contributions to St. Francis via automatic payment by either credit card or check. Watch the bulletin or the website to find out more information; and thank you to our staff which has worked hard over the past several weeks researching the best way for us to do this.

One of my favorite things to do is to go to the movies, and this past week I went over to the Carolina Theater in Durham to see “Wild.” The movie is based on the book of the same name by Cheryl Strayed about a young woman who, after her divorce and after a long struggle with drugs, decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail in California. The hike itself is liberating for her and at one point she reflects on her life, or really anyone’s life, as “mysterious, irrevocable, and sacred.” Nicely stated, I thought.

Blessings to all on your week!

Fr. Steve