This past week was Catholic Schools week and last weekend you heard from the principal of our Franciscan School, Mike Watson, with help from some of our students, about the Catholic identity of our school, and also an important reminder that our parish provides financial support for tuition assistance for families who need it. Both our school and our preschool are treasures of our Franciscan family. Both held open houses last weekend for new families. Both do important work in helping to build our Catholic identity. If you have children or know of children of preschool age, or K-8 grade, please contact either our preschool or school for more information.

A few things that have been happening here over the past few weeks as we friars reflect on our Franciscan identity in changing times: a group of more than 100 people, at the invitation of a local Muslim community, visited a local mosque to learn more about Islam, and to share a meal. I was not able to go but heard from those who went that it was an enlightening day of listening and dialogue. The event was publicized here with these words: “This call for understanding, mercy, and peacemaking is especially needed today in times of increased social anxiety, fear, and ignorance about Islam and even violence against our Muslim brothers and sisters in faith.” In last Sunday’s gospel we heard the words of Jesus spoken from the mountain, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” As Franciscan followers of Christ, in times especially like these, in what way are we called to live out those words every day?

You may have seen an op-ed article in last Sunday’s N&O written by Patrick O’Neill, who is a member of a Catholic Worker House in Garner (the Catholic Worker movement was begun by Dorothy Day, one of the great Catholic witnesses to peacemaking in the 20th century, and who was referred to by Pope Francis in his address to Congress in 2015). Patrick wrote about his daughter who has Down’s Syndrome, and how someone once said about her that she “suffered” from Down’s, and how he, as a father, saw it in another way: his daughter’s beauty, joy for life, a way she has of waving to people in other cars on the highway. He wrote about how people said to him that, before she was born, he “did not have to have this child because she was not ‘normal.’” His op-ed gives us pause to reflect on what is “normal” and also on the Franciscan focus on the dignity of all human life.

A reminder that we have begun our Bishop’s Annual Appeal for 2017, and of the importance of doing all we can to meet our goal. Thank you to all who have contributed – we friars made our pledge last week. And this Sunday evening is of course the Super Bowl. For all who watch, or don’t watch and do something else, have fun, and blessings on your week!