Sometimes ya just gotta rely on the ol' Anglo-Saxon for things to make sense for ya.
This is a recent bulletin article that appeared in a slightly different form.  

When many Catholics hear the word “Evangelize” in English, they think of the time someone approached them and asked, “Have you been saved,” or, “Have you accepted Jesus as your Savior?”  Others might know that Evangelization is an important part of the work of the Catholic Church, but that it’s mostly the work of the priests.  For many Catholics, the word “Evangelization” just makes their eyes glaze over. 

Sometimes it helps to translate a word with Latin or Greek origin into good old Anglo-Saxon.  “Evangelization” comes from a Greek word meaning “Good News.”  If you wanted to translate it into Anglo-Saxon-style English, it would come out something like “Gospelizing.”  But that sounds like such an odd word.  “Giving the Gospel to others,” or even better, “Giving the Good News to others” is probably a good definition.   When someone accepts the Good New we give them, it changes them.  It transforms them. 

Evangelization is one of the main responsibilities of a pastor.  I have to make sure that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is faithfully proclaimed and explained in my own homilies and in those of Father Jorge and Father Jim.  I have to see that it is being proclaimed and taught in our parish school and in our religious education program.  I have to see that the Gospel is proclaimed for adults through RCIA and programs like Renew.  Many, many people are actively evangelizing others in this parish, including and very importantly the parents who teach their little ones how to pray, tell them stories about Jesus, Mary and the saints, and most importantly bring them to Mass on weekends. 

Evangelization is a life-long process.  The more we open our hearts to the Gospel, the more it transforms us.  As an adult, as a priest and as pastor, I have a responsibility to make sure that I receive evangelization.  That’s why I make a yearly retreat, make sure I spend time with Holy Scripture and other spiritual reading.  I am evangelized by the friars I live with and by my spiritual director.  I am evangelized by you, the parishioners, who also give me the Gospel, the Good News.   All of us, as baptized Christians, have the duty to evangelize, to give the Good News to each other. 

I have been your pastor for only 2 months now.  As I told you in my first homily, during my first few months, “I intend to observe, participate, ask a lot of questions and strive to understand the way things work in the parish.”  That is still where I am and will be for quite a while.  One thing that is becoming clearer to me is that we as a parish community and I as pastor need to re-evangelize our brother and sister Catholics who no longer worship with us.  From 2004 to 2008, Mass attendance in the churches of Staten Island has decreased 17.2%.  That’s close to 1 out of 5 of our brothers and sisters who seem to have chosen not to position themselves where they can receive the Gospel message.  In love and compassion we need to figure out how to reach out to them.  Praying for them is extremely important, but we also need to consider concrete steps to win them back. 

Father Liam 


Five Days in New Jersey

The following is a letter I wrote for next week's parish bulletin
Dear Parishioners,

Atlantic Ocean
Last week from Monday to Friday I participated in a meeting of pastors from the Archdiocese of New York at a small hotel in Spring Lake, New Jersey, right across the street from the Atlantic Ocean. We pastors prayed together, had meals together and listened to three talks a day. Archbishop Timothy Dolan was with us for the final day and a half of our meetings. For me, having only arrived in the New York archdiocese in August, this was a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the archdiocese and its history, and to get to know face-to-face many of the other pastors working in the Archdiocese. It was also an opportunity to meet some of the chancery officials as well.

The talks were on a wide range of topics: the history of the Archdiocese, preaching, the Second Vatican Council, planning for the parochial schools of the archdiocese, etc. Two priests spoke on strategies for attracting new vocations to the priesthood. A priest who works at the Vatican gave us a talk about the English translation of the new Roman Missal that we Catholics in the United States will begin using in Advent of next year. There were talks about physical and mental wellness and also on finances. The final talk on Friday morning was about spirituality for priests, given by a Jesuit from Philadelphia.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan
For me, the highlight of the week was Thursday, when Archbishop Dolan spoke to us in both the morning and afternoon sessions, and also preached to us at Mass at noontime. The talks that he gave were simple at the same time profound. He started by talking to us about what it means to love Jesus. He made it very clear to us that he sees us pastors as his partners in looking after the needs of all the Catholics and the archdiocese, but at the same time, he is concerned about our souls. He wants to make sure that each of us has a deep and personal relationship with Jesus.

Archbishop Dolan is extremely frank and realistic about the very difficult challenges that are facing this Archdiocese in particular, and the Catholic Church in general in the United States. These challenges are especially worrisome when expressed in numbers. There has been a very sharp decline in Mass attendance. More and more younger Catholics are opting not to marry in the Catholic Church. For most dioceses and religious orders, the number of men entering formation programs and seminaries has dwindled to a mere trickle. In the face of all of these difficult challenges, Archbishop Dolan has a confidence in God’s love and God’s grace that is contagious.  The Cross of Jesus Christ is the foundation of his faith. He is extremely affable and personable, and has an extraordinarily disarming sense of humor. You can tell that he genuinely enjoys spending time with his priests, and that his concern for them is very real.

Soon after I arrived in Staten Island back in August, Archbishop Dolan phoned me to welcome me to the Archdiocese. At that time, he expressed interest in coming out to visit all of us here at Our Lady of Good Counsel. I’m hoping that takes place sometime soon after Easter.

My thanks to Father Jorge, by the way, for writing last week’s bulletin article - the second article about Evangelization.

Father Liam 


The Jerusalem Temple and our Church – article three

Here is an article I wrote today for our parish's Sunday's Bulletin a few weeks ago. 

From the beginning of Jesus’ life on Earth until close to the end, the Temple is the scene of many episodes.  In Luke’s Gospel he is presented to the Lord as an infant and Mary and Joseph find him there when he was “lost” at age 12.  We know the story of Jesus chasing out the moneychangers from the Temple.  Especially toward the end of his public life he often taught in the temple precincts. 

From what we can tell, the “temple precincts” or outer courts were the places where people gathered to pray, to socialize, sometimes to do business, often to discuss the Torah (the first 5 books of the Hebrew Scriptures) and other things.  These outer courts were separated from the inner courts of the Temple which contained the Holy Place, the Holy of Holies and other chambers where usually only the priests entered and where they offered special prayers, burnt incense, and performed animal sacrifices and other sacred rituals.  In some ways these outer courts were a “buffer” between the inner sanctuary of the Temple, which was the place where God resided on Earth, and the world outside. 

Those outer courts of the Temple remind me of our plaza – also a “buffer.”  There are differences.  The outer courts of the Temple were surrounded by walls and our plaza is not.  A very large portion of our plaza is under a canopy and the outer courts of the Temple were not.  I love to see people gathering and talking before of after Mass on this plaza.  I remember with much pleasure how we all gathered there and ate together, chatted together as a community in August when we said farewell to Father John. 

Know one more thing I like about the plaza?  The floor.  Blue slate!  Nearly the same as the floor in the Church.  Father Henry Eagan, OSA in his booklet, “The Sacred Art of our Parish Church,” writes very simply: “The plaza is made of blue-stone paving which runs into the Church flooring, wedding the outside and indoor areas.”  To me, walking on the blue slate of our plaza (our “buffer”) into our Church reminds us that we take the thoughts, cares, worries and joys of our life “outside” with us as we enter into our Holy of Holies to worship our God.  Then walking from the slate of the Church floor onto the slate of the plaza, reminds me that the encounter with Jesus begun during the Mass continues as I bring Him with me to the “outside.”