Fr. Bob Writes – October 20, 2019 – World Mission Sunday

The parable of the unjust judge and persistent widow, in our gospel today, is found only in Luke’s gospel.  It teaches the necessity of constancy and persistence in prayer.  Far too often, we are inclined to throw up a desperate prayer or two for a particular need, but then drop it, and give it up, if there is not an immediate answer from God. 

The judge in the gospel parable is described as dishonest; he is neither God-fearing nor respectful of others.  The widow-figure makes frequent appearances in Sacred Scripture, symbolizing the poor, the marginalized and the disadvantaged.  Without the support of husband, with no prospect of welfare of social assistance, she is dependent on God and others for her needs.  The point of the parable is that her perseverance obtains the desired end, her vindication before her accuser.  God will do the same for those who are steadfast in prayer. 

A second point lies in the contrast between the unjust judge and a just God.  If a dishonest judge ultimately responds to a persistent widow, a faithful Lord will do no less for his suppliants. 

Faith lies at the root of the parable as is evident from the final verse.  The return of the Son of Man, i.e Jesus, has been delayed.  The decisive question which Jesus poses, at the end of this gospel story, points to the faith which undergirds prayer.  Jesus wonders if it will perdure until the end of time and the Lord’s return.  It is, then, more a posture of faith which expresses itself in persevering prayer rather than a constantly repeated formula of prayer that Jesus seeks.  The prayer of petition is a very noble form of prayer.  It is the prayer of the anawim, the Old Testament “poor of God” who willingly acknowledge their dependence on God.

How ready are we to give up when our prayer to God does not receive an immediate response?  What do we learn about ourselves and about God, when we persist in faith-filled prayer, against discouraging circumstances?  Do we believe in a God who cares, or in one who does not?

Fr. Bob Writes – A Look at our Bicentennial Celebrations!

Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that it may easily be read”

So runs our first reading for this weekend from the book of the prophet Habbakuk. To write something down is to make it firm, unalterable. It will surely come to pass.

At the beginning of our 200th anniversary year, in September 2018, we wrote down the vision that we believed God had given us for this milestone year in the life of the parish community.  We identified three cardinal principles on which this anniversary year would be built:    Pray – Love – Celebrate. 

 We decided that the first four months of the anniversary year would be dedicated to the theme of PRAY.  So we spent those months investing in a new bible study on Wednesdays, under the leadership of Donna Hawkes.  We also held a Blessing of the Animals service on Saturday October 6th, and launched new programs, Alpha and Youth Alpha, under the leadership of Dan and Ronalda McKennaThen we increased the prayer power of our parish community by holding another afternoon of Eucharistic Adoration on Thursday afternoons, which has continued right up to the present.  In between, the Knights of Columbus began to gather together favorite prayers from our parishioners to include in a book “200 prayers for 200 years” in honour of David Hamilton who passed away sadly at the end of August 2018.  200th anniversary banners began to appear, donated by Fred Schubert and by the children’s liturgy under Dana Kean.  We also began a “Remembrance” Book of members of our parish who had passed away over the previous few years, a book which included funeral cards of the deceased.  An Advent retreat, led by Fr Francis Donnelly, with the title “He Will Come To Save You ” rounded out the theme of “PRAY.”

In January 2019, we took up the theme of LOVE.  We looked at the way groups in our parish reached out to the local community and further beyond with arms of love and compassion.  Our Parish Outreach, led by Deacon Louis Seward, our Catholic Women’s League, under the leadership of Veronica Gervais and Janet Seward, our Knights of Columbus Council, led by Dan McKenna, our Society of St Vincent de Paul, under David Vickers, witnessed to the way their ministries reached out to the poor and needy around them.  In between, we held our annual Peru fundraiser which contributed $4000 to the Peru mission, which took place from February 7th – 19th, during which 8 members of St Philips and St Clares and Lift Jesus Higher visited some of the poorest areas in Peru to distribute clothes, shoes, toiletries, toys, Bibles and educational materials, as well as enabling 120 children, youth and adults to attend two separate Camps of Faith and Prayer.  During Lent we held “Poor Man’s Suppers” on Fridays to help raise money for the poor in our neighbourhood.  Fr Ryan Holley led a very successful Lenten Mission at the parish at the end of March and on into April.

Our third principle: “CELEBRATE” was launched in May with a parish Mass and family Barbeque, organized by the Knights Council, to mark the anniversary of the consecration of St Philips Church and the feast of St Philip.  We had a parish retreat in June, led by Canadian singer, preacher and blogger Mark Mallett.  We also held in June an extra-special 200th anniversary Celebration Tea, organized by the CWL under the leadership of Donna Hawkes, with the theme of “God is for all time.”  On Pentecost Sunday, we held a special ceremony honoring our deacons Louis Seward and Mark Masson to mark the 10th anniversary of their ministry as deacons at our parish communities.  We gifted them with a whole set of new dalmatics, graciously donated by the CWL of St Philips and St Clares.  The theme of celebration continued with a Mass for the shut-ins and elderly in August, and a special cemetery Mass during which Fr Bob blessed a new splendid crucifix donated by the Cemetery Committee.  The Euchre Club donated a beautiful stained-glass window in the parish hall.  We held an Exhibition of Eucharistic Miracles and a procession of the Blessed Sacrament on the weekend of the feast of Corpus Christi.  We concluded our season of Celebration with a parish retreat, led by Fr Francis Donnelly at the beginning of September, a dinner-dance gala, with entertainment provided by the McSheffrey Band, the blessing of a statue of Our Lady of Fatima donated by the Knights of Columbus, finishing with our grand celebration of our 200th anniversary Mass, presided over by our Archbishop, Terrance Prendergast, and followed by a sumptuous celebration brunch. 

To record all these events in a row leaves me breathless and exultant.  It has been a roller-coaster year in which we have prayed, loved and celebrated as a parish community like never before, and laid down a standard of how to mark a parish anniversary for others to follow.  My thanks to all those unsung heroes who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make this happen, and to the parish community of St Philips who have responded to the vision God has set out before us and carried it triumphantly and gloriously to its conclusion.                 FR BOB 

Fr. Bob Writes – Celebrating our 200th Year!

And so we come to the end of our extra-special year, the 200th anniversary of St. Philip parish. This makes us the oldest English-speaking parish in the diocese. It has been a roller-coaster year, full of many wonderful memories.  We have lived the theme of Pray-Love-Celebrate from the Blessing of Animals ceremony on October 6th, 2018 through our Bible study programs and Alpha and youth Alpha programs, our Peru Mission in February 2019, our Poor Man’s Suppers throughout Lent, the installation of our new lighting in February, our Advent, Lenten and Pentecost Missions, our Parish Fun Day in May, our Afternoon Tea in June, the Honoring of our Deacons on Pentecost Sunday, the Catholicism 201 course in the spring, our special  cemetery Mass with the blessing of our new cross in August, the installation of our new stained glass window in the parish hall and finally our parish retreat, dinner-dance gala and grand anniversary Mass and brunch throughout September. And there have been many more special activities throughout this year, too numerous to mention.

Our parish committees, the Pastoral Parish Council, Temporal Affairs Committee, the Knights and Catholic Women’s League councils, the 200th anniversary committee, the Euchre club, the children’s liturgy and youth Alpha teams have all been involved in different ways to mark this special year.  The church has been beautified and adorned in many wonderful ways, thanks to the fundraising events of Brian McSheffrey and his team, especially through the Murder Mystery dinners; we have new additions to our parish, a new statue of Our Lady of Fatima at the front of our church, gifted by our Knights council, the gift of new dalmatics to our deacons, supplied by the CWL councils of St Philip and   St Clare; a beautiful new window in the hall, donated by the euchre club and the CWL. 

Where do we go from here?  We continue our mission, to help bring in the Kingdom of God in our community of Richmond, to evangelize those around us to a personal relationship with God through Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to love God with all our heart, soul and strength and to love our neighbours as ourselves.  For 200 years there has been a Catholic presence in Richmond, witnessing to the truth of the gospel.