Another week of the Covid-19 shelter-in-place has gone by. It seems so long since I have written anything. Without the regularity of the weekly bulletin, and Sally asking me if I have the pastor’s message ready to go, I find that I busy myself with other things, and I tend to forget about much of what was a normal part of my day-to-day or week-to-week routine. It’s hard to believe that we’ve now been shut down for over two months. We went through a good part of Lent, then Easter, and now we’re already celebrating the Ascension, then Pentecost next weekend—and all of it without public Masses. When Detroit first announced they were suspending public worship at least until the beginning of Holy Week, I found it hard to believe. Then reality set in.

Recently, Bishop Fabbro announced that the Ontario bishops are working on guidelines for how we will reopen our houses of worship. Once that is done, the Diocese of London will issue directives for our diocese. We don’t know yet when that will be. What we do know is that our public worship will be different than it was before. Dioceses that have reopened have directives that include social distancing, wearing of masks, no singing, and many more changes. I imagine that ours will include these features.

In other words, we are taking a slow approach. Of paramount importance is protecting the health of our parishioners. When you think back to what it was like at Mass on Sundays, a significant percentage of our congregation is in a high-risk category, due to age and other factors. I am reluctant to do anything that might put someone else at risk. Recently, BBC reported that over 40 Covid-19 cases were traced to one church service in Germany. We will do what we can to avoid a similar occurrence here. I know that some of you will disagree with this approach. My hope and prayer is that any errors we make will lead to saving lives rather than losing them. I miss gathering as a worshipping community so much, and so look forward to returning to it when we can do so safely.

I would like to leave you with a thought from Rev. Deon K. Johnson, the bishop-elect of the Episcopalian church in Missouri:

The work of the church is essential.
The work of caring for the lonely, the marginalized, and the oppressed is essential.
The work of speaking truth to power and seeking justice is essential.
The work of being a loving, liberating, and life giving presence in the world is essential.
The work of welcoming the stranger, the refugee, and the undocumented is essential.
The work of reconciliation and healing and caring is essential.
The church does not need to “open” because the church never “closed”. We who make up the Body of Christ, the church, love God and our neighbours and ourselves so much that we will stay away from our buildings until it is safe. We are the church.

The following is a letter from Bishop Fabbro about a novena from May 22 until May 30 to bring to a conclusion our Year of Prayer:

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability (Acts 2:1-4).

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

A year ago at the Mass of Chrism, I announced that beginning on Pentecost Sunday, 9 June 2019, and lasting until the next Pentecost Sunday, 31 May 2020, we would observe a special Year of Prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on our diocese as we seek to be “a mission-oriented Church that forms disciples of Jesus”.

On the day of Pentecost, the disciples were all together “in one place”. We cannot be together physically during the pandemic, but we can be united spiritually during these days which are meant to be an intense preparation for the Great Feast of Pentecost. I am asking that we mark these days, which will bring to a conclusion our Year of Prayer, by a novena to the Holy Spirit. The novena will begin on Friday, 22 May, and continue until Saturday, 30 May, the Vigil of Pentecost.

My hope is that all the faithful of our diocese, all our parishes and our families will unite in prayer each day of the novena, and that all of us will include in the different prayers we use, a daily recitation of the common prayer for the Year of Prayer.

This prayer contains a vision for us as we strive in our Families of Parishes to be a missionary Church. In it, we pray that the Holy Spirit will fill our hearts with an ardent desire:
• To grow in a deep, personal relationship with Jesus, to be his missionary disciples;
• To know God’s word and to proclaim this Good News to others;
• To recognize Jesus present in the Eucharist and to be united closely with him in our lives;
• To love our neighbour, to seek reconciliation and with big hearts to serve those in need.

As we come to the end of this Year of Prayer, I would like to express my profound gratitude to you, the people of the diocese, for entering into this unique time of prayer. We have united ourselves with the Holy Spirit and are confident that our prayer will bear abundant fruit.

Together, we pray that Pentecost will be a new beginning for our diocese. On the first Pentecost after Jesus’ resurrection, the Holy Spirit completely changed the disciples. They were fearful, but filled with the Holy Spirit they went out and proclaimed the Gospel, even to the point of sacrificing their lives. Like these disciples, we do not know exactly what will be demanded of our Church.

May we be filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. May we put our trust completely in his hands. Set on fire with his love, may we go out boldly to proclaim the Gospel to the world.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Rev. R. Fabbro, C.S.B.
Bishop of London

English Year of Prayer

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I am deeply grateful to so many of you. Assumption parish, you are AMAZING!

On this Sunday when we remember God’s Divine Mercy, and close out the Octave of Easter, I want to thank so many of you for allowing us to continue to be present. In these difficult times, so many of you have stepped up to help Assumption continue our presence and our service. Just last week we received over $4,000 in donations, through e-transfers, Canada Helps, or by dropping off your envelope in the mailbox. While this is less than what we would take in on a normal Sunday, it is nevertheless extraordinary, given these conditions in which we are living. So many of you took the time to donate, even though we cannot gather as a church community. One of my fears has been that this time of “shelter-in-place” would lead to bankruptcy for us and for many other parishes. I know that a number of you have been laid off or are otherwise experiencing uncertainty. That makes your generosity all the more impressive. And for any of you who wishes to donate, you are welcome to do so at assumptionparish.ca/donate.

Fr. Steven, Fr. Leo, Jean Beneteau and I are getting accustomed to a digital presence and are doing what we can to adjust to the new reality. In addition to live-streaming our Masses we will be providing some prayer opportunity, at a minimum of Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons at 2:00. Jean is working on ways to offer programs through videoconferencing. Our Support and Transition Teams for the Family of Parishes continue to meet on schedule. We are still alive, and looking forward to welcoming you back once the restrictions are lifted and it is safe to do so.

I know that some of you have been directly impacted by Covid-19. Please be assured of our prayer for strength and healing. As much as I would like to “bend the rules” and welcome some of you in the church, or hold some kind of services, I do not want to increase the risk of contagion for any of you. Therefore our presence will be digital until the diocese and civil authorities advise us that it is safe to reopen. In the meantime, let us remember that God is indeed a God of mercy, who forgives all who ask for pardon, and offers eternal life.

I find the words from this weekend’s second reading to be especially fitting for these times. Peter writes, “In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith … may be found to result in praise and glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

Another week has passed since I last wrote. The novel coronavirus continues its exponential spread. We now have parishioners who have contracted COVID-19. Here in Windsor we have our first deaths. There are people from the parish or their family members on the front lines in hospitals and other health care facilities in Ontario and Michigan. Others are on the front lines in other ways: working essential services like grocery stores, running errands and doing shopping for the more vulnerable, calling others on the phone, and praying for one another. My heartfelt thanks goes out to all of you. In many ways you are acting as the Lord’s servant in Isaiah, who, in this weekend’s first reading, asks that he “may know how to sustain the weary with a word”.

And in the Church we begin Holy Week, this most solemn time of the liturgical year. Our celebrations will seem so strange: no palms on Palm Sunday, no congregations gathering, no people present at the Chrism Mass in London, no washing of the feet on Holy Thursday, nobody in church on Good Friday, no Easter fire or Baptisms on Holy Saturday, no crowds on Easter Sunday. There are lots of “nos”. There are also lots of people suffering: those who have contracted COVID-19, those who care for them, those who lose their lives, those who are left behind. There are people whose partners abuse them who are in precarious situations because they cannot easily leave—and there is more abuse because of the stress of what we are living. There are those who have lost their jobs, or had their incomes drastically reduced. Some suffer from other illnesses and can’t go to hospital because of fear of contracting the virus. Times are very hard for many people.

Even though we usually focus on the palms, the official name of this Sunday is Passion Sunday. It is a time to reflect on the reality that in Jesus, our God loves us so much he was willing to embrace our reality completely, even to the point of dying. In embracing our humanity, God knows what it is like to suffer from COVID-19, to suffer from abuse, to lose income, to lose loved ones. God suffers, yet the final word is not death, but rather life. The end of the story is not Passion Sunday or Good Friday, but rather Easter Sunday. And the amazing thing is that we don’t have to wait until some future day of resurrection to experience new life. There are so many “silver linings” amidst the “clouds” of the coronavirus, all of them tiny foretastes of the life that God has in store for us. We see people putting themselves at risk to help others, giving of themselves in so many ways. Families, friends, and acquaintances are reaching out to check on one another. When we look around, it is easy to see life poking through the cracks, as it were.

In our phone calls to parishioners we have been asked to pray for so many intentions. Please be assured that Fr. Steven, Fr. Leo, and I are praying for your needs and intentions, holding you all in prayer before our loving God, and asking that your needs be met and that we may know Life. Stay safe!

Here is Fr. Maurice’s pastor’s message for this week. Let us pray for one another.
COVID-19: I find it hard to believe that just a few months ago I hadn’t heard the term. Then I heard about a virus in Wuhan—a city in China that I didn’t even know existed. Then it was China. Then the rest of the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) didn’t want to call it a pandemic. Then more people died. Then the WHO called it a pandemic. We heard about people in Europe, especially Italy, getting sick. That started to hit closer to home. At one point our Pastoral Team decided that we should stop distributing the Precious Blood (communion from the cup); that was on a Wednesday. On Friday the Diocese of London confirmed our decision. Then Saturday afternoon we received word that all Masses were cancelled for the weekend. On Monday we moved our Mass into the big church at Assumption so that people could be distanced from each other. Then we cancelled weekday Masses and closed all the churches in the area. It has been an incredible progression.
First I didn’t know anyone who had contracted the virus. Then a friend of mine in Rochester, NY, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, tested positive. (Thankfully, she has now been fever-free for 13 days and is considered to have recovered.) A friend of mine in Ann Arbor has it. Msgr. Chuck Kosanke, pastor of Sainte Anne in Detroit, has been hospitalized with it. I’m sure I have more acquaintances who are sick, and I just haven’t learned it yet. At the time I write this, almost 700,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19, and over 30,000 have died—over one-third of those deaths in Italy. This is very serious. In New York state it has now been confirmed that transmission between some people was by coming into contact with each other at their Catholic parish. Where numbers are rising slowly (instead of skyrocketing) it is because people are taking “social distancing” seriously.
This past week Pope Francis gave an extraordinary “Urbi et Orbi” (to the City and the World) blessing, offering a plenary indulgence to all of us who participated, all of us who are affected by the virus, or who care for those who are. He preached on the gospel passage from Mark (4:35-41) that relates Jesus calming the sea. I quote the first three paragraphs of his homily:
“When evening had come” (Mk 4:35). The Gospel passage we have just heard begins like this. For weeks now it has been evening. Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets and our cities; it has taken over our lives, filling everything with a deafening silence and a distressing void, that stops everything as it passes by; we feel it in the air, we notice in people’s gestures, their glances give them away. We find ourselves afraid and lost.
Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. On this boat… are all of us. Just like those disciples, who spoke anxiously with one voice, saying “We are perishing” (v. 38), so we too have realized that we cannot go on thinking of ourselves, but only together can we do this.
It is easy to recognize ourselves in this story. What is harder to understand is Jesus’ attitude. While his disciples are quite naturally alarmed and desperate, he stands in the stern, in the part of the boat that sinks first. And what does he do? In spite of the tempest, he sleeps on soundly, trusting in the Father; this is the only time in the Gospels we see Jesus sleeping. When he wakes up, after calming the wind and the waters, he turns to the disciples in a reproaching voice: “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” (v. 40).
Let us try to understand. In what does the lack of the disciples’ faith consist, as contrasted with Jesus’ trust? They had not stopped believing in him; in fact, they called on him. But we see how they call on him: “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” (v. 38). Do you not care: they think that Jesus is not interested in them, does not care about them. One of the things that hurts us and our families most when we hear it said is: “Do you not care about me?” It is a phrase that wounds and unleashes storms in our hearts. It would have shaken Jesus too. Because he, more than anyone, cares about us. Indeed, once they have called on him, he saves his disciples from their discouragement.
I think that is our invitation today. In this weekend’s gospel passage we hear about Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the dead. By his action he saves his friends from discouragement and teaches them that God is about life rather than death. I invite all of you to continue to pray and to bring life to others, to save one another from discouragement. I close with more of Pope Francis’ words:
The Lord asks us and, in the midst of our tempest, invites us to reawaken and put into practice that solidarity and hope capable of giving strength, support and meaning to these hours when everything seems to be floundering. The Lord awakens so as to reawaken and revive our Easter faith. We have an anchor: by his cross we have been saved. We have a rudder: by his cross we have been redeemed. We have a hope: by his cross we have been healed and embraced so that nothing and no one can separate us from his redeeming love. In the midst of isolation when we are suffering from a lack of tenderness and chances to meet up, and we experience the loss of so many things, let us once again listen to the proclamation that saves us: he is risen and is living by our side. The Lord asks us from his cross to rediscover the life that awaits us, to look towards those who look to us, to strengthen, recognize and foster the grace that lives within us. Let us not quench the wavering flame (cf. Is 42:3) that never falters, and let us allow hope to be rekindled.

This past week I had the privilege of facilitating a retreat for our Basilian novices. Charles, David, Patrick, and Sean are about halfway through their novitiate year; God willing, they will be professing vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience in August. I enjoyed spending time with them in a beautiful setting in rural Texas. During our days together we looked at Jesus’ humanity; you’ve probably heard me say more than once that I’m convinced that we need to get to know Jesus as one like us if we are really going to have a relationship with him and follow him—in other words, to be intentional disciples. I don’t think that we can follow and relate to someone who is totally other.

As I ate and prayed and conversed with our novices, getting to know them better, I was struck by the unique gifts that each one of them brings to the novitiate community, and indeed, to the Basilian Fathers. We are blessed to have them in formation. At one point I began thinking of what it would be like if I actually saw each one of them for who they are in God’s eyes: God’s precious child, totally unique and totally loved, a place where God himself is found (that is, a temple of the Holy Spirit).

In this weekend’s Gospel passage Peter, James, and John get to see Jesus for who he really is: the Chosen One, the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets (symbolized by Moses and Elijah). Peter wanted the scene to last: “If you wish, I will make three dwellings here….” But then God speaks and the vision is gone. They see their friend Jesus alone before them, and go back to their regular lives. I tend to think, though, that they never were able to look at Jesus in quite the same way after that experience. They had seen him for who he really was: God’s beloved Son, the fulfilment of the hopes and dreams of the Jewish people. What would it be like if we could see each other for who we are in God’s eyes? Although Jesus is God’s Son in a unique way, scripture is clear that we, too, are God’s children, each in our own way. We, too, are God’s presence to one another. We, too, each have special and unique gifts to offer the world and the Church.

I invite you to recognize how unique and special you are—and how much Jesus wants to be in a relationship with you. Wouldn’t it be great to let others know of that? Indeed, that is what we are called to do!

I would imagine that for many of us, the thought of Jesus being tempted is an uncomfortable one. After all, isn’t Jesus supposed to be the perfect one, the sinless one? How then can he even be tempted to sin? Often that is as far as we allow our thoughts to take us- and when we stop there, we miss the deeper message that our readings are trying to convey to us.

The temptations that Jesus faces in the Gospel are variations of the same temptations that we face in the world today. There is the temptation to satisfy one’s bodily needs and pleasures, the temptation to over-inflate one’s ego and make a show of power, and the temptation to amass great wealth and power in the world. For Jesus, and for us, each of these temptations are meant to try to lead us away from the path to the cross and salvation. They are meant to lead us to seek pleasure, power, and status here and now, and cause us to lose our focus on the future hope of God’s kingdom and reign. Jesus rightly resists these temptations, because he knows that for God’s kingdom to truly come about, his authority needs to be exercised in humility, selflessness, and sacrifice, not through pride and power.

We are called to respond to the temptations that we face in the same way that Jesus did, by following the path of humility and selflessness. However, in our human weakness, we may have a harder time with that- but that does not mean that all hope is lost! And one way that we can begin to have victory over temptation to sin is to change the way that we think about temptation itself.

Temptations are nothing to be ashamed of, because we all experience them. But often our temptations can become a large source of shame. I often like to remind people that “temptations are neither good nor bad- they just are.” It’s how we respond to temptation that matters. Do we try to do it on our own? Or do we invoke God’s protection and help, and ask for his grace to overcome temptation, and grow in holiness?

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews, speaking about Jesus’ temptation, writes: “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” As we begin this Lenten Season, let us approach our Lord, and ask for his grace to overcome whatever temptations we face, so that we may know the Lord’s grace and help in our time of need.

 

–Father Steven

 

Wow! Lent is already here! I’ve heard that so many times lately. This Wednesday is indeed Ash Wednesday, the beginning of our annual Lenten journey of preparation for the celebration of the great events of our faith, Jesus’ crucifixion, death, and resurrection. Many Christians take Lent as an opportunity to practice an act of penance, by giving up something they like or adding something to their daily routine. I encourage you to choose some practice that will help your spiritual growth.

Our readings this weekend offer us some guidance, both for our internal disposition and our relationship with others. Paul reminds the Christian community in Corinth that they are God’s temple, that God’s Spirit is dwelling in them. And in our first reading, God tells Moses to say to the Israelites, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” So we can ask ourselves what we can do to grow in holiness. Perhaps spending extra time in prayer would be the key. We can do this with a Lenten meditation booklet, or by coming to daily Mass, or in so many other ways. In that same passage God also says that we are not to bear grudges; perhaps this Lent is the time to let go of the hurts and resentments that most of us carry around in our hearts. In our Gospel passage, we continue to hear Jesus in the “Sermon on the Mount”; today he reminds each of us that to be authentic disciples we are to go above and beyond what societal norms say. Rather than seeking revenge, we are to give abundantly of our time and resources. We are to love all people, whether neighbour (friend, family) or enemy. In other words, I think Jesus is saying that we are to recognize how each and every one of us is a temple of the Holy Spirit, worthy of respect. In fact, our readings this week give some clear guidelines for being an intentional disciple. Let us pray that our
relationship with Christ grow ever stronger, and that we may choose always to follow him who is our life.

Many people ask what the practices for Canada are during the Lenten season. According to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB):

  • Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of Fast and Abstinence. (All Catholics aged 18-60 are to have only one meal, with an additional two smaller meals or snacks permitted. All Catholics aged 14 and above are to abstain from meat.)
  • Fridays throughout the year (including Lent) are officially days of Abstinence; however, the CCCB allows Catholics to substitute special acts of charity or piety (such as almsgiving or prayer) in place of abstaining from meat.

Happy Lent!

 

One year ago this weekend, I was in the midst of preparing to celebrate my First Masses as a Priest at Assumption Church. It’s hard to believe that it has already been one year since my Priestly Ordination!

It’s hard to sum up in a few short words what the experience of this past year has been like. Every time I start to write, all that I can think of are the many times that I have been overwhelmed by the support that I have received from the Parishioners here at Assumption as I began my Priestly Ministry. I am also awestruck by the many ways in which God has been at work in my life.

St. Paul’s words to the Corinthians in today’s Second Reading speak to me powerfully as I reflect on celebrating my First  Anniversary of Ordination. St. Paul writes: “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.” These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.” In one sense, these words are speaking to us about the promised Kingdom of Heaven, which we all hope to enter at the end of our earthly life. But I believe that they also speak to us about the ways in which God is at work in our lives here and now.

When the Bishop laid his hands on my head at my Ordination a year ago, I had no way of knowing how my life would unfold, or what shape my Priestly Ministry would take. I wondered how I would know what to say when faced with grieving  families, or when celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I quickly found, however, that the Holy Spirit, which is  conferred in a powerful way upon the Priest in the Sacrament of Holy Orders, is indeed powerfully at work in the life of a Priest.

When I cannot find the words to say, I am constantly amazed by the way in which the Holy Spirit speaks through me, and guides me to find the right words to say. The experience of Priesthood has been far beyond what I ever could have  imagined it to be. New things about my life as a Priest are revealed to me by the Spirit each and every day- and that revelation helps me to recognize that I am still learning: still seeking to grow in my own service of God, and striving always to become a holier Priest each and every day of my life.

So I want to thank you again for all of your prayers and support over this past year. I look forward to continuing to serve this community of faith in the years to come!

-Fr. Steven Huber, CSB

 

This past week the staffs from our three parishes met for the first time to talk about the upcoming Family of Parishes. There each person was able to share their hopes and fears about the future. Hearing them encouraged me greatly. Here are a few things that people said:

  • This can be a new beginning; we have tremendous
    opportunities to improve on things we’re doing well and stop doing things that aren’t fruitful.
  • We can learn from the other parishes and communities.
  • We hope we can accept change and use our gifts to help those who don’t have the same gifts.
  • A sense of community could lead to ministry and volunteerism like never before.
  • Our baptismal call is unifying ground: this can strengthen our understanding of our call.
  • I fear we will get bogged down with details and miss the opportunity for spiritual renewal.
  • The identity of family may not accurately reflect the
    richness and unique characteristics of the individual
    communities.

Those are such important things for us to consider, as hopes to strive for and fears to avoid. As we move forward, we will be communicating our progress each step of the way. Soon we will have the transition team formed, with pastoral ministers and representatives of the councils of each parish and community. I look forward to your input as well.

In this weekend’s gospel passage, Jesus tells his disciples that they are to be salt for the earth and light for the world. Salt was quite important before refrigeration; it was how you kept and preserved food, so it was a life sustaining commodity that drove many economies. If you accepted salt from someone you were considered in their service. The word salary comes from the word salt, since people were often paid with it. And when night descends, light provides security and comfort. Both of these improve the quality of life. So it seems to me that Jesus was actually telling his disciples that he wants them to be agents of life change, improving the quality of life in our parishes and in those we serve. Now as we move forward  towards the activation of our Family, I’m glad I have Jesus to keep encouraging me and strengthening me to really be salt and light for others. I encourage each of you to be beacons of hope, of discipleship, and of mercy to others.

We can work together so that these changes will be life giving for our communities. Join me in praying that through the intercession of Our Lady of the Assumption, Saints Alphonsus, Angela, Benedict, and  Daniel Comboni, our Family may be salt and light in Windsor.