I write these words from Bethlehem. I am aware of the privilege I am experiencing in being in this land, where God himself chose to take flesh, or as the author of the Letter to the Hebrews says in this weekend’s second reading, “for a little while was made lower than the Angels…”. Today we went to the Church of the Nativity and saw where tradition says it all started. God became one of us, a little baby born in extremely humble circumstances. Perhaps even more powerful, though, is a bit further in the reading; Hebrews says that God is bringing many sons and daughters to glory, and that Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters! If we, as human beings and as Christians, could ever realize the impact of that, we would have a very different world.

So far on the pilgrimage we have encountered many examples where people are not being treated as sons and daughters of God. Today we learned about the refugee situation of Palestinians, and then visited a refugee camp in Bethlehem. A couple of days ago we were welcomed by Bedouins to the remnants of their village that has been destroyed—bulldozed—133 times so far. (Israel has decided to replace their farms and village with a forest.) In Jerusalem we visited holy sites like Gethsemane and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and also learned about systemic descrimination, about legalized racism, home demolitions, and military occupation.

We have also met some people who are modeling what it means to be children of God, and sisters and brothers of one another. Moira and Varda both lost family members in the conflicts, yet they speak to groups to show how important it is to hear one another’s stories, and to realize that they all suffer the same pain and bleed the same colour of blood. Amos works with the Bedouins in the Negev, trying to bring dignity and justice. Sami, of Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem, works for reconciliation and healing at a deep level and has helped both Palestinian and Israeli extremists to heal and to form bonds of friendship with each other.

I am convinced that if we could ever come to truly feel our relatedness, our connectedness, our kinship as chlidren of God, that situations like what Jesus describes in our Gospel passage would be healed. We would instinctively treat each other with deep respect; no spouse would be thrown out (which is what divorce was in Jesus’ day); no child would be ignored or shunned. We would know how much all lives matter and we would work for each others’ dignity and progress.

Know that each of you are in my prayer in this special land.

 

As a good Catholic growing up in the 1950s and 60s I learned that Catholicism was the only way I was going to get to heaven. We had the truth and nobody else did. While I continue to believe that we as Catholics have, as the Second Vatican Council put it, the fullness of truth, the Council also said that other religions and Christian denominations share in that truth, each in their own way. I always think of that when I return to the Holy Land, that magical place where God chose to become a human being, a living, breathing part of human history. Christians of every denomination, as well as Muslims and Jews are drawn to this special place. We hear lots of talk about endless conflict, years of struggle, etc. In truth, politics and religion become intermingled and one is often used to justify the other. Of course, each party sees itself at the one whose politics and religion are correct.

In this weekend’s gospel passage we hear about someone casting out demons in Jesus’ name, even though he was not one of the disciples. John wants to stop him. Jesus responds: “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us.” On this trip I am helping to lead a peace and justice pilgrimage, rather than working on team with Christian Peacemaker Teams, as I have done before. As you read this, our group will be in Jerusalem. On the trip we spend time in the holy sites, where Jesus was born and raised, taught, healed, died, and rose. Perhaps even more importantly, we meet with organizations and individuals—Israeli, Palestinian, and international, made up of Christians, Muslims, and Jews—working for peace and for a just resolution to the situation there. Who has the right answer? I think any and all of these people, if working for justice and following Jesus’ example of nonviolence, are “in the right” and further the coming of God’s kingdom.

Closer to home we can apply the same principles, whether for the people running for elected office, or the many, many more who serve others. Do we Catholics do it best? Can a Muslim govern effectively? How about an atheist? Let us pray that all our brothers and sisters, no matter what their allegiance, may work in society according to Jesus’ principles.

When I exited the church through the front doors this past Sunday at the 11:00 Mass I was surprised to see a man standing at the foot of the stairs holding a sign with quotes from Pope Francis about the pain that victims of clergy sexual abuse experience. I didn’t know how to respond, or indeed whether or not to respond. However, his sign also had written on it an invitation to ask him how you could share his pain, so I accepted the invitation. His pain was palpable; he was abused by a priest over a number of years, a priest from his high school who had become a good friend of his family. He was later interviewed for TV news, and said, “If I could share the pain with all the people in the Catholic Church there would be no abuse of children ever again.”

As human beings, our instinct is to run from pain. Who wants to hurt? It’s so much nicer to have comfort and pleasure. St. Thomas talks about beauty as being an experience of God. Pope Francis says that we need to evangelize by making our faith attractive. Yet sometimes we are handed the opposite. Can we find God there, too? Fr. Jon Sobrino, a theologian in El Salvador, says that Jesus on the cross is a revelation of God sub specie contrarii, as something contrary to what we would expect.

In this weekend’s gospel passage Jesus tells the disciples that he will be betrayed and killed. So of course his disciples talk to him and ask how they can support him in his pain, right? Wrong! They argue among themselves over who is the greatest! That’s what we tend to do as human beings. And that’s what we can learn from Jesus: to face our pain and to grow from it. Yet, there is no resurrection without death preceding it. There is no being first without being the last and servant of all.

Sometimes serving others means acknowledging their pain and sharing in it. It is a decision each one of us is invited to make. We’ve been talking a lot lately about intentional discipleship. The word “intentional” is important: we are called to be intentional about who we are and what we do, about being disciples of Jesus. Who in your life might need your service?

When I did graduate studies in Rome, my favourite professor was a teacher of Christology, the study of Jesus Christ. He published the notes from one of his courses in a book entitled, Who Do You Say That I Am? I eventually used it as a textbook when I taught seminarians. It’s a powerful question. My own understanding of who Jesus is has changed greatly over the years. This weekend’s gospel passage asks each of us that very question: Who do you say that Jesus is? Can you answer that? Can you tell others who you think Jesus is, and what he means to you? Can you talk about your faith?

Recently we’ve been mentioning intentional discipleship with regularity. You may have noticed the term in the Pastoral Plan posted on bulletin boards or in a homily. The aim of intentional discipleship is to give each of us tools, to help us be able to actually talk about our faith. Have you ever thought of what kind of relationship you have with God?—that is, if you even think you have one. Some of you may be quite surprised that a large number of Catholics have no concept of what their relationship is with God. Instead, they follow the rules and come to church because they’re supposed to. I would venture to say that most of us, myself included, are not comfortable talking about our faith with others unless, perhaps, they’re people we know very well. (I’m fine with preaching about my faith to a church full of people I know, but I find that it’s very different when I’m in other contexts.)

Over these next few months I encourage you to take advantage of the opportunities we will be offering to learn more about our faith, and to become more articulate—in other words, to become intentional disciples. Just imagine: Wouldn’t it be something if we here at Assumption were known across the region as being people of faith, of having vibrant liturgies, and known for our hospitality? Wouldn’t it be an amazing thing to learn from one another, and to bring more and more newcomers into our parish? Wouldn’t it be something if we had to come early to Mass on the weekend to ensure we got a seat—instead of walking into a space that’s not even half full?

 

Fr. Maurice asked me to write this weekend’s message to the parish community and to introduce myself. I won’t start quite at the beginning … but in 1965, my parents moved our family from southern California, where I was born – to British Columbia, where I grew up. I have a brother, who has raised his family in Vancouver, and two sisters, who are raising their families in California. I like kayaking, camping, good music, good food and good wine. As a West Coast dude, I love the outdoors and natural beauty. I also appreciate many aspects of aboriginal culture. I attended public schools; at UBC, I met the Basilian Fathers. As I got to know them, I wanted to be like them. They were men with a common dream, and when many dream together it becomes the beginning of a new reality.

Our religious community lives out this new reality as it exercises the charism of Catholic education. Unlike many other educational models, however, we try to imitate Christ, as the compassionate teacher. We live out this common dream in parish, university and high school ministry. My Basilian sojourn has called me into service as a university campus minister, as an associate pastor, and now as a part time canon lawyer and judge in the London Diocesan tribunal.

My Basilian journey feels rather circular: 34 years ago, my novitiate was at Ste. Anne’s Church across the river in Detroit, and now I am here at the beautiful, auspicious Assumption Parish in Windsor. Life, however, is not circular, but rather helical. Our lives do not return to the exact same place each year. Like the liturgical calendar, the date might be the same, but we are older and, perhaps, wiser and more aware of God, who loves us profoundly and intensely.

Lee Iacocco said during his revival of Chrysler Corporation in the 1980’s: “In times of great stress or adversity, it’s always best to keep busy, to plow your anger and your energy into something positive.” However, I rather prefer what the poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” As I get to know each of you, I hope that we can share in this common dream of rebuilding Assumption Parish. I am sure that over the past two and a half centuries, this Catholic parish has encountered other difficult times … this is our time to add another star to Our Lady’s auspicious crown. Be strong, do not fear! Our God has come to save us.

–Father Mark Gazin, CSB

When I wrote the last “Pastor’s Message” I could not have imagined how everything around our Feast Day would play out. First of all, I express my immense gratitude to each and every person who made the celebrations possible. There were so many people who helped in the planning, setup, execution, and cleanup, of our Parish Picnic, the premiere of the Documentary, and the opening of Assumption Church on August 15—and all of it went better than I could have anticipated. In addition, Paul Mullins’ release of his Interim Report on Assumption parish and the announcement that Al Quesnel has pledged up to $5 million (in matching funds) added to the excitement of the weekend. I look forward to Mr. Mullins’ release of the final report so that we can make decisions and start working towards our goals.

In the meantime, life goes on. It’s one thing to face natural disasters, such as wildfires or flooding. Hurts coming from direct human action are harder to accept. Recently it was revealed that Cardinal McCarrick had committed sexual abuse, and shortly thereafter a Pennsylvania grand jury released a report which exposes horrific examples of sex abuse by clergy and cover-ups by hierarchy. (Pope Francis has responded with a letter that I describe in a bulletin insert.) It is easy to lose hope. I know that some people will leave the Church over this report.

In the gospel passage for this weekend we hear the end of the “Bread of Life” discourse. John tells us that many of Jesus’ disciples could not accept his teaching on eating the flesh of the Son of Man and drinking his blood. He continues, “Because of this many of his disciples turned back, and no longer went about with him.” For those early followers, Jesus’ words were scandalous; they simply could not follow a person who could give such scandal. Even though the “scandal” of Jesus is life-giving (and in no way like that of sex abuse) his followers did not understand it that way. Yet next weekend we hear a message of hope. Isaiah tells us that God will come and save us, giving healing and abundance. In the gospel passage from Mark, we hear that Jesus “has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.” We constantly face choices in life. Today, for many people, that choice is whether to focus on the scandalous behaviour or the hope that God offers. Our Parish Vision calls us to be a beacon of mercy, service, and discipleship. May others know God’s healing and hope through us.

The Annual Thanksgiving Parish Appeal takes place on October 7th, 2018 this is a very effective way to support ministry in parishes. Sometimes it is difficult to envision how one donation can help, how it makes a real difference. But each donation does make a difference because of all the others who also make a donation. The gifts of many enable your parish to deliver needed ministries and services.

All monies collected will stay here in our Parish!

There are envelopes in your Sunday offering boxes and envelopes in the pews. Thank you for your continued support!

 

 

 

Happy Feast Day! Once again, we come to our parish’s Patronal Feast. We have so many things happening over several days. I hope that lots of you are able to come to the parish picnic on the grounds of the historic Assumption church, providing a great opportunity for fellowship. Please take some time to go inside the church and pray or reminisce. It is the perfect moment to reflect on the first draft of Paul Mullins’ report to the parish, as well as Bishop Fabbro’s response. I am deeply appreciative of all the work that Mr. Mullins has put into this study, and look forward to the second instalment, when we will know better where to put our efforts for the future.

I invite each of you to attend the premier of A Community in Transition: 250 Years of Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in Windsor on Tuesday, August 14, at 8:30 PM. We could not ask for a better place to view it than inside the historic church. Both Bishop Fabbro and Fr. Tom Rosica, CSB, of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation will be here that evening to help us celebrate.

Then on August 15, we will have Mass at 8:00 AM in Rosary chapel. Immediately following, the church will be open once again, this time until 6:00 PM, when we will again celebrate the Eucharist in the air-conditioned Rosary chapel. During the day, while the church is open, the documentary will be shown in the chapel.

Next weekend we hear from the book of Proverbs that “Wisdom has built her house” and “has hewn her seven pillars. With all the focus on our church buildings we are reminded that even though “Church” is the community of believers, our surroundings are also important to us. God has created us as physical beings, and the spaces in which we interact take on meaning. That is why it is such a big thing for us when we move, whether it involve our family home or our church home. Regardless of where we may be in the future, I trust that it will be for our good. Over these weeks in the summer we hear the “Bread of Life” discourse from the Gospel according to John. I pray that the risen Christ may nourish us on our journey and give us the strength we need to follow in the path he sets out for us, as individuals and as parish. May Our Lady of the Assumption may fill each of you with blessings and peace.

I am constantly amazed at how often I receive abundance when I expect scarcity, although with God that is what often happens. I don’t know why I’m amazed, actually, since it always seems to end up that way. This Sunday’s gospel reading is the multiplication of loaves from John’s Gospel, which will be followed by four Sundays of Jesus’ discourse about the bread of life: God nourishing us, in the Eucharist and in all aspects of life.

We as a parish are about to experience abundance after expecting scarcity. It was hard to say goodbye to Fr. Jim, who was with us for the past three years. Yet now the Basilian Fathers have informed me that Fr. Mark Gazin, CSB, who some of you met recently, will be joining us on the Assumption Pastoral Team. Fr. Mark has just finished a degree in Canon Law at St. Paul’s University in Ottawa, and is presently doing a practicum at the Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Toronto. Although you may see him in and out for a little while, he will begin ministry here at the end of August, as a part-time member of our parish team, and part-time with the Tribunal of the Diocese of London (based here in Windsor). Fr. Mark and I overlapped in the seminary by two years. His first assignment after ordination was at St. John the Baptist parish in Amherstburg, and he has served in a number of ministries since then. We are privileged to welcome him back to Essex County, this time to the great city of Windsor. Once he arrives he will tell you more about himself.

And August 11 and 12 will be another experience of abundance. Mr. Paul Mullins will present his preliminary report of the study he has been doing of previous fundraising campaigns at Assumption and possible future directions. This first report will explain fully what has transpired with the two previous fundraising efforts and a second report will lay out options for the future. He will give a summary of his report after each Mass on the 11th and 12th. I encourage you to come to a meeting in the parish hall at 10 AM (between the 9 and 11 o’clock Masses) to hear in more detail what he has to say.

And of course, August is the month of our Patronal Feast, the Solemnity of Our Lady of the Assumption. This year I hope to see lots of you at our Parish Picnic on Sunday, August 12, beginning around noon. We’ll have food and fun for everybody. Then on the 14th we will premier the Salt + Light documentary on Assumption at 8:30 PM inside Assumption Church. The feast day itself, August 15, will see the church open from 8:30 AM to 6:00 PM, followed by a Mass in Rosary Chapel at 6.

As a Basilian, I take the three vows of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience. When I first took those vows, about 35 years ago, I thought the difficult one would be Chastity. Little did I know that, although all three are at the same time difficult and liberating, and impossible to live at 100%, the one that I find hardest is Poverty. While I own very little, I also have immense security. The Basilian Fathers make sure that I have everything I need; I have complete job security. Although my salary goes to the local house instead of to me, I can spend money as I see fit. When I see a gospel passage like the one this Sunday, then, I squirm a bit. Jesus sends his disciples out two by two to proclaim the Kingdom, and he instructs them “to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics.” When I travel I tend to make sure I have everything I need: plenty of clothes, my computer, my phone, credit cards, money for emergencies, etc., etc. And I am reminded of a meditation I often read that has a line from Dorothy Day, who says, “The only way to live in any true security is to live so close to the bottom that when you fall you do not have far to drop, you do not have much to lose.” Yet I, and society in general, tend to look for security in more and more possessions, not less. We call those who have lots of money “successful”. Perhaps this gospel could spur each of us to look at where we find security, and where we place our priorities.

And we are in the midst of what is turning out to be a hot summer. In next Sunday’s gospel passage Jesus tells his apostles, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” No matter our financial or employment status, I think that is valid advice for each of us. I hope and pray that each of you will be able to find some way to break the ordinariness of life, to experience a change in routine that provides refreshment and time for renewal.

Our new Vision Statement, part of our Pastoral Plan, says to “Be a beacon of mercy, service, and discipleship”—for the purpose of encountering God. I pray that freed from encumbrances of wealth and renewed by rest, as individuals and as a community, we may be that beacon in today’s world.