May 15, 2016

School Buildings Update

You have been asking about where we are at with the sale of our School Buildings since the PowerPoint Presentation was made on March 6, 2016 by our Parish Council and Patrick Lusch. At that time, we were days away from closing on the deal. However, timing is everything, and we are now caught up in the political issues of the State of Michigan and the Detroit Public School System. It seems that the State of Michigan has asked the charter school authorities (for us that would be Grand Valley State) to withhold, within the City of Detroit, any new charters for a period of six months while the State legislature works to resolve the DPS money and organization issues that lie before them.

This means for us that Pansophic, who was to open a charter school here at St. Matthew’s, did not get their final approval for their charter, and the entire agreement with St. Matthew’s has been put on hold.

However, we do not want to sit back and do nothing. Through CBRE, our commercial realtor, we have been put in contact with another charter school management group, Carpe Diem, who had previously received a charter authorization prior to the moratorium. 

At this point, our realtor is speaking to them to work out details. As of this writing, I have no other information. We have discussed this with the Parish Council, and the parish leadership has recommended and I will act upon the first legitimate offer that we receive. It is paramount that we sell our buildings as the cost to the parish in expenditures and lost income will hurt us.

Please keep your prayers coming that the State of Michigan and the Detroit Public School System will settle their issues for the benefit of the children and the future of our city. 

I pray that the parish along with the entire church will celebrate a continued New Pentecost this week, and new life and hope can be breathed into us as we move forward.

God bless you, Father Duane

May 8, 2016

Feast of the Ascension

Today, we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord. We now celebrate this mystery on the Seventh Sunday of Easter as we have for a number of years instead of on the Thursday before the Seventh Sunday. It was the thought of the bishops of our National Conference that the Ascension is such a glorious mystery that it should not be lost and given great prominence in the Easter Season as part of the ongoing revelation of Christ in the Easter/Ascension/Pentecost cycle. I wholeheartedly agree, and it is important that in our personal prayer and in the prayer of the Church, we reflect upon Christ’s Ascension as the means by which He readied the world to receive the fullness of His Spirit for all time and for everyone.

With the command to His apostles to go out and teach all nations, we are reminded of the great evangelization that we are all called to participate in as a baptized people.

Our parish in understanding the Archbishop’s call to “Unleash the Gospel,” participated in the archdiocesan Amazing Parish Conference two weeks ago. I, along with Debbie Nieddu, Greg Redman, and Patricia Camazzola-Godoshian, represented St. Matthew among almost 1,000 other participants from parishes across the Archdiocese.

As most participants said the conference was charged with an energy for leadership that hopefully will give life to a New Evangelization. As we examined our leadership structures, we focused on what could make our parishes better so as to draw in both new and fallen away Catholics. 

In the coming weeks, I will meet with our conference participants and begin unpacking what we gleaned from the three days, and then couple this with our Evangelization Committee as we move toward Synod 16 and a deeper understanding of the new Evangelization.

On a more administrative note, I am happy to announce that we found and hired a new Sunday organist. As was announced, our former organist and choir director, Jim Renfer, decided to take another position and told me three weeks ago that we would be leaving. Last Sunday, May 1, was his last day, and I was worried I would not be able to find someone to fill in.

Certainly, we have been blessed with good music ministers throughout the years, and our new person, Mr. Rick Cucchi, stands in that firm stead. In fact, it was Rick, who I have known for many years, who had recommended to me some 14 years ago, that I consider hiring a young man by the name of Joe Balistreri. Well, as you know, the rest is history.

Now, I am delighted to add Rick to our staff as our Sunday organist and choir director. We will continue with Joe Balistreri playing our Saturday Masses, and David Troiano for our weekday and funeral Masses. This arrangement seems to work well for our parish at this time, and I hope you welcome Rick warmly into our community as he starts today as our music minister.

I also would like to re-iterate our need for your support of the CSA. I indicated that our target was raised substantially, approximately $8,000, this year due to a legacy gift and the Mass Mob we hosted, and the increase it gave to our income. Now, we have to raise $22,850 compared to $15,000 last year in the CSA. I would ask, please if everybody would do something, large or small, we should be able to reach the target and not to have to take the money from savings. I can’t stress enough how important it is to raise this money. Whatever you can do to get the message out for a full participation, it would be appreciated. I know it will be a stretch for us, but the sacrificial offering you make will help in the overall sustainability of our parish.

Lastly, of course, I want to wish all the Moms of our parish a Happy Mother’s Day. This was always a special and delightful day for me in years past, seeing my Mom in the assembly, pointing her out, and your sharing an applause with her made her feel so good and proud. I want to thank you for those years and ask you to pray for the repose of my Mother. It’s been five and one-half years since their lives were taken so tragically.

It is nice to be with all the Moms of our parish today. I hope you and your families have good memories of this Mother’s Day and may God bless all these women who have answered the call to give life and nourish it both physically and spiritually. Happy Mother’s Day!

Father Duane

April 24, 2016

Fence Repair / Accident

I mentioned two weeks ago that our Harper Avenue fence had been crashed into sometime in the middle of the night on April 5. The weekly morning Mass attendees were kind enough not to tell me about it until after Mass since they new it would be upsetting. It was a “hit and run” (thank God no one was hurt) against property, but it is still upsetting.

Our community worked hard and gave much appreciated donations to have it installed. In fact, a sizable donation was contributed in the memory of Paz Barin (Dr. Bing Ocampo’s mother). The fence has helped in securing our property, and I wanted it fixed as soon as possible.

Having filed a police report, notifying the insurance company, and having the fence company who installed it give us an estimate ($2,500 minus $500 deductible), they assured me that it would be repaired by the end of that week; in fact, it took just two days for them to complete the work.

Parishioners were not aware of the damage, so I am including pictures of it in the Pulse today so you know what we were faced with after the event.

But I am so pleased to tell you that a former parishioner, Matt Simoncini, was at Mass on that Sunday and afterwards donated $500 to cover the cost of the deductible. I really want to thank him for that donation.

Not that this incident wasn’t bad enough, but it was the second accident within one week. Our Harper Auxiliary Lot gate pole was crashed into, and that had to be fixed as well.

It seems that with spring, drivers have become more careless. Maybe this is a lesson for all. Always be careful when driving, avoid road rage, and drunk and distracted driving. As you know this is a sensitive issue for me. Please be safe and go with God.

By next week, we will have had our Synod 16 Dialogue Gathering and our Amazing Parish Conference. I’ll write next week to give you an account of these experiences.

God bless you, Father Duane

April 4, 2016

Parish Dialogue Session & Updates

An important date for all parishioners is coming up, April 17, 2016! After the Sunday liturgy, St. Matthew Parish will have its “Dialogue Gathering” in a town hall format for the upcoming archdiocesan Synod 16 in November.

We expect the session to take approximately one hour of your time after Mass. This is an important gathering. I ask you to please make every effort to attend. I’m sure we can all adjust our schedules to do this work of the church.

The Dialogue will be to facilitated by Patrick Lusch, a parish council member and our fellow parishioner, Maureen Dritsan, who will be our Notetaker. The material and questions that we are asked to consider are provided by the archdiocese and will focus our responses so that it is the best use of our time to have input on various issues regarding the “New Evangelization.”

Your input is invaluable for our Synod 16 representatives, Mike Dulapa and Patricia Camazzola, who will be at the Synod in November.

Again, we will respect your time. For those who were at the Town Hall regarding our school building, you know how straight forward the presentation was, and this will be the same. We will set down some dialogue ground rules so that everyone will have a change to respond and be respectful of others’ comments. This is a time in the church when we need you to step forward. Again, please make every attempt to be present for this “Dialogue Gathering.”

I also want to say how delighted I was to see so many people at the Triduum Liturgies. I think they were the best attended in years. I felt a genuine presence of the Holy Spirit as I prayed with you from our parish Lenten Reconciliation Service through Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Vigil, and especially Easter Sunday, when we had almost 300 people at Mass. As I said Easter Sunday morning, it was like a “mini-Mass Mob.” I truly wish we could do that every week. But that is why we are having the Dialogue Session and the New Evangelization so that we can set forth the mission of returning Catholics to the pews and proclaiming the Good News.

I also want to congratulate Kristen Stark on being received into full initiation with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil. Kristen who was previously baptized took a Profession of Faith in the Catholic Church, was confirmed, and received Eucharist for the first time. We are so proud of her and wish her well. I pray she will truly find a spiritual home here at St. Matthew’s as a Catholic.

On a final note, I hope you will attend our “Jazz Nite” spring fundraiser on April 9th. It is always a lot of fun and fellowship. I’m a little worried in that the tickets are not selling as quickly as they did in the past. But now that we have celebrated Easter maybe people will begin thinking about the fundraiser. We don’t have too much time, April 9th is just a week away and the banquet center will need a firm attendance count by Tuesday, April 5th. Please join us with friends and family.

I wish you a very Happy Easter Season and pray for the success of the work of our hands!

God bless you,
Father Duane

March 21, 2016

Town Hall Meeting & Updates

Last weekend was quite busy, especially on Sunday. We celebrated the Second Scrutiny of our candidate, Kristen Stark, praying that her heart and mind will be ready for full reception in the Church at the Easter Vigil through the sacraments of Eucharist and Confirmation. We are so happy that Kristen will join us at the Eucharistic table.

Having celebrated the Sunday liturgy for the Fourth Week of Lent, we heard from our Archbishop Allen Vigneron on a new “rallying cry,” as he termed it in the archdiocese called “Unleash the Gospel.” This is not a new program, but an all encompassing, one might say, an umbrella for all the other Evangelization initiatives from Amazing Parish to Come, Encounter Christ. His message was meant to inspire and give direction and focus to our diocesan efforts.

Thirdly, of course, we took up the CRS Collection (formerly known as the Bishop Overseas Collection). I do want to thank you for your generosity and to remind everyone of their Rice Bowls which also go to Catholic Relief Services (CRS). We will take up the collection of our Rice Bowls at the Penitential Rite on Palm Sunday.

Lastly, on Sunday, we had our Town Hall Meeting to present to the community a history and current status of our school buildings. Patrick Lusch, a member of our Parish Council, gave a PowerPoint presentation indicating that we have put a lot of hard work into a Purchase  Agreement this past year and a half with Pansophic Learning, a charter school management company. I want to thank Patrick for the good job he did at condensing a lot of material and presenting it in a coherent and forthright manner. Having said this, I also ask for your continued prayers. As we know, we still do not have a signed agreement; and until it is, the deal is not secure. Although, I think it was timely to present our work and effort as many people were asking questions; and before rumors would fly, we wanted to clarify where the process was going. Again, I thank those who stayed and showed an interest in the future of St. Matthew as relative to the school buildings.

Holy Week is fast approaching. I pray we will have a good and prayerful Holy Week.

February 7, 2016

Updates from Father Duane

Last week, I announced to the parish who our Synod 16 representatives will be in November. I am pleased to congratulate Mike Dulapa and Patricia Camazzola. Our alternate will be Debbie Nieddu. The Synod will focus on the “new evangelization.” Its purpose is to assist Archbishop Vigneron in governing the diocese, specifically to elevate the primacy of evangelization for clergy and faithful alike to develop a new way to think, to speak, and be church in our daily lives. The Archbishop has stated that we need to move from maintenance to mission. That is to say, we need to reach out to people who are not just unchurched but baptized Catholic people who no longer attend or have fallen away from the church, its sacraments, and its life. In order to do this, we must first and foremost be focused on Jesus Christ who is the foundation of the church, by telling of and showing through example his love and goodness to us and the world.

In order to help our representatives in their work, the parish will have a dialogue session in April, which will be a guided discussion to receive your input on this matter which the representatives will be able to take with them to the Synod. To this end, I ask your prayers and support for this Synod and for Mike and Patricia. More will be coming out about this in the weeks to come.

In this coming week, on Wednesday, the church throughout the world will enter its most reflective and penitential time. With Ash Wednesday, we begin the season of Lent, a time for prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. I especially want to remind you of the church’s penitential practices and ask you to save the date for our Lenten Reconciliation (Confession) service scheduled for Monday, March 21st, at 7 p.m. This is an excellent time to review our lives, examine our consciences, and confess our sins; so that in this Year of Mercy, we may experience fully in the sacrament Christ’s forgiving mercy and celebrate his love. Each year, I encourage you to attend; and I hope that in this Year of Mercy, you may rejoice in the gift of Christ’s forgiveness. 

This afternoon, Sunday, I will be concelebrating the 40th Anniversary of Father Jim Bjorum’s Ordination. Many of you may remember Father Jim Bjorum as Deacon Jim.

In February of 1976, Deacon Jim, having spent his diaconal year here, was ordained a priest at St. Matthew’s. (In fact, it was the first time I had ever been at St. Matthew’s, as I was a seminarian and having been in school with Father Jim, attended his ordination.)

Over the years, Father Jim and I have kept in touch with each other. He attended my ordination and many other celebrations. Father Jim has always told me of the fond memories he has of his diaconal year at St. Matthew Parish and continues to be interested in our spiritual and temporal health and well-being.

I hope some of our parishioners will attend his 40th Anniversary Mass at Our Lady of Hope at 2 p.m. But in any case, I will represent St. Matthew at the celebration. Our first assignments are always our first love, and I’m sure Father Bjorum will be praying for us, too!

God bless you, Father Duane

January 14, 2016

New Year Message

I hope everyone had a joyous and Merry Christmas Season. I especially want to thank all the volunteers who helped set up and take down the Christmas decorations. (c.f. the list in the Pulse) The dismantling went especially smoothly as we had ten people, and in two hours, everything was complete.

A special thank you to our maintenance staff, Ed Comiskey and Dennis Hermann, for the wonderful job they did cleaning up afterwards, often on a short timeline, either before Christmas Eve Mass or getting every thing ready for the morning Mass after the take down. They are hard working men. I thought the church looked beautiful and elegant as usual with a certain freshness and simplicity. The tree, although they are always nice, seemed exceptionally beautiful.

As we move into the new calendar year, we will be anticipating the sale of our school buildings and trying to balance our budget. I ask you to take notice of the stewardship column on the front page.

A report of our Sunday collection, CSA, and CLT (Changing Lives Together) indicates where we stand on income through the first half of this fiscal year. I want to thank everyone for the great job on the Sunday collection which has increased. Although we have a “sad face”, I am confident we will turn that “smile” on. Also, I want to remind those who pledged to the CLT or CSA to please maintain your pledges. The money returned to us helps balance our budget and maintains our sustainability; especially the CLT, we have almost $23,000 that could come back to us. I know the drive formally ended its three years in November, but if you haven’t fulfilled your pledge, please do so even if it takes a full year yet to do it. This would help us tremendously.

To all those who are so conscientious in supporting us - Thank You!

Don’t forget in this Year of Mercy to keep up on your reflection prayer from the Magnificat book we shared with you. Next week, if you want an additional copy, we will have them ready for you.

God bless, Father Duane

December 3, 2015

Holy Year of Mercy

This Tuesday, December 8th, is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, a holy day of obligation. It should also be noted that this is the patron of our country. Under the prayerful watch of our Blessed Mother, who herself was conceived without original sin, we seek our protection.

One might even say that she who was kept free from sin so as to become the mother our Savior, can strengthen us to free ourselves from sin by seeking God’s mercy. Pope Francis is attuned to this thought and seeing the great need we have for mercy in our world today, he has declared an extra-ordinary Holy Year beginning on December 8th and concluding next November, on the Feast of Christ the King 2016.

To focus this Year of Mercy for us in the midst of our Archdiocesan Synod Year and the New Evangelization, I would suggest that the message of God’s mercy and forgiveness is deeply a part of an evangelical proclamation.

So many people in our world feel they cannot be loved by God because they don’t feel they meet the perfect criteria or standard for being a religious person. Many young people fall away from the church first by not attending, then by doubt, then by being ashamed of certain actions they may have engaged in, and then convincing themselves that God will never love them, the Church will not forgive them, or they themselves cannot see their own worth. This is so sad.

Oftentimes, it is expressed in cavalier ways with sayings like “the roof of the Church would fall in if I came to church,” or “God would strike me with lightning,” or “if I went to confession, I’d be there all day.” And so nothing changes; and year after year, these people stay away because of fear, low spiritual esteem, cultural influences, or a lack of an invitation to return to God’s loving embrace and the Church’s ministry of forgiveness.

This is where the Year of Mercy can help us evangelize. Especially if we ourselves are knowledgeable and comfortable with it. Pope Francis in declaring the Holy Year gave priests throughout the world permission to forgive the sin of abortion (although in the U.S., we have been able to do this since the 1980’s, when it was no longer a reserved sin; that is to say, only the Archbishop could administer its reconciliation), so as to state clearly that, even in the most difficult and sinful situations, God’s mercy and the Church’s arms are open to you.

To help us understand this extra-ordinary Holy Year of Mercy, you will be receiving a pamphlet in the next week or two explaining the Year of Mercy. It is informative and an easy read. You will also be asked to pick-up at the back of church, your family’s copy of “The Magnificat,” a book of spiritual reflections that will take you on a day-by-day journey, based on the liturgical calendar to help you deepen your own sense of God’s mercy in your life so that you will feel more comfortable inviting others. Through reflection, prayer, and reconciliation, the Year of Mercy can bring peace. And to invite others to the peace of Christ is truly the Christmas gift that keeps on giving!

I want to remind everyone, especially those who were not able to attend Sr. Karen’s funeral in Monroe, that we will have a Mass in her honor on December 11, Friday evening, at 7:00 p.m. I hope a good number of people will attend to honor her memory.

As I look back on our Month of the Dead, November, I want to thank all those who attended the Memorial Mass. As is the case, it is a moving liturgy. The candle light procession, the ringing of the bells, the Litany of the Saints, the proclamation of the names of the deceased, all seem to focus us on how fragile life is and the challenge to always preserve it until God calls us home.

As we took down the memorial display, I read and prayed for every name that you wrote in the Book of Remembrance. I was moved by the names I recognized and those I didn’t. I could tell often who wrote the name and realized that like me when you write the name of your loved ones, it is a moment of trust in God and faith in the Resurrection. I felt that as I wrote my parents’ name in the Book, and I’m sure you felt the same. In death and in the promise of eternal life, there is solidarity.

Now, have a good Advent, a peaceful Year of Mercy, and God bless you,

Father Duane

November 25, 2015

Advent 2015

This week, we begin Advent, our four-week preparation for the Christmas Season. Indeed, people will use this time to ready themselves for all the “material things of Christmas.” (Remember, don’t put up your decorations oo soon; after Gaudete Sunday, Third Sunday of Advent, or later is soon enough to keep the spirit of the Seasons.)

It is important to use Advent for which it was intended; to prepare spiritually for the celebration of Christ’s birth. Certainly to celebrate the Sunday liturgies is important but to include additional prayer would do us well. This year we have an excellent opportunity for you called, “Come, Encounter Christ!”. This three-day mission sponsored by the Archdiocese of Detroit and hosted here at St. Matthew Parish will give you an opportunity for just such an experience.

The evening will focus on the true Eucharistic presence of Christ and how to begin a personal relationship with our Lord and Savior. Participation in all three nights is ideal, but you can come to one or more sessions which will include a Eucharistic procession and benediction.

Reconciliation for the Advent Season will be available on each night of the Encounter. Hospitality and refreshments will be included at the conclusion of the evening. I would encourage you to bring a friend or neighbor, or anyone who has lost their faith, left the Catholic Church, or is simply indifferent to God and religion. Invite them to “Come, Encounter Christ!”.

Don’t forget to sign up for our Advent wreath lighting at the beginning of each Mass during the season of Advent. Become an active part of the Advent liturgies with your family and friends.

Most of all prepare well for Christmas because the best gift you can open on Christmas Day is the gift of Christ’s love to the world. In order to open that gift, we must be ready to recognize and accept it when it comes.

Have a Good Advent!
Father Duane