Easton Journal Articles

Thank You Father Jim – May 2017

by Anne Tarallo

The Pastoral Team at Holy Cross Parish in South Easton has had the pleasure of providing monthly columns called “Misperceptions” for the Easton Journal readers aimed at clarifying, explaining, and sharing the tenets, and practices of the Catholic Church, and for that we are most grateful. Sharing the faith with the readers is a privilege for the team and for the parishioners of Holy Cross.

For our May Column, I would like to stray a bit and devote these words to someone very special who has served Holy Cross Parish for the last nine years. Fr. James (Jim) Fenstermaker, CSC, a member of the Congregation of Holy Cross and Pastor of Holy Cross Parish arrived here in June of 2008 and has faithfully served the parishioners and the Easton community ever since.  For the Congregation of Holy Cross, the policy for a pastor’s parish tenure is six years with a possible three year extension to nine years.  The last nine years have flown by and now, sadly, it is time for Fr. Jim to move on.

Described as a “good soul” by Holy Cross Music Director Chris Iannitelli, Fr. Jim served as Pastor, friend, confidant, business man, spiritual leader, champion of youth, chaplain, and the epitome of a Catholic priest. The role of pastor requires a vast job description that includes all aspects of protecting and nurturing the spiritual, communal, financial, and catechetical (educational) needs of the parishioners and greater community.  Fr. Jim embraced his ministry with much love and with the zeal to successfully lead a spirit-filled, extremely active parish community.

As the spiritual leader, Fr. Jim is charged by canon law to hold the Eucharist as the central core of community of faithful and to proclaim the entirety of the Word of God to the parishioners, educating them in the faith. Fr. Jim cares deeply about the quality of the liturgy (Catholic Mass) and has always taken great care with preparation of the entire liturgy, most especially his outstanding homilies.  Fr. Jim has shared the special moments of the Sacraments with hundreds of families.  Likewise, he has shared the difficult times with families and has been there to comfort, console, and pray with those grieving or facing difficult times.

For the social community, Fr. Jim has presided over a vibrant parish community. He values the social nature of the community and was constantly searching for more ways to bring the community together to get to know each other and to socialize.  With his great big smile and thick Brooklyn accent, Fr. Jim has always been a huge presence at all Holy Cross events.  In addition to the many events hosted by the parish, Holy Cross has always been concerned and involved with the needs of the community.  Fr. Jim is great supporter of the parishes outreach efforts to those in need, rolling up his sleeves whenever needed.

Leading a parish as leading any organization requires the care and maintenance of the buildings and grounds, assuring quality staffing to serve the needs of the parish, and managing the daily operations of the parish. Parishes depend on weekly donations, fundraising and special fund drives to operate.  Fr. Jim has been steadfast when it comes to being a great steward of the parishioner’s treasure.

As the Catechetical leader of the parish, Fr. Jim has been an incredible support for the Faith Formation programs at Holy Cross. Having had the pleasure of serving with Fr. Jim as the Faith Formation Director, I can certainly say that the spiritual formation of the youth of the parish has been a top priority.  Whether stopping into classrooms, addressing the teens preparing for the Sacrament of Confirmation, joking with the children after mass, or showing off his fish tank, Fr. Jim will always be a beloved Pastor to the parish youth.  As one family with three children described Fr. Jim as “kind, nice, funny, welcoming, always smiling, makes church feel like home, and they all feel loved by him when they speak with him, and we all enjoy his homilies!”
Fr. Jim is a friend to all. Whether joining the “Forever Young” group for lunch, dining with parishioners in their homes, chatting in the office, following family activities and children’s milestones, being there in times of illness and sadness, or jamming on his guitar with the teen music group, he has forged countless friendships in the parish.

In addition to his tireless service to the parish, Fr. Jim also serves as the Chaplain to the Easton Police Department and the Knights of Columbus. While speaking of Fr. Jim’s service to the Police department, Police Chief Gary Sullivan shared his thoughts, “Three years ago, we endured a great loss of a brother police officer and Father Jim stood by our side as we mourned the loss of our friend. Father Jim is a true friend to everyone at the police department, and has made himself available to us countless times.”

So to Fr. Jim we say a great big THANK YOU. You will be missed by so many.  We all wish you the very best in your future assignments and in the many ministries that lay ahead.  While this column is normally called “Misperceptions,” there is no misperception here, Fr. Jim, we love you and again we thank you!!

Anne Tarallo is former Director of Faith Formation at Holy Cross Parish in South Easton. She holds a Master’s degree in Pastoral Theology.

Catholic Christians – April 2017

Father Brad Metz, C.S.C.

Using the phrase Catholic Christians is really redundant. It seems to specify, but in reality, each term is one and the same from the beginning of Christianity. There is only one citation in the New Testament that refers to disciples of Jesus Christ being called Christians, Acts 11:25-26. “Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for an entire year they met with the church and taught a great many people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called ‘Christians’.” In the preceding chapter in Acts 10 we learn that a person becomes a Christian through baptism. “Then Peter said, ‘Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.” It is interesting that having received the Holy Spirit and speaking in faith is not enough, so Peter ordered them to be baptized. Baptism is what makes one a Christian from the beginning, and the practice commonly accepted and respected among most Christian denominations today as the basis for believing one is a modern disciple of Jesus Christ. That is why, if a person is baptized with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, the Roman Catholic Church does not re-baptize. A person is a Christian once baptized.

 

The term catholic was first used to describe the Christian Church in the beginning of the second century to emphasize its universal scope. Many local churches were founded from the original church in Jerusalem. Nonetheless, these various churches remained connected because of their ecclesial or church lineage traced to the preaching and teaching of one of the apostles. The word catholic is a qualifying term used to describe the universality of the one, holy and apostolically founded Church composed of many smaller local churches.

 

Referring to Christians as the Catholic Church originated in a letter from Bishop Ignatius of Antioch to the local church in Smyrna in the year 107 AD. “You should regard that the Eucharist as valid which is celebrated by the bishop or by someone he authorizes. Where the bishop is present, there let the congregation gather, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church,” ch.8:1-2). Ignatius of Antioch and many of the early Church bishops defended and firmly believed in the Church’s unique oneness because they believed in Jesus’ words to the Father in the Gospel of John as he was preparing to give his life for us: “’I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me” (John 17:20-23).

 

The oneness of profession, belief and orthodox practice of the faith defines Catholic life. After the first millennium, the schism between the East and the West was the first fissure in Catholic communion followed 500 years later by other Christian churches breaking away from the Catholic Church due to individual, group geographical, ethnic or other ideological theologies creating denominational and non-denominational Christian churches. There is too much history, both warranted and unfortunate, to even begin to delve into the reasons and responses for the various divisions in this brief article.

I am a man of faith and hope that Christ’s continual love for all the baptized will continue inspiring leaders and believers in the Christian faith to guide the various flocks back into a common fold through continued moments of ecumenical dialogue, conversion, reconciliation, and new life only God knows and can bring about through God’s grace. Christ’s abiding love and command to serve others is real and tangible among the many Christian churches. May these waning days of Lent, our celebration of Jesus’ Passion and Death, lead us all into the glorious days of Christ’s Resurrection, bringing us all closer to the eternal kingdom of oneness and peace.

 

Religion and Politics – Yes, They Do Mix! – February 2017

Rev. James Fenstermaker, C.S.C.

“The church intervenes in social questions whenever human dignity is wounded… They involve the responsibility of everyone toward the entire human family to build a fairer, more just and peaceful society in line with the message of the Gospel.”  Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, a member of the Pontifical Council for Justice & Peace, shared this insight at a seminar sponsored by the Catholic University of America’s Institute for Policy Research along with the Office of International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.  In reading his presentation and coming across these words, I thought of the adage that religion and politics don’t mix, and how false that thinking is.  The church does not engage in partisan politics, but the Judeo-Christian principles upon which it is founded have strong political implications.

During the Republican primary race, former Senator Rick Santorum, a Catholic, in response to Pope Francis’ papal encyclical on the environment entitled “On Care for Our Common Home,’ stated that the pope should stick to “theology and morality.”  Yet, as Francis explained in the encyclical letter, “Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods… Our lack of response to these tragedies involving our brothers and sisters points to the loss of responsibility for our fellow men and women upon which all civil society is founded.”  This is an example where the church speaks out on social issues when they impact the common good of society and the well-being of its members.
The Jewish prophets spoke out forcefully against injustice toward the widow and orphan, the poor and marginalized, and the alien in their midst.  Jesus continued in that tradition by preaching the kingdom of God’s justice, love and peace.  Social justice is defined by the Catechism of the Catholic Church as “The respect for the human person and the rights which flow from human dignity and guarantee it.  Society must provide the conditions that allow people to obtain what is their due…”  Building on statements by recent predecessors such as Pope John Paul II, Pope Francis states in the encyclical letter, “The just distribution of the fruits of the earth and human labor is not mere philanthropy.  It is a moral obligation.”

To this end, Francis has recently engaged in some interesting endeavors.  The Vatican hosted the Fortune+Time Global Forum that offered CEOs, philanthropists, academics, and labor and church leaders an opportunity to “forge a new social compact for the 21st century,” at which Francis stated that the global economic system needs a “fundamental renewal” for the “common good of humanity, of the right of each person to share in the resources of this world…”  The Pontifical Academy for Sciences hosted a conference on the benefits and limits of artificial intelligence, at which Francis met with famed U.S. physicist (and atheist) Stephen Hawking.  In his annual message for the World Day of Peace on January 1st, Francis reminded us, “An ethics of fraternity and peaceful coexistence between individuals and among peoples cannot be based on the logic of fear, violence and close-mindedness but on responsibility, respect and sincere dialogue.”  On that same day a new Dicastery (office) for Promoting Integral Human Development brought together various Vatican offices focused on peace and justice issues including migrants, the excluded and marginalized, the imprisoned and unemployed, and victims of armed conflict, slavery and torture.

In the United States, the bishops’ Office of Migrant and Refugee Services declared December 12th, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, as a National Day of Prayer of Migrants and Immigrants, asking Catholics to reflect on Matthew 25:31-46: “I was hungry and you gave me food, thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me…”  Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles recently preached, “In our country we need to start building bridges and bringing people together.  We need to reach out to those who are hurting.  Now is the time to build unity and heal communities through our love for our neighbor and our care for those in need.”  Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego spoke at the recent Catholic Immigrant Integration Initiative Conference in which he called for compassion for all who are suffering, whether immigrants and refugees or the white middle class without college degrees.  He warned, “There is a profound sickness in the soul in American political life.  This sickness tears at the fabric of our nation’s unity, undermining the core democratic consensus that is the foundation for our identity as Americans.  It is our responsibility to heal our nation…”  Locally, the bishops of Massachusetts recently released a statement seeking criminal justice reform in the Commonwealth that “will recognize and address critical areas that offenders face every day under the current judicial system.”

Cardinal John O’Hara, C.S.C., who before being made a bishop served in the 1930s as president of the University of Notre Dame (a sister school to Stonehill College), stated, “The primary function of commerce is service to mankind.  Business has a code of ethics based very largely on divine principles.  When this code is followed, commerce can and does advance civilization.”  Dom Helder Camara, celebrated for his advocacy for the poor and oppressed as a Brazilian archbishop in the 1964-1985, once said, “When I feed the poor, everyone calls me a saint.  But when I ask why the poor don’t have food, they call me a communist.”  As I preached on the scriptural passage 1John3:11-21 at one of our recent weekday masses, the world will sometimes hate us when we work to protect the most vulnerable in our society, such as the unborn, and to respond to those most in need, such as those fleeing war and poverty.  But we do so because, as Christ reminds us, what we do for the least of our sisters and brothers we do for him.

A Christmas Story – December 2016

Deacon George Zarella

Typically in the Catholic Church May is the month of momentous moments with Jesus because most of the month is within the Easter season followed by the solemnities of the Most Holy Trinity and Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.  It is the time when the Church’s sacramental life goes into overdrive after being mostly fallow during the season of Lent.  Baptisms, First Communions, weddings and ordinations happen as joyous celebrations of Jesus’ love for us as Christians.  There is nothing like smelling the newly consecrated Chrism on the crown of a baby’s head at baptism or on the palms of a newly ordained priest.  Grins from ear to ear on the faces of second graders who just received Jesus for the first of hopefully thousands of times throughout their lives and the levity of a newly married    couple are tangible emanations of God’s Spirit present in our midst.  The sacraments, outwards signs instituted by Christ to give grace, are powerful and wonderful gifts sustaining us through this life into everlasting life.

The grace we receive in sacraments not only remind us that God loves and cares for us, but also remind us of what Jesus taught us at the Last Supper, to serve one another.  God’s sacramental grace saves us for sure but we must practice and put our faith into action or it will wither away and possibly die like a branch severed from a vine, bearing little or no fruit.  Jesus detested unfruitful things; the fig tree withered, seed without rich soil amounted to nothing and a talent buried in the ground was taken away!  God’s grace is not given to be kept in photo albums of memories or a keepsake box on the shelf.  The awesome reminder of Pentecost is that God’s Holy Spirit        emanating from the Father and the Son moves us, urges us, and enlivens us to act, not stay huddled behind a closed door in an upper room.

A baptized Christian is called, like the first apostles and disciples of Jesus through the ages, to nurture one’s relationship with God in prayer and to use one’s gifts and talents in service of love, peace, hope and divine justice in a world often duping us into self-centeredness, division, fear and the old eye-for-an-eye rectitude.  The discovery of how this happens in any one unique life is discovered if a person and peoples take to heart the sage advice of the prophet Micah through the nurturing and witnessing of faithful family and good friends: “to walk humbly with God” (Micah 6:8).  God’s grace is offered to human beings as a remedy for our proclivity to not be humble but to be puffed up with pride, going our own way.  The great thing about God, however, is that God never gives up on us.  A graced conscience knows when the internal compass is off course and it is time to maneuver back to the simple but elusive way to       holiness.

The feast wrapping up the long journey from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost after honoring God’s Trinitarian being helps me the most as I strive to walk humbly with God.  Jesus’ gift of his own Body and Blood satisfies my soul amid the worries and frustrations of daily life.  Jesus centers me and reminds me that God yearns to dwell in me and with the human race.  It is an ongoing invitation to cooperate with God’s abiding presence gracing each of our lives if we but open our eyes to see and our ears to hear in the busyness of life.  The word Eucharist literally means “thanksgiving,” but nonetheless, thank you Jesus for giving us the Eucharist, because without it we would be lost.

Modern Missionaries – November 2016

Patria Ferragamo, Youth Minister

When many people are given the word “missionary”, very often the image that comes to mind is almost a painting from hundreds of years ago: a brown-robed clad monk or priest, holding a cross in the air and preaching to some variation of indigenous people. While this image may be closer to what a missionary looked like “back in the day”, it isn’t representative of the missionaries in the modern day. The simplest definition of a missionary is someone who spends his or her time and energy to a “mission”, a cause of some kind that they see a need for. The two primary subjects of a Christian mission are religious, service-based, or often both.

There are many different kinds of mission opportunities, and many different types of missionaries today: members of the religious community, missionary families, single adults, and even teenagers.

Short-term missionary trips are incredibly popular, especially with young people who have school, college, or even entry-level jobs where they can’t get a lot of time off. In our own community in Easton, there are many different need-based opportunities, whether it’s as short as one day, volunteering with My Brother’s Keeper, or a day of helping build a home and new life with Habitat for Humanity. Week long mission trips are often a popular choice, and often includes an aspect of hands-on service. For example, every two years Holy Cross Church leads a large group of teenagers down south to participate in the Appalachia Service Project for a week. It is a week of prayer and service: helping the truly poor in the states of West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee through building projects to improve the state of living. This summer especially, we are heading to West Virginia to help rebuild communities that were devastated by the substantial and drastic flooding they experienced this year.

Those opportunities, are of course, domestic. There are many short-term mission opportunities abroad in various countries. For instance, the international program for teenagers, Life Teen, owns and operates a mission base on the island of Haiti. They are located in Haiti, not only to help ease some of the poverty in the country, caused by natural disasters and the over-abundance of aid that creates significant job loss, but as a ministry, they are evangelizing and teaching in a country where voodoo is a prominent spiritual practice: service and prayer, two of the major themes in ministry. Holy Cross Church has a sister parish in the impoverished city of Canto Grande, Lima, Peru. Students from Stonehill College often choose to spend their spring break alternatively, not on trips to Florida or Cancun, but on a week-long trip to Canto Grande, to pray with and build various projects for the people of Canto Grande. In 2014, they built a soccer field that the youth could play on, rather than kicking the ball around in the street, or in more dangerous locations.

In a way, we are all called to be missionaries. Catholics are baptized “priest, prophet and king”. Although this doesn’t imply that all Catholics will become priests, deacons, brothers, or religious sisters, it does convey a sense of how our lives should be focused. Priests are called to pray and to serve. In the Roman times, priests were referred to as ‘pontifex’, a shortened version of “pontem artifex,” which translates to “bridge builder.” I think that image is a fitting description for a missionary: building bridges of faith, metaphorically, or even possibly literally building bridges as an act of service! Christians often look at their roles, and biblical commission as apostles: “apestello”, which means “to be sent out”, as a call to ministry as a missionary. If you are not Catholic or Christian, do not despair! Look back at the first definition of missionary at the beginning of this article. If you see a need, in your community, or on a larger scale, and you feel strongly about it – make it your mission to bring about a positive change and help soften or eliminate that need. Anyone who takes on a positive, goodly task and tries to affect change, is, by definition, a missionary.

Heart of Rituals – October 2016

by, Marie Chabot

One of my favorite things to do each summer is visit WaterFire in Providence, RI.  If you live in this area, you no doubt have heard of this celebration. Several times on Saturday nights during the summer, fires are lit along the canal that runs through the center of Providence. Thousands of people come from everywhere to witness the phenomenon of fire burning brightly on the water. The city is aglow with fire. The aroma of wood is intoxicating. There is something special about it that engages all of the senses. It is uniquely beautiful. You can feel the sense of community with all those who are witnessing this special celebration each time it happens.

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in my customary spot, observing the fire and the water, and I started to think about what it is that draws me in each time – me as well as a few thousand who were there that evening.  First there is the ceremony of the lighting of the fires in the basin of the canal. There is music, a parade of people carrying torches, boats and gondolas spreading the fire, blue neon stars being tossed from the bridge onto the water, a cast of characters from the            fire-baton twirlers, to the dancers, to the Parisian Pierrot handing out carnations from his boat to the people along the canal. It is absolutely other-worldly. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that with all the ritual, the colors, the celebration, and the symbolism, the elements of fire and water, the whole     concept of WaterFire is very much like the ritual of a Catholic Mass! Maybe that’s why I like it so much.

However, the ritual of Mass goes so much deeper! There is absolutely something comforting about knowing that the Mass being celebrated in Easton, MA on a particular Sunday is the same Mass – same readings and all – as the one being celebrated in Tokyo, or Sweden, or Colorado, or New York.  Not only that, but our prayers and our actions at Mass connect us to our ancestors, who also prayed the Creed, the Holy, Holy, the Lamb of God.  The same Lord’s Prayer that Jesus taught is the one we say each week. Some of our rituals during Mass are practiced to add a sense of reverence and awe to what we are doing and saying as a community. They help us to worship more fully. Others are more serious – the divine ritual, the Sacrifice of the Mass, the consecration where the priest in persona Christi changes the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, is the ultimate ritual; the embodiment of the perfect prayer of the Last Supper. Then there is the sharing of the sign of peace, the unity of praying for the same things, the music that binds the congregation. Such a celebration!

I believe that our celebration of the Mass should be over-the-top in abundance each week – ok, maybe we don’t need to see our deacon throwing a fire baton (although that would be entertaining), but the spreading of light, through each of us offering another the peace of Christ, the proclamation of the Gospel, the singing of the psalm – what a rich celebration to engage our senses. If we look upon each celebration of the Mass as a way of connecting to our community, and to our ancestors, and to the world around us, and the God who gave us life, how much more joyous our celebration of Mass would be!

I shared my observation with my oldest son, who was fascinated by my comparison. But he told me I shouldn’t share my thoughts with my non-church-going friends. “Why not?”  I asked him. He said that they would either think I was crazy, or it might turn them off from wanting to go to WaterFire with me!

Maybe he’s right. But I would rather think that maybe the opposite might happen; that maybe if we could get people to realize what a true celebration is going on here at Mass each week – the singing, the water, the fire, the lights, the ritual, the story-sharing, the reliving of Christ’s sacrifice for us, and most importantly, the mutual expression of the love of Christ, well, just maybe there would be thousands flocking back into our churches each week, the way the crowds flock to   WaterFire on those Saturday evenings in Providence.