Pastor’s Columns

November 10, 2019

This is one of my most difficult things I ever wrote for a bulletin. Fr. Richard Degagne, the pastor at Immaculate Conception Parish here in Easton, was placed on administrative leave from active ministry as a priest. It is always difficult to see a priest leave active ministry for any reason. Hearing last Saturday that the priest in our neighboring parish, a man I know, is not in active ministry right now came as a shock to me. I am sure it was to his parish too.

Our Diocese of Fall River instituted an external review of all priest personnel files as part of our effort to maintain both a safe environment for all people and full accountability. During the review, they found that there was an accusation of misconduct by Fr. Rick dating to the time before he became a priest. Although Fr. Degagne denies the allegation, the diocese has followed the procedures first started with the Dallas Charter outlined in 2002 by the U.S. bishops in response to the clergy abuse crisis. Upon hearing any accusation that can be deemed credible, the accused is removed from ministry until further investigation. Credible does not mean probable. The threshold for credible is low, along the lines of “is there even a remote possibility that this alleged action could have possibly happened?” (As a side note, the Congregation of Holy Cross also invited external reviewers to examine of all of our personnel files. That review is complete, and a list of all credibly accused Holy Cross priests and brothers was released some time ago.)

I know some people who love priests and feel that using “credible” as a threshold for what can cause a priest to be removed from active ministry is too low and comes from an overabundance of caution. As a Catholic Church, since the Dallas Charter affirmed by the entire US Conference of Bishops in 2002, we publicly believe and act on the premise that there is no such thing as an overabundance of caution when it comes to the protection of children and vulnerable people.  We are all called to protect. You cannot have too much caution. This is one of the reasons why we have CORI checks every year for all volunteers (clergy and staff also have to go through CORI). It is why there are external reviews of personnel files, so no one reviewing a file can be biased. It is why any credible accusation is turned over to external investigators. Safety is primary. No one should ever be hurt inside a church or by church personnel. As Bishop da Cunha has said, “Nothing is more important than the welfare of survivors, children, and our community at large.”

We pray for a quick resolution to this investigation. Ideally, the accusation will be proven false, that there were no victims at all. If that is the case, Fr. Rick will be permitted to return to ministry.   Regardless of the outcome of this investigation, we pray for healing for all who have been hurt in any way by any member of the Catholic Church.

On a completely other subject, though it deals with people protecting others, this weekend we celebrate Veterans Day. Originally called Armistice Day, this day focuses on all who have served the country, whether in war or peace. It is not for those who have died, as that holiday is Memorial Day. Veterans Day is for all, living or deceased, who have died serving our country. I am blessed to know many veterans. Some carry the wounds, visible and not so visible, of their time in active duty in areas of conflict. Through my time living and working in the missions in Africa, I have a greater sense of blessings and freedoms we have in this great country. This weekend in particular, may we take a moment to pray for all our veterans, and all in active duty. We thank God for their sacrifices. We thank veterans we know for their service. We pray a prayer of thanksgiving for the blessings we have.

Fr. Eric

October 27, 2019

The decorations have been out in the stores for some time now, and children have been excited about the upcoming holiday. No. I am not talking about Christmas (although there are signs of that already, which is WAY too early). This week we celebrate Halloween.

Yes, as a Catholic, I celebrate Halloween. I do so from the perspective of trying to recapture what the name actually means. The word Halloween actually comes from “All Hallows’ Eve.” As people who pray the Our Father, we know the word ‘hallow,’ as in “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.” Hallow means holy. God is so holy that even God’s name is holy. All Hallows’ Eve is the evening before we celebrate ‘All Hallows’ Day’ – the day of commemorating all the holy ones. Who are the holy ones we celebrate? The saints, of course. Halloween rightfully is the evening before All Saints Day, celebrated every year on November 1st.

When we remember the linguistic origin of Halloween, we can move away from a sense of gore and ghoulish and back into the holy. If you really can’t imagine Halloween without gore, perhaps meditate on the saints who were martyrs and the various forms of torture they endured. If you want the scary, is there something scarier or worse than on the day of judgement not joining the ranks of the holy ones for eternity in heaven? Our goal is to get into heaven. This Halloween week, preparing to celebrate All Saint’s day, let us implore their help to achieve this most important goal.

Saturday, November 2nd is also a special day. It is the day we commemorate All Souls day. It is a commemoration of all the faithful departed. Some of them may already be in heaven, even if they have not officially been declared saints. Others may be in purgatory. In Rev. 21:27, we learn that nothing unclean enters into heaven. So, what happens if someone dies before they can ask for their sins to be forgiven? The Catholic Church is one of hope. God has revealed that it is possible to pray for those who have died before seeking forgiveness to have their sins cleansed (purged). This belief comes primarily from the Bible in 2 Mac 12:26. That chapter tells the true story of Israelite soldiers who died in battle while wearing images of false gods. Their fellow Israelite soldiers who survived prayed for them, and God credited it to them as a holy and righteous act.

The feasts of All Saints and All Souls remind us that the ties of love and affection that knit us as one throughout our lives do not go away with death. We live in a Communion of the Saints, constantly connected to those who have gone before us. We can pray for them, and they can pray for us. Our family movie night this Friday is a story that, though perhaps imperfectly, touches on some of these themes of the communion of the saints. All Saints Day is a holy day of obligation where every Catholic comes to Mass to celebrate the great gift of being in communion with all the saints. Come to our 9:00 am Mass. Or, you can come to our 6:00 pm Mass, and then join us for movie night in the great hall. I look forward to seeing you this Friday, the hallowed day.

Fr. Eric

October 20, 2019

This weekend we celebrate World Mission Sunday. One of the reasons why I chose to join the Congregation of Holy Cross was its missionary outreach. I spent my fifth year in the seminary overseas working in East Africa. I arrived unsure of myself, but comforted by the fact that I would be living and working with other Holy Cross religious. Adjusting to the new cultures (I spent 5 months in Kenya, then a year in Uganda) was exciting, challenging, educational, and transforming. Having to struggle to communicate as I was trying to learn Swahili taught me humility, and it has given me empathy for others who struggle to express themselves. Seeing joy in the midst of poverty, and feeling limitations in ministry as I could not speak the language well helped teach me to depend more on God than on my own talents. As a seminarian in East Africa, I attended Mass in churches as humble as a hut to a fancy cathedral, and I experienced liturgies that were as diverse as quiet & meditative to ones with dancing and joyful ululations. This taught me about the beauty of diverse ways to honor our traditions as Catholics while praising our God.

Not everyone is called to be a missionary working in a foreign country. The theme for this World Mission Sunday: Baptized and Sent, reminds us that God claims us in our baptism as part of God’s holy people. We are children of God. We receive incredible graces in baptism, and these graces are meant to be shared.

It is important to participate in the Church’s missionary effort throughout the world, bringing the Good News to others. This weekend we can help through our prayers and contribution to the collection. At the same time, we are sent to bring the Good News of the Gospel to people here, in a land where less and less people are embracing the faith. People have asked me, “What can we do besides pray?”

We can try to deepen our trust in Divine Providence – trusting that God will provide for us when we reach out to help provide for others. This Sunday’s theme, baptized and sent, also serves and an invitation to deepen our knowledge of the faith. Take time to study and learn about the richness of our Church and our faith that goes all the way back to Christ Himself who sent out the first apostles as missionaries.  Follow the example of so many missionaries, past and present, who share that their love and service come from a deeper place than just a general respect for humanity; it comes from a faith that teaches us that when we serve others, we serve Christ Himself.

As we are inspired by the missionary example of so many in the Church, perhaps we can ask ourselves the question, “How is God inviting me to be more active in my parish, in my faith?” We can also be missionary by inviting someone to come to Mass with us, or some other activity happening at the church. Consider coming for movie night after the 6:00 PM All Saints Day Mass on Friday, Nov. 1st. We will show the movie “Coco”, with themes of All Soul’s Day (which is Nov.2nd).

Fr. Eric

October 13, 2019

This past weekend we had our Fall Family Dinner. We had a nice turnout of people, and everyone seemed to enjoy the good food from Mario’s, and the fun music by Joe Presley, as well as Eddie and the Exciters. Many hands went into making this event a success. I particularly want to thank the committee members, Mary Calhoun, Kevin Dixon, Chris Goffredo, and Joyce Isiminger. Many others stepped up volunteering, such as Amy Goffredo, Dennis Kenny, Kacy Lubash, Claire Smith, Linda Sullivan, P.J. Celia, Debbie Kelley, Gail Shea, the Knights of Columbus, and many others who helped make sure this was a very enjoyable evening. I am quickly learning that this is a community that not only gathers and prays well together, but also has fun together. It is a pleasure to be part of the Holy Cross Parish family.

This weekend we have a special Healing Mass with the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. The Lord blesses us by inviting us to come every week to be nourished by His word in the Scriptures and fed by His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. There is nothing better for our hearts, minds, and souls than the gift of Jesus’ Himself, present in the Eucharist.

In addition to the blessings from the Eucharist, those who celebrate the healing Mass will receive the grace of the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. This sacrament comes from the 5th chapter of the book of James in the Bible in which says, “If there are any who are sick, let them send for priests of the Church, and let the priests pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick persons, and the Lord will raise them up. If they have committed any sins, their sins will be forgiven them.” This is a sacrament that promises healing.  Indeed I have been blessed to see some incredible physical healings through it, such as a cancer cured or a person no longer needing surgery. I have also been blessed to see people struggling with mental or emotional illnesses helped through the sacrament. Trusting in the words of the Bible, we know that souls are healed through this sacrament with the forgiveness of sin.

Whenever we celebrate the Anointing of the Sick, we do not know what type of healing the Lord will bestow: physical, spiritual, emotional. We do have faith and trust that God will act and give the person receiving the sacrament what she/he needs.

This is not a sacrament to wait to receive. In the past, some have waited until the last moment to call a priest to perform the “last rites.” The priest would come and administer the anointing of the sick. Following the words of the Bible, the Church has recently emphasized that this is a sacrament for people who are seriously sick, not just those who are nearing the end of life. Therefore, anyone struggling with any kind of serious illness is welcome to receive the anointing. If you know someone in the hospital, please call us so that Fr. Jim or I can pray with them and anoint them. Laws prohibit hospitals from calling us to tell us who is admitted to the hospital. We depend on you to let us know who is sick and needs our prayers.

As we celebrate this Healing Mass today, we will pray for all in our parish who needs God’s healing touch.

Fr. Eric