I want to express my thanks and gratitude for the turnout of people who came to our parish to pray and to venerate the pilgrimage statue of Our Lady of Fatima. It was a very special and blessed event for our parish to have the visit of the pilgrimage state that has traveled all over the road.
The custodians of the pilgrimage statue, Larry and Tom, enjoyed their visit to our parish. They admired the beauty of our church as well as the great diversity of our congregation. I took Larry and Tom out to dinner and then showed them the two Major Shrines in Port Arthur: the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Shrine of Our Lady Queen of Peace. May we continue to carry, in our hearts, the message and meaning of Fatima. Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!
Did you notice what happened last weekend in church? The priest was no longer wearing green vestments but was wearing purple instead. There were no flowers in church but there was a wreath in the sanctuary; an Advent wreath with three purple candles and one rose color candle.
Did you catch the main theme of last weekends’ readings and the homily as well, focusing on staying awake and to be prepared? Maybe you paid attention to these things or maybe you were not aware of these things. Well, we are still in the Advent season and you will see two purple candles lit on the Advent wreath.
The main theme of this weekend’s readings at Mass focus on the call to repent for the kingdom of God is at hand as stated by St. John the Baptist. Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of the Lord and part of that preparation is to get “our house in order”. I’m talking about our bodies which should be a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. Pray to the Holy Spirit for the spiritual wisdom to comprehend the message of preparing for the coming of Jesus Christ and to use every spiritual benefits the church offers to be prepared and to get out heart, mind and soul in the state of grace so that when the Lord comes, He will find us ready!
This weekend is priesthood Sunday. It is an opportunity for the Roman Catholic Church to pray and recognize the ministerial priesthood. The priesthood in America faces great challenges such as an aging clergy and decline in the number of vocations, as well as, a declining number of priesthood ordinations that is not making up the difference with retiring or dying priests. Some priests are running two, three, and even four parishes as a pastor and in some cases do not have an associate pastor to help them. Some priests have additional responsibilities in their diocese, and still run a parish. The priests need the prayers and support of the faithful. Prayers are needed for the blessings of a priests’ ministry, and that the priest work to maintain their spirituality and their health. The priest celebrates Weekend Masses, Daily Masses, Funeral Masses, Wedding Masses, offers the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and the Sacrament of Anointing the Sick at any time of the day. The priest also offers the Sacrament of Baptism for infants and adults. The priest is also a Pastoral Counselor to the faithful and is also a Spiritual Director for those in need. The priests are also human beings with personal struggles and feelings just like the faithful. Priests are not perfect like Jesus’ first twelve Apostles, but strive to serve to the best of their abilities with the challenges of their ministerial duties. I have been a priest for 14 years since 2002, and St. James Church is my seventh overall parish assignment and currently my third as Pastor. It has been and amazing, interesting, and challenging life’s journey. Please pray for the priests and please pray for me. May my priesthood and my brother priests’ ministry bring the Lord Jesus to those in need, and that we persevere in the vocation that the Lord has called us to serve in His Name.
This weekend is our parish “homecoming” weekend! We welcome back to St. James any former parishioners, or former alumni of the parish school or Bishop Byrne High School. For 86 years St. James parish has been a church of prayer and faith formation St. James parish started during a period of hardship, suffering, and misery in our country when the great depression hit. With faith, hope and courage, the new young and first pastor Fr. James Kirwin, and the first parishioners of St. James Church persevered and pressed forward. In time the parish grew and became a significant presence of Christian faith, as well as, a place of spiritual and intellectual formation, here in the City of Port Arthur. The parish community and surrounding neighborhoods have significantly changed for the last forty years, but St. James Church still stands as a landmark on Gulfway Drive. Many souls have received the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Eucharist and many weddings, as well as, funerals here at St. James. Our parish has produced 25 vocations to the priesthood, three of them received the Sacrament of Holy orders here at St. James. I hope and pray that Almighty God blesses our “homecoming” weekend and especially bless the souls who will join us for prayer and fellowship. May the souls of the faithful departed, the clergy, the religious, the laity who have been at one time a part of our parish, rest in peace.
I just wanted to share with as to where I was the weekend of October 8-9. I was in Corpus Christi, Texas, to celebrate the Wedding Mass of Graciela Canales and William Holloway. Graciela and I were classmates at the University of Dallas in Irving, Texas, in the late 1990s. The wedding took place at the Most Precious Blood of Jesus parish. It was a newer and beautiful Catholic Church, and they have over 2,500 registered parishioners and six Masses on the weekend, and two daily Masses. They have a Pastor, an Associate Pastor, and five Deacons. The Pastor, Fr. Bob Dunn, is a wonderful example of a Catholic priest who is full of the joy of the Gospel. It was a beautiful wedding liturgy that truly conveyed the love of God present and the humble, simplicity of the liturgy. On Sunday, I was blessed and honored to celebrate the 7:30 am Mass at Corpus Christi Cathedral. The Cathedral is a beautiful historical house of worship and its congregation was very friendly. I was thankful to stay at Christ the King parish with Beaumont native Fr. Michael Slovak, S.O.L.T. and the Trinitarian fathers stationed there and I appreciate their wonderful hospitality. It was a blessed weekend to spend in this beautiful city on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico. Please remember Mr. & Mrs. William and Graciela Holloway who now begin their lives as husband and wife and let us pray for our married couples. Let us also pray for the clergy, religious and laity of the Diocese of Corpus Christi.
I would like to thank those who offered prayers, offered cards, and extended good wishes to me as I celebrated my birthday this past week. I am very grateful and thankful! The Gospel of Luke this weekend refers to the one out of ten people who returned to Jesus to offer thanksgiving for healing him of the dreadful disease of leprosy. Only one returned! Do we truly have a heart and an attitude of thanksgiving to God for all of the many blessings He has bestowed upon us? How do we truly show our thanks and appreciation to God? I am personally thankful for my priesthood, being pastor of my home parish here at St. James Church, for my dedicated staff, and for the benefactors and stewards in our parish. We must acknowledge in thanksgiving and gratitude for what God has done for us, and for what God is continuing to do for us. I hope and pray that our parish foster’s a spirit and attitude of thanksgiving and gratitude to Almighty God. Let us never take anything for granted, especially for God hearing prayers and for blessing them!
It’s time to be bold! It’s time to be bold in our faith! Can you even imagine what our parish would look like if we were bold in our faith life? The time is NOW for us to be bold and passionate in our faith life! Every day God grants us and blesses us with a glorious purpose according to God’s divine will for creation. You and I are called to love God, know God, and serve God in this lifetime NOW here on this earth. Do we acknowledge that God has blessed us, and how do we truly show our gratitude and thanks to God for all of His blessings He has bestowed upon us? Every prayer, and I do mean every prayer that I have petitioned, or offered has been answered. I’m just waiting to see when our parish community will get bold and passionate in its faith, and to see it manifested in a life of Christian stewardship and evangelization with our 440 registered families. I tell God every day that I truly do His divine will within my life, and that I continue to shepherd the flock He has entrusted to me. We will all have to stand before the Judgment seat of God and explain our passionate or “lukewarm” practice of our faith. For this new month of October, let’s all take a risk and be bold in our faith life!
On Sunday afternoon of September 18 at the Ford Park Arena, I attended the Mass celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of the Diocese of Beaumont, which our parish community belongs to. I must admit that I was very impressed to see over 3,000 people attending this historical event. It was great to see the good turnout of deacons, diocesan priests, religious order priests, bishops from Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Illinois. Overall, it was a splendid revelation of the universality of the Roman Catholic Church by seeing the various cultures and different socio-economic backgrounds. The liturgy itself represented everyone who worships and serves in the Diocese of Beaumont. By the grace of God the Diocese of Beaumont has existed for 50 years and now we must pray to embrace the challenges we must face as a Church today and for the future. There is no doubt that God blessed the event of our 50th Anniversary celebration. For those from our parish community, who were able to attend this historical event, I hope that you enjoyed this blessed event because a 50th Anniversary celebration only happens once in a lifetime. It is my hope and prayer that this 50th Anniversary will be the beginning of the renewal and revitalization of the faith in our Diocese of Beaumont.
This weekend the Diocese of Beaumont gathers on September 18, at the Ford Park Arena Complex for a special Mass and celebration of 50 years as a diocese. Pope Paul VI established the Diocese of Beaumont back in 1966 and we were one of two Roman Catholic dioceses created in the United States following the Second Vatican Council. We have had as shepherds Bishop Vincent Harris (1966-1971), Bishop Warren Boudreaux (1971-1977), Bishop Bernard Ganter (1977-1993), Bishop Joseph Galante (1994-2000), and currently Bishop Curtis Guillory, S.V.D., since 2000. We have seen many changes here in Port Arthur since the diocese was established. In this city we have gone from 1 Catholic high School and 6 Catholic parochial schools to only 1 parochial school. One parish created (Queen of Vietnam Church, 1977) and one parish merged; Sacred Heart and St. Mary in 2006. Port Arthur’s population was over 66,000, and to date it is over 53,000. It may appear that I’m focusing on obvious declining statistics, but we need to address the changes and face the challenges. In 1966, St. James parish had over 1,500 registered households with 5 priests assigned, a convent with over 14 religious sisters assigned, and a parish school that had grades Kindergarten through Eighth. Today in 2016, we have one priest and one deacon assigned, no religious sisters assigned, and the parish school has been closed. Following the closing, the school building was demolished and we currently only have about 440 registered families in our parish. Let us work together and pray together to renew, revitalize, and strengthen the faith here in our parish, in the city, and in the Diocese of Beaumont. May we cooperate with God’s will in carrying out the mission that He has entrusted to us. May God bless and renew the Diocese of Beaumont as we celebrate the past 50 years and the many years to come.
This weekend’s Gospel from Luke offers insight and reflection on several parables offered by Jesus. What is the wisdom Jesus is attempting to get us to comprehend in this weekend’s Gospel? The first question is why is Jesus associating with sinners? The next question is what is the purpose of the parables of finding the lost sheep that strays from the flock, the woman who discovers the lost coin, and the parable of the prodigal son? All of these parables tie into the teaching of finding those lost souls who are repeat offenders in sin, yet fostering reconciliation. I remind us all that the Church is not an institution for the righteous and perfect, but instead the Church should be recognized as a hospital for the sin-sick souls and souls who are lost. The Church is to be seen as an instrument of God’s love, mercy, and reconciliation, rather than a place that condemns and judges. It is not a coincidence that behind us is the Christus St. Mary’s Healthcare Center that offers physical wellness and healing, and here at St. James Parish we offer Jesus Christ, the divine physician, who heals our wounded and broken souls. Our mission here at St. James Parish is to seek out the lost souls and welcome those who feel lost or wounded in their souls-that all will receive the healing and renewing love and mercy of the Lord.