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Our Faith Journey

Welcome to “Our Faith Journey” Blog.

This blog is an opportunity to share with our Ursuline School community that which is most important to us -- our faith journey. Each of us is on a journey and we hope that you enjoy reading the reflections of our faculty, staff and students.

St. Benedict

On July 11, the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of Saint Benedict of Nursia, the sixth-century abbot who gave Christian monasticism its lasting foundation in Western Europe.  For his historic role as the “Father of Western Monasticism,” St. Benedict was declared a co-patron of Europe (along with Saints Cyril and Methodius).

Born to upper-class parents in modern-day Italy during the year 480, Benedict was sent to Rome to study the humanities. However, he soon became disgusted with the loose morals that prevailed among the students. Withdrawing from the city, he lived briefly with a group of monks, then as a hermit.

The young man spent three years in solitude, facing and overcoming severe temptations through prayer and asceticism. Only after doing so, did he have the confidence to emerge as an organizer of monastic communities. His first monasteries were established in the Anio valley outside Subiaco.  Benedict's monasteries in Subiaco became centers of education for children, a tradition which would continue in the order during his lifetime and beyond. His monastic movement, like its forebears in the Christian East, attracted large numbers of people who were looking to live their faith more deeply.

During 529, Benedict left Subiaco for Monte Cassino, 80 miles south of Rome. The move was geographically and spiritually significant, marking a more public emergence of the Western monastic movement. Benedict destroyed a pagan temple atop the mountain, and built two oratories in its place.  It was most likely at Monte Cassino that the abbot drew up a rule of life, the famous “Rule of St. Benedict,” which emphasised prayer, work, simplicity, and hospitality. Though known as a rule for monks, it is addressed to all those who seek “to do battle for Christ the Lord, the true King.”

Benedict's life was marked by various intrigues and miraculous incidents, which are described in his biography written by Pope St. Gregory the Great. St. Scholastica, Benedict's sister, also embraced religious life as a nun. She most likely died shortly before him, around the year 543. In his final years, the abbot himself had a profound mystical experience, which is said to have involved a supernatural vision of God and the whole of creation. Around the age of 63, Benedict suffered his final illness. He was carried into the church by his fellow monks, where he received the Eucharist for the last time. Held up by his disciples, he raised his hands in prayer for the last time, before dying in their arms.

Posted by schifinp on Saturday July 11
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Closing of Catholic Schools

Press release from Archdiocese of New York

The Office of the Superintendent of Schools of the Archdiocese of New York today announced 20 Catholic schools will be unable to reopen in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Three schools will merge. The coronavirus public health crisis has had a devastating financial impact on Catholic school families and the greater Archdiocese. Mass unemployment and continuing health concerns have resulted in families’ inability to pay their current tuition, and a significantly low rate of re-registration for the fall; while months of cancelled public masses and fundraising for scholarships have seen a loss of parish contributions which traditionally help support the schools.

“Children are always the most innocent victims of any crisis, and this COVID-19 pandemic is no exception,” said Timothy Cardinal Dolan Archbishop of New York. “Too many have lost parents and grandparents to this insidious virus, and now thousands will not see their beloved school again. I’ve kept a hopeful eye on our schools throughout this saga and my prayers are with all of the children and their families who will be affected by this sad news. Given the devastation of this pandemic, I’m grateful more schools didn’t meet this fate, and that Catholic schools nearby are ready to welcome all the kids.”

Much deliberation and analysis went into the final determination of which schools would not reopen. It is expected these changes, which will impact approximately 2,500 students and 350 staff, will have the positive effect of ensuring the overall fiscal stability and strengthen the vitality of New York Catholic schools for decades to come.

“The reality of these schools being lost is painful, and it was only accepted reluctantly after a detailed study was conducted of their respective fiscal standing in the wake of the coronavirus public health crisis,” said Superintendent of Schools Michael J. Deegan. “I have been a Catholic school educator for more than 40 years, and could never have imagined the grave impact this pandemic has had on our schools. If more assistance is not forthcoming in the longed for HEROES Act now before Congress, I am afraid even more might close.  This is a very sad day for everyone in the extended Catholic school community. I send my love and prayers to the families, teachers, principals and staff of the affected schools.”

Posted by schifinp on Friday July 10
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Call and Response

Jesus said to his Apostles:  “As you go, make this proclamation:  ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’  Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons.  Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.  Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts; no sack for the journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or walking stick.  The laborer deserves his keep. Whatever town or village you enter, look for a worthy person in it, and stay there until you leave.  As you enter a house, wish it peace. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; if not, let your peace return to you.  Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words-- go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet.  Amen, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.”  Matthew 10: 7 – 15

Today’s Gospel is challenging to say the least.  We are witnessing the bestowal of a great dignity upon these twelve followers of Jesus. They are sent to proclaim in word and deed that the kingdom of God is at hand. They are to preach and to heal, just as Jesus did, and they are to live in such a way that their very life, in all its details, speaks this proclamation.

As followers of Jesus, our calling to witness in such a way as the first twelve is no less present in our time. We live in a world starving for this good news. Some will be called to go to distant lands; some will not. But whoever we are with, our witness ought to be no less present. Such a witness demands that we frequently ask ourselves: To what and to whom am I leading those around me? Are my words and deeds leading those around me to the hope of the kingdom, to Jesus?  Let us always remember this Gospel invitation.

Posted by schifinp on Thursday July 9
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Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;

Where there is hatred, let me so love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light and

Where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master,

Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;

To be understood as to understand;

To be loved as to love;

For it is in giving that we receive;

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.

Posted by schifinp on Wednesday July 8
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St. Teresa

May today there be peace within. May you trust your highest power that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content knowing you are a child of God. Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance. It is there for each and every one of you. AMEN! - St. Teresa

Posted by schifinp on Tuesday July 7
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Come to Me

At that time Jesus exclaimed: “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones.  Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.  All things have been handed over to me by my Father.  No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”                    Matthew 11: 25 – 30

Over the years in ministry this scripture passage has taken on incredible meaning for me.  Having worked with every age level in education I have seen firsthand how young people appreciate the simple things of life.   It is heartwarming to watch children especially at this time of year.  Watching children watch firework displays is an incredible sight.  They watch in wonder and awe as the fireworks burst in colorful displays.  In our gospel today, Jesus speaks here of His intimate connection to the Father revealing Himself to be both the way of love and mercy. Having carried the weight of the world, He asks for us to merely trust him with our daily load.

We are asked to allow Jesus to be in control yet we do not easily allow Him to.  If we allow Jesus to lift our burdens we would feel so much better.  As we go through each day let us remember that even the desire to pray is the beginning of prayer.  Each time we come to prayer our soul finds rest in our loving God.  Let us be open as we recall, “Only in God will my soul be at rest, from God comes my hope, my salvation.”

Posted by schifinp on Sunday July 5
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An Independence Day Prayer

On this the 244th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence we pray: Gracious and loving God, let your spirit be with us today. Hear our prayers, and increase in us the will to follow your son, Jesus. Help us to draw on the resources of our faith as we use the opportunities of our democracy to shape a society more respectful of the life, dignity, and rights of the human person, especially the poor and vulnerable. We ask this through Jesus Christ, your son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.  A happy and blessed 4th of July to each one.

Posted by schifinp on Saturday July 4
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Online Retreat

 

 

Online Retreat

A friend shared with me the following information about an Online Retreat.

Here’s a great opportunity for young adults seeking how God is calling them during this challenging time. Catholics on Call, based in Chicago, is offering an online retreat experience during the week of July 20-24, called Direction for Your Life in Uncertain Times.  

Speakers will upload content, and there will be prayer experiences.  All can be accessed asynchronously, as each person’s schedule permits during the retreat week. There will be three times as a whole group over the Zoom platform for prayer, small group breakouts, and large group discussions.  Those synchronous elements will take place at 7:00 pm CDT on July 20, July 22, and July 24.  They will last 60-90 minutes.

 This online retreat experience is free of charge for any young adult between 18 and 40.  Register at https://ctu.edu/event/direction-for-your-life-in-uncertain-times/

 

Posted by schifinp on Friday July 3
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Grace

I read this story on social media and loved it.  As you read it I hope it has the same impact on you that it did on me.

At the grocery store this morning and heard a loud crash and something shattering. Being nosy, I walked towards the sound and saw some people whispering and looking back to the end of the next aisle. When I walked down that aisle, I saw an older lady had hit a shelf and many things had fallen to the ground and broke. She was kneeling on the floor embarrassed, frantically trying to clean up.

I felt so bad for her, and everyone was just standing there staring at her. So I went and knelt beside her and told her not to worry and started helping her pick up the broken pieces. After about a minute, the store manager came and knelt beside us and said, “Leave it, we will clean this up.” The lady, totally embarrassed said, “I need to pay for all this first.” The manager smiled, helped her to her feet and said, “No ma’am, we have insurance for this, you do not have to pay anything!”

If you have read this far, I would like for you to give me a minute. Wherever you are, close your eyes, and imagine God doing the same for you!

Collecting the pieces of your broken heart from all the blows life has thrown at you. The bill for your faults, sin and folly has already been paid through the precious blood of Christ. God will heal all your wounds. He wants to gently lift you to your feet again, clean up your mess, and pick up all the broken pieces. He wants to heal you! He wants to take care of your soul!

We can have that same insurance and it’s called GRACE!

Posted by schifinp on Wednesday July 1
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Moving Up 2020

Today our eighth-grade class had their Moving Up ceremony.  In a socially distanced, beautifully prepared Liturgy and Ceremony we celebrated these young women.  They have worked hard as a class and have looked out for one another.  It was so nice to have a Liturgy at our school today as it was the first one since Ash Wednesday.  May they always trust in God's abundant love for them.

We thank you, God of joy and hope, for this eighth-grade class of 2020.  Your spirit of wisdom has empowered their hard work and commitment during these unpresented times. In gratitude, we pray for their families and the many who have sacrificed and worked to see them to this hopeful moment.  Give them patience, hope and the courage to face the challenges of each day.

As you move up to high school we ask God: to comfort your fears with the full knowledge of the divine presence; to guide your feet as you move through life, to protect you while you help to lead future generations into the warmth and promise of God’s light.

St. Angela said, “Have confidence and strong faith that God will assist you in everything you do.  Pray to God. Depend on God’s strength.”  May you always trust in the call of St. Angela and be women of integrity, kindness and love.

Posted by schifinp on Tuesday June 30
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New Leadership Team Prayer

Today the Ursulines Community celebrates the transition to a new Leadership Team for the Ursulines of the Eastern Province. It is also an opportunity to express our gratitude to the Ursulines who have served as the Province Leadership Team for the past six years. As we gather today, at this significant moment, we recall the words of Sr. Susan Flood, our Prioress General, at the conclusion of the General Chapter:

We have made a commitment to work together towards New Life...And always, this new life will be for the sake of the world, so that the Good News might be shared more effectively.

We have so many reasons to be confident. We recall that Jesus promises life in all its fullness.

We stand in the footsteps of so many who have walked this path before us, women who responded generously and with commitment to the signs of their times as they discerned them, women who continued to make the path begun by Angela as she pointed towards Jesus.

How, then, can we not set forth on this next stage of our journey together as women filed with joy and hope, a joy and a hope which will ignite an energy for life in everyone we meet along the way.

God our Creator, we come today to express our gratitude for our outgoing and new provincial teams: Sisters Jane Finnerty, Ann Peterson, Pat Russell, Maureen Welch, Brenda Buckley, Pat Schifini. Bless them with the gifts of the Spirit that are needed to serve our province and its mission. Help them to undertake the work of our province with energy and hope. Help all of us, members to embrace them with support, love and prayer. Guide these Sisters to lead with integrity and prudence. Give them wisdom to make intelligent decisions. Give them courage to undertake the tough decisions with grace and fortitude. Help all of us to be supportive, welcoming and hope filled people. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Posted by schifinp on Sunday June 28
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Graduation 2020

Today we celebrated the Graduation of the Class of 2020.  Often referred to as the class with perfect vision the 148 of them proudly received their diplomas.  It was a very different ceremony to say the least.  For the past 25 years I have witnessed graduation from the Tully Gymnasium today it was on the Kelly Mac Field. Due to Covid – 19 restrictions we were limited on the number of people who could be on the field at one time so their parents and family guests stayed in their cars.  Seating was socially distanced and everyone was most cooperative. 

We began on time (as we do with all Ursuline events) and after the introduction of the dais the members of the Honors Choir sang the Star Spangled Banner beautifully.  It was so beautiful to hear them sing especially since they were not able to have a group practice before they sang.  Our two Salutatorians spoke eloquently about their time at Ursuline.  One had been a student for seven years and the other for four.  They shared their experience of being a student and growing up at Ursuline.  I was most touched by their remembrance of their Senior Retreat. May this class always remember that the plans may not work out the way they thought they would but nevertheless they work out as they should by the grace of God.  Our Valedictorian spoke of the many ways that this class used their social consciousness to make the world a better place. May they always look out for their families, their friends, one another and the world.

Posted by schifinp on Friday June 26
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Graduation

Tomorrow we celebrate the Graduation of our Class of 2020.  They have waited patiently for this day and have been willing to go with the flow.  We pray for them and their families as they prepare for this event.  The field has been readied, chairs are in place and tomorrow morning we will honor this class.  May they always be blessed in all that they do.

Graduation Prayer:

Gracious and caring God, our source of light, we ask for your almighty hand to be upon these graduates as we send them forward.  With their classes and grading now complete, may they strive toward excellence in all they do.  With the applause quieted, may they celebrate and lift up those around them.  With the speeches concluded, may their voices rise up to pronounce peace and justice in the world.  With the fanfare ceasing, may they find bliss in future endeavors and adventures.  With advanced degrees and credentials in hand, may their achievements grow and enrich their communities.  May they discover Holiness in the midst of life's blessings as well life's challenges as their careers commence, may they conduct their life's work with exceptional skill and integrity inspired to Go Forth and Set the World of Fire from this day onward. - Debra Mooney

Posted by schifinp on Thursday June 25
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Golden Rule

In today’s Gospel, Jesus recalls for us the Golden Rule – “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.”  This teaching can be found in every major religious tradition.  It sounds like such a simple direction to follow yet we tend to find it very difficult to do so.  Why is this so?  Is it do to our egos?  Are we afraid of being seen being kind to our fellow human beings?  What will it take for us to follow Jesus’ direction? 

Our world today does not positively look on being kind to all people.  We might be inclined to protest against unfair practices, we might hold signs at various protests or we may quietly pray for all involved.  No matter what we need to always remember Jesus’ call to treat others as we wish to be treated. For is we do this then we are living as Jesus calls us to.

Posted by schifinp on Tuesday June 23
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Reflection from Prayer Service for Racial Healing, Unity and Peace

On Saturday we had a very moving Prayer Service for Racial Healing, Peace and Unity.  At this Prayer Service one of our soon to be graduates shared her story and experience of living in today's uncertain times.  With her permission I post her story to our blog today.  Let us all pray for an end to division and recognize that each one of us is made in the image and likeness of God.

Good afternoon my name is Grace Prince a graduating senior at the Ursuline School. I am biracial and I believe it is my mission to bring unity between my two cultures but in order to do so, as I recognize my own privilege that I have as a light skin black woman please I encourage you to do the same.

The death of George Floyd and many others has sparked outrage this past month but none of this is nothing new to black people. Since the first slave ship arrived in America 400 years ago we are still being shot, lynched, and strangled with this racist ideology that this country belongs to them. My people did not choose to come to this country and I want to be clear that this country would be nothing without the sweat, blood, and tears of my ancestors and the black counterparts around you today.

The protests in 2016 following Travyon Martin’s murder versus now are rooted in the same issue but it is only now that finally, white people are realizing the evilness and inhumanity shown towards Black men and women on a daily basis through these videos and recordings. Even with proof of wrongdoing we still do not receive justice for the lives that have been lost like Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others.

Putting someone behind bars though never truly brings justice to the life that has been lost. George Floyd’s children will never get their father back.

It is very hard for me to share my feelings today. It has been difficult for me to turn my pain into words. The worry of perpetuating the stereotype of an angry black woman is in the back of my mind as I speak to you today. When the fact is I am angry and I don’t care anymore what people think. I cannot be quiet when my brothers and sisters are being killed for jogging, driving, babysitting, sleeping, shopping, or walking home from getting candy. What type of country do we live in? That we are so proud to be from. Land of the free, home of the brave. There really should be a subtext at the end of it where it says that this does not apply to people of color because we are often killed for doing or not doing anything.

I cry almost every night because I wonder which one of my friends or family members is next. The only thing that might cause my friends and me more pain, would be to be at school right now and sit next to other students and teachers who attempt to minimize our pain and suffering.

This bigotry is not something that only exists in the South or far away but rather I can pretty much guarantee you I have seen or heard of students in every Westchester school who have posted or said something that was blatantly racist and has still been allowed to walk the halls with minimal punishment if at all. What message does that send to your students of color? It tells us that you do not respect or value our existence. It tells us that we are seen as less than human in comparison to our white counterparts 

White privilege is a real thing. Everyone here is invested in the education of young people. YOUNG PEOPLE ARE THE FUTURE. As educators, you have the FUTURE in your hands. You say we are all one student body united or that racism is not tolerated here, but then prove it! Your actions speak louder than words. We can talk all we want but what is going to be different when students return in September. We need more Ms. Tietjen’s, Ms. Robertson’s, and Ms. Buster's in the schools. It is your responsibility to prevent the next generation of George Zimmerman’s, Derek Chauvin’s, or David Duke’s. And instead, uplift and celebrate the black voices in your classroom! Use your privilege and power for good.

To the administrators here, it is your responsibility to make your school a safe haven for not just the white students but for the ones who do not look like you. We are the ones who need it the most. Students of BIPOC students (black indigenous, and POC) experience so much racism outside of the classroom it should not be accepted inside the classroom from both the students and the people you hire to teach them. The people you hire sometimes spend just as much if not more time with us than our own parents do. Hire people who elevate and encourage the success of young black men and women. The individuals you hire have a huge impact on the lives of all students no matter what race, religion, or sexual orientation they belong to so, please stop and really listen to our pain. Listen to the voices of your students. Listen to their hurt and take it personally, because every killing is personal to me. We notice everything you do, the way you speak to us versus our counterparts, or how you do not speak to us. Pride just yourself on not just denouncing racism and being anti-racist but rather being pro-black and pro-people of color because never has the value of a white person’s life been questioned. Your actions have a greater impact on the people in the community than you notice.

To my fellow people of color, especially those who have not graduated yet, keep fighting. You are beautiful and your life matters!

To the allies who came here today, thank you for supporting us but remember that this is not enough. Vote for those who support black people at all levels of government. Push for more inclusive administrators and staff. Finally, use your money to support black-owned businesses and educate yourself on the values of the organizations you are supporting. A reminder especially to the women here, nobody is equal until we are all equal. And yes I am an angry black woman.

As we pray for racial justice, healing, and unity please let’s not forget all of the names of countless black men and women whose wrongful deaths we do not know about or never received justice.

Posted by schifinp on Monday June 22
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Happy Father's Day

Today we celebrate Father’s Day.  The presence of fathers in the lives of children is important to their growth, development, and well‑being. Fathers serve as role models to their children, exemplifying hard work, devotion to family, self-confidence, and faith. Through their character, determination, strength, and direction, they guide our futures toward happiness. Thus, it is no surprise that research increasingly shows involved fathers can help foster self-esteem, success in school, empathy, and positive behavior in their children.

By raising children to be happy, productive, and responsible adults, fathers play a critical role in shaping our society. Our fathers set an example for us of how to be our best in every aspect of our lives. The lessons they teach us guide us as we strive to care for our families, succeed at school and at work, serve others, and contribute to our communities.

Today we celebrate all those who have been or are fathers and those who have served as father figures for children.  May all fathers and father figures know the love and gratitude of their children.  Happy Father's Day to all!

Posted by schifinp on Sunday June 21
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Prayer Service for Racial Healing, Peace and Unity

Over the past month, our country has watched, yet again, as Black men and women have been killed, and millions across our nation have come together, as we do today, to call for justice and change. As Christians, and as members of our Catholic school communities, we are called to attend to the needs of our brothers and sisters, to speak out against injustice, and to pray that all members of our nation are truly seen as children of God.

Today, our school communities of Salesian, Ursuline and Iona Prep are praying and working for justice, healing and unity throughout the world, asking God for his gift of peace and safety for the whole human family. When it is hard for us to find peace in our hearts, peace with our neighbor or peace in the world, we turn to our loving God to show us the way.  Let us take this time today to reflect on Jesus’ message of peace. Let us think about how Jesus calls us to live this message: by praying for peace, by working for peace, and becoming makers of peace, as sons and daughters of God. 

Opening Prayer: God of justice, in your wisdom you create all people in your image, without exception. Through your goodness, open our eyes to see the dignity, beauty, and worth of every human being. Open our minds to understand that all your children are brothers and sisters in the same human family. Open our hearts to repent of racist attitudes, behaviors, and speech which demean others. Open our ears to hear the cries of those wounded by racial discrimination, and their passionate appeals for change. Strengthen our resolve to make amends for past injustices and to right the wrongs of history. And fill us with courage that we might seek to heal wounds, build bridges, forgive and be forgiven, and establish peace and equality for all in our communities. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Posted by schifinp on Saturday June 20
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Juneteenth

On June 19, 1865, enslaved African-Americans in Galveston, Texas, were told they were free. Now, 155 years later, people in cities and towns across the U.S. continue to mark the occasion with celebrations.  Juneteenth, an annual holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, has been celebrated by African-Americans since the late 1800s.

But in recent years, and particularly following nationwide protests over police brutality and the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and other African-Americans this year, there is a renewed interest in the day that celebrates freedom. The holiday received its name by combining June and 19. The day is also sometimes called “Juneteenth Independence Day,” “Freedom Day” or “Emancipation Day.”

The original celebration became an annual one, and it grew in popularity over the years with the addition of descendants, according to Juneteenth.com, which tracks celebrations. The day was celebrated by praying and bringing families together. In some celebrations on this day, men and women who had been enslaved, and their descendants, made an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston.

Let us take time this day to reflect on the importance of this day.  Let us always strive to work for racial healing, peace and justice in all we do.

Posted by schifinp on Friday June 19
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Motivation, Motivation, Motivation

Jesus said to his disciples:  “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.  When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others.  Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them.  Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.  They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting.  Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden.  And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”   Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

Motivation, motivation, motivation!  Why do we do the things we do?  In today’s Gospel, Jesus wants us to be mindful of our motivations.  Rather than being motivated for our own well-being we are challenged to be motivated for others.  Everything we do should be motivated by our love of God and God’s love for us.  We are called to be Gospel people and should always act out of charity.  Our actions should be motivated by what Jesus would do rather than a fear of how others would view us.  We are asked to act and not blow our horns about it.  There is no need for everyone to know what you are doing is what our scripture reminds us of today.  Let us live each day that everything we do should be pleasing to God.

Posted by schifinp on Wednesday June 17
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Eighth Grade Drive Thru

Today we welcomed our Eighth Grade to school for a drive thru to pick up their Moving Up gowns and a few surprise treats.  It was so nice to see them in person rather than on a Zoom class.  They were so excited to be at school and are looking forward to their Moving Up Ceremony later this month.  On this special day for our young ladies I offer to them the following blessing:

May God bless you with the courage to follow your dreams and the wisdom to make good choices for your future.

May you never forget the lessons you’ve learned about being a good Christian.

May your future be filled with the rewards that come with hard work and always doing the right thing.

As you go forward on this day to new and exciting challenges, may the Lord bless you and keep you.  May our loving God make His face to shine upon you and give you peace.  And may almighty God bless you Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Posted by schifinp on Tuesday June 16
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Radical Love

Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.  When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.  If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well.  Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.  Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.”  Matthew 5: 38 – 42

Today’s Gospel is the familiar story of how Jesus turned the notion of equal retribution on its head.  Instead of seeking and enacting revenge Jesus tell us to return good for evil.  Imagine how the people of His day felt about that.  It was a radical idea then and it is probably even more radical today.  Jesus wants us to offer no resistance as he did.  During his lifetime He sought only to do good and avoid any evil.

In our current times it is most difficult to see beyond our human frailty. We are often unable to let go of things and offer them up as Jesus encourages us to do so.  Today and each day let us choose to return good for evil and radically love others.

Posted by schifinp on Monday June 15
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Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ

From the Archdiocese of New York

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. We can all agree that this year is different from any other year. Due to the unfortunate and devastating pandemic, when our parishes closed their doors in order to keep us safe, we have been away from the Eucharist since Lent. Fortunately our churches are reopening as the city advances in its plan to return to the normality we all seek to experience again. Soon we will be able to receive the Eucharist in person, some of you may be able to today, if you live in Westchester or above. 

Let us reflect today on how central the Eucharist is in the life of the Church. This sacrament that is not only an external sign of a grace given by God, it is also God himself becoming as small as a host that we can consume. As Catholics we believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, we believe in the sanctification of our souls through this mystery, and in the promise of eternal life to all who receive Him. Do these truths make the Eucharist a central part of our individual life? Do we yearn to receive Him desperately? Many of our martyr saints died for the faith and for the Eucharist. For some of us believing in these truths and the desire to consume His Body and Blood has kept us going during this quarantine. Some of us have come to appreciate this divine gift and will never again take it for granted.

Yet perhaps some of us have had a different experience. Perhaps we can’t say that we miss the Eucharist. Perhaps we can’t recognize the miracle of the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into Jesus’ body and blood, and realize the magnitude of this divine reality. It is not easy to believe that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist. We learn in the Gospel of John that when Jesus explained to his disciples and the crowd in Capernaum that they had to eat His flesh and His blood to have eternal life, “many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him” (John 6:66).  To believe Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist takes faith, so we must pray for an increase of faith if this is something we may be lacking now.

On this day that we celebrate the Eucharist as Jesus’ Body and Blood, a gift to us, let us pray for an increase in our faith.  Let us also pray for a greater appreciation for the ability to receive Him once again. During this time of quarantine we have been able to experience the reality of many nations abroad that cannot receive the Body and Blood of our Lord because of religious oppression or due to a lack of priests. We pray, with the intercession of the saints, we will all one day come into full communion with our Almighty Father.

Posted by schifinp on Sunday June 14
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St. Anthony of Padua

St. Anthony of Padua is one of the Catholic Church’s most popular saints. Saint Anthony of Padua, patron saint of lost and stolen articles, was a powerful Franciscan preacher and teacher. He’s typically portrayed holding the child Jesus—or a lily—or a book—or all three—in his arms.  Many people give alms to St. Anthony Bread in thanksgiving to God for blessings received through the prayers of St. Anthony.

St. Anthony of Padua’s life is what every Christian’s life is meant to be; a steady courage to face the ups and downs of life, the call to love and forgive, to be concerned for the needs of others, to deal with crisis great and small, and to have our feet solidly on the ground of total trusting love and dependence on God.  St Anthony is beloved throughout the world and is responsive to all people and all needs.  His intercessory powers before our God are awesome.

The reason for invoking St. Anthony’s help in finding lost or stolen things is traced back to an incident in his own life. As the story goes, Anthony had a book of psalms that was very important to him. Besides the value of any book before the invention of printing, the psalter had the notes and comments he had made to use in teaching students in his Franciscan Order. 

A novice who had already grown tired of living religious life decided to depart the community. Besides going AWOL he also took Anthony’s psalter! Upon realizing his psalter was missing, Anthony prayed it would be found or returned to him. And after his prayer the thieving novice was moved to return the psalter to Anthony and to return to the Order, which accepted him back.

St. Anthony Bread is a term used for offerings made in thanksgiving to God for blessings received through the prayers of St. Anthony. Sometimes the alms are given for the education of priests. In some places parents also make a gift for the poor after placing a newborn child under the protection of St. Anthony. It is a practice in some churches to bless small loaves of bread on the feast of St. Anthony and give them to those who want them.

St. Anthony has been pictured by artists and sculptors in all kinds of ways. He is depicted with a book in his hands, with a lily or torch. Let us pray this day that St. Anthony helps us to find peace in our hearts, our homes and our world.

Posted by schifinp on Saturday June 13
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Celebrating a Life

Today I had the opportunity of attending the first Mass I have been to in person since March 8th.  Unfortunately it was the Mass of the Resurrection for my friend’s 27 year old son.  Given the circumstances it was a truly beautiful and moving experience.  I was pleasantly surprised at the way the Church had been set up to clearly mark social distancing requirements. Everyone had a mask or a face covering and kept them on. 

The celebration of Conor’s life was indeed just that – a celebration.  His parents gave a beautiful reflection as the Mass began sharing stories to help those who may not have known him have a sense of who he was.  Everything about the Liturgy was so familiar and calming.  It was even live streamed as his relatives in Ireland could not be present.  In these difficult times it was a true consolation that his family was able to celebrate his life this way.

Each day take time to be grateful for the time we have and those who are part of the journey.  May we always remember the gift that celebrating the Eucharist together is.  To celebrate Conor’s life at the great thanksgiving is something I will never forget.

Posted by schifinp on Thursday June 11
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The Gift of Love

Jesus said to his disciples:  “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.  I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.  Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.  Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven.  But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 5: 17 – 19

This passage in Matthew’s Gospel suggests that we need to show balance in our lives.  We are called to show in practice the objective of the Old Law: to attain in people’s lives the practice of love. Jesus says, “I have not come to abolish what was written before, but I have come to fulfill them!”

Jesus is trying to explain it is important to not ignore the law of Moses and the prophets and psalms. There has been some confusion among early Christians with some thinking that the mission of the community was to only follow the words of Jesus and ignore those who came before. They were suggesting that it wasn’t necessary to observe the laws of the Old Testament, because Jesus would save them by their faith alone in Him.

At the wake of a friend’s son I was struck by this call to love.  I spoke to his mom and said to her that his whole life he knew love because of her and now he had gone to the greatest gift of love.  He was home with Jesus and was now free from all his many earthly limitations.  She asked me if I really believed that he was now free of his limitations and I told her from the bottom of my heart I believed it.  The gift of love is the greatest gift we can we share with another person.  Let us always treasure God’s call to love and remember that one day we will return to love too.

Posted by schifinp on Wednesday June 10
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