I. SURVEY leading to a LONG RANGE PLAN: A vibrant, growing parish should always be looking toward the future—toward moving forward in a positive, fruitful manner. To some, the idea of long-range planning may mean “brick and mortar” plans (such as a parking lot, a parish hall, or classrooms). While brick-and-mortar plans may be a part of the future of Saint Stephen Cathedral, we must consider first our spiritual health: adult and youth education, evangelization, spiritual formation, financial and pastoral planning, stewardship, our parish presence in the online, digital world, and more! For the past few weeks, we have been encouraging parishioners to take a quick, easy survey. The survey is confidential and takes about 5 to 9 minutes to complete; there is space for additional comments at the end. With the guidance of the experts at Liturgical Publications, Inc., and as part of a diocesan pilot program, we will soon gather together a visioning team of parishioners to review and utilize the results of the survey to create a comprehensive long-range plan. Please take a moment to visit www.ststephencathedral.org or visit our Facebook page and take the survey. If you don’t have smartphone or computer access, just call the Parish Office and we will provide you with a hard copy. Your input is needed and important. We need you! Let your voice be heard!
II. LENT-EASTER Mail Out: arriving before Ash Wednesday, every registered parishioner should have received a pamph-let, listing many Lenten opportunities to grow our faith and deepen our relationship with the Lord. If, by chance, you did not receive this communication, please notify our office at 270/ 683-6525. “Is your soul drying up?”
III. DAY of PUBLIC CATHOLICISM: this Wednesday, March 6, is Ash Wednesday, a day when Catholics crowd churches everywhere to celebrate Mass and have ashes smeared upon their foreheads, symbolizing their desire for ongoing spiritual conversion. “Turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel.” May this not be an empty symbol, but one that brings new vitality to our souls. Our Ash Wednesday Masses at St. Stephen Cathedral will be at 7:00a.m. and 12:00noon. There is also Mass at 6:00p.m. at Blessed Sacrament Chapel (7th & Sycamore Streets). Fast & Abstain (next page).
Day of Strict Fast and Abstinence
To fast is to do without food. Its purpose is to experience the effects of not eating. It also serves as a penance or a sacrifice—for the purpose of strengthening us spiritually. When we don’t eat even for a while, we get hungry. When we get hungry we have a heightened sense of awareness. When we eat too much, we have a sluggish feeling; when we fast, we have a feeling of alertness. Fasting is a wonderful exercise whenever we want to sincerely ask for an important grace from God.
FASTING: On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday we are asked to FAST—what one eats that day equals no more than one full meal, with no food in between meals. Some choose too fast more often during this season of preparation for Easter.
ABSTAINING: is to not eat meat. Its purpose is to be an act of PENANCE, an act of SACRIFICE, that helps us grow in freedom to make much bigger sacrifices. Catholics are asked to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and during ALL the Fridays of Lent. For many people today, not eating meat is not a sacrifice; therefore, you are asked to do an additional penance in the spirit of “tried and worthy” discipline.
Whether it is fasting, abstaining, or other acts of penance, the desire is to use these means (disciplines) to purify ourselves inwardly, to grow closer to Jesus and prepare ourselves “to celebrate the Paschal mystery with minds and hearts renewed” (First Preface of Lent).
IV. MARVELOUS EXPERIENCE of INDIA: It is the custom in India to take off one’s shoes before entering a house of God—a Hindu temple, a Buddhist temple, a Christian church! It is also a sign of respect to take off one’s shoes before entering a house. I spent lots and lots of time taking off and putting on my shoes! There was something very respectful about this custom, which I liked. Of course, I could not help but think of the Scripture passage of Moses’ experience of God in the burning bush (read Exodus 3:1-17). “Take of your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” India is a land of holy ground. So many religions originated in this seasoned country of 1.3 billion people in a geographical area about one third the size of our United States!
What a privilege it was to visit Father Sinoj’s mother, Mariyam, and his family in Kanjoor on February 11. His siblings, Celine, Joshy, Sijo, and Sijo pointed out a picture of their father, Esthappanos (Stephen), who died 15 years ago. Fr. Sinoj’s pastor, Fr. Sebastian, joined us! We exchanged greetings, took photos (see St. Stephen Cathedral Facebook page), told them Fr. Sinoj sent his love and was looking forward to his vacation back to India in May. I was overwhelmed with hospitality! His family offered me to drink coconut water from a freshly picked coconut from the tree in their yard! We ate fresh pineapple, dates, and nuts for starters, followed by a hearty dinner fit for a king. Almost every meal consisted of rice prepared in a variety of ways (Indians eat rice like we eat bread). Often, fish, chicken, beef, or pork prepared in a special sauce is poured over the rice! Would you believe it, we also had birthday cake! Stay tuned!