Fr. Doug’s Sentencing

Today, August 4, Fr. Doug was sentenced in the Somerset County Courthouse.  For details, please read the following from the Diocese of Metuchen:

In addition, please read the following Letter from Fr. Abraham which is included in the August 8 bulletin.

Also, please note that the Diocese of Metuchen has created a new process whereby anyone who suspects any financial impropriety in the diocese can file an anonymous and confidential report through the EthicsPoint independent third-party reporting system.  Reports can be made by calling the hotline 844-796-1296 or filed directly through the independent website:  diometuchen.ethicspoint.com.  Details are in the above Letter from Bishop Checchio to everyone in the diocese.

 

 

 

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – August 8, 2021

Dear Friends,

It is not easy for me to write about what we, as a parish community, are going through in the context of the sentencing of Fr. Doug on Wednesday, August 4. Of course the sentencing date was known to all of us in May when Fr. Doug pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree theft for misusing the parish money for his own personal use. Yet the sentencing itself brings about mixed feelings.

On the one hand there is the sadness and compassion I, many of our staff, and many more of our parishioners feel towards our longtime pastor Fr. Doug who has to suffer this unfortunate consequence for his culpable actions. In my first Sunday homily after taking over the stewardship of St. Matthias in November 2018, I had said this, referring to Fr. Doug: “No human being can be defined by one mistake – no matter how big it may be.” I wish to repeat the same now that he is sentenced. Even as we accept the legal system for justice, we need to be more conscious of God’s will for us at this time, the call to be compassionate in our judgments and to offer forgiveness. The sinfulness in all of us should make us say, “If not for the grace of God, there go I.” Are we humble enough to have this attitude?

On the other hand, this brings us all a sense of closure and we need to move forward in our healing and growth as a parish community that has gone through this awful crisis of betrayal of trust. The way the investigation lingered for about three years has made the wound in our collective psyche take longer to heal. Now is the time for us to make a concerted effort to put this sad saga behind us and move forward with a renewed sense of hope for the revitalization of our parish. I am grateful to you for the constant support you have been giving me as you are aware of the many mechanisms I have put in place to prevent any such incidents in the future. Our excellent Finance Council has total access to carefully review all our financial matters and they have already communicated to you multiple times our financial health. Besides, our Bishop Checchio has put another mechanism in place (NAVEX Global EthicsPoint) for the whole diocese empowering anyone to alert the Diocese if any impropriety in a parish is suspected. I’m sure you already read about this anonymous hotline on our website and on other media. I wish to thank Bishop Checchio for his constant concern for St. Matthias and the guidance we received from the Diocesan leadership especially from Chancellor Kearns, Very Rev. Fr. Tim Christy the Vicar General, Msgr. John Fell, Tara Smith, the Communications Director and others.

As I continue to keep my promise of accountability, transparency, honesty and communication on all parish matters, especially on finance, I wish to continue my focus on our spiritual healing and growth. In this regard, may I suggest you to re-visit the series I had written two years ago, titled, “Healing Our Parish” which is on our website: https://www.stmatthias.net/series-on-healing-our-parish . That will be an invaluable help for us to ground ourselves in God’s grace and strength.

I humbly ask you to pray for me to lead this Community with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

I humbly ask you to reach out to me directly – or to Msgr Seamus Brennan – with ideas for moving our parish forward or for sharing concerns you may have about our parish.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

 

Approaching Holy Week & Communal Reconciliation Service

Dear Friends,

One more week and we will be entering Holy Week! Lent will come to an end soon. This is the right time to look at how our Lenten journey has been so far and how it still can be turned into a time for a more fruitful Christian living. Last Sunday I had mentioned in my homily about The Joy of the Gospel that Pope Francis gave us a couple of years ago. There he wrote: “The Church must be a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel.” (no.114). One visible sign of this is the “Communal Reconciliation Service” to be held on the evening of Palm Sunday here at St. Matthias.

But, why is this sacrament so important? We know that God invites us to “become the best version of ourselves.” And yet, if we are honest to ourselves, we will admit that there is a dark side in each of us, a sinful side that prevents what God invites us to become. Before entering the Holy Week to celebrate the most holy mysteries of our faith, it is ideal that we sweep the house clean by experiencing the loving forgiveness that God offers us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Our Communal service will have some scripture reading, reflections, songs and an Examination of Conscience.

Even though the pandemic has made it difficult for us all to be present in person, this prayer service will be also on our St. Matthias YouTube channel. Accessing it individually or as family can be very fruitful for all who wish to experience the joy that comes from the mercy of God. There will be opportunity for those who wish to have individual reconciliation. This will be the best gift we can give to ourselves when we prepare to renew and restore our relationship with Jesus and the Church before Easter.

A sentence in one of the newsletters from “Catholic Update” (from Liguori Publications) made me reflect: “When we choose not to forgive, we cheat ourselves of the joy of living. When we harbor resentment in our hearts, our resentment becomes the lens through which we see reality.” All of us deserve the “joy of living.” Let us not allow the absence of forgiveness (both giving as well as receiving) to become the only obstacle between us and our joy of living. Let us reflect together and experience the joy of God’s mercy.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

 

Lent 2021

Dear Friends,

With a different way of receiving ashes on our forehead this year, we have just entered the holy season of Lent. We all need some good motivation if we want to make Lent a success, that is, to make Lent truly meaningful and fulfilling for us. The motivation is the awareness that we can be better and holier persons, that we can go beyond our present situation and experience true peace and joy, if only we are willing to make some changes in our lives.

Any attempt to build a spiritual life that neglects the pillars of prayer, fasting and almsgiving is like building on sand. That’s why the gospel we heard on Ash Wednesday is worth reading and reflecting over again. Please read Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18. Jesus is teaching us some good lessons in that passage: Prayer purifies our intentions and relates all we do to God. Fasting detaches us from our comfort and ourselves. Almsgiving reflects our brotherhood/sisterhood with the poor of Jesus’ family and reminds us that our true wealth is not in things, but in the love of God. We all need to do a reality check of our spiritual lives to make sure we are committed to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

Speaking of prayer as the first pillar: As we all know, Covid-19 had forced us to suspend our 8 am and 5:30 pm Masses on Sundays. Considering the limited number of people attending Mass in person due to obvious safety reasons, there is no compelling reason to restore them in the immediate future. And yet, it is good to give an opportunity to those who wish to have one more option for Mass during Lent. Hence I will restore the 8 am Mass on a temporary basis during the four Sundays of March, on 7th, 14th, 21st and 28th. The livestreaming of the Masses will still continue.

Let me now leave you with this prayer: Lord, you know how much I need you and depend on you. You know my weakness and my faults. I put all my confidence in your love and mercy in my daily actions. I hope to learn to trust more in your power, your promise, and your grace. Lord, I wish to start this season of Lent with a sincere desire to grow in love, loving you more, loving my family and friends more, especially reaching out to those who I am not so fond of. Therefore Lord, help me learn to change what needs to change in my life. Give me the grace to begin this Lent with great enthusiasm and love, practicing a Lenten program of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Help me live it with joy, knowing that I am living it in your presence to please you and to live in true fellowship with those around me. Amen.

Have a happy and holy Lent.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

 

New Promethian Interactive Display Boards for St. Matthias School

Thank you to everyone who donated on “GivingTuesday” and on the “Day of Giving” to help us purchase Promethian Display Boards for our classrooms.  Our goal is to install one board in every classroom.  If you would like to help us reach our goal, click on this link to view the video featuring the Promethian Display Boards and to help us reach our goal!

 

 

St. Matthias Amazon Link

St. Matthias has joined the Amazon Associate program.  This provides a larger commission than Amazon Smile.  Every time you go to shop on Amazon, please first go to our Amazon page and click on any link.  Then continue shopping as you normally would.  This small step can make a big difference.  Thank you!

Fr. Abraham’s Christmas Message

Dear Friends,

Merry Christmas! Even when the usual celebrations of this happy season are marred by the pandemic, we all want to have some good feeling. I heard reports that there is a great shortage of Christmas Trees because, unlike other years, more people decided to buy trees to create a good feeling. We here at St. Matthias are blessed to have the initiative of “Spread the Light” with some 270 Christmas trees memorialized and lit for this whole season – thanks to Msgr. Curry.  It is wonderful to see so many people walking by the trees to bask in the light in the darkness!

But the source of this good feeling is Baby Jesus who is the reason for the season! Unless we give due importance to Him over all other external signs of celebrations like the Christmas trees, Rudolph, Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus, the Grinch, elves, and a long list of celebrated fictional characters that the media and companies present to us, there can be no genuine and lasting good feeling. Hence let me suggest three easy ways to go to the source – Jesus Christ – to experience lasting good feeling:

  1.     Take seriously the good news announced by the Angels: “Fear not, for behold, I announce to you glad tidings of great joy, which shall be to all the people” (Luke 2:10). We all know how fear can cripple us and take away our joy and peace. With all our intellect and innovations, we have not made our world safe and secure for ourselves and for our children. But we can destroy this fear and live joyfully if only we can take the message of Christmas seriously by believing in the Prince of Peace.
  2.     Give Baby Jesus one very special gift. Let this gift be something personal so that you don’t need to reveal it to anyone. What gift will please Jesus? Maybe the gift to forgive someone you’ve wanted to for a long time. If you do that, you will have the happy surprise of finding out that you were the one who really got the gift, because as Lewis B. Smedes wrote in his book, Forgive and Forget, “When you release the wrongdoer from the wrong, you cut a malignant tumor out of your inner life. You set a prisoner free, but you discover that the real prisoner was yourself.”
  3.     Read the Christmas story with your family this week, as I had suggested two weeks ago. Matthew and Luke are the Evangelists who we can depend on for the birth and infancy narratives of Jesus. The first two chapters from each of these gospels are ideal for this purpose. Read at least one chapter each day starting from today.

May your Christmas be filled with the wonder of “Emmanuel” (Mt.1:23: God-with-us). May His peace and joy illumine your hearts and your homes.

Merry Christmas!

Your brother in Christ,
Fr. Abraham Orapankal