Thanksgiving Message – November 2020

Dear Friends,

Thanksgiving usually brings lots of joy and fun with good family fellowship. Except that this year it won’t be Thanksgiving as usual! Most people, I hear, are opting for the most heartbreaking decision: a nuclear Thanksgiving! Celebration with just the immediate family. A wise decision to protect ourselves, our family and friends and the larger community from Covid-19. Yet the spirit of Thanksgiving will not be dead even with a subdued celebration. This year the pandemic makes us conscious of the importance of gratitude to two realities:

  1. Thanking God for the gift of each day. Often we take it for granted. Covid-19 teaches us that tomorrow is not guaranteed; all we have is today. Live the present moment fully and be alive with a grateful heart and joyful spirit.
  2. Thanking our immediate family. The lockdown can be seen as a blessing in disguise for so many families to grow closer and to appreciate each other better.

Why not begin the Day of Thanksgiving by attending the 8 am Mass in our Church either in person or online? That will set the right tone for the rest of the day. When we consider the unbelievable loss of life in every family in the first year of the arrival of the early settlers, no one would have blamed them for setting aside a day of mourning, instead of a day of Thanksgiving. But they chose to commemorate their time in the new world with a day of Thanksgiving despite the grief, poverty and illness. It is also good to remember that President Lincoln’s declaration of a national day of Thanksgiving happened in the midst of a devastating Civil War. Today, faced with the threat of a tiny but deadly virus, let us spend this day with a greater sense of gratitude to God and to one another.

Today’s Feast of the Solemnity of Christ the King is the signal that the Church’s calendar year is coming to an end and that we are about to start the new year! Thus, the First Sunday of the New Year in the Liturgical Calendar is next Sunday as we begin the season of Advent! It is good for us to know that today’s feast was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925 as an antidote to secularism, a way of life which leaves God out of our thinking and living, and organizes life as if God did not exist. The feast is meant to proclaim, in a striking and effective manner, Christ’s royalty over individuals, families, society, governments, and nations. May we all recognize this truth and continue our efforts to honor Jesus by living his values.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal


“Another Bigger Pandemic?”

Dear Friends,

I have heard some experts say that we need to be ready for a bigger pandemic than coronavirus: the mental health problem. We are all shocked that all areas of our lives are suddenly disrupted. Change in our work schedule, keeping social distancing, living in isolation, dealing with family, and facing financial uncertainties are just some of the factors that can cause stress leading to depression. Dr. Robert Leahy, an attending psychologist at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, the author of The Worry Cure and Keeping Your Head After Losing Your Job, and a national expert in cognitive therapy, says: “This is the perfect storm for depression and anxiety. We are facing a national trauma, whether it’s the fear of being infected or infecting someone else, or the economic downturn, and many people are isolated.” Yes, fear is a big factor that we need to face in order to reduce anxiety. Overcoming fear will increase our hope and joy so that we can be stronger during this pandemic. There are many tips out there given by various experts. But here are five of my personal suggestions:

Listen to God’s reassurance “Do not fear!”: This is in today’s Gospel. Did you know that similar promises, not to fear or not be anxious, are mentioned 365 times in the Bible? This reminds us that God wants us to be living without fear each day of the year. Hence believe that God’s protection is with us daily.

Count the blessings and practice gratitude: it is so easy to focus on what we miss during this pandemic. True, we miss our freedom to travel where we want, meet who we want, eat where we want, etc. Focusing on these will certainly make us moody, irritable, and sad. Instead, look at the blessings that we still can enjoy: blessings of life, family, easy availability of food, connectivity with people, etc. and thank God for these daily.

Follow a schedule: When we have unstructured time, we can become lazy or lethargic. We tend to procrastinate. Instead, following a regular schedule will keep us in good shape physically, mentally and spiritually. This will make us feel good about ourselves.

Use every opportunity for personal spiritual enrichment: This is an excellent way to fortify ourselves against depression. Our parish offers daily Mass (in person and online) and Gospel sharing on Wednesdays of summer via zoom. Other means — personal meditations, intentionally choosing books or shows that are uplifting, etc. — are healthy.

Make family prayer a daily habit: Praying together as a family can be a challenge. To pray together daily can be a bigger challenge. But can each family decide some common time and day/days of the week to pray together? Read a Bible passage and reflect together or pray the rosary, or express what we are grateful for today. Make it a daily habit.

Each day can be positive or negative. It all depends on our attitude. The choice is ours to keep ourselves happy. I believe this is why St. Paul was able to say: “Rejoice in the Lord always; I will say it again, Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)

God bless us all.

Your brother in Christ,
Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Series on Healing Our Parish

Healing Our Parish (series of 10 letters)

Sunday, December 16, 2018 – Healing Our Parish – Part 1 (of 10): Recourse to God

Dear Friends,

Why does the Church name today as “Gaudete” Sunday, asking us to rejoice? The prayers and readings invite us to be joyful. What is surprising is that this invitation to celebrate is in the midst of gloomy times! Thus, we see in today’s first reading, the prophet Zephaniah saying, “Shout for joy, O Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel.” Zephaniah made this prophetic proclamation at the height of the Jewish exile when things appeared hopeless and unbearable. St. Paul echoes the same message of joy in the second reading, taken from his letter to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again, rejoice… The Lord is in your midst… Fear not… be not discouraged… The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all…” Will you believe that Paul was imprisoned when he made this appeal for rejoicing?!!

This is something we need to reflect on. We, as a Parish Community, find ourselves in a sad situation. The dark clouds surrounding our parish can make us pessimistic. The hurt, anger and other feelings in the aftermath of those sad revelations are real for all of us. We need healing. Emotional wounds, unlike physical wounds, take much longer to heal. A quote from a social scientist is relevant here: “Memory without the emotional charge is wisdom.” When we reach a place where memory of what happened to our parish is no longer emotionally charged, we realize that we are healed.

But how do we do that? There are many steps. Today I wish to speak about the first one: Recourse to God. When we look at our parish situation, it is easy to be tempted to say, “This is a human failure and so deal with it in a human way.” True, we need to rectify the situation in a human way. But, we realize that we are a faith community whose head is Jesus Christ who is the true healer. We need to approach Him first for help. That’s why I believe that recourse to God’s Word at this time is the crucial first step. The Bible acknowledges our pain when the Psalmist cries out: “My heart is wounded within me…” (Ps 109). Only God can heal us. That’s why
Jeremiah prayed: “Heal me, LORD, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise.” (Jer 17:14)

Turning to God, praying and listening to God’s Word, will go a long way in helping us experience the healing we all need. May the remaining days of Advent help us in this first step. Yes God gives us reasons to be joyful and hopeful on this Gaudete Sunday!

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Sunday, December 23, 2018 – Healing Our Parish – Part 2 (of 10): Emotional Consequences

Dear Friends,

Last week I wrote about prayer as the first step in our process of healing. Today I wish to dwell on understanding one of the three kinds of damage to our Community — emotional, spiritual and financial. I was happily surprised to learn that this past September, Fr. Doug had initiated a parish-wide conversation on “The Church in Crisis,” in the context of the many scandals that have rocked the Church in general. I read the meeting’s summary which included very practical conclusions and meaningful suggestions that the Parish Pastoral Council submitted to our Bishop. This is a wonderful testimony of a parish community that loves Jesus Christ and His Church. Little did we know that we, ourselves, would have to deal with a crisis closer to home, soon after that exercise!

Our parish crisis has brought with it emotional, spiritual and financial consequences. Let me touch on the Emotional part today. What is the emotional damage and how do we deal with it? I must commend the Diocesan leadership for taking the right steps in communicating the situation to the Parish Community through Msgr. John Fell and Fr. Tim Christy. Immediately following this, we had a great opportunity to gather together when Bishop Checchio, himself, came and explained the situation and took time to listen to our emotions, as well as to answer our questions. As I speak with the staff, the Pastoral Council and many parishioners, I sense a plethora of feelings: shock, anger, sadness, shame, a sense of betrayal of trust, frustration and compassion. All of these feelings are natural, and they are to be acknowledged as normal. We can’t ignore them nor sweep them under the carpet. We need to face them and talk about them, as part of our healing process. As I said last week, only when we reach a place where the memory of this is not accompanied by the emotional charge, will we be healed.

But that is going to take some time. Why? For two reasons: first, emotional wounds take much longer to heal than physical wounds; second, these wounds may be re-opened, as our Bishop had mentioned, when the full scope of the situation is known, when we receive the report of the on-going audit, which will hopefully be soon.

Hence what I am proposing is this: We do not and cannot “get it over with;” instead we should try to “get on with it.” We need to realize that while we continue to feel the pain of what happened, we need to move on, holding on to the mission of St. Matthias which we have embraced willingly for so many years. Our Mission statement is an expression of the mission Jesus Christ has given to us, to live as His disciples in this community and to bring others to discipleship. In effect, we are becoming “wounded healers” – in the famous phrase of Henry Nouwen, the great spiritual writer. Only a wounded healer can appreciate the cross that Jesus carried.
God bless us in this effort.
Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Sunday, December 30, 2018 – Healing Our Parish – Part 3 (of 10): Spiritual Consequences

Dear Friends,

My reflection today on our parish crisis is on the spiritual consequences and on how to deal with them. An unexpected mistake by any spiritual leader can bring about a spiritual crisis in the congregation. Generally, many react in one of three ways: i) questioning the integrity of the leader, but deciding to stay and to take steps to prevent similar events in the future; ii) leaving the particular congregation for another church; iii) giving up on one’s faith/religion totally.

How did the Community of St. Matthias react to our current spiritual problem? My own observation and listening during this past month and a half, give me a great appreciation of the people of St. Matthias who have chosen the first option. No one approves of what happened to us. Faith may have been shaken for many, but as St. Paul said “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8–9). I thank God for your strong faith and rejoice that, because of Christ, we are not crushed, despairing, forsaken, or destroyed.

But, one question some parents have asked me is: “Fr. Doug was very well loved and respected; how do I explain this situation to my children when they ask about it?” I think even teachers may be struggling to answer students who ask this same question. This is a very natural part of the spiritual confusion. We need to address this question squarely with our kids. We cannot hide it nor wish it away. My suggestion is to tell the kids to imagine what they would feel if someone in the family made a big mistake or committed a crime. There would be an investigation, and there may be a court case and possibly penalties. But the mistake of one person does not make the whole family bad. We still love that person who is part of our family, even though we do not approve of the mistake that person made. Similarly, we love and pray for Fr. Doug, even though we do not approve nor condone his particular action that affected this parish negatively. I think the kids will understand the situation and they will only appreciate your honesty.

In this context, an important truth about our faith is to be kept in mind: it is not dependent on any human leader but on the divine leader Jesus Christ. To quote St. Paul again, we are truly “rooted and built up in Him, established in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, which are based on human tradition and the spiritual forces of the world rather than on Christ.…”(Colossians 2:7-8). The strength of the Community of St. Matthias is precisely this rootedness in the faith of Jesus Christ.

This Sunday we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Joseph and Mary had every reason to have a spiritual crisis. The promises of God did not match their experiences of poverty, confusion, insecurity and the need to flee with Baby Jesus to escape the wrath of the King. But they did not lose heart; they kept trusting in a God who called them to a particular mission. May the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph guide us, for we are the family of God here at St. Matthias. May the Christmas Blessings stay with you and your dear ones for the whole of 2019!

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Sunday, January 6, 2019 — Healing Our Parish – Part 4 (of 10): Financial Consequences

Dear Friends,

Having reflected on the emotional and spiritual consequences of our parish crisis, today I wish to focus on the financial consequences. It is not an exaggeration to say that the financial discrepancy has shocked and baffled us all. The revelations of what we know so far has brought us sadness, frustration and anger. What do we do about it? How can we make sure that it will never happen again? This is where accountability, communication and transparency are of utmost importance.

The first step in this area is the creation of the Parish Finance Council (PFC). The Canon Law of the Church makes a Finance Council mandatory in every parish (#537). The PFC is a consultative body that assists the pastor who is accountable to the diocesan bishop for the administration and stewardship of the temporal goods of the parish. Even though St. Matthias had a Finance Council years ago, I understand that it has not been active for some years. Hence I wish to establish a new Finance Council following due process. Obviously such a Council must have parishioners who have professional experience in finance-related matters such as business, law, accounting, banking, investing, engineering, construction, maintenance, and purchasing. Since we have a school, we will also have a parish member who will be the liaison from the School Finance Council. I am sure our Parish has good and faith-filled parishioners in these fields. I am happy that some have already communicated their interest. Hence I invite such individuals to pray and reflect to see if God is calling you to the ministry of Finance Council. If so, please email me at by January 31, so that I can give sufficient consideration to the choice for this important council. I consider it extremely important to share information about the financial situation of the parish with the parishioners who have a right to know. The PFC will aid me in a very significant way for this purpose.

Once the audit and the ongoing investigation are complete, the Diocese will let us know the exact details of our financial status. But from what we already know, it is not a pretty picture. Hence, it is only prudent that we take steps to manage our financial shortfall. We need to control some of the expenses that are not essential and tighten our belt in general. We gratefully acknowledge the role of the many wonderful priests who have been the lifelines for our sacramental and other spiritual needs on a regular basis. In the future, we will now continue to invite them to minister with us as needed. In my previous parish, parishioners took turns in providing me a meal three times a week, and that reduced the expenses for the pastor’s upkeep! I am very grateful to those of you who have already signed up for a similar meal program for me that will bring significant savings for our parish. There are other areas where financial prudence will be practiced. The financial health of the parish can be restored together with trust, accountability, communication and transparency, thus making the financial management of the Community of St. Matthias something we all can be happy about and proud of. May 2019 be a new beginning for us as a parish community with abundant blessings from our loving God-with-us: Emmanuel.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Sunday, January 13, 2019 — Healing Our Parish – Part 5 (of 10): Forgiveness

Dear Friends,

When feelings of hurt and anger run high, it is difficult to forgive. Now that we have already reflected on the emotional, spiritual and financial damages or consequences and on how to deal with them, I think we are ready to look at the need for forgiveness. Authentic forgiveness means having a deep faith that even though we are wronged, we don’t have to spend our emotional energy trying to have that debt paid back to us. This requires some conscious effort on our part.

According to me, the first step is to correct a faulty thinking that forgiveness means the sins or mistakes are washed away, or that it means approval of the wrong actions! No. It is the natural law that every act – good or bad – has its own consequences. Forgiveness does not take away the negative effects of a wrong act and even its legal consequences if the wrong act has broken any law of the land. Forgiveness means I no longer hold a grudge or revengeful attitude; instead, I pray for and love the other with the love of God.

The second step is to realize that such true forgiveness is not possible without the grace of God, and that means having recourse to the Word of God. Begin by reading Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:14-15: “If you forgive people their wrong doing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.”

The questions we need to ask ourselves are: Who do I need to forgive in the context of our parish crisis? The Church leadership? Parish leadership? Diocesan leadership? Or some bishops and cardinals in general? Anyone else?

Some of you have communicated to me that you have already forgiven those responsible for our parish crisis. One parishioner wrote: “Personally, I (and my family) have already forgiven Doug and pray for his healing, and once he has completed his treatment – he will need to deal with the legal and emotional consequences of his actions.” Another parishioner, commenting on Bishop Checchio’s meeting with the parishioners, wrote that after expressions of anger, shock and disbelief, the great majority of the crowd “expressed concern for our pastor’s well-being, praised his many years of service, and expressed gratitude… the great majority conveyed love, mercy and forgiveness.” It is truly edifying to hear such responses.

And yet, some may not have reached that place of forgiveness. If someone tells me, “why should I forgive for his wrongdoings?” my answer is simply that forgiving will help YOU! Psychologists tell us that resentment is the unhealthiest emotion there is. It always hurts us more than others. Offering forgiveness brings us freedom; we are no longer shackled by our own anger or unforgiveness. That in itself is a good enough reason to forgive the wrong that we are dealt with as a community. Besides, it is a spiritual law that we experience what we intend for others. That is what Jesus taught us in the Our Father, “…forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…” Our expectation of receiving forgiveness becomes much easier when we are willing to offer forgiveness to those who angered or hurt us.

Ultimately, only the grace of Christ can help us to offer forgiveness and experience the deepest healing. St. Paul had a problem with the Corinthian Church where there were false teachers and selfish leaders bickering about the Lord’s Supper and questioning spiritual gifts and even the resurrection. That church was in disarray and yet Paul loved that church and he wrote to them: “My love be with all of you in Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 16:24). I can see and sense your love for this Church community of St. Matthias. May God continue to help us increase that love and enable us to rebuild our community.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Sunday, January 20, 2019 — Healing Our Parish – Part 6 (of 10): Gift

Dear Friends,

We have already reflected on various aspects of our parish crisis. Today I am putting before us a very difficult question for our prayerful consideration: What is the gift in this crisis? I mean it: Do you see any good coming out of this unfortunate and sad situation? You might retort: what a crazy question! How can there be any good in such a tragic event? Well, let me explain.

The Holy Bible has many stories about the people of Israel and their leaders pledging to serve the Lord. We know that disciples, like Peter, vowed never to forsake their Master Jesus. But almost all of them failed the Lord. And what was the Lord’s response? God was always faithful. That is also our experience. Like the Biblical figures, we know some of our leaders have fulfilled their God-given mission but they also have failed the Lord and the people they are called to serve. We have seen their names in the headlines. We also saw the leadership’s success and failure in our own experience of Fr. Doug. But if we are really honest, we will realize that we, too, have failed in many of the promises we have made to God and to one another.

Yet God has been keeping his promises. When the Israelites showed infidelity, God put rainbows in the sky. When they grumbled against God and Moses, God rained manna from heaven. When Peter denied Jesus three times, the Risen Lord reinstated him to shepherd the Church. We sin, and God forgives us repeatedly. “On the night he was betrayed…” we hear at every Mass, “Jesus took the bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, this is my body, broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” On the night he was betrayed, Jesus did something good for us. And he gave us a command to “do this in memory of me.” We can do that in His memory only if we identify the good in the tragedy.

As we experience a sense of betrayal of trust, as we work our way through the healing we need in our hearts, as we make efforts to rebuild our beloved parish community of St. Matthias, can we identify some good from what has happened? Are there some gifts happening to us individually and as a community as a result of this painful revelation?

  • Have we become more conscious of our identity as “the People of God?”
  • Do we see ourselves more as “the Church?”
  • Do we feel more united as a parish family?
  • Do we experience more tangibly the Bishop’s care as our chief shepherd?
  • Do we see accountability, transparency and communication as our right?
  • Have we come closer to God and to one another?
  • Do we see the mysterious hand of God bringing good and growth in all these?
  • Can we take a moment of silence right now to see if we can name other gifts out of this situation?

If you still think it is impossible to envisage any good being produced, then humility demands that our faith must believe God’s promise: “All things work together for good of those who love God” (Rom. 8:28). In the Old Testament we have the sad story of Joseph being sold into slavery by his own brothers! But the hand of God was with Joseph who ended up becoming one of the most powerful men in the history of the nation of Egypt. His brothers were terrified at the prospect of revenge, but Joseph told them: “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”
(Genesis 50:18-20)

My humble request to all of us is this: Can we keep our emotions aside, and ask the Holy Spirit to show us the good that has happened as a result of this shocking scenario? Let us prayerfully reflect over this.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Sunday, January 27, 2019 — Healing Our Parish – Part 7 (of 10): Small Groups

Dear Friends,

In this 7th step of the healing journey, I wish to speak about the great importance of grounding ourselves in praying, understanding and sharing God’s Word in small groups. Why? Christian experience of God is a shared experience. In fact Christianity spread not through mega churches or cathedrals but through “house churches” – as we read in Paul’s letters and the Acts of the Apostles. The early Christians gathered in small groups in someone’s house to pray, to share the Word of God and to have fellowship celebrating the Lord’s Supper. This practice of “house-church” gathering is mentioned by St. Paul: “Greet Prisca and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus…greet also the church at their house” (Romans 16:3,5). “Give greetings to the brothers in Laodicea and to Nympha and to the church in her house” (Colossians 4:15). Also see Philemon verses 1-2, Acts 12:12, and Acts 16:40 for more such instances of house churches that made Christianity flourish as the Bible testifies: “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47)

It was this method of evangelization that attracted more people to become disciples of Jesus in the early Church. Tertullian, a second century theologian commented that the non-Christians were struck by the witness of Christian love. “See how they love one another!” was their surprised remark.

Interestingly, even though Jesus ministered to large crowds with his teaching and healing, he chose a small group of 12 and formed them for more intentional discipleship. It was to them that he explained the meaning of the parables while having fellowship with them (Mark 4:34). We all know that people learn and grow best in a small group setting rather than in large gatherings. This educational theory is also true in churches. Sunday worship has its importance and meaning in the life of every Christian community. But the small group is best suited for parishioners to understand God’s Word better, to share insights that enrich mutually, and to pray together, while experiencing fellowship with one another. I was very happy to hear that St. Matthias had introduced this kind of small groups of faith-sharing years ago. And how wonderful to know that some of those groups still meet and share! Therefore I am confident that it is ideal for us to revive the same concept of small groups to help us share and grow in our faith. Accordingly, I asked Dee Nann, our Adult Faith Formation director, to put together a core team to start planning for this important spiritual movement in our parish. I attended the initial meeting of this Team before leaving for India, and I was truly edified to see the passion of the entire team to begin this spiritual process for our parish. Terry Seamon and Joe Percoco are the co-chairs who will coordinate and plan this Bible based spiritual process so that we can roll it out at the beginning of Lent. Obviously you will hear more about this in the coming weeks. But I invite us all to give a positive consideration to this initiative that will truly bring about a spiritual transformation to us in our personal life, family life and parish life. Come and see — join us on this Lenten Journey.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal


Sunday, February 3, 2019 — Healing Our Parish – Part 8 (of 10): Benefits of Faith-Sharing Small Groups

Dear Friends,

Healing is a process that may take some time. A very important aspect of healing and spiritual growth happens through participating in small groups. As I invite us all to consider joining a small group this coming Lent, it is good for us to know about the five benefits that happen in any faith-sharing group – benefits that will bring a vibrancy and renewal to our parish as a faith community and to ourselves.

Prayer: Prayer is the foundation of our Christian life and for that reason we begin and conclude the small Christian community gatherings with set times for prayer. Just as the leader is encouraged to prayerfully prepare before the meeting, so too, the leader is urged to encourage the small community members to pray in preparation. This will help us enter into the habit of prayer.

Learning: Reading and reflecting on a Bible passage is an essential part of the small community meeting. Members listen attentively to hear what God is saying at this moment in their lives. They have prepared by reading the Scripture and the commentary beforehand. Now they move to a deeper level of learning by connecting the Scripture with their lives.

Faith Sharing: The heart of small Christian community meetings is faith sharing. It is not Bible study nor discussion. Faith sharing is sharing some facet of one’s relationship with God in the context of the Scripture or connecting a personal event with that passage of Scripture.

Mutual Support: As small community members share and get to know one another, relationships naturally form and people begin to support one another in prayer as well as in other ways. Support is something we all need and appreciate, whether it is support during a crisis or ongoing support knowing there are others like us struggling to live the Christian life.

Mission: In his Letter, St. James reminds us to “be doers of the Word and not merely hearers who deceive themselves” (1:22). As a response to the Word of God and the sharing among the small community members, there is always an invitation to act. Action does not necessarily mean adding on “something else.” It means doing something practical as an action response to what God is asking us at each session. Through the faith-sharing experience, communities grow in their awareness of their own gifts and in their ability to put them at the service of the Mission in a variety of ways.

All of these five elements are very powerful means to help us in our Christian living. Sharing in itself is an essential nature of us Christians, flowing from the nature of our Trinitarian God who shares in everything as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. These elements will bring out the fullness of discipleship that we are called to practice. It will renew each one of us personally in our spiritual lives. It will renew our family life as we will see a qualitative change in our family relationships. And it will renew our parish community, bringing new life and vitality to the whole community. It is a very tangible and worthwhile exercise for Lent.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal


Sunday, February 10, 2019 — Healing Our Parish – Part 9 (of 10): Why Join a Small Group?

Dear Friends,

Psychologists tell us that human beings have a fundamental need for belonging to a group and for close relationships because we are truly social animals. That explains the popularity of the support group phenomenon as an accepted and beneficial American reality. Numerous small groups exist for various causes, bringing support, comfort, healing, encouragement and fellowship to members. What is very interesting is that this way of being in small groups was the biblical model which I explained in an earlier reflection. All the Churches that have realized the importance of practicing this model have become vibrant communities. Being part of a small Christian group is the best way for us to grow in the knowledge of our faith in an environment of sharing and fellowship with other parishioners.

Rick Warren, whom Time magazine named as “America’s Pastor,” says that the number of people who gather in small groups for sharing the Bible is larger than those who gather for Sunday worship at his Saddleback church in California! Listen to what he says about his method: “Our model for ministry is actually the very first church in the Bible. In Acts 5:42 it says: “The first church met day after day in the temple courts and from house to house.” We come together on the weekends for a large group gathering of everyone in the congregation. And then we scatter all week long for small group gatherings from house to house.

This matters a great deal if you want to see lives transformed. On the weekends, people come together and experience God’s powerful presence, hear teaching from the pulpit, and serve others within the life of the church. But it’s during the week, in small groups, that people find themselves in the kinds of relationships that help them explore and enrich their faith. This leads them to the church where they may keep on growing spiritually and experiencing transformation long term.”

Papal encouragements promoting small groups are many. Pope St. John Paul II wrote in “Christifideles Laici”: “So that all parishes of this kind may be truly communities of Christians, local ecclesial authorities ought to foster … small basic or so-called ‘living’ communities where the faithful can communicate the Word of God and express it in service and love to one another; these communities are true expressions of ecclesial communion and centers of evangelization in communion with their pastors.” US Bishops, too, have frequently encouraged us to follow this way of life. They wrote in 1999: “Small church communities not only foster the faith of individuals, they are living cells which build up the body of Christ. They are to be signs and instruments of unity. As basic units of the parish, they serve to increase the corporate life and mission of the parish by sharing in its life generously with their talents and support.”

All these simply show the great importance of engaging everyone in matters of faith through small groups. That is why I wish to promote this important way of discipleship for all our parishioners to enrich ourselves by understanding and sharing God’s Word while experiencing fellowship during this upcoming season of Lent. We are calling it LIVE LENT!

I hope many of you will accept this invitation to “LIVE LENT!” and see the difference it will make in your own life and in the life of your family, and most certainly in the life of our parish community of St. Matthias.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Sunday, February 24, 2019 — Healing Our Parish – Part 10 (of 10): Where Are We Now?

Dear Friends,

I began this series of short reflections on Parish Healing with the twin goals of strengthening the financial and spiritual health of our Community of St. Matthias. In this 10th and final reflection, I wish to reflect on where we are now:

1)      What we have done so far to promote accountability, transparency and communication:
Bishop Checchio and the diocesan leadership have been very solicitous about getting our parish back on track in this matter. Bishop’s personal presence with us in November to listen to all our concerns and frustrations and answer all our questions was an excellent beginning. His follow up letter in January was a reassurance of his continued concern for us. His presence with us to offer the 12 noon Mass this Sunday is another sign of his shepherd’s care for us. We are grateful to him as well as to Msgr. John Fell and Rev. Fr. Tim Christi – both of whom came in person and helped us. In the meanwhile, the Finance Council, with parishioners with excellent credentials, is in the process of being established next month. Steps are being taken for reigning in financial expenses by focusing on what is essential and by renegotiating existing contracts to get a lower price tag. More steps will be in the pipeline for a judicious use of our finances with recommendations from the new Finance Council.

2)      Focus on our spiritual growth as a parish community:
Whatever we do from the administrative/financial aspects, the parish health will be incomplete without a strong spirituality that helps us to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ who enables us to live as one community of His disciples. Understanding and reflecting on God’s Word both in personal and communal prayer will help us face the challenges of our daily life which in turn will bring about the fruits of true joy, peace and fellowship within and around us. One very important concrete way for this goal is what you have been hearing about the small groups of sharing the Bible.

These two goals will not be achieved without greater participation in parish life by all of you, my dear brothers and sisters.

–  This participation, first and most importantly, must be in and through our Sunday worship. Coming as a family to our vibrant celebration of the Eucharist is a guarantee of the Lord’s grace for facing the challenges of the week ahead.

–  Participation by volunteering is something that we can be proud of. Those who volunteer as church cleaners, Lectors/Readers, Eucharistic Ministers, Mass Captains, Altar servers, Ushers, Eucharistic Ministers to the homebound, various choir ministers, Welcome ministers, or ministry in the Rosary Altar Society, our Parish School, RCIA, children’s liturgy, Bible Study, GIFT, St. Martin de Porres Society, St. Vincent de Paul Society, Knights of Columbus, Caregivers ministry, Bereavement ministry, Sacramental prep, Diversity council, Carnival, and many other ministries, are clear signs of your love for this great community of St. Matthias. Such example should spur many others to volunteer so that we can accomplish more with less expense.

–    Participation in all the activities and events we organize is the best visible sign of your support. Please sign up to join a LIVE LENT! small group as the most efficient way to engage God’s Word as well as to experience fellowship with others of our parish and neighborhood.

Finally, I wish you to know that I am your brother wishing to walk with you on our journey of life as we all try to live God’s will in our own lives. I am accessible to you for your needs. We are blessed with a wonderful and efficient parish and school staff who are committed to serve you. St. Matthias School is an integral part of our parish and our support of the school truly is an investment in the overall life and growth of the Community of St. Matthias. Let us take to heart this Bible verse: “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another.” (Hebrews 10: 24‐25). Yes, we can do it together.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal