Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Friends,

The announcement last week that Msgr. Joseph Curry will be transferred was met with lots of sadness from all of us. Fr. Joe, as he is affectionately called, has been with us for less than two years. But within this short time, he has endeared himself to our community through his unique faith-filled ministry. He has an uncanny ability to put anyone at ease with his outgoing nature and his resounding laughter that can be heard from afar!

Fr. Joe has been an invaluable help in the school, both for our teachers and our students. His love for our students was evident in the way he mingled with them and taught faith matters. He had creative ways to teach the students despite the pandemic limitations. The teachers found in him a willing tech-guru, helping with their tech problems as the teaching went remote due to the pandemic. Fr. Joe was able to bring new life to our youth ministry through his natural gift of relating to young people. Coordinating with adult mentors, he was able to keep the youth ministry going even through the pandemic, using technology and media. Both the parish and the school are truly indebted to Fr. Joe. His inspiring presence will be missed by all of us as he officially leaves on July 6 to take up his new assignment at Immaculate Conception Church, Somerville.

At the same time, we are very happy to welcome to our parish Msgr. Seamus Brennan who has been serving as a senior priest at Blessed Sacrament Church in Martinsville. As a senior priest, Msgr. Brennan comes with lots of experience, after his ordination in 1972 at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Waterford, Ireland, for the diocese of Trenton. He has served as Parochial Vicar at St. Barnabas in Bayville and at St. Philip and James in Phillipsburg. Msgr. also served as pastor of St John’s in Lambertville, St. Matthews in Edison and Immaculate Conception in Somerville, and he served as Temporary Administrator of Nativity of Our Lord in Monroe Township. Monsignor’s hobbies include golf, walking, and cycling. The Catholic Community of St. Matthias heartily welcomes Msgr. Seamus Brennan.
We know that any change can give rise to conflicting feelings within us. While farewell to one priest brings us sadness, welcome to another brings joy. And we trust God’s Word: “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28). As we remain ever grateful to the wonderful presence and ministry of Fr. Joe, we pray that Immaculate Conception Parish will be blessed and enriched as we have been by his presence. I am sure that Msgr. Brennan will be a welcome asset to St. Matthias. He is looking forward to meeting all of you and serving the needs of our parish.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Friends,

A few weeks ago we celebrated our moms and offered Mass to them. Celebrating Father’s Day today, we are doing the same – offering our dads, on the altar of God during this Holy Mass and invoking our heavenly Father’s blessings on them while we thank God for the life of those dads who are called to eternal life. At a time when the Fathers’ role in the family and in society is not fully appreciated, it is good that today we can celebrate, congratulate and pray for the men who continue to reflect the Divine qualities of fatherhood as they lovingly establish, nourish and maintain their families.

Lucille Ball, who became one of America’s top comedic actresses with the 1950s TV show, I Love Lucy, did a remarkable TV interview with Merv Griffin shortly before her death. He asked her a very serious and pointed question: “Lucille, you’ve lived a long time on this earth and you are a wise person. What’s happened to our country? What’s wrong with our children? Why are our families falling apart? What’s missing?” Lucille Ball answered without hesitation: “Papa’s missing. Things are falling apart because Papa’s gone. If Papa were here, he would fix it.”

Her pertinent comment has been confirmed with some recent studies that have demonstrated how important a father is to his child’s development. Children with fathers present have lower rates of delinquency, drug and alcohol use, teen pregnancy, and so on, than those with absent fathers. The father’s presence is also a significant positive factor in children’s getting a college education, finding a satisfying job, and making a lasting marriage. Psychotherapists today are saying that both parents are vitally important to the stable development of their children; the mother’s input is invaluable in the formative pre-adolescent years but the father’s most important influence is at adolescence. Single mothers tell us that it is terribly difficult to teach their children about the meaning of God the Father Who seems so impersonal because their children have been abandoned by their natural fathers. Adolescent daughters long to hear from their fathers that they are beautiful and loved. In fact, a girl’s choice of a partner and satisfaction in marriage is often directly related to the relationship she has had with her father.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the vital importance of the father’s role comes from the fact that, with his wife, he cooperates with God the Creator in bringing a new human life into the world. There is no power greater than that (#2367). I invite us all to have a look at a few Biblical references to fathers: Genesis 2:24, Exodus 20:12, Ezekiel 19:19-20, Sirach 3:1 16, Matthew 19:16-22, John 1:14, 2 Cor. 6:16-18, Ephesians 6: 1-4, 1 Thess. 2:11 – 12.

Happy Father’s Day!

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Faith, Caring and Excellence

Dear Friends,

We just went through the week of graduations. It was very heart-warming to see the graduation of the little ones in Pre-K and Kindergarten. Their innocent glow as they sang some beautiful songs and posed for the diplomas touched everyone. The graduation of our 8th graders was more of a defining moment that elicited mixed feelings of joy and sadness — joy at the fact of this class of 2021 crossing an important milestone in their lives. All the parents and family, school administration and faculty, priests and parishioners are happy to see them moving onto the next phase of the journey of their life.

At the same time, there is that tinge of sadness of missing these young vibrant students who were a part of our life here. Friday before graduation, their last day of class, was an emotional day for all. In the St. Matthias tradition, the parents and faculty made it special for them by clapping these seniors out, with the band playing. The parents wrote names and messages on the ground for the students to read.

My hope – as is that of everyone else – is that these graduates will carry the torch of St. Matthias wherever they go, in the way they live out the motto of our school: FAITH, CARING AND EXCELLENCE. My prayer is that the seeds of faith the Principal and Vice-Principal have sown in these students, with the help of the caring teachers, will keep them faithful to Jesus Christ and His Church. I wish to single out our Fr. Joe for special appreciation for his good will and initiative in imparting faith and religious practices to the whole school during the pandemic year.

As the school year is ending, Mrs. Elena Malinconico, our present principal, will be leaving us for another assignment. Everyone will agree with me that this year was the most challenging for every school principal and it is no exaggeration to say that Mrs. Malinconico did an excellent job in keeping our school open, offering both in-person and remote learning, and keeping all our students safe though this past uncertain and anxious year. Thanks to her vigilant leadership, St. Matthias did not have to close the school for any prolonged period, as many other schools had to do. As we thank her for her short but dedicated service to our school community, I wish her all success in her next assignment.

As already announced earlier, as well as in my letter in last week’s bulletin, we welcome Mrs. Mary Lynch as the new principal of St. Matthias. St.
Matthias School is an integral part of the mission of St. Matthias Parish, and all of us have a stake in its well-being and progress. Thank you to all who have been supporting our school in various ways. May our desire to pass our faith to the next generation bear good fruits.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Feast of Corpus Christi (Feast of the Body of Christ)

Dear Friends,

The Catholic Church has a rich heritage of traditions and practices many of which are enshrined as annual celebrations. Today’s feast of Corpus Christi (also known as the Feast of the Body of Christ) is a case in point. Corpus Christi is unique in
several ways. The feast was not instituted within the Church until the 14th century AD, and its principal advocate for inclusion in the Church roster of holy days was a woman: St. Juliana, an Augustinian nun in Belgium. She looked upon the Holy Eucharist with great reverence, and desired to have
a feast within the Church devoted specifically to its honor.

We know that Holy Thursday is generally associated with the institution of the Holy Eucharist. However, Holy Week was often seen as a time of great sorrow and repentance, and so Juliana felt that the celebration of the Eucharist should be a time of rejoicing. After receiving a vision concerning the Church and its lack of devotion to the Eucharist, she petitioned Robert de Thorete, the Bishop of Liege. The Bishop convened a synod in 1246 and decreed that the celebration should take place the following year. In 1264, Pope Urban IV issued the bull transiturus, a declaration ordering the Feast of Corpus Christi extended throughout the entire Church. The date was set for the celebration to be held on the first Thursday after Trinity Sunday.

When I came to the US, I was quite amazed and impressed by the cities named after the Holy Eucharist: Corpus Christi and Sacramento. My reading of history tells me that the Franciscan missionaries originally named the Gulf of Mexico the “Bay of Corpus Christi,” and gave the mission there the same name. While in California, the mission at Sacramento and its corresponding river were named in honor of the Eucharist.

Many visitors have commented positively about the Sunday worship here at St. Matthias. Some of their comments to me are:

Attending Mass at St. Matthias is very experiential;
This community is very welcoming;
People are very alive, everyone participates even by clapping.
Is different and where the Lord who comes at the altar touches all of us.

We can be very proud of such comments as we try to be a Eucharistic people. I have this request to all of you: How nice it will be if all of us, when we enter the church, dip our fingers in the holy water, (that is when we restore the use of holy water) trace the sign of the cross on our foreheads and show a sign of respect (bow or genuflect) towards the Blessed Sacrament! That will be one important visible connection between last Sunday’s feast of the Holy Trinity and this Sunday’s feast of Corpus Christi.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Feast of the Holy Trinity

Dear Friends,

The dramatic events of Holy Week and Easter came to a conclusion, liturgically speaking, with another dramatic event of Pentecost last Sunday. The Acts of the Apostles narrated the Pentecost story as a stunning, incredible and ecstatic experience with the sound of a violent wind, fire appearing over their heads and 3,000 new members as the result of one sermon. But the drama subsided, for the very next verse says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42). Not much drama here. Worshiping together, eating together, learning together. Yes, a big segment of our life consists of the ordinary. It is in living the gospel values in the ordinary time that we truly become extra-ordinary!

Thus we are now in the “Ordinary Time” according to the Liturgical Calendar. The fact that Ordinary Time refers to those periods that fall outside of the major liturgical seasons could give us the impression that there is no excitement and so this is an unimportant time. The Latin word ordinalis, which refers to numbers in a series, stems from the Latin word ordo, from which we get the English word order. Thus, the numbered weeks of Ordinary Time in fact represent the ordered life of the Church—the period in which we live our lives neither in feasting (as in the Christmas and Easter seasons) or in more severe penance (as in Advent and Lent), but in growing in fellowship with all, using our talents to serve our families, communities and sustaining ourselves with our daily chores. The weekly sustenance for this comes from our regular Sunday attendance at the Lord’s Table. The obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days, which was suspended during the pandemic, will be lifted from Saturday June 5, as per the Bishops of New Jersey. They also said: “This obligation does not apply to those who are ill; those who have reason to believe that they were recently exposed to the coronavirus or another serious or contagious illness; those who are confined to their home, a hospital, or nursing facility; or those with serious underlying health conditions.”

This is one of the reasons why I decided to continue live-streaming our Masses – at least one, if not all. From the St. Matthias YouTube analytics, we are very delighted to know that we have so many people attending our Masses not only from different states of the US but also from many countries. To date, 66% of our viewers are from New Jersey, 23% are from other states — NY, FL, CA, TX, PA, IL, NC, OH, MD, MA, VA, KY, MI, MN, and AZ, and 11 % are from the following countries: Philippines, India, United Kingdom, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Bolivia, Colombia, Belgium, Dominican Republic, Poland, Sweden, South Africa, Peru, Singapore, Guam and Japan. We have indeed become a “Parish without borders”!! Praise God!

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Happy Feast of Pentecost

Dear Friends, Happy Feast of Pentecost!

Most Churches – Catholic, Orthodox, Episcopal, Pentecostal and Charismatic churches as well as many Protestant churches – view this as the watershed event in Christianity, the birthday of the Church in many ways. The Acts of the Apostles recounts the story of the original Pentecost when the Apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary, gathered in the Upper Room, were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in different tongues (Acts 2). Peter’s speech that day brought about three thousand people to the way of Jesus. (Acts 2:41). And the Church began to grow.

But what is the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives? I would compare it to the role of a coach. There is no game or sports without a coach! Why? Left to themselves, even the best are prone to make mistakes. No matter how good they are, coaches are essential to their success. The truth of the matter is that we all can do better with someone else’s wisdom. And yet, there are some people who think that human beings have the natural ability to fulfill our human destiny just by using our abilities and that we do not need help from anyone else – be it from the community of faith or from the grace of the Sacraments. Experience and history show us that fewer mistakes would have been made with proper guidance. That’s why Jesus said he would send us the Spirit to be our Helper, Comforter, and Guide (John 14:16). Let us call upon this Spirit: “Come Holy Spirit, come into my heart and fill me with your grace and power.” Repeat it like a mantra and see what happens to you!

Congratulations to 35 of our children receiving First Holy Communion this weekend! Dee Nann, Sr. Marie Derecola OSF and others, especially the parents, have been preparing these kids for this important step in their faith formation to receive Jesus for the first time. Last Sunday these children, with one of their parents present, had a wonderful retreat given by Colleen Kelly-Rayner. Everyone enjoyed that retreat as we can see from what one parent, Jennifer Hill, wrote to Dee: “I just wanted to reach out and thank you for such a wonderful retreat today. It was such a gift to spend time with my son and share this experience with him. Due to COVID, this past year has been challenging and isolating and it was very special to come together as a community to prepare for his First Communion. You said that Mrs. Colleen was outstanding and she more than lived up to that! She was phenomenal – hilarious, engaging and powerful. Thank you for putting this together for us!” And her son Dylan’s reaction was: “That was way more fun than I thought it was going to be”

Let us pray for these children of our parish and encourage them with our example that attending Mass and receiving Jesus in Holy Communion are the primary ways we nourish our souls and enrich our lives. May the gifts of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Your brother in Christ,
Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Ascension of the Lord

Dear Friends,

This year, the Feast of Ascension (Thursday May 13) is postponed to Sunday May 16 which is today. After the resurrection, Jesus taught his disciples about God’s kingdom for forty days (Acts 1:3) “He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight” (Acts 1:9). Two angels then tell the disciples that Jesus was “taken into heaven” (Acts 1:11). But the ascended Jesus is still with us through his indwelling Holy Spirit as he has promised, “I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.”  What is celebrated is Jesus’ exaltation and the end of his earthly existence as a prelude to the gift of the Spirit. Hence this feast is a celebration of Jesus’ final glorification after his suffering, death and Resurrection – a glory in which we also hope to share.

And yet, humanly speaking, the concept of bodily Ascension is a mystery that we cannot fully understand. Pope Francis doesn’t shy away from explaining mysteries of our faith. In his catechesis on Ascension, he says: “Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven thus allows us to know this reality that is so consoling on our journey: in Christ, true God and true man, our humanity has been brought to God. He has opened the way. He is like the leader of a mountain climbing party that is roped together. He has reached the summit and pulls us to himself, leading us to God. If we entrust our lives to him, if we let ourselves be guided by him, we are certain of being in safe hands.”

It is this assurance that allowed multitudes of Christians to follow Jesus, even to the point of martyrdom. St. Matthias, our parish patron, is one such. The Apostles felt that they had to replace Judas who betrayed Jesus. They nominated two men: Joseph Barsabbas and Matthias. They prayed and drew lots. The choice fell upon Matthias, who was added to the Eleven. (Acts 1:15-26). What happened after that? No exact historical details are available. According to Greek tradition, Matthias preached and converted the people of Cappadocia in central Turkey, and was martyred in the region about the Caspian Sea around the year 80 AD.

Every year, we used to have our great Carnival around the feast of St. Matthias. All of us are sad to miss that week of fun, games, food and celebration  This year, we have been praying a Novena to St. Matthias for the past nine days leading up to his feast. Today as we celebrate our parish patronal feast, what is of importance is to remember that Matthias was chosen to be an apostle because he was with Jesus and was a witness to his resurrection. That means, following his example, we need to make greater efforts to know Jesus personally by our familiarity with God’s Word and by talking to Jesus daily in prayer or meditation. Thus we become witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus who is God-with-us always.

Happy Feast of St. Matthias!

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Dear Friends,

We salute all our Mothers today! The opening sentence in Amoris Laetitia (Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the family), offers the perfect context for Mother’s Day: “The joy of love experienced by families is also the joy of the Church.” We are truly happy to celebrate the vocation to motherhood as we honor all Mothers in this Church this weekend.  The Pope beautifully describes the impact Mothers have on children: “A mother who watches over her child with tenderness and compassion helps him or her to grow in confidence and to experience that the world is a good and welcoming place. This helps the child to grow in self-esteem and, in turn, to develop a capacity for intimacy and empathy.”
Yes, motherhood is a vocation, a divine call, and not a hobby. You do not collect children like stamps or art works, but it is the divine call by which you become co-creators and sustainers of life with God. Children are a gift from God (Psalm 127:3-5) and the Bible is very clear about the responsibility of both father and mother in bringing up children with right values. The Bible demands several things from Christian parents in their duty of parenting. Some of these are:

Availability – morning, noon, and night (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).

Involvement – interacting, discussing, thinking, and processing life together (Ephesians 6:4)

Teaching – the Scriptures and a biblical worldview (Psalm 78:5-6; Deuteronomy 4:10; Ephesians 6:4)

Training – helping a child to develop skills and discover his/her strengths (Proverbs 22:6) and spiritual gifts (Romans 12:3-8 and 1 Corinthians 12)

Discipline – teaching the fear of the Lord, drawing the line consistently, lovingly, firmly (Ephesians 6:4; Hebrews 12:5-11; Proverbs 13:24; 19:18; 22:15;
23:13-14; 29:15-17)

Nurture – providing an environment of constant verbal support, freedom to fail, acceptance, affection, unconditional love (Titus 2:4; 2 Timothy 1:7; Ephesians 4:29-32; 5:1-2; Galatians 5:22; 1 Peter 3:8-9)

Modeling with Integrity – living what you say, being a model from which a child can learn by “catching” the essence of godly living (Deuteronomy 4:9, 15, 23; Proverbs 10:9; 11:3; Psalm 37:18, 37).

That is a tall order! What makes it all the more difficult is the hostile cultural environment in which Christian mothers find themselves fighting to protect their children. Many of the cultural values clash with the Christian values that a mother wants to instill in her children. Hence we need to support, help, appreciate and encourage all our mothers – not just once a year, but everyday! Thank you dear Mothers! Happy Mother’s Day!

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Dear Friends,

This month of May brings before us two great saints – Joseph and Mary – who are models of holiness through their intimate association with Jesus. Even though May is known as the month of Mary, we enter May with the feast of “St Joseph, the Worker.”

It was Pope Pius XII who instituted the feast of Saint Joseph the Worker in 1955, in order to foster deep devotion to Saint Joseph among Catholics, and in response to the “May Day” celebrations for workers sponsored by Communists. Beginning in the Book of Genesis, the dignity of human work has long been celebrated as a participation in the creative work of God. By work, humankind both fulfills the command found in Genesis to care for the earth (Gen 2:15) and to be productive in their labors. Saint Joseph, the carpenter and foster father of Jesus, is held up as a model of work.

In this Year of St. Joseph, we have been reflecting on a specific theme each month, and praying a Novena on the First Wednesday of the month. The theme for this month is: Joseph, a working Father. Here’s what Pope Francis says about this theme in his Apostolic letter, Patris Corde:

“Saint Joseph was a carpenter who earned an honest living to provide for his family. From him, Jesus learned the value, the dignity and the joy of what it means to eat bread that is the fruit of one’s own labor.

In our own day, when employment has once more become a burning social issue, and unemployment at times reaches record levels even in nations that for decades have enjoyed a certain degree of prosperity, there is a renewed need to appreciate the importance of dignified work, of which Saint Joseph is an exemplary patron.

Work is a means of participating in the work of salvation, an opportunity to hasten the coming of the Kingdom, to develop our talents and abilities, and to put them at the service of society and fraternal communion. It becomes an opportunity for the fulfilment not only of oneself, but also of that primary cell of society which is the family. A family without work is particularly vulnerable to difficulties, tensions, estrangement and even break-up. How can we speak of human dignity without working to ensure that everyone is able to earn a decent living?

The loss of employment that affects so many of our brothers and sisters, and has increased as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, should serve as a summons to review our priorities. Let us implore Saint Joseph the Worker to help us find ways to express our firm conviction that no young person, no person at all, no family should be without work!”

We will reflect further on this theme during our First Friday Holy Hour/Benediction on May 7, soon after the 8 am Mass. Why not get a taste of the Holy Hour? It will be accessible any time on our St. Matthias YouTube channel.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Dear Friends,

Last Sunday’s bulletin had some info about starting a “Parish Vocations Committee” (PVC) here at St. Matthias, led by our Pastoral Council. Today, the fourth Sunday, known also as Good Shepherd Sunday, is an auspicious day to inaugurate it. Today’s gospel is about Jesus the Good Shepherd.

The word ‘vocation’ (= calling) applies to all of us – no matter who we are: husbands or wives, religious men or women, priest or deacon, single person, young or old. The Church teaches us that the vocation of every Christian is to be holy. In Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and be Glad), Pope Francis reminds us that God calls all Christians to be saints — not statues of saints, but real people who make time for prayer and who show loving care for others in the simplest gestures. He wrote about “the saints next door” and said he likes “to contemplate the holiness present in the patience of God’s people: in those parents who raise their children with immense love, in those men and women who work hard to support their families, in the sick….”

I wish all of us to grow more aware of our call to be holy, but we also need to be aware that we have a responsibility to promote vocations to the priesthood and religious life. To this end, the PVC will create awareness through various means. I thank Joe Percoco and MaryBeth Vetter for agreeing to lead it and you will hear them this weekend and the next.

This past Thursday was Earth Day! It was on April 22, 1970, that 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife.

Though Earth Day is a popular secular observance, the Catholic Church brings a distinct perspective to the discussion of environmental questions, by lifting up the moral dimensions of these issues and the needs of the most vulnerable among us. This unique contribution is rooted in Catholic teaching calling us to care for the whole of creation and for “the least of these.” (Mt 25:40). The Catholic bishops’ pastoral statement on the environment, Renewing the Earth, is worth reading. The appeal of Pope Francis in Laudato Si (On Care for Our Common Home) is addressed to “every person living on this planet” for an inclusive dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. Parishes, dioceses and other Catholic organizations continue to discuss issues affecting the environment that is civil and constructive, that invokes the virtue of prudence in seeking solutions, and that is more responsive to the needs of the poor, both here in the United States and abroad.

Our St. Matthias community is very conscious of these and other social issues. We have a long-standing partnership with the Center for FaithJustice (CFJ) whose resource persons enrich our Confirmandi class through “Service WorX” each year. May Jesus the Good Shepherd help us to shepherd people and environment according to God’s plan in the Bible.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal