Prince of Peace A s this special Year of Faith now comes to an end, we find ourselves once more in the Advent and Christmas Season. This regular time of year can become quite ordinary for us, but hopefully the way in which we have been able to strengthen our Faith in God in this past year has been a help to us. Advent and Christmas are anything but ordinary! This is the time of year when we not only prepare as disciples of Jesus to celebrate His birth, but we also call to mind the many ways in which God sends His Word and Love to us over and over. Jesus not only appeared in history, He also can appear and does appear all the time in our hearts and minds. We see the presence of Jesus when we look to make the world around us better for others and to also anticipate that world of Eternal Life that is yet to come. It always impresses me that the Scripture writers really had a sense of the truth of God; not only spiritual truth but also natural truth. There was no reason for them to believe, for example, that the world would ever come to an end. To every person it would seem that this world is here to stay. They didn't know scientifically, as we do today, that the earth was about 4 billion years old and probably has about another 4 billion years to go before it ceases to exist as we know it. Yet, those who had faith in God had the sense that this world that we know would not last forever. One of the ways that believers were sometimes ridiculed was that they believed that the world would one day come to an end! Turns out, scientifically, the Bible was right! So Advent and Christmas recall not just the historic birth of Jesus, but the constant arrival of the Cosmic Christ, who takes up residence in our hearts and in our faith community. Whenever we celebrate the Sacraments or share the Word of God in Scripture, we take in the living Presence of the Risen Lord. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. We strive to work for peace as best we can. Peace is elusive and not easy to maintain. Not only do we consider the challenges to peace on a global scale, but also we can think of peace in our communities, in our families and in our own hearts. Jesus can bring a true peace to all of these situations if we leave the door open to him. His historic presence was a source of peace and consolation to his disciples and apostles and his spiritual presence is our source of true peace today. 2 Quarterly Blessings We can't confuse peace, though, with calm or tranquility. There are times when peace-making can involve taking on a cause, confronting unjust authority or challenging one another to live in a better way. What can seem like a cause of dissention, if truly inspired by our faith, is a cause for peace that is more real and lasting. And when we are challenged by others, we must listen with open hearts so that we can change and be converted in powerful ways. So, if we believe that Jesus is the Prince of Peace, let's be ready for an Advent and Christmas that can be very different from the "ordinary" ones of the past. It may be this year that we are challenged to be reconciled to an estranged relative, better our lives by doing more for our parish or wider community, or we may find ourselves called to speak up more powerfully for the poor and oppressed. St. Stephen Parish is a wonderful place of many opportunities to work for peace in our world. This edition of Quarterly Blessings will give us many ways in which we can see those opportunities that are before us. So, while we shop and prepare to celebrate Christmas this year, let's also take time to pray and meditate. If we want to believe truly that Jesus is the Prince of Peace, then in His name, we work to make peace more of a reality for ourselves and others. Our prayer this year can be that true peace be known by as many people as possible because of our efforts. And as the New Year begins, we can usher in 2014 with joyful hearts, knowing that we are seeking and following the will of God more closely! God bless you! Fr. Robert J. Schneider Pastor The True Meaning of Christmas by John Watson H ave you ever heard the phrase “God speaks to your heart in whispers?” On the night of December 12, 2011, God came rumbling into our house with all the fury that a house fire could bring. Instead of speaking in whispers, He had a message that at the time was unclear, but revealed itself over the next few weeks. My name is John Watson, and with my wife Melissa, daughters Riley, Abbey and dog Bailey, we became a conduit for God to get His message out. We are your typical Catholic family. We pray at night with our children, say grace at dinner time and struggle to find balance in our chaotic lives full of activities and church. We laugh, love, stress and finally figure it out. However, no one can prepare you to have your life torn apart, then rebuilt. On the night of the fire, Melissa managed to get the children out of the house, and the fire department was called. As the fire department was doing their job, I watched our house on fire and thought to myself, “there has to be a bigger reason for this happening.” The kids were tucked safely away at a neighbor’s house. Melissa was inside another neighbor’s house while I sat outside watching. Kelly Goudreau and her sons were there comforting all of us, and Fr. Bill Swengros arrived, too. While Fr. Bill and I watched, I cried a little and he said a short prayer for us. After the fire was extinguished the house was turned over to us. At around midnight, Jared and Brandon Goudreau, and I, walked around in the dark examining the damage. We stayed outside of the house. As we came along the rear of the house, near Riley’s bedroom window, Jared shined a flashlight into the charred rubble. We found a burnt out shell of a room; no ceiling, no roof, no clothes, or bed. Everything was a black smoky shell. As the flashlight shinned over the doorframe, a white light reflected back at us. We focused the flashlight onto that white light, and there was Riley’s porcelain baptismal cross which had hung there since we moved into the house. It was as white as the day her godmother gave it to her; untouched by the fire. After standing and starring, it was hard to grasp how the cross was still perfectly there. We decided it was time to call it a night. Waking up the next morning was surreal, trying to figure if what we experienced was real. And here begins; the true meaning of Christmas. The outpouring of support from the community was overwhelming, to say the least. Initially we thought, we have great neighbors that would help us through this ordeal, but never imagined the number of neighbors that wanted to help. We were provided material objects to help get us on track, but the spiritual and emotional support from everyone is what made it truly amazing to experience. It’s hard to accept help. It’s very humbling to admit that you, as a family, can’t provide for yourselves. Strangers stopped by to offer support in every possible way. Most said that they had heard about our fire and had this inner calling to stop by. There were countless volunteers helping sort through items donated and items salvaged from the house. Mothers brought daughters and fathers brought sons. Full families stopped by. Some just wanted to show their kids that Christmas is not about the commercialized event that we see on TV and the stores. They wanted them to understand that it’s about giving from your heart. That giving doesn’t have to be a wrapped gift, but the gift of time. Several middle school and high school teenagers said that they had a need to be there and wanted to help. They stayed for hours sorting and helping. In any home, there are a number of expensive items, but those can be replaced. There are also items that are irreplaceable, such as a hand-made quilt, or my daughter’s first drawing, or first lock of hair. Those are the things you long for, remember, and are sad about. There were things in our house that survived and are a true testament to God’s presence; the cross hanging on Riley’s doorframe. Once it was removed, there was a white outline of a cross behind it, on the drywall. The color from the paint had faded, but the cross still remained. Our Christmas tree was in perfect condition; still decorated, it could have been moved and used somewhere else. Our nativity set, and Melissa’s childhood bible – all these were perfectly fine and untouched by the fire. Why were these things spared? Only God knows. His presence throughout our whole ordeal was constant. The community, and our family, have a very different outlook on Christmas. The gift giving is good, but the time spent helping others and loving one another is what I think God really calls us to do. John Watson serves on our parish PCERT (Parish Community Emergency Response Team) and has been a parishioner at St. Stephen parish since 2007. (Thank you for sharing you story, John!) Quarterly Blessings 3 The Gift of Peace by Theresa Gonzalez S ince becoming head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has rededicated the pontificate to economic justice, equality and peace. On a recent visit to Assisi, he said in a newspaper interview that his namesake had longed for a poor Church that looked after others, accepted monetary help and used it to help others with no thought of itself. Since Pam Stamey and friend Heidi Smith helped furnish a single house for a family in San Jose Mission in 2008, this dream has evolved. While San Jose Home Makers (SJHM) initially helped families, Pam soon learned that other needs were unmet. Thus, the Pinellas Hope Home Makers and the Tampa Home Makers were formed. A recent Wednesday found Pam and a group of volunteers delivering furniture to a family in Valrico. The single mom of four had been to the St. Stephen, St. Vincent de Paul’s food pantry where interviewer Nellie Negron learned her story. She related that at the age of three or four, while following her mother around in the kitchen, a pot of boiling water had spilled on her, resulting in severe burns to her chest and arms leaving visible scars. Then a couple of years ago, she was the victim of an automobile accident and was thrown from the vehicle for lack of wearing a seat belt, and sustained severe head injuries. After several weeks, she came out of the coma with memory loss and limited use of one arm. Gradually, her memory returned. She recovered at her mother’s very cramped home where her children had been staying. Once on her own, she applied for and received disability. With the help of Section 8, she now has a house. Nellie referred her to the Home Makers to provide home furnishings. Once their needs were determined by Eva Demaris and myself, the items were chosen from the warehouse by another group of volunteers. Our “muscle men” loaded the truck and made the delivery. The two younger boys’ room was outfitted with twin beds, linens, and a dresser. The teenage boy received a bed, dresser, and a desk. The crew delighted in the preschool girl’s excitement when she stretched out on her new beautiful purple bed comforter. She could not wait to move her clothes from the closet floor to her drawers. The walls were decorated with colorful three–dimensional flowers. The previously empty living room now has a couch, end tables, a recliner and wall decorations. Mom has applied for a grant that give adults with disabilities the opportunity to learn skills, which are consistent with their abilities. She looks forward to getting a part time job, since she cannot work full time. Through the cooperation of various groups, this mom has been able to find an element of peace for her family. 4 Quarterly Blessings This is just one of the many touching stories of families who have been helped. This past week, while speaking to a Dover mom, a volunteer became teary eyed after hearing that the mother had never owned a dining room table. In closing, last spring Pam Stamey was chosen as the Sertoma Service to Mankind Award recipient by the Tampa Gem Club. The Service to Mankind Award recognizes a non– Sertoman volunteer for going above and beyond in serving others. On September 5 in Tampa, Pam was named the Sertoma District Award winner out of nine Sertoma Clubs. Pam graciously acknowledged all the other recipients while humbly accepting the award. In late October, Pam and her husband, Dan, traveled to Gulfport, Mississippi, for the Sertoma-Southeastern Caribbean Regional Convention, where Pam became Regional winner. To quote St. Francis’s Prayer for Peace, “It is in giving that we receive.” All of us Home Makers feel very privileged to serve the less fortunate. There is something for everyone to give to this ministry. The group meets each Wednesday morning at its warehouse in Seffner. It is especially in need of able bodied individuals to help load the truck, deliver, and set up furniture. If you are unable to join us there, please visit the St. Stephen website and make a one-time or monthly donation to SJHM. For additional information about www.sertoma.org or call (800) 593-5646. Sertoma, visit Theresa and her husband, Isidro have been active members of Nativity parish since they moved here with their children, in 1977. She also translates for SVdP Prince of Peace Parish in Sun City. Theresa has been a member of Tampa Gems Sertoma Club for eight years and is currently Vice President of Sponsorship. She serves as Family Liaison for the San Jose Home Makers. God Does Not Disappoint! by Brother Tim Childers I was recently asked to share my path to service for Christ and His Church. That is something that could be talked about from so many different angles. I suppose that the most appropriate way to do so would be in the context of this Christmas season where we currently find ourselves. It was shortly after Christmas, in January 2008, that I found myself coming to the abrupt realization that the Christmas story, which happened over 2,000 years ago, continued to this very day, and I was being called to be a part of it as an active participant. Up until that point, I had been very much a product of the world. I had been someone who had thoroughly sought out and attained just about every path to “happiness” that the world claimed to offer. For anyone who has also traveled such roads, they will certainly agree with me on how much these roads lead to disappointment. It was after exploring all such avenues, that God chose to bring this world I had embraced crashing down around me, and since I clung to it so, I went crashing with it. In the aftermath, I was able to see from this new perspective, that there was a war going on. Not a war of “Flesh and Blood,” as Saint Paul explains in his letter to the Ephesians, but a war against spiritual powers, that inevitably spills out into the whole world that we see around us. In addition, I realized I had been helping the wrong cause. I saw that I was aiding the wrong side, although unwittingly, by choosing to serve myself instead of others. Perhaps one might find the talk of a raging war during this time of Christmas a little out of place. It was C.S. Lewis who rightly described the sending of the Christ Child into this world as such. He describes the world as; “Enemy-occupied territory –that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed; you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.” I was called to enlist in this “campaign of sabotage,” the campaign to defend and fight for everything that is good, true, and beautiful. The exciting reality of this is that I am not alone in this call, for it is the same call that everyone has been called; all the prophets and holy men and women of the Bible, the saints and all the people through the past 2,000 years of the Church, including you. We decide who we choose to follow. Will we choose to serve Satan by serving none but ourselves, or do we echo the words of Our Lady, “Be it done unto me, according to thy word?” I had come to realize that every human heart is made for and longs to give one response: “Fiat,” meaning “let it be done,” that Mary gave to God every moment of her life. In seeing how Mary and the saints followed the command of Jesus to love God and neighbor, I began to see who God wanted me to be. When we put the needs of others before our own perceived needs, out of love for the other, we become more truly ourselves. How exactly each one of us is called to the service of God and others, is something that can only be discerned in conversation with God Himself. For me, it seems to be as a consecrated religious, and someday, God willing, a priest. For others it may be as a husband and father, or a wife and mother. In order to hear that “still, small voice” that God uses to call us, I use the moments just after receiving communion to ask God how He wishes me to serve Him. In addition, I find that praying the Rosary and spending time in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament to be most efficacious in discerning where He wants me to go. It was through the Sacraments and sacramentals of the Church, the reading of Holy Scripture, and the writings of the saints that I am able to march forward on this journey. Please pray for me. I will be praying for you as we strive to serve God and His Church, in order to bring much needed healing to this broken world. Brother Tim Childers, M.I.C., followed his calling to the Catholic Faith in 2009, helped with our Life Teen program at St. Stephen, and is now in formation for the priesthood with the Marians of the Immaculate Conception. “The Simple Path – Silence is Prayer, Prayer is Faith, Faith is Love, Love is Service, The Fruit of Service is Peace.” ― Mother Teresa Quarterly Blessings 5 It is No Secret by Marki Tauceda I have a secret. I know the title of my article is “It is No Secret,” but sometimes I feel like I have a secret when it comes to Eucharistic Adoration. Jesus is waiting for more of us to adore Him in the Blessed Sacrament! Bet you think those of us who come to Adoration think we are holy, I assure you we do not. Like everyone else, we echo with the psalmist and have “our sin ever before us.” The one thing we do have in common is our desire and hope in God’s infinite mercy and grace. We have discovered that by worshiping the Eucharistic Jesus and by praying as God wants us, He draws us to Himself and gently transforms us. Jesus is always present to us in the Tabernacle and at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We are especially blessed in our parish to have Eucharistic Adoration every Wednesday morning after Mass and Wednesday evenings after Mass from 7-9:30pm. It is also offered 1st Fridays after Mass. I am fortunate to attend Wednesday evenings. What is Eucharistic Adoration? Understood simply, Eucharistic Adoration is adoring or honoring, the Eucharistic Presence of Christ. In a deeper sense, it involves “the contemplation of the Mystery of Christ truly present before us.” During Eucharistic Adoration, we “watch and wait”. We remain “silent” in His Presence and open ourselves to His Graces, which flow from the Eucharist. As Catholics, we believe that Christ is truly and substantially present in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is indeed the actual Body and Blood of Christ. This is what is meant by Real Presence, the actual, physical presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and as such is given the same adoration and devotion that is given to Christ. At the beginning of the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, a priest or deacon removes the sacred host from the tabernacle and places it in the Monstrance on the Altar for adoration by the faithful. A Monstrance is the vessel used in the Church to display the consecrated Eucharistic Host during Eucharistic adoration or benediction. The word monstrance comes from the Latin word monstrare meaning, “to expose.” When a consecrated host is placed in the monstrance, it is said to be a solemn exposition. Adoration ceremonies traditionally include Scripture readings, hymns, prayers and time for silent adoration – just like our Wednesday evenings! We begin with Mass at 7pm, followed by Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Our wonderful music ministers Chris, and sometimes Jose, lead us in song. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is offered and a beautiful Rosary for vocations is recited aloud. At 9pm, we all look forward to The Divine Mercy Chaplet in song followed by Compline and Solemn Benediction (final night prayers and blessing). It is glorious, I must say! St. Alphonsus Liguori wrote: “Of all devotions, that of adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the greatest after the Sacraments, the one dearest to God and the one most helpful to us.” 6 Quarterly Blessings How must we respond? Through our worship and recognition of Him in the Eucharist! He is calling us to faith. “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4: 6-7) What a promise!! Are you tired, burdened, frustrated, or misunderstood? Do you have family members who are away from the faith? Are you heavily laden with sickness, discouragement and guilt from past sins? Are you trying to find hope and meaning in life? Do not lose heart! Abandon yourself to Jesus in this “Sacrament of Love.” He will refresh you! “Come to Me, all who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) The more time you spend with Jesus, the more you will come away feeling renewed and healed. Miracles of conversion, peace, discovery of vocations, answers to prayers, physical healings, and many other wonderful things happen whenever the Lord Jesus is adored in the Blessed Sacrament. These are the “gifts” that point to the Almighty Giver and testify to His Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament. Hear what some of our faithful adorers say: Liz: “I love all of Wednesday night. Adoration, Mass, the Rosary for Vocations, Divine Mercy, Benediction, you can’t beat time spent with my God!” Debra: “Wednesday night Mass and Eucharistic Adoration have truly deepened and strengthened my relationship with our Lord and Savior. I think if people understood how powerful Eucharistic Adoration was there would be a lot more than 10 or 12 left adoring — what a blessing!!” When asked, “What would save the world?” Mother Teresa replied, “My answer is prayer. What we need is for every parish to come before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in holy hours of prayer.” Let us love being with the Lord! There we can speak with Him about everything. We can offer Him our petitions, our concerns, our troubles, our joys, our gratitude, our disappointments, our needs, and our aspirations. Above all, we can thank Him for His blessings and trust in His Mercy and grace for our lives. Jesus asks us, “So you could not keep watch with me for one hour?” (Matthew 26:40) Won't you come to be restored and refreshed? Jesus is waiting!! It is the perfect way to get that extra “charge” in the middle of the week. Our time spent with our Beloved Savior in Adoration can become the most profound, meaningful, joyful, peaceful and healing experience we could ever encounter. You will not be disappointed! After all…It is No Secret! Marki is active in San Jose Home Makers, Hope is Contagious Ministry, the Divine Mercy cenacle, and is our Healing Mass coordinator; she is always ready to respond to the needs of others, in addition to those of her own growing family. The Lord Our Provider by Lanette Cezair W hat a whirlwind it has been since August 8, 2013, the day I found out that I tested positive for colon cancer! Who would have ever thought this would happen, certainly not I. My health has been excellent since I’ve been living in Florida, which is now 15 years. I became a member of St. Stephen Parish when I started singing in the Choir, seven years ago, because I felt so uplifted and spiritually blessed through the music selected and played by Chris Westfall, the Music Director. The first time I heard the Choir sing “Holy Is His Name,” I knew that St. Stephen Parish is where I belonged. So, I was quite surprised when I received a message at work, that my doctor had been trying to reach me and wanted to know when my surgery was scheduled. I called the office and said I received a message about surgery. What surgery? I don’t need surgery. The nurse said, “You don’t know what this is about? You need to speak to the doctor.” My doctor told me that my colonoscopy indicated that there was a mass that tested positive for colon cancer, and it needed to be removed, the sooner the better. This began a new chapter of life, and a new path on the faith journey, not knowing really what to do, where to go, and who to tell. You see, I am a single mom (divorced, and received annulment) with five (yes, five!) teenagers, ages 14, 15, 17, 18, 19. Both my parents have passed onto eternal life, and I have no siblings. However, this cancer discovery has shown me how much family I really have. I never knew that I had so many brothers and sisters, or how many people love me. I have personally encountered Emmanuel – God with us! When I told a friend of mine, Fr. David Hemann, who lives in Sioux City, Iowa, about my cancer discovery, he said, “God is provident! God provides! He’s got this. Don’t worry. I have a good feeling…Just trust and rest in God’s Providence!” Jehovah Jireh, my provider His grace is sufficient for me, for me, for me. Who is this Jehovah Jireh? According to the Jerome Biblical Commentary, Jehovah Jireh refers to the personal name of the God of Israel, meaning, and “The Lord will provide.” Here I am now, going on this Exodus journey of faith. Not knowing where to go, what to do, whom to call, but knowing that I need to trust and hold onto Jesus. My doctor told me that I would need to recover from the surgery at home for at least six weeks. How am I going to take care of my children and pay bills? I am behind, and I have no additional resources. All I can do is hope, pray, and try to let go and let God handle it, because I can’t. Well, God certainly did handle it, through the family of faith, and especially through my St. Stephen family. So many different ministries have come together for us and they come willingly, with joy and smiles, hugs and cards, and monetary donations, flowers and food, furniture and fixtures for the house and more. “I no longer call you servants, I call you friends.” (John 15:14-15) While I was in the hospital, someone had pizza delivered to our home. When it arrived my son, Rafael said, “We didn’t order these, and we don’t have any money.” The deliveryman said, “Don’t worry, the debt has already been paid.” God also manifested Himself through my coworkers, who donated sick time for me to use. My children’s teachers ask how I’m doing, and let me know that they are thinking about me and praying for me and my children’s friends and parents have also reached out to me. Hope is Contagious wanted to know if it would be okay if people came over to spruce up the room for when I came home from the hospital. I said sure, that would be very nice. When I came home, it was like a scene from the TV show Extreme Makeover, Home Edition! My house was in the process of being totally transformed. “Behold, I make all things new.” (Revelation 21:5) The living room, bedroom, and bathroom walls were painted in my favorite colors. I was shocked! It was a miracle! Lord, I’m amazed by You! I can’t thank enough, all the St. Stephen ministries who are walking with me on this journey of faith. Thank you Choir, Journey to Hope, Hope is Contagious, Knights of Columbus, Columbiettes, St. Vincent De Paul, The Divine Mercy Cenacle, San Jose Homemakers, CRHP, Deacon Dan, and all whom God is using to reveal Jehovah Jireh, the Prince of Peace, to me personally. Now I am living in peace and blessed assurance that all will be well, no matter what! I am choosing to celebrate being cancer free this day, to take it one day at a time, and be positive and hope-filled! This is my story, this is my song...Praising my Savior all the daylong! Lanette and her family have been an active parishioners since 2005 – generously sharing their musical gifts! Quarterly Blessings 7 He Called Me to Peace by Br. John-Mary Johannssen, CFR “We can learn how the Lord acts in every vocation (cf. Ex 3:16, 9-12). First he provokes a new awareness of his presence – the burning bush. When we begin to show an interest, he calls us by name. When our answer becomes more specific and like Moses we way: “Here I am” (c.f. v.4), then he reveals more clearly both himself and his compassionate love for his people in need. Gradually he leads us to discover the practical way in which we should serve him: “I will send you.” And usually it is then that fears and doubts come to disturb us and make it more difficult to decide. It is then that we need to hear the Lord’s assurance: “I am with you. Be not afraid!” -Blessed Pope John Paul II, The Meaning of Vocation M eeting parishioners during a recent visit to St. Stephen, I was recognized as the guy whose picture still hangs in the front office, wearing a vintage 13th century Franciscan habit. My family became members of the parish many years ago, when St. Stephen community met in the strip mall store on Bell Shoals Road, and I received my confirmation here in 1990. Looking back, I hope my story spurs your own journey! The Burning Bush My path has woven through stages of awareness of God’s presence; through Evangelical friends, through retreats, study, and stepping out in faith. I was intrigued when, during a flying assignment after the Air Force Academy, my friend Josh Reynolds (non-Catholic) prayed with me to receive something more of God. It wasn’t dramatic, but subjectively everything changed for me. I had a new conviction of God’s love for me. The Lord was teaching my soul to fly! He Calls Us By Name Although I went to Bible studies and prayer meetings, I was drawn to discover what was happening in the Catholic Church. After attending a “Youth 2000” retreat in my parish in Little Rock, Arkansas, I experienced Eucharistic Adoration for the first time. I knew God was talking to me. (The two longbearded, grey-habited Franciscan priests giving the retreat looked like a couple of Grateful Dead groupies that somehow got religion!) One of the priests challenged me, “If you think He is calling you, you owe it to yourself and to Him to pray about it. He will show you.” Then He Reveals Himself More Clearly I followed this up by spending more time in front of the Blessed Sacrament. (I was stationed at Yokota Air Base in Japan.) Top on my list was to reconcile the Evangelical idea that Holy Communion was merely a symbolic remembrance of the Last Supper, with the Catholic belief that we receive the very Body and Blood of Jesus at every Holy Mass. 8 Quarterly Blessings Providentially, an old friend sent me a copy of Home Sweet Rome, by Dr. Scott Hahn. He was convinced by scripture to convert to Catholicism; his main reason – the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist! I visited the Blessed Sacrament chapel nearly every night, praying earnestly to know for sure, for myself: “If You are here, please show me. I need to know. If You are, I don’t want to be anywhere else.” Then, after about two weeks, during a silent moment of prayer, something…shifted…something happened. Suddenly I knew it was all true: Jesus Christ was present Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Blessed Sacrament, the Catholic Church was His one true Church, and – the kicker – the thing I hadn’t been asking Him about – He was inviting me to be His priest! …And His Compassionate Love for His People in Need Still I had no idea in which direction this would take me. Should I be a diocesan priest like my pastor back home, or would I perhaps join a religious order such as the Franciscans, whom I had met on the retreat? I continued praying while I was in active Air Force service. Once, while on duty in Cambodia, my eyes were opened when I confronted the poverty of the local marketplace. I met beggars whose suffering haunted me. I felt I was the rich young man of Luke’s Gospel. In prayer, I discerned that I had to bear witness to the God-given dignity of these destitute, with my life. I felt I must consider a life of religious consecration – a vow of poverty, chastity and obedience in – in solidarity with them. Through study at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, I was convicted by how much of the Gospel I simply did not live. This sent me to the friars I had met – to learn more about them. I visited them in New York City, and learned more about the Rule of St. Francis and Constitutions of the community. Enshrined in the very first line of the Rule of St. Francis, I recognized what had become the deepest desire of my heart: “The Rule and Life of the Lesser Brothers is this” to observe the Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ…” Like Francis, I gave up distinguishing myself as a “warrior” and returned to build the Church. My commission being over with the Air Force, I entered the ranks of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in September of 2005. Almost six years later, on July 31, 2011, I made my final/perpetual vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience ˗ a total consecration of my life to Jesus Christ for the sake of the Gospel. I am presently studying as a seminarian with the hope of ordination in 2016. I continue to marvel at the many graces the Lord continues to pour out on me – graces that I am fully capable of tracing all the way back to my early years at St. Stephen. I remain grateful to all of you who have encouraged me and accompanied me in prayer on this great journey of faith. I pray that my story might in some way encourage those who are finding it difficult to persevere in faith. There is nothing special about me – I assure you! He is calling you as well. Most likely He isn’t calling you to be a Franciscan friar, but He is calling and inviting each and every one of you to a life-changing personal relationship with Him. For those of you who have encountered Him, let us not keep Him to ourselves – we learned in the Year of Faith to dare to share the love of Jesus Christ! As our beloved, and soon to be canonized, Blessed John Paul II often exhorted us: “Be not afraid!” Jesus is alive! Brother John Mary Johannssen is a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal (CFR) hoping to be ordained in 2016, and who kindly wrote this story for us during his studies in New York City. St. Francis Prayer on the Eucharist Let everyone be struck with fear, let the whole world tremble, and let the heavens exult when Christ the Son of the Living God, is present on the altar in the hands of a priest! O wonderful loftiness and stupendous dignity! O sublime humility! O humble sublimity! The Lord of the universe, God and the Son of God, so humbles Himself that for our salvation He hides Himself under an ordinary piece of bread! Brothers, look at the humility of God, and pour out your hearts before him! Humble yourselves that you may be exalted by Him! Humble yourselves that you may be exalted by Him! Hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves, that He who gives Himself totally to you. May receive you totally! Amen. “I was sick and you took care of me.” (Mt 25:36) by Deacon Dan Gratkowski I n Matthew 25:36 Jesus said: "I was sick and you took care of me." Powerful words from our Lord Jesus. We are blessed at our parish to have several people who responded to the call of visiting those who are homebound, and now we are equally blessed to have several people respond to the call that was made in February of this year to visit the sick at Brandon Regional Hospital (BRH). How is it that we are now able to visit the sick at BRH? This came about through the wisdom of Father Arthur Proulx, pastor of Nativity, and our former pastor, Father Bill. Father Proulx recognized that it would be beneficial for both churches to share the visiting of patients because the task is so large. After discussing it with Father Bill, they decided that, St. Stephen would be responsible for Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and Nativity would take the remaining four days. Father Bob has been very supportive of this ministry. We began visiting BRH in March and to date it has been a fantastic and humbling experience for the people who are involved in this ministry. Those involved fulfilled several pre-requirements. Fingerprinting, a Safe Environment Program Training class for adults; they attended our Eucharistic Ministry class with Marty Diebold, and a short session with me explaining the Hospital do's and don'ts when visiting patients. To date, we have 20 wonderful people involved with this ministry and I am now looking for a few more volunteers, especially for Mondays and Wednesdays. Think about it, pray about it, and consider being a part of this most humbling and rewarding of ministries. All of the volunteers involved in the Hospital Ministry have said that they receive more than what they give, and each of them has found this to be a blessing. Reaching out to God’s people and serving for him is also a gift they have received. For me personally, I really enjoy reaching out to the sick (Homebound and Hospital) as I believe those are my duties as a Deacon of the Church. This has been the most satisfying ministry of my entire career; namely, to serve God and His people. If interested, or if you have any questions please contact Deacon Dan by email at [email protected] or calling the church office (813) 689-4900. Quarterly Blessings 9 Following Christ by Anna Stephanz “When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” And he came down quickly and received him with joy. When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.” (Luke 19:5-7) O n the very first night of SNE (School of the New Evangelization), Fr. Craig stood in front of 200 college students, including myself, and asked a very simple question, “Why are you here?” I have been on several faith formation trips before and most of the time I would have a very confident and positive answer, not this time. Since I only knew the seven other students from Florida State University’s Catholic Student Union, I felt very much like an outsider, wondering why I did in fact come to this retreat in Minnesota. However, just as Jesus wanted to go into Zacchaeus’s house, that same Jesus wanted to enter into my heart. So as I reflected on that question of “why am I here,” I knew it was because the Lord had something in mind for me, and it was up to me to be open to receive His blessings. This openness to the Lord wasn’t as easy I would have expected. For the first four days I was challenged, or one could say, put under spiritual attack. I entered into an unfamiliar environment that was very charismatic. Coming from a traditional family, I have always encountered the Lord in a contemplative manner, seeking Him in silence. On the fourth night, during some time of quiet prayer, I realized several things: My Second Home by Amanda Allen T hroughout elementary school, kids would often taunt me and make me feel like I wasn’t good enough. I lacked self-confidence and felt like an outsider; trapped and alone. Everything changed the summer before sixth grade when my mom made me go to Vacation Bible School (VBS). I was afraid of kids laughing at me or not wanting to even be near me because I was the “weird girl.” I didn’t want the church to be one more place where I didn’t feel welcomed. My mother and I pulled up to the gravel driveway at the ROC youth center. As I got out of the car, my nerves began to kick in. I quickly found a seat inside, trying to avoid the thought of what names I would be called and what teasing these people had in store for me. I couldn’t have been more wrong! I’ve never met a group of people who were so welcoming with arms wide open. For once in my life, I felt as if I actually belonged. When VBS was over that week, I thought, “Well this is it. See you all next 10 Quarterly Blessings 1. It is very beautiful to see so many students my age who are praising the Lord and so radically in love with Him, and if that is how they encounter the Lord, then great, but that is not for me. 2. The Lord knows me on the level I am. I do not need to do what the other students are doing in order to find a relationship with the Lord; The Lord loves me for who I am. 3. Dwelling on the negatives, or differences, is not letting me be open to what the Lord has planned for me. These realizations that made it possible for me to receive blessings from the Lord. I could finally answer the question, “Why am I here?” I have always searched for the Lord’s love for me, but only recently did I truly find it. Two weeks prior to coming to SNE, I went to confession, taking it seriously for the first time, and it was here that I encountered the Lord and His love for me. I came to SNE to further grow in that love, to come to accept it and learn how to radically share that love with others in all relationships I build. By knowing of the Lord’s love for me, I can better understand my identity as a daughter of Christ, which is critical when evangelizing and inviting other people into my entire life. As I enter into this school year as hospitality chair, my heart is exploding with the Lord’s love. My hope is that I can bring this holy and pure love to those who are searching for it on the college campus. We are all living as examples to others, however, is our life worth imitating? Are we ready to say to someone else, “Follow me, as I follow Christ?” As I come to fully know Christ, I hope to imitate His love in a way that brings others closer to Him. Anna is in her third year at The Florida State University. She is pursuing her Bachelor's degree in Family and Child Sciences. Anna has been a member of the St. Stephen parish for 20 years. year…” Until our youth minister mentioned the youth group meets twice a week. I attended all three years of middle school! I’m a sophomore in high school now and still active! I attend LifeTeen every Wednesday and Sunday. I’ve built so many relationships, and I can honestly say it is my second home. Everyone there is like my second family, I know I can trust them, and completely be myself. Never in my life have I ever felt so blessed; so at peace, like I matter! Our parish is made up of extraordinary people who have taken me under their wing. Every day, I wake up and thank God for allowing me to have this spiritual, second family in my life. Going to youth group has really changed my perspective on life. It has shown me how to be confident in myself and who I am. It has given me the opportunity to make friendships that would last. I learned I’m not alone. My family, friends, and most importantly, God, are always by my side. Amanda is a sophomore at Bloomingdale High School. She is very active in the St. Stephen Catholic Church youth ministry. Peaceful Relationship by Jessica Seifert E veryone dreams of maintaining peace in their lives, marriage, workplace, and peace with close friends and family members. We strive to sustain peace with our neighbors, strangers, peace in war torn areas of the world, and yes, we even desire peace with our loving God. Some of us find ourselves bartering with Him for “one more favor” in hopes of attaining inner peace. God created us to have a personal relationship with him, and this relationship was designed to last forever. However, our relationship with God gets damaged when we sin, which hurts Him (and us) deeply. It is impossible to achieve inner peace if our relationship with God is damaged. One way to rebuild our broken relationship with Him and achieve that peace is through prayer and reconciliation. For some, even though we don’t like to admit it, prayer is reserved for those “God, where are you? I really need you right now!” moments. Our schedules are busy and many times we revert to reciting a quick prayer without taking the time to focus on the true meaning of the words we are saying. Clyde Herring, author of “If God Talked Out Loud” writes of a person praying the Lord’s Prayer, and during the recitation of the memorized prayer, God interjects and holds a dialogue with this person. God interrupts them mid-sentence with his own questions, as they blindly recite the memorized words without consideration as to what they are asking for. Have you ever analyzed a memorized prayer and thought: “What am I asking of the Lord as I pray?” It certainly made me wonder! Am I really praying to the best of my ability? I tried to identify all the times that I pray to God. I pray when I need help, when I am thankful. I pray when I read the prayer card that’s stashed inside of my bible. I pray with my church family when we read the words to our parish prayer before Mass and when we recite the Nicene Creed (how many of us still need the pew cards to help us say it correctly?) I also pray with my husband and children before going to bed every night. As former OCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) member, I remember discussing the variety of ways Catholics pray: silently, as a group (where one or more are gathered), memorized prayers including the rosary and the stations of the cross, read the bible, sing a hymnal (singing counts as praying twice, right?). My husband and I both admit that listening to our child say his prayers has richly enhanced our prayer life, both memorized and those that are from the heart. Sometimes, I find myself wishing I prayed more like him, as he seems to have so much more peace and forgiveness in his heart. Now is the time of year when second graders are spending a lot of time discussing the importance of prayer as they prepare for their Rite of First Reconciliation. I asked one child recently how they prepare their hearts for prayer and I was told that they like to do what’s called the “Finger Prayer”. It was explained to me as such: Hold up your hand. Begin with your thumb and pray for the people closest to you: fellow classmates and workers, family and siblings. Then, move to your pointer finger and pray for those who point the direction in life: teachers, mentors, priests, bishop, etc. Next, use your middle finger and pray for government officials and those who stand tall such as firefighters, police, and doctors. Then, move to your ring finger. This is your weakest finger, so pray for the weak, poor, and needy. Last is your pinky finger, the farthest finger from you — that is where you pray for your own needs. Examining your conscience and confessing your sins to a priest can be intimidating, but by participating in the sacrament of reconciliation, you gain another avenue to finding peace in your life. Many non-Catholics find it hard to understand how admitting our weaknesses and asking for forgiveness brings us comfort, but it truly does. We aren’t being judged for our inadequacies, we are being forgiven by God’s endless love. Our merciful God offers renewed strength and provides the ability to turn towards Him and away from our sins. We should all strive to increase our visits to the confessional to experience the peace and spiritual solace that comes from making confession. Developing a prayerful relationship with God and participating in the sacrament of reconciliation brings forth peace, hope, and joy. We all want and need peace in our everyday lives. Commit yourself to talking to God every day through prayer, reading your Bible, celebrating the sacrament of Eucharist every Sunday and going to confession on a regular basis. Be faithful to Him and peace will be yours. Jessica Seifert is married to Mike Seifert, and mother to Joseph and Gianni. Formerly teaching at St. Stephen Catholic School, she is proud to be a stay at home mom while actively volunteering at the school as their PTCO moderator. Jessica also maintains the Angels Among Us website. Quarterly Blessings 11 Peace in our Home by Ron and Gloria Heath O ur adventure started in the afternoon on Saturday, August 3, 1963 in El Paso, Texas. At Assumption Church, Father McGinley performed the marriage of Ron and Gloria. We were two people from very different backgrounds. One was a Southern Baptist from Georgia and the other a Roman Catholic from Texas. Several people we knew felt our religions would be a problem. We were young, our love was strong and we paid little attention. I feel strongly we always had the Blessed Mother looking out for us. A very special friend told me to always remember that all couples start out with the same values; it's what you do with them that will make the difference. We kept our values. Look what happened! After getting married ,we headed for Pennsylvania to an Army Nike site in Irwin. Our oldest daughter was born in June 1964. Thanksgiving of that year a decision had to be made that would have great affect on us. Ron was due for discharge. Should we re-enlist for helicopter school, accept a job offer from IBM in Pittsburgh, go to Florida and a job with RCIA ,or move to El Paso and work at White Sands? After serious thinking, we decided to stay in Pennsylvania, and make our new home. We spent 12 years there and had three more children. We made many good friends and have many fond memories. Especially when we participated in, and introduced, Tex-Mex food to St. Malachy's Nationality Festival! Imagine, serving tacos next to the pierogi booth. Then it was a corporate transfer. California, here we come! We spent five years in San Jose making new friends, memories and experiences even with a couple of those scary "earthquakes." Another transfer brought us to Florida, and the family settled in Brandon. Through the years, our marriage has had it's share of ups and downs. Some were happy events. Some were not. You rely on the examples of your parents and you learn from your mistakes. You also pray a lot! All our children were raised Catholics, as we had initially agreed. Ron supported this and converted to Catholicism on March 30, 1986 at Nativity Church. This was a very special time in our lives. I had set the example, but Ron made the decision. My prayers were answered. Raising those children was a pleasure, with many rewarding times. It was also a challenge with several trying times. Today, we are so thankful that all our children are healthy and doing well. Our children were the ones who called the church regarding our anniversary. This was a big and wonderful surprise especially when Father Bob asked us to stand for a Blessing. It was in the afternoon on Saturday, August 3, 2013. Fifty years almost to the hour! We later had a big celebration with the entire family on St. Augustine Beach. Our grandchildren, of course, are our pride and joy – all ten of them! They are the new generation, and hopefully will make their parents proud too. Our oldest grandson joined the Navy in June. Of this we are very proud. The next five oldest are now in junior high and high school. The others are in elementary school. They have all started to make their way by getting honors scholastically and being involved in many activities. So now we go forward! Life has been good. We hope that our Lord and the Blessed Mother will continue to guide our family into the future. Ron and Gloria have been St. Stephen parishioners since 2008. Gloria volunteers in the church office every Friday afternoon. Both are retired and they spend time with their grandchildren and travel occasionally. “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise, “that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life on earth.” (Ephesians 6:2-3) 12 Quarterly Blessings Life After Divorce by José Colón I have been praying about sharing my experience after my 20+ year marriage ended more than three and a half years ago. It’s been a very interesting and challenging journey so far, with lots of ups and downs. One thing is certain: our dear Lord has been there for me every step of the way, even when I was not aware of His presence. Divorce, by nature, is a very stressful and painful situation. It affects everyone involved. People you’ve considered family and/or friends shut you down. Children are greatly affected as well. I can attest to that, not only due to my own children going through it, but also because my parents divorced when I was 15 years old. It becomes very difficult to keep practicing your faith as a divorced Catholic. Your friends expect you to just go out and meet other people. But divorce is what it is: a death of a marriage. As with any other death or loss, you could go through the Five Stages of Grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Even at church, it is very challenging to be a divorced Catholic when you sometimes feel like an outsider. You go from attending Mass as a family to going alone or only with your children. You see other families happy, together, taking the offerings up to the priest and tend to find yourself asking, “Why me? Why did we not make it?” Different unpleasant thoughts cross your mind and you ask yourself, “Do I really still belong in this parish?” The answer to that question is a resounding YES! As a matter of fact, it is during these very difficult times that God, the Church and your brothers and sisters in Christ are needed more than ever. The divorce support group in our parish called Journey to Hope was such a blessing to me from day one. I started attending immediately, twice a month, and felt a connection with my fellow brothers and sisters. People from other Christian denominations and religions attend these meetings. Clearly divorce does not discriminate, as it affects everyone. A few months after I started attending Journey to Hope, I had another life changing event while in the middle of my divorce process. I decided to attend a Christ Renews His Parish (CRHP) retreat. I met some brothers in Christ, and today I consider them best friends and advisors. I strongly suggest considering CRHP, if you have not done so. Like the slogan of that fine store for men says, “You are going to like it. I guarantee it.” After that CRHP weekend, along with Journey to Hope, I am no longer alone. I realize that God had never abandoned me. The legal part of my divorce was long and painful, but it was finally done a few months after CRHP. I needed to move forward and inquire about an annulment. Although this is needed to remarry in the Catholic Church, it has a stronger and bigger purpose. Part of the process requires you to examine your failed marriage. A hurtful process of having to look back at your marriage, but the process is really a healing process. I submitted my petition back in July 2012. It was eye opening to explore my marriage and understand the reasons why it failed. We all mature at different ages, but there is no set age for it. We were too immature when we married, and the responsibilities were too great. After divorce, I focused on building my relationship with my children. During this time something totally unexpected happened. God has a very interesting sense of humour. I remember praying to God that if I find a partner I want to be able to share my faith with her. That was non-negotiable from my point of view. Little did I know that such woman would be right here at St. Stephen Parish. We started sharing our experiences, as she is also a divorced Catholic, also attending Journey to Hope. Our relationship is solid and strong, with God right in the middle. In July 2013, I received the news that I have been granted the Declaration of Nullity of my Catholic marriage. An annulment states that in the eyes of God, when we were promising to be together for life, we were too immature to give consent. It really felt great to receive confirmation from the Church on the reason for my divorce, and that I am free and blessed to move on. My girlfriend has also been granted an annulment. Now, after more than a two-year relationship, I proposed to her and she said “yes”. Passing time has healed past wounds, and now we feel ready for a brighter future together. God is amazing! It’s been a journey to hope and I’m looking forward to adding new and exciting chapters to it. I have learned that God is always with me. He will never abandon us. God bless you! “For I know well the plans that I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future of hope. When you call me, when you go to pray to me, I will listen to you.” (Jeremiah 29:11-12) José has been a member of St Stephen Parish since 2001 and a member of CRHP Team 11. Pastoral note: An annulment is different from a divorce. A divorce is the breaking or severing of a legal contract for the couple, properties and responsibilities toward any children born or adopted within the marriage. An annulment does involve lawyers as well, but they are canon lawyers, and they look at the marriage (prior to and during) to see if the couple at the time they took their vows, knew what they were doing and were responsible enough to live up to those responsibilities of marriage. It does not consider what took place after unless it was a reoccurrence of a pre-existing problem. Quarterly Blessings 13 Kindness is Contagious by Heike House Bake something yummy and take it to Santa and his elves (at ost of us have heard of the concept to “Pay it the mall)! Forward,” and many have seen, and loved, the Pick a favorite retailer or restaurant. Have your kids write movie by the same name. Or perhaps you’ve heard “why I love [blank]” and deliver the note to the manager. about Random Acts of Kindness, made all the more popular by Spend some time cleaning up the neighborhood by picking up Oprah Winfrey. If you Google the word kindness, the results trash. are endless. Print a happy photo of your children. Write “thank you for In a blog I read recently, a mom by the name of Courtney how you serve our family” on the back. Take copies all DeFeo addressed concerns about her children wondering, around town to those we never thank but should. “What are we getting?” at Christmastime. Her solution for Buy a bouquet of flowers and have your children give them shifting the “getting” to “giving” is one we can all incorporate away one at a time. Think of the grocery store employees into our own families, whether we have children or not. behind the scenes, etc. What if the random acts of kindness weren't so random but Take the Candy Cane Challenge! See how many candy canes directed at people to initiate some sort your family can distribute in your comof reconciliation - a grumpy neighbor, munity during the month of December. “Kindness is a language the house with the dog barking all the Each sweet treat must be accompanied which the deaf can hear time, the teacher that you like least, the by a genuine smile, a thoughtful note or postman you don't know, the sibling audible kind wish from one child in and the blind can see.” you fight with the most. We constantly your family. ― Mark Twain pray for peace in our world. Perhaps it’s Stage an early morning chalk attack. best to begin in our own backyards. Pick a street - yours or another! - and Involve your whole family (kids, too!) in selecting which write a “good morning” or “have a great day” message on idea(s) you want to execute together. Stick to one idea, or mix every driveway. it up! Use your creative imagination and come up with some of Pack a cooler of lunches and look around your city for those your own ideas to bless people! who could use it that day. There are so many hungry people Create a list of people to bless. Stay as anonymous as possiwithin miles of our daily routines! ble so that all of this giving doesn’t become about building our Stand outside your child’s classroom and give each child a own greatness. It’s about spreading joy to others! single flower as they walk in. Then, as the children enter Share the joy all at once, or spread it out by doing one each the classroom, have them hand the flower to their teacher. day of Advent. You don’t have to stop at Christmas! By the time class begins, he or she will have a vase full of flowers! Here are just some ideas to get you started. There are many Set up a free hot cocoa stand and take donations for your more on the internet! favorite charity. Fill your car with as many balloons as will fit. Take your kids Make homemade yard signs or flags and place encouraging to hand them out one at a time to strangers. Teach them notes in friends’ or neighbors’ yards. Think superlatives how to say, “We just wanted to make you smile today,” and like “best yard”, “sweet family” or “best Halloween maintain eye contact. candy”. Pass out donuts to your neighbors as they leave for work in Drive through a bank teller just to give THEM a treat through the morning. the vacuum system. When checking out at the grocery store, ask your cashier what While you’re shopping for your family at a big retailer his or her favorite candy is. Buy one for them! (during checkout chat time with the cashier), ask them if Let someone in line ahead of you at the checkout. they are still shopping for their family or if they are finMake a “see what happens” basket of goodies and notes to ished. Surprise them big time by adding a fun gift card to keep in your car so that you are ready for unexpected opthe order especially for them. portunities as you run errands! Buy lunch or coffee for the car behind you in the drive-thru. Tape a big sign to the top of your trash can with a little treat “For it is in giving that we receive.” – St. Francis of Assisi for your garbage collector. Anything from candy to gift Heike currently serves as layout director for the Quarterly Blessings, cards would be a great surprise for them! and is an active member in the St. Stephen Adult Choir. Tape a note and $1 to a vending or soda machine. The next person along will be delighted! M “You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson 14 Quarterly Blessings Kids Korner How will First Reconciliation bring Peace to you? Saint Stephen Catholic School 2nd graders When I pray I feel real good because I know it makes me closer to God. – Joseph When I pray it feels good because I really talk to God. – Adriana I like to pray because I feel a little bit better. – Dante When I pray, I feel calmer, I do not know why. – Tabitha When I pray, it makes me feel very good because God helps me. – Francis When I pray it makes me happy because it helps others. – Shane It’s been seven years before I can take my first confession. It will be like I feel like I never sinned ever. – Alexis Prayer of St. Francis Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow 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. What does Peace mean to you?` Religious Education 3rd graders To me it means that everyone is happy and safe with no destruction or fighting. – Grace I’ll be happy to tell God my sins and say sorry. – Diego I think it will be like Jesus is washing my heart clean from all my sins. – Adriana Everyone gets along and is kind. There’s no fights or wars. – Connor Doves and Noah’s Ark. – Anthony I think it will be like my heart will be filled with joy. – Joshua When I take my first confession, I think it will go well. – Antonio Religious Education 2nd graders If you have been mean to someone, God will forgive you. It will make you feel better to have less sins. – Maier If you call someone names and you say you are sorry, God will forgive you. Getting forgiven feels good. – Cannon Because if you hurt someone and you say you are sorry at First Reconciliation then you make peace between you and God. – Reese Everyone can believe in their own faith and not have to hit someone. – Matthew Religious Education 4th graders For me peace means to not have war and stop hate. To be nice, thankful, and loving to all people. – Ryan For me peace means everyone is happy and joyful. Everybody is following the 10 commandments, and everyone is getting along. Peace means a lot to the Saint Stephen Parish. – Joe For me peace means people not arguing or fighting over stuff that doesn’t mean anything. Peace means people sharing and working together to reach a goal. Peace means getting along as people of God even if it is a rainy day. – Maverick Happy because I am getting closer to God. – Nicolette It will make me feel better because I feel that Jesus has forgiven me and I am closer to him. – Jacob I will feel calmer. – Ryan For me Peace means to be calm with no violence. For everyone to love. Not to bully and to make everyone be kind. – Malcolm For me peace means to be happy to get along with each other and to put others before yourself. – Haley It will make me feel more comfortable with myself. – Matthew Quarterly Blessings 15 St. Stephen Catholic Church 5049 Bell Shoals Rd. Valrico, FL 33594 Return Service Requested NON PROFIT ORG. U.S. POSTAGE PAID PERMIT NO. 6766 TAMPA, FL O ur mission is met if, each quarter, when reading the Quarterly Blessings, one person who is not actively involved in the church gets inspired and excited about the great things going on at St. Stephen and gets involved by participating in any of the wonderful spiritual and fellowship activities. Comments, suggestions and contributions for this publication are encouraged and always welcome. Please email us at [email protected] Any photos submitted to the Quarterly Blessings will gladly be returned upon request. Quarterly Blessings Advisor: Fr. Bob Schneider (813) 689-4900 Quarterly Blessings Board Members: Brandon Avery Agatha Chee-A-Tow Bob Dombrowski Victor Francavilla Jeanne Glogowski Heike House Matthew Irwin Nicole Lowe Gretchen Robens Jessica Seifert Rick Tauceda Karen Taylor Additional Editorial Team Members: Peg Campbell Deb Durell Peter Konowicz Bonnie Woodworth Cover and nameplate design created by Rick Tauceda. Subscribe for electronic delivery of the Quarterly Blessings online at www.StStephenCatholic.org. Printing of the Quarterly Blessings is provided by: Messner Publications 3250 Dundee Rd. Winter Haven, FL 33884 (866) 651-2111 Lord Jesus Christ, We praise You: Bring peace into the world By bringing Your peace into the hearts of all. Help us to turn away from sin And to follow You in love and service. Glory be yours, and honor, For ever and ever. Amen.
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