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From the Desk of the Pastor 

April 20, 2024

Good afternoon.

 

This weekend, on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday when the passage from the Gospel of John (10:11-18) is heard. In it, Jesus describes Himself as the "Good Shepherd" who lays down His life for the sheep. This imagery is powerful, depicting a leader who not only guides but also protects and sacrifices for the well-being of his flock. 

 

Pope Francis often speaks on this theme of the Good Shepherd, a central metaphor in Christian theology that highlights the intimate and caring relationship between Jesus and his followers. His reflections on this topic emphasize the importance of compassion, mercy, and active pastoral care.  He emphasizes that being a good shepherd means more than just leading; it involves listening, understanding, and being among the people to truly comprehend their struggles and pains. In his view, a good shepherd smells like his sheep, an expression he uses to describe the need for priests and bishops to be deeply involved in the lives of those they serve, sharing in their joys and sorrows.

 

Throughout his papacy, Francis has stressed the importance of the Church being a welcoming place for all, including those on the margins of society. He often criticizes clericalism and calls for a more humble, service-oriented approach among the Church’s leaders. By doing so, he aligns with the compassionate aspects of the Good Shepherd, advocating for a church that is less about judgment and more about mercy.

 

In his sermons and writings, Pope Francis often returns to the parable of the lost sheep, which highlights the shepherd's joy at finding just one lost sheep out of a hundred. He uses this story to speak about God’s infinite love and forgiveness, pointing out that the Church must go out of its way to find and rejoice in the return of any lost individual.  He also connects the role of the Good Shepherd with the concept of mercy. During the Holy Year of Mercy in 2016 for example, he emphasized the shepherd’s role in healing wounds, stating that the Church should be a field hospital for souls, a place of refuge and healing.

 

In practical terms, Francis encourages church leaders to be accessible and empathetic, to leave behind  the trappings of power, and to embrace simplicity and poverty. He believes that this approach not only makes them more effective in their pastoral duties but also more credible witnesses to the Gospel they preach.

 

The message of the Good Shepherd also ties into broader themes of social justice, care for the poor, and environmental stewardship. Pope Francis invokes the Good Shepherd when discussing issues like migration, economic inequality, and climate change, urging leaders within and outside the Church to shepherd responsibly, caring for the most vulnerable and for the creation entrusted to them. 

 

It is appropriate then, that this year, many of the themes that Pope Francis draws from the story of the Good Shepherd will roll over to Monday when we celebrate Earth Day.  On that day especially, it might be worth our time taking another look at one (or both) of his documents on the environment and the state of the world, Laudato Si and Laudate Deum.  

 

In just a few weeks, we will celebrate Confirmation with students in Grade Seven and First Communion with children in Grade Two.  Iah and I visited the children who will celebrate these sacraments from our schools today (Wednesday) and there is much excitement.  The parish Catechists have been in touch with the parents and children in the Parish Program for children who attend other schools in the community to catch up on how their preparation is going. 

 

We had four candidates in the RCIA process in the parish over the last eight months.  Usually candidates for baptism and reception into the church are received into the church at the Easter Vigil but this year, for family reasons the candidates have chosen to be received with their families at a regular Sunday Mass.  Two of them have chosen Aoril 28 at the 11.30 Mass and the other two are still to be determined.  Please keep them in your prayers.  I was delighted to walk with these candidates during their journey on Wednesday evenings and found the experience to be invigorating and often, a highlight of my week.

 

Some parents whose children attend other schools in the community have expressed an interest in exploring a more formal and fuller religious education experience for their children.  We would be delighted to explore the possibilities of this with them.  In the next few weeks, Iah, Frances and I are going to meet with resource distributors to see what resources are available.

 

Our parish Catholic Women’s League invite bakers and crafters in the Parish to BAKE and/or MAKE your favorite NUT FREE Treat or Craft for their annual BAKE & CRAFT sale on April 27thand 28th  in the Parish Centre.  Drop off your favourite nut free cookies, muffins, cupcakes, squares, pies, loaves and/or cakes as well as your crafts to the Marian Room in the Parish Centre, Friday April 26th 2PM-6PM or anytime after 9AM on Saturday, April 27th.  All proceeds will go toward these charitable organizations: Food for Children, Good Shepherd, Halton Alive, Shifra Homes, Birth Right and Mater Care.

 

On Monday evening, Bishop Crosby and I attended a lecture at St. Jerome’s University, Waterloo in their LECTURES IN CATHOLIC EXPERIENCE program.  Brother Guy Consolmagno, SJ, director of the Vatican Observatory, gave a fascinating lecture on the topic of science and truth. For those seeking to understand the relationship between science and religion (faith), there was a lot to take  in and more than a few untruths were explored.  You can find his lecture and many of the others lectures during the past year on the St. Jerome’s website: https://www.sju.ca/LCE

 

Fr. Felix has been with us at St. Andrew’s since the fall of 2016.  During this time, his gentle manner and deep spiritual comfort has endeared him to parishioners.  As you know, he celebrated his seventy fifth birthday in January.  He has decided that it is time to go home and this will happen in October.  It is an understatement to say that he will be missed.  In the later part of May, Fr. Stanley Nwokeji will join us at St. Andrew’s as the new Pastoral AssociateFr. Stanley has been a student in Waterloo for the last two years and will spend a few years in Canada before he returns to Nigeria to take up a pastoral position in his diocese.  Interestingly, he was a student of Fr. Felix in seminary in Nigeria and Felix will have the opportunity to gently move him into a new pastoral role at St. Andrew’s during the summer.  In early August, I will spend twelve days in Nigeria and Ghana with Msgr. Murray Kroetsch, Chancellor of the Diocese of Hamilton on an official visit to diocese in both countries.  More about that trip later. 

 

Please join us tomorrow for Hospitality Sunday in the Parish Centre after the 9.30 and 11.30 Mass.  It is always a great surprise see what the hard-working team come up with. 

 

Be well and enjoy the festive days of the Easter Season and the emergence of Spring.

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