Sixth 10 Sunday in Ordinary Time, February, 11, 2024

Dear Friends,

This weekend we humbly call upon your amazing generosity as we again ask everyone to participate in Our Catholic Appeal (OCA) 2024. I thank those who have already responded to this year’s appeal. Our specific focus this year: to increase the percentage of participation. Remember, you promised: “Our goal is to help you achieve your goal”!!! Thank you, Rick Lacey from the Parish Council, for pitching with fervor thevalueof participating in OCA 2024.

I am so grateful to God for providing us with his presence and blessings on our International Festival! Hats off to Janet Jones-Owen for her leadership in preparing for and producing the International Festival, and to all the leaders of the various committees and their core teams. It was an absolutely splendid celebration of our rich and varied Catholic Community in all its colors, talents, and dedication. The festival made me think: this is what heaven may be like! It really was a slice of heaven to have so many people from so many nations gathered to worship the Lord. It was just like what Isaiah prophesized that heaven would be (Is 25:6-9): “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all people… the Lord to whom we looked.”

I want to thank you, our lovely community, for your unstinting support and for your generosity in supplying bottled water and canned sodas. I also thank the larger community who came to perform and to entertain us.

Finally, my thanks to all who have recognized and acknowledged the astounding amount and quality of hard work that went into thecreation of this celebration. Many have asked me, why can’t we do this every year or every two years. Well, it comes down to time and resources. For instance, the preparation for this festival began some 8 months ago, when I asked Janet to lead the festival. Under her leadership, more than 20 teams formed and met innumerable times. Thousands of emails were sent, and many videos and bulletin announcements were produced. Banners were prepared, and donations were sought and made into gift baskets for the raffle. The list of work organized and accomplished goes on. It was a tremendous feat, and those involved need a break. They will need a year or two before they are ready to begin again.

I wrote to you earlier about Fr. Bob Hoeffner and his sister Sally Hoeffner who were murdered on Sunday, 28 January, in Palm Bay. Before retiring in 2016, Fr. Bob served as pastor of St. Joseph’s Church in Palm Bay for 18 years. Only last year he celebrated his 50th year of priesthood. The Diocese has asked if we would host his funeral here due to our large space and its centrality of location and easy access for many who may be driving. This is a great honor bestowed on us. The funeral will be held on Thursday, 20 February, at 11 a.m. followed by a luncheon. Let us continue to pray for Fr. Bob and Sally, his sister. May their souls Rest in Peace!

I express my deep gratitude to the Spiritus Sanctus Lay Dominican group in our parish for hosting the splendid Exhibition on the Eucharistic Miracles compiled by the Holy Teen Sensation Blessed Carlos Acutis. I really hope that these exhibits have confirmed your faith in the Real Presenceof Jesus in the Eucharist and enhanced your appreciation of and participation in our Eucharistic celebrations.

This weekend, the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, we continue to look at Jesus as he goes about healing and preaching. In particular, we look at the terrible disease called leprosy that not only disfigured a person’s body but also caused him or her to be ostracized. A person with leprosy was shunned as “unclean” and forced to live on the outskirts of the community, uncared for and unloved. What a relief to know that to Jesus, no one is untouchable! Everyone is a child of God, so very touchable and loveable. The Responsorial Psalm 32 represents our cry for help when we feel helpless: “I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.” Let us confidently turn to him, who alone can make uswhole. And let us be“imitatorsof Christ” (cf. 1 Cor 11:1), willing to embrace everyone within our communities.

This year, along with St. Valentine’s Day, 14th February brings Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Season of Lent. We will be offering three Masses that day for your benefit: 8 a.m., 12.05 p.m., and 7 p.m. Please remember that Ash Wednesday is a day of fasting and abstinence.

This Lent, praying the Stations of the Cross will be offered in the Grotto:

  • At 6:00 pm on each Friday, followed by a soup supper at 7:00 pm
  • At 30 p.m. on all the other days of the week, except Sunday.

Please read our bulletin, which lays out full our schedule of Lenten offerings, such as the Mission, the special events each Tuesday, additional Friday prayer opportunities, and other spiritually nourishing programs and celebrations.

My friends, during Lent we are called to join Christ in the wilderness by turning from what distracts us and keeps us from remaining focused on our divine purpose. In her wisdom, the Church teaches us to prepare through prayer, fasting, and sacrificial giving so that, like St. John, we will remain close to Jesus as he experiences his Passion and death. Then at his Resurrection, we too, like St. John, will be able to look into the empty tomb and believe. Let us allow this Lent to be a special opportunity for experiencing a deepening of our faith and our belief in the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist.

Have a Blessed Week!

With love,

Fr. John