I am grateful for so much good going on in the cluster. On February 2nd, we had a beautiful, (mostly) candlelit Mass for the Feast of the Presentation. Of course, the weather made things a little uncertain, but it held off and I was pleased that we had such a good turnout; I hope this particular celebration will be something that continues to grow in years to come. There were candles blessed at this Mass that parishioners were able to take home with them, but I think next year we will need to bless a few more. These candles are sacramentals, meaning they are an aid to lifting our hearts and minds to God, and they are to be lit at times of family prayer in the home, during inclement weather, and especially if a priest makes a visit to offer the Sacrament of the Sick to a family member (if you still have blessed candles from years past, you can still put them to use!). This light is meant to recall the light of Christ, which gives us courage and hope at all times.
I am thankful for the good work taking place with our youth in the cluster, both in terms of religious education and youth ministry. We have such a good team here, and it’s getting attention. On February 5th, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s Office for the New Evangelization had an awards ceremony in West Chester, at which they acknowledged individuals who are making a difference in this regard. Our very own Miranda Schwieterman received the New Fire Award for the work she has done in building up a solid youth ministry program here in the cluster! Congrats Miranda! And thanks to everyone in the parish who volunteers to help make this happen. It is largely due to the generosity of spirit on the part of so many individuals that we are able to make these things happen, and God is blessing these efforts.
This weekend the priest assignments for the Beacons of Light plan are also going public, and I am glad to finally be able to speak freely about the future. Let’s continue to pray for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, for Archbishop Schnurr, for the priests, and for the laity as we continue to move through this process. These are some intentions I will be praying for as I make my canonical retreat, which I am taking from February 15th-24th (the retreat will be for one week, with a few days visiting friends after I finish). I am headed to a Norbertine Monastery in Orange County, CA, St. Michael’s Abbey. Retreat is a special time of prayer and solitude, where the Lord’s invitation to “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31) is put into practice. Of course, when He says a “lonely place”, He means a place where we can be alone with Him, so that He can console us and establish deeper intimacy with Him, taking up greater rest in His Pierced and Sacred Heart. Please know that I am taking all of you with me in prayer “into His Heart”, that I will spend much prayer giving thanks to God for you, and also praying to Him for you and your needs. If you’d like to make any special prayer requests for me to keep, please don’t hesitate to send them my way. One of the most important jobs of a priest is interceding on behalf of his people. I thank Fr. Jacquemin for “keeping watch” and taking care of you while I’m gone. You’re in good hands! May God bless you in the week ahead and may Mother Mary lead you more deeply into the Sacred and Merciful Heart of Jesus.