Category Archives: Weekly Letters from the Pastor

Letter From the Pastor April 6

Dear Friends -

In the Dominican world, we operate according to the general principle that “nothing is real until it is written down…” And even then, hardly anything is ever written in stone. While we have been operating according to some assumptions regarding the future of the Newman Center staff for several months, our assumptions were confirmed by written text this morning (Friday) when our Provincial published the list of assignments for next year.

As has been previously announced: Fr. James Thompson will assume responsibilities of Pastor when I depart this summer.

Fr. Donald will remain assigned here in Tucson and will continue to work half time at the Newman Center. Fr. James and Fr. Donald will be joined by Fr. Jacek Buda who will return and resume his former duties as Associate Pastor.

As for yours truly, it is now official (written) that I will continue to be assigned to the Tucson Dominican Community for another year while I am on Sabbatical. Here is the Basic Outline of my Sabbatical Plans:

I will depart on June 23 and head to Oakland for our Province Assembly.
July, August and Early September: I will be in Mobile, AL reconnecting with family and friends
Late September – Christmas: I will be in Jerusalem studying St. Paul
November 4-15, I will be leading a St. Paul-themed pilgrimage in Greece and Turkey
January-Early April: Studying Spanish and living with the Dominicans in Salamanca, Spain
Late April-Early June: Walking the Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage in France and Spain
June: return to Tucson to move to my new assignment.

I am very blessed to be afforded the time and resources to fulfill these plans, including some life-long bucket-list type dreams (Christmas in Bethlehem and Walking the Camino). I am organizing the St. Paul Pilgrimage even now (information on an insert in today’s bulletin) and a number of people have expressed interest in walking at least part of the Camino with me (more on this later). A Sabbatical is primarily a time of rest, reflection, and retreat [and, for me, study]. I look forward to the break from active ministry but I also expect to be gathering tools to enhance my ministry when I return to the US next Summer.

I ask for your prayers for myself and for the Newman Staff as we continue in this time of transition.

Peace,

Fr Bart signature

 

Letter From the Pastor February 9

Dear Friends,

We are almost a month into the Spring Semester and the ministry programs of the Center are up and running. I invite your prayer for all those who are preparing for Sacramental initiation this spring: the children preparing for 1st Reconciliation and 1st Communion, those in RCIA preparing for baptism or to enter the Church at the Easter Vigil, and those who have just begun the journey towards Confirmation. Offering the various kinds and “levels” of Christian Initiation is an important ministerial function of the Newman Center. Our university setting gives us a unique opportunity to encounter the current generation, which is often described as a generation of “religious seekers.” The experience that these young men and women have in our community is a vital component of their choosing to begin or complete their sacramental initiation in the Church. Many have grown up either unchurched, or marginally churched and they are seeking a community in which to satisfy deep longings of their soul. We can help them in that experience, but only if we remain open to them, their questions, their insecurities, their seeking. As long as we do not try to offer them the easy answer and as long as they can experience the authenticity of the Gospel as it is lived out in our lives. So our prayers for them, our embracing them, our inclusion of them goes a long way towards our fulfilling our mission and helping them to find a place in the Church.

Peace,
Fr Bart signature

 

Letter From the Pastor February 2

Dear Friends,

We have come again to ACA collection time.  I want to thank those of you who helped us exceed our $41,000 in 2013.  In the end, 101 Newman parishioners or households, donated more $42,400.  Of pledges to give, 98% were fulfilled.  All of these numbers are impressive for our small parish.

Of course, no good deed goes unpunished, so the Diocese has increased Newman’s goal this year to $45,000.  We will work together to support the needs of the Diocese.

I thank you in advance for your generosity.

Peace,
Fr Bart signature

 

Letter From the Pastor January 26

Dear Friends,

At Masses this weekend, I am announcing that it is our Provincial’s intention that Fr. James Thompson will be appointed Pastor of the Newman Center when I depart during the coming summer.  We cannot make this “official” yet because we do not have the actual document of appointment in hand. (and we know from our experience last year that the Provincial’s intention can change as the needs of the Province change.) This has been Fr. Mark’s stated intention since assigning Fr. James as the Associate Pastor this year.  We want to make this public now as Fr. James and I are beginning to do more and more things in tandem in preparation for his taking the reigns in July. He will be attending many of the meetings that I attend and getting to be much more familiar with the operations of the Center.  I want to make sure that he “knows where all the keys are” when I depart.

As for me, I am planning to be here through most of June. We have a Province assembly in the Bay area in late June and I plan for that Assembly to be my departure.  Days are growing short, but I look forward to the blessings of my remaining time here and to helping the transition happen as smoothly as possible.

The first Friday and Saturday of Lent, the parish will offer a Community Retreat.  This will be a retreat for any and all members of the community.  We will even have separate tracks for teens and children of the parish.  The Friday night (March 7) will take place here at Newman and will include a simple Lenten supper. The Saturday (March 8) portion will be at a remote location and will include a continental breakfast and lunch. (Those of you who have been around for a while may remember that we did this two years in a row several years ago.) We hope that the retreat will set the tone for a productive and growth-filled Lent for the entire community.  We will have many more details in the next couple of weeks, but we want you to mark your calendar now.

Peace and Blessings,
Fr Bart signature

 

Letter from the Pastor January 19

Dear Friends -

The student community returned to campus this week and the new semester got started.  Today, as we return to the regular Mass schedule, all of our other programming winds up to speed as well. Things are returning to “ordinary” just as our liturgical calendar shifts to Ordinary Time.  We are reminded that it is in the Ordinary – the normal – the routine – that God wishes to be known to us. So often our religious life is about celebrations, festivals, occasions.  But the beginning of Jesus’ ministry reminds us that it is in the midst of the ordinary that Jesus comes. Don’t get me wrong, the very presence of Jesus means that it will not remain ordinary.  Like Peter and Andrew at their fishing nets or Matthew at his customs table, when Jesus walks into our ordinary, things are going to get EXTRAordinary pretty quickly.

But if we are only ever expecting to encounter Jesus in the festivals and high seasons – or even if we only ever expect to meet Him in the Eucharist – we will not be open to his interrupting our daily, ordinary, normal lives.  Throughout the history of our religious consciousness, God has not wanted to be a God of the peripheries – left in the tabernacle or temple, remembered only at the time of sacrifices and feasts. God wanted to walk with the Children of Israel in the desert, to be by their side in the battle, to be remembered in their homes and their work. The Law of Israel provided the Chosen People with a means of encountering God in every area of their ordinary lives.

Like our religious ancestors, we too have the festivals and high seasons, but our faith calls us to recognize God at work and home, in the details of every day.  To invite Jesus to be a part of the ordinary, to EXPECT to encounter Him in the normal, to HOPE for His coming and His call.

Let us not wait until Lent to resolve to do a better job encountering Jesus everyday.  Rather let us invite him to the ordinary with the hopeful expectation that he will make it extraordinary.

Peace,
Fr Bart signature

 

 

Letter From the Pastor January 12

Dear Friends -

As the Christmas Season comes to an end and we prepare to begin another new semester, I want to thank those who have participated in making Christmas so beautiful at Newman.  I always hate to take down the tree because our Christmas configuration is my favorite here at Newman.  But time marches on.

I am very conscious that this will be my last semester as Pastor of this amazing community.  I have not been thinking all year “this is the last time I’ll ____,” but over the holidays other people started pointing it out and asking me about it.  Of course, it is bittersweet, but there is much work to do in the next six months. Our Provincial has given me permission to be on sabbatical next year (July 1, 2014 – June 30, 2015) So, I will not know what my “new assignment” is for another year.  I will be sharing my sabbatical plans with you in the near future.

This week we will welcome the return of the student community and I ask your prayers for their safe return to campus and for our Newman community as we get another semester of programming up and running.

Peace,
Fr Bart signature

 

 

Letter From the Pastor December 25

Dear Friends,
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” we are told by the holiday ditty that goes on to tell us that is true because of caroling and “fun in the snow.” Not likely in Tucson. But that does not change the sentiment. There are many things that make this the most wonderful time of the year. Outside of the religious significance, I can think of lots of culinary and commercial things that make this the most wonderful time of the year. As a long-time movie buff, I think it is wonderful because this tends to be when the best movies of the year are released. The weather in Tucson tends to be pretty good this time of year. And of course there are the many parties and gatherings with family and friends. These are all wonderful. But none of them are necessarily about Christmas. In reality, there are 2 Christmases in the world: One is all bout the things I mentioned above: food, commerce, friends and family (and a little bit of “Peace on Earth” thrown in too). And don’t get me wrong; I do not begrudge non-religious people their Christmas devoid of religious meaning; I just can’t imagine it.

For faithful people – the ones who find ourselves mumbling “Let’s keep the “Christ” in “Christmas” – we don’t have an “added dimension” of religion to our Christmas. It’s the other Christmas that has a missing dimension. The very name of this Holy Day betrays the reality that there can be no Christmas with the Messiah. We who celebrate the birth of the Messiah today and in this season need, each year, to reflect on what it is that is born into the world: Not just family, friends and peace on earth. What is born at Christmas is GOD WITH US. The incarnation and birth of the Word of God in the world is the final punctuation on the sentence “God is with us.” The incarnation and birth God’s final statement: I want to be close to you and I want you to be close to me. The grace that God gives in His Incarnation makes it possible for us to return to the Father. We need to remember that before the birth of that Child 2000+ years ago, humanity was absolutely hopeless of unity with the God who created us. We were dead, St. Paul says, in our sins and transgressions. The possibility for or hope of peace on earth did not even exist. Peace on earth is not a reality even now, but we can, because of Jesus of Nazareth, HOPE in that peace now! The little child whose birth we celebrate in this season, is the SALVATION OF THE WORLD. Family? Friends? Good Bargains at Target? Sure that’s worthy of a little hoopla; but the salvation and restoration of all God’s creation to its state of Grace. That is worthy of an “Alleluia!” and a “Glory to God in the Highest!”

The challenge to us as believers is to live in such a way that others can clearly see that we celebrate the birth of Salvation. For us to become, by our lives, a preaching of the Word-made-flesh, so that others can come to believe that the real Christmas – the MESSIAH MASS – is worthy of our attention each year in December. May this Christmas be a time in which the Word of God is born anew in you and that you become more and more convinced in Faith that “Peace on Earth” and “Good will towards all” are possible in your life and in the world.

Christmas Blessings,
Fr Bart signature

 

 

Letter From the Pastor December 15

Dear Friends -

As the Fall semester wraps up, I’d like to thank all who have been involved in making this a wonderful semester at the Newman Center. As the student community finishes exams and head home for the holidays, we wish them a very blessed, holy, and restful Christmas.  We look forward to your return in January and to another great Newman semester next year.

For those who are staying for the holidays, I remind you that our holiday Mass schedule begins next weekend and will continue thru the weekend of January 11-12.  We look forward to celebrating a wonderful Newman Christmas with you.

Peace,
Fr Bart signature

 

 

Letter From the Pastor December 8

Let’s Take the “Ad” out of Advent

There is an interesting paradox in the Advent season in a university community.  For most of our parishioners, Advent does not feel like a beginning, it is very much the an ending; specifically an ending of the Fall semester.  While the Church calls us to be in “beginning mode” – beginning of a new liturgical year, beginning of the Natal season, beginning of our annual rehearsal of the drama of salvation – our students are very much focused on ending well the semester at hand.

This paradox illustrates the very real dichotomy that all of experience during the Advent season, especially because we live in a commercial world that has been celebrating the “Christmas season” since the day after Halloween. If we are not careful, we can be lulled into believing that Advent is nothing more than the number of shopping days until Christmas.  (This, of course, is not helped by the ubiquitous “Advent calendars” counting down the days until Christmas).

Advent, especially early Advent, really is not about Christmas at all, and I did not really understand Advent (for Advent’s sake) until I was able to divorce it from Christmas. Pay attention to the readings at Sunday Mass in the first 3 weeks of Advent: Apocalypse, coming of the kingdom, revelation of God, second coming of Jesus. At this moment, university life  is a much better sign of the season than the stuffed newspapers, flashy commercials, and shopping. Students are more focused on their final papers, final exams, final projects, and final grades than anything else  right now. The Christmas season will begin for them when that final project, exam, or paper is turned in to their professor and they can head home for the holidays. Students are (perhaps unwittingly) reminding all of us the focus of the Advent season: FINAL JUDGMENT!  In this season, we, like students who have been learning in a course, are called to examine our hearts to see what we have truly learned and how we put it into practice in our daily lives. We’re called to demonstrate our proficiency and to be prepared to make an accounting to the one who is responsible for our training.

The Advent season shifts focus on December 17 to prepare our hearts and minds for this year’s celebration of the first coming of Jesus. In the meantime, there is a much more important focus for us – Jesus’s continual coming in the world – we are called to be instruments of his coming in the lives of all we meet, so that in us, all can encounter Jesus.  And yes, this will be on the FINAL EXAM. :)

Peace,
Fr Bart signature

 

 

Letter From the Pastor November 24

Dear Friends:

Throughout this month I have followed a little convention I noticed on Facebook for the last couple of years: taking time to post something you are thankful for on Facebook each day in November. It has been a great exercise for 2 reasons: It is good to realize how blessed you are and because gratitude is one of those virtues that only grows stronger by exercising it.

Most of my gratitude posts have been about people. I am sooooo incredibly blessed by good friends, great colleagues, wonderful parishioners, wise teachers, etc. The second biggest category has been faith-related things.  I am so grateful for the richness of our Catholic faith and take for granted the great blessings that come from living our faith.

I have become aware in recent years of how often I forget to express my gratitude.  I experience the gratitude, but neglect to say so. This comes from and reinforces a sense of entitlement and taking others for granted.  Gratitude must be exercised (expressed) and not just felt in order to grow.  We want to be people who are truly grateful and can express that to others.

As you gather with your family and/or friends for our national day of Thanksgiving this week, I hope that you do so with hearts filled with great love and gratitude. And that you take time to express your gratitude to others.

We will have Mass on Thursday morning at 9:00 AM. I hope to see as many of you who will be in Tucson at this communal celebration.

Peace,

 Fr Bart signature