Category Archives: Weekly Letters from the Pastor

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 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

Letter From the Pastor November 17

Dear Friends,

I would like to thank everyone who worked to make last weekend’s 50th Anniversary Celebration a huge success.  All three events were beautifully prepared and all the many different facets of our community celebrated “50 Years of Preaching the Gospel at the Corner of 2nd and Cherry.” As I said last weekend, we will be celebrating from now until March.  In March, I hope to have another special celebration at which we will bless our new sign and the new outdoor Marian devotional space created to commemorate this anniversary.

Among the many people who helped make last weekend a joyous celebration, I would especially like to thank the parish staff who all put in extra hours and wonderful creativity, Jennifer Serling and Karen (and Jude) Schaffner coordinated the Sunday lunch.  Cliff and Kathleen Bowman helped coordinate the Friday reception, members of the Social Justice Team and Campus Ministry Core Team helped prepare and serve the Friday reception, Genevieve Gallardo helped Fr. James prepare the historical displays and archival material for the weekend.  Matt Williams prepared the artistic rendering of the new Prayer Garden, the music ministers of the 9:30, 11:15, and 7:00 PM liturgies worked together to create a beautiful liturgy on Sunday at 11:15. And more than 50 of you prepared delicious homemade desserts for the lunch (yum!).

In addition to these, dozens of our students worked hard all afternoon Friday, all day Saturday, and all day Sunday to make the weekend successful.  It was a wonderful celebration for the whole community.  Thank you all!

Peace,
Fr Bart signature

 

Letter From the Pastor November 3

Dear Friends,

One of the real pitfalls of American Catholic parishes is that people spend decades and decades worshiping in the same parish and never meet one another because they go to different Masses.  Because most of us are creatures of habit, we attend the same Mass year after year and become relatively comfortable in that setting – so we never venture out to meet our fellow parishioners who attend another Mass. Add to that differences of language, national origin, sex, age, and “theological bent,” and, it seems, there is more to divide us than to unite us – even within a parish. So the hard work of overcoming all these barriers – “striking down the walls of enmity that divide us,” St. Paul says – becomes a task that demands great intentionality. We are no different than any other parish in that regard, in fact, with our student/local resident divide, we are probably worse than most.

So, I am quite excited about opportunities to draw the entire parish together.  Next weekend’s 50th Anniversary celebration will provide numerous opportunities. We hope that you will join us for the Mass on Friday night and/or the Tailgate Party on Saturday (even if you are not planning to go to the football game).  The Tailgate party will be a perfect opportunity for families with small children because they can “play with the big kids” and run around the front lawn.

I hope the lunch on Sunday will be truly representative of the whole Parish. More than 50 people accepted our call for homemade desserts and many have signed up to do the heavy lifting associated with such a meal.  I hope to see many of you there and that it will be a great celebration!

I would also like to say thank you to the more than 75 people who, on Wednesdays and Thursdays throughout the month of October, participated in the Adoration with Prayers for Greater Respect for Human Life.  Once again this year, it proved a great success and something that drew from the entire community. It was heart-warming to see so many, especially of our young people taking seriously what is one of our most urgent ongoing prayer intentions.

Peace,

Fr Bart signature