All posts by Lynda Marsh

U.S. Franciscans Statement on Charlottesville Violence

As followers of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron of peace, we, the Franciscans Friars of the United States join with the many public and religious leaders and fellow-citizens who have condemned the recent violence in Charlottesville, VA.

We hold that all forms of racism, white supremacy, neo-nazism, xenophobia and hatred are wrong.

Because we believe that every person is created by God in love, we also hold that disrespect or diminishment of—or violence against–anyone offends not only that person but also the One who created that person.

As Franciscans, we strive to be bridge-builders. To avoid future instances of the tragic violence that tore not only the community of Charlottesville but also the fabric of our nation, we call for a renewed commitment to respectful dialogue by all, whereby our opinions and differences can be shared in constructive and illuminating ways that lead to the possibility of growth and conversion for all. Such dialogue might lead us beyond the overt displays of violence and intolerance into an understanding of the subtler and even unconscious forms of discrimination and intolerance that may still inhabit our hearts as well as our society.

We commit ourselves to the responsibility of respect for and dialogue with all who seem “other” than ourselves. And we pray that all the citizens of our nation will join in striving to attain respect and peace in our communities.

Provincial Ministers of the United States of America

Very Rev. David Gaa, OFM
St. Barbara Province
Oakland, California

Very Rev. James Gannon, OFM
Assumption BVM Province
Franklin, Wisconsin

Very Rev. Kevin Mullen, OFM
Holy Name Province
New York, New York

Very Rev. Robert Campagna, OFM
Immaculate Conception Province
New York, New York

Very Rev. Jack Clark Robinson, OFM
Our Lady of Guadalupe Province
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Very Rev. Mark Soehner, OFM
St. John the Baptist Province
Cincinnati, Ohio

Very Rev. Thomas Nairn, OFM
Sacred Heart Province
St. Louis, Missouri

Where Two or Three Are Gathered

Did you know Sacred Heart has a Rosary Devotional Group? This ministry meets once a month, on the first Saturday of each month. They pray the rosary together and then dine out a local restaurant afterwards. All members of Sacred Heart are welcome to join, so be on the lookout for their next meeting in the bulletin.

We also invite you to read more about this wonderful ministry and what inspired one of our parishioners to join.

An Interview with Maureen Todaro, Rosary Devotional Group Ministry Leader…

What inspired you to join this ministry?
“When I saw the notice in the bulletin about our rosary group, I immediately knew that it was an ideal way to re-discover a familiar prayer.”

What do you like most about being part of the Rosary Devotional Group?
“Knowing that we have this special time set aside to come together, sharing this gift of prayer from and for Our Lady. Some of our members are not able to come to our gathering, but join us at home, so we are united in spirit.”

How long have you been part of this particular ministry and what keeps you doing it?
“I have been a member about two years, and I keep doing it because I believe in the power of communal prayer.”

What would you tell others who are thinking about joining?
“If you are longing to get closer to God, this is a perfect first step. We provide rosary pamphlets with complete prayers and all the Mysteries. Rose Springer brings her hand-made rosaries for anyone who needs one. And recall what Jesus said in Matthew 18:20: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them.”

What we want you to know.
“We are a welcoming group, and Bernadette Gaudion, former ministry leader, warmly greets new members. Before we begin we take time in silence to place ourselves in the presence of Our Lord and his Blessed Mother. At the conclusion of prayer, we share a meal at a local restaurant. See you soon!”

Some might be intimidated with the thought of praying the rosary – whether the time it takes or the prayers that are said – but there’s no need to panic. A complete guide to praying the rosary can be found here.

And did you know our Franciscans have their own version of the Rosary? Known as the Franciscan Crown, it has one extra decade, seven total, in commemoration of the Seven Joys of the Virgin. Read more here.

The Missionary Spirit of Franciscans

This weekend, August 5th and 6th, will bring a very special guest to Sacred Heart. Br. John Aherne, OFM, who interned with us during the summer of 2014 will be visiting us and sharing his experiences with the Franciscan Missionary Union.

What is the Franciscan Missionary Union?
The Franciscan Missionary Union’s philosophy of mission is influenced by the life and works of St. Francis of Assisi. The goal of the Holy Name Province Franciscan Missionary Union is to offer lay Catholics an encounter with diverse cultures — from the street children and orphans of Nairobi to the chronically homeless inhabitants of Washington D.C. — so that everyone involved can experience the grace of Christ more fully. Mission represents an opportunity for the people of non-Christian cultures to encounter the Church in its concrete form, and for individual Catholics to be transformed by the holiness contained in the traditions of those cultures. At the heart of FMU programs is the idea of “reverse mission,” which refers to the gifts that local churches receive from their missionary activities abroad. By extending missionary opportunities to lay Catholics, we believe the Church will reap the rewards of a new generation of Catholics, capable of responding with a missionary spirit to changing times.

After his summer at Sacred Heart, Br. John left to finish his seminary studies, and the next summer saw him embark on a mission trip to Kenya. Here are Br. John’s own words about the experience.

“I’m so happy to be returning to Sacred Heart to share my experiences with the Franciscan Missionary Union! I never wanted to have anything to do with the missions. Whenever people came to my parish to raise money for missionary groups like the FMU, I was happy to give, especially since I had absolutely no desire to be a missionary. I had lived in New York City for all of my life and that was enough of an adventure for me. God, of course, had other plans. My time with the FMU working in an orphanage in Kenya and leading a mission trip to South Africa are among the most intense religious experiences of my life. Like the disciples in this week’s Gospel reading (MT 17:1-9), I found myself standing on holy ground, seeing and hearing Christ in a way that I never had before, and inspired to share the Good News of His Gospel with greater passion and vision. All of this is thanks to the good work of the FMU.”

And how has the Franciscan Missionary Union played a role in our every day parish life? This past April, five Sacred Heart parishioners, Marguerite Brennan, Loretta Callahan, Angie Ducker, Maria Ortega, and Avril Wick, traveled with our Holy Name Province, Franciscan Missionary Union, on a mission trip of presence and relationship building to Cuba. Our parishioners were led by Maggie Kibler, on behalf of FMU, and they stayed in Havana, Remedios, and Trinidad. By sharing daily life with the Franciscan Friars in Havana and visiting the homes of local families in Cuba, the group witnessed the complexities of Cuban life and the peoples’ determination, struggles, successes, and ingenuity. This memorable experience was transformative for many of the group as they saw the immense beauty of the country and its people, and their perseverance in light of political, social, and economic hardships.

So how can you help?
This weekend, August 5th and 6th, we are taking up a special collection for the Franciscan Missionary Union. There will be envelopes in the pews in case you wish to give. We hope you prayerfully consider giving to this worthy cause.

Hope and Comfort Amid Pain and Loss

Franciscan Care encompasses many ministries, those that participate in outreach like Hands of Hope and Sacred Heart to Haiti’s Heart, to those that support our friends and neighbors through physical, spiritual, or mental suffering like our TGH Eucharistic Ministers and Prison Ministry. But one of those ministries – Bereavement Care – offers hope and comfort amid the pain and loss of our loved ones.

Bereavement Care is an ongoing program of consolation available to all who have experienced the loss of a loved one. Our ministry seeks to offer strength, compassion, help, healing, and hope through prayerful reflection, meditative exercise, as well as an opportunity to share in our common bond of loss. Through monthly meetings, our program addresses the emotional, social, spiritual, physical, and cognitive aspects of the grieving process and offers our prayerful Catholic community’s love, support, perspective, and acceptance during the transitions that accompany loss.

One of our parishioners, Mark Louie, shares more about the Sacred Heart Bereavement Care group and how he came to understand love and loss and navigating the many different phases of grief.

“I grew up in Gilroy, California where I attended Glenview Elementary School. One of my most vivid memories of that time was the earthquake drill. An alarm would sound and Mrs. Newsome would calmly instruct us third-graders to position ourselves under our desks. These drills were done with such unruffled calm that we scarcely imagined how serious a quake might be. As Californians, we were familiar with tremors and minor earthquakes, but these were always of a sort that would only amuse a third grader. So, you might ask: What does this have to do with the death of a loved one? As I continued life past third grade into adulthood, there was a slow unruffled calm with which I encountered all of the events surrounding death. I had practiced the drills of family gatherings, church funerals, slow-moving motorcades, and burial site memorials so frequently that they had become too familiar. The calm regularity of earthquake drills likely made us assume we were ready for the “big one.” In the same way, I assumed I was ready for a closer encounter with death.

When my mom’s time to pass into God’s bright glory drew closer, we had not avoided the topic. We had talked about death and dying, and even had lengthy conversations about her end-of-life wishes. Sitting at mom’s bedside, I watched with a knowing calm, as she slipped from this life into the next. At the time, it seemed little more than a tremor in the universe I had come to know and expect. The first aftershock came at Easter time. Mom had always been there. Then followed Mother’s Day and Christmas, and a seemingly unrelenting series of tremors where silence and emptiness were felt.

In his essay, “Ecce Homo,” renowned geophysicist, Xavier Le Pichon, describes a California earthquake as a surface eruption borne of unseen forces 11 miles below. These deep forces are the unseen tensions that develop as one continental plate creeps forward, pressing against another over many years; until there is a sudden break – an earthquake. It is an apt description of the grief experience. Our lives creep along as a surface “normal” until the pressures between life before and after loss erupt as a sudden break. As with an earthquake, the human eruption’s severity is seldom predictable and those around us see only the outward effect; e.g. sudden tears, an angry outburst, a long period of silence, or perhaps self-imposed isolation. Le Pichon suggests that these human eruptions are the weak and imperfect parts that give way and allow us to grow; i.e., ever mindful of our loss, but moving ahead. It is fully normal that we hold much of the grief experience deep within ourselves, and it is fully normal that we will experience the tremor, the aftershock of loss.

In our parish’s Bereavement Ministry, we journey with you along the lines of those unseen tensions following the death of a loved one. We are waiting witness of God’s healing grace in the midst of life’s eruptions. We are present to the anguished hearts who search for comfort and simply wish to be heard and acknowledged. We meet the second Wednesday of the month. If you are a compassionate person and a good listener, please consider joining our team. We will have an information meeting in August. We hope you join us.”

Are you a compassionate person and a good listener? Please consider joining the Bereavement Care team. There will be a support team formation meeting on Wednesday, August 9th, at 7:00 pm in the San Damiano Center. Email Mark Louie for more information.

For more information about our Bereavement Ministry, click here.

Summer Series – The Spirituality of St. Francis of Assisi

Our special Summer Series is back! This year Br. Aaron, our friar summer intern, will be leading a four-week course on the “Word Made Flesh – The Spirituality of St. Francis of Assisi.” Each week, he’ll take a look at the life of St. Francis and those around him, focusing on short texts and prayers written by St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi.

Every session will begin at 7:00 pm in the San Damiano Center. Take a sneak peek at each week’s theme below. We hope to see you there!

Week 1 – Tuesday, July 18th
During the first week of the series, Br. Aaron will focus on the life story of St. Francis, with a special look at two of his prayers. The first prayer came at the beginning of his conversion, and the second which he composed at the end of his life.

Week 2 – Tuesday, July 25th
In week two, we will consider St. Clare of Assisi’s model of prayer and take an in-depth look at the icon of the San Damiano Cross, which spoke to Francis and was instrumental to his conversion. The San Damiano Cross is one of the most prominent Franciscan symbols, and is our processional cross at Sacred Heart.

Week 3 – Tuesday, August 1st
For week three, we will focus on the theme of the Incarnation. We’ll discover St. Francis’ overwhelming devotion to Jesus, who descended from heaven to assume human flesh, and how that translated into Francis’ love for the Eucharist. We’ll also explore Franciscan theologian John Duns Scotus and his thought regarding the reason for the Incarnation and how those thoughts affect Franciscan Spirituality today.

Week 4 – Tuesday, August 8th
In our final session, we’ll discover the source of St. Francis’ true and perfect joy. Br. Aaron will reveal what he believes to be the key to Franciscan spirituality and will open up discussion on how our study of Francis’ spirituality has resonated in our own spiritual lives.

At the Heart of the Matter

What does it mean to be a part of Franciscan Care? Does it mean participating in outreach of all sorts – tending to and nurturing those around us? Does it mean being supportive of those among us who suffer in various ways, whether physical, spiritual, or mental? It truly can be either of those things. And one of our ministries encompasses all of those things – Sacred Heart to Haiti’s Heart.

Sacred Heart to Haiti’s Heart seeks to help our brothers and sisters of St. Gabriel’s Parish in Beau Séjour, Haiti. St. Gabriel’s Parish is a Catholic community with approximately 22,000 people located in the mountains of Haiti, just southwest of Port-Au-Prince. In conjunction with Holy Family Church in St. Petersburg, our ministry is helping to rebuild their church, which was demolished by the earthquake and devastating hurricanes that followed, as well as provide medical, dental, and other resources as needed. In addition to ministering to the local residents, St. Gabriel’s runs the local school and has a modest medical building.


At various times each year, the Sacred Heart to Haiti’s Heart ministry visits St. Gabriel’s, and one of our parishioners – Wayne Davis – gives us an intimate look at why he devotes his time to this wonderful ministry.

I was blessed to have the prayers and support of Fr. George and the Sacred Heart team in my visit to Beau Séjour to show our commitment to St. Gabriel’s. I was equally blessed that my bride, Debi, supports our commitment and the time and resources involved in visiting St. Gabriel’s. Debi looks forward to joining the team in December and volunteering her medical skills. By every measurable standard I saw improvements in just six months. Crops were in, people were happy, the church was significantly improved, schools were improved, the possibility of building a church appeared very realistic and the road was significantly improved. I remain a realist, the parish of St. Gabriel’s will remain a poor peasant parish for the rest of my lifetime. Haiti will not improve significantly, and even if it did, the government would not significantly improve the lives of the people of the mountains. The Church however makes a difference in the daily lives of the peasants, from the poor who come to the rectory door for rice, to the sick who use the medical clinic and the children who come to the school. A safe and secure church will absolutely improve the personal and spiritual lives of the people. It also can serve as a safe location to gather and pray when storms and hurricanes come, and they will continue to come forever. My profession prevents me from fundraising or making commitments of any type with an organization outside the U.S. or I would volunteer to serve on a future building committee. I have no experience in serving with any building committee, but I believe this is an executable project I could accomplish with my skill level, and if I could do it then others can as well. My wife and I, will however, continue to volunteer our love, support, commitment and faith that a new St. Gabriel’s is a very real possibility.

To read Wayne’s full account of his recent trip, as well as detailed plans for St. Gabriel’s future, click here.

To read a thank you letter from Fr. Fernand of St. Gabriel’s to the parishioners of Sacred Heart, click here.

If you would like to become involved in the Sacred Heart to Haiti’s Heart Ministry here at Sacred Heart, please contact Becky Wilt.

A Look At Our Past

As the oldest Catholic church on Florida’s West Coast, Sacred Heart has been a part of many moments both big and small – historical events, celebrations and sacraments that run throughout generations, and the every day, simple moments of quiet prayer.

But did you know that Sacred Heart has a group of parishioners who are dedicated and committed to the preservation of our heritage? Through the collection and protection of parish archives and educational programs and tours, they call themselves Friends of Sacred Heart. And they are just that. Friends. Their ongoing mission is to preserve the history of our parish, supervise the parish archives, publish literature to capture the beauty of the church buildings and stained glass windows, maintain the parish museum, and run Docent-led tours of the church. No small feat.

You might say the Friends of Sacred Heart live in the past — as far back as 1549. They can tell you how Sacred Heart evolved into the magnificent church we worship in today. They can introduce you to the faithful, founding family who mortgaged one-fourth of their citrus acreage to pay for a church window. They can even tell you about the gentleman builder of the old St. Louis Church, who told his associate to, “Give the keys of the church to the pastor,” even though money was still owed for the construction.  Or about the role the church played in the Spanish-American war. The members can enlighten you about all of these things and more, and they do so regularly at our monthly church tours. They even host a special, historical tour each year around Christmas where they dress in full period costume among the splendor of our Christmas decorations.


Have you ever attended one of their tours? Consider joining their next one, which typically take place on the second Sunday of each month at 1:15 pm. The tours last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and are open to everyone. Or if you’re interested in learning more and taking an active role in the preservation of our Sacred Heart history, join their Ministry! They would love to have you participate in whatever way you’d like.

One of our Docents, Marguerite Brennan, had this to say about being involved with Friends of Sacred Heart:

“Being a docent is a joy — and an opportunity to share our beautiful church and faith with the many guests who join our tours. It would have been impossible for me not to join the team; I have been a docent at other venues, but this one is very special. My parents joined Sacred Heart in the 1950s and my sisters and I were Sacred Heart brides. When giving a tour, my goal is to share this living faith community that began in the 1800s and continues today. I feel privileged to be allowed to do so.”

To learn more about Friends of Sacred Heart, click here.
Or to learn more about our Sacred Heart history, click here.

A Eucharistic Devotion

We see them each week. Those men and women who serve in our Liturgical ministry as Eucharistic Ministers. They distribute the Body and Blood of Christ to the assembly of parishioners at each Mass, during the week and on the weekend, as well as on special feast days and Solemnities.

Their passion for sharing their faith with others at Communion is at the foundation of their ministry, along with their desire to build up our community of faith with this most precious of sacraments.

Sean Fitzsimmons-Brown, our Director of Music, says, “What I most enjoy about this ministry is meeting the people who want to be a Eucharistic Minister (EM). It is a ministry that easily helps build the community of the parish along with all the others. It is never dull, and often challenging. At the present time, there are 73 Eucharist Ministers, and that does not include those who go to Tampa General Hospital or bring the Eucharist to the homebound. We are always in need of help in those two areas. These EMs are trained to bear the hosts or cups, and it is open to any registered parishioner who has been confirmed. I can assure you, we can always use the help!”

Graham Brandt was inspired to become a Eucharistic Minister (EM) when he moved to Tampa for a new job and was wanting to serve his community in a simple, but essential way. He was most surprised by how seamless the training was and how organized the volunteer system is and continues to be. Graham has been an EM for the past 2 years. When asked why he continues in this ministry, he stated, “It is a good routine and helps me reflect on the week passed and the week ahead.” He encourages others to volunteer, “It’s a good experience!” Graham’s overall perspective on being a Eucharistic Minister is that, “Working with all the priests at Sacred Heart in this role is an honor. They are wonderful spiritual guides.”

If you would like to get involved at Sacred Heart as a Eucharistic Minister, please contact Sean Fitzsimmons-Brown via email, or by phone at 813.229.1595.

I beg you to show the greatest possible reverence and honor for the Most Holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom all things, whether on earth or in heaven, have been brought to peace and reconciled with Almighty God.
– St. Francis of Assisi

Father’s Day Spiritual Bouquets

It’s not too late to offer a spiritual bouquet in honor of fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and all of those men who have shaped us, formed us, and loved us, this Father’s Day.

If you would like to remember someone, please consider offering a spiritual bouquet in their name. Envelope packets for this occasion consist of a Father’s Day card and envelope as well as an offering envelope. You can find the packets on the table at the back of the church or simply ask for one the next time you visit the Sacred Heart Gift & Book Store.

The card is for your use, but please return the offering envelope to the Parish Office or drop it into the offertory basket no later than Wednesday, June 14th, so they can be included in the Mass intentions for all Masses on Father’s Day weekend.

Happy Father’s Day!

Summer Reading

With summertime comes slower days and more time to relax and do the things we’ve always wanted to do. So why not consider joining our Parish Book Club? You can bring your book with you while traveling, while at the beach or pool, or even while relaxing on your back porch with a cup of coffee on those endless summer days.

The group meets once a month to discuss a particular book, and they’ve planned out their reading schedule for the next several months. If any of these books interest you, we hope you join them!

June: “When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalinithi and Abraham Verghese
For readers of Atul Gawande, Andrew Solomon, and Anne Lamott, this inspiring, exquisitely observed memoir finds hope and beauty in the face of insurmountable odds as an idealistic young neurosurgeon attempts to answer the question What makes a life worth living?

June Meeting: Thursday, June 15th at 7:00 pm (St. Francis Hall)

July: “The Boys in the Boat” by Daniel James Brown
For readers of Unbroken, out of the depths of the Depression comes an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times—the improbable, intimate account of how nine working-class boys from the American West showed the world at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin what true grit really meant.

July Meeting: Thursday, July 20th at 7:00 pm (St. Francis Hall)

August: “Madonnas of Leningrad” by Debra Dean
Bit by bit, the ravages of age are eroding Marina’s grip on the everyday. An elderly Russian woman now living in America, she cannot hold on to fresh memories—the details of her grown children’s lives, the approaching wedding of her grandchild—yet her distant past is miraculously preserved in her mind’s eye.

August Meeting: Thursday, August 17th at 7:00 pm (St. Francis Hall)

September: “The Wright Brothers” – David McCullough
The #1 New York Times bestseller from David McCullough, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize—the dramatic story-behind-the-story about the courageous brothers who taught the world how to fly—Wilbur and Orville Wright.

September Meeting: Thursday, September 21st at 7:00 pm ( St. Clare Room)

October: “The Last Days of Night” by Graham Moore
A thrilling novel based on actual events, about the nature of genius, the cost of ambition, and the battle to electrify America—from the Oscar-winning screenwriter of The Imitation Game and author of The Sherlockian.

October Meeting: Thursday, October 19th at 7:00 pm (St. Francis Hall)

November: “Belgravia” by Julian Fellowes
The New York Times bestselling novel about scandalous secrets and star-crossed lovers. On the evening of 15 June 1915, the great and the good of British society have gathered in Brussels at what is to become one of the most tragic parties in history – the Duchess of Richmond’s ball. For this is the eve of the Battle of Waterloo, and many of the handsome young men attending the ball will find themselves, the very next day, on the battlefield.
For Sophia Trenchard, the young and beautiful daughter of Wellington’s chief supplier, this night will change everything. But it is only twenty-five years later, when the upwardly mobile Trenchards move into the fashionable new area of Belgravia, that the true repercussions of that moment will be felt. For in this new world, where the aristocracy rub shoulders with the emerging nouveau riche, there are those who would prefer the secrets of the past to remain buried…

November Meeting: Thursday, November 16th at 7:00 pm (St. Francis Hall)