Category Archives: Friar Reflections

A regular reflection from one of our Franciscan Friars on the day’s readings, the happenings around the parish, or discussing parochial outreach initiatives.

Christ Has No Body But Yours | Friar Reflections | Fr. Steve Kluge, OFM

Dear parishioners,

Saints of God, the Lord be with you!

Two weeks ago on the Solemnity of Pentecost, the Church had us focus on the Holy Spirit: the Divine Love who abides within and among us so as to encourage and empower us to “follow in the footprints of Christ.” With the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the Church is given its mission to preach and be the presence of Christ in the world. In the Gospel according to John, the Church is born from the spear split side of the crucified Christ from which gushes forth water and blood (signifying the great sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist).

The Corpus Christi Procession
Arcadi Mas i Fondevila | 1887

Last week, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, the Church proclaims the Mystery of All Mysteries in which Christians profess and celebrate that God is in God’s very Self a relationship of Love. From this relationship we are created in and for Love, nourished and redeemed by Love enfleshed in Christ Jesus, and sustained and sanctified by Love through the Holy Spirit. As God is a Personal relationship of Creative, Self Sacrificing, and Abiding Love, we in our everyday lives are called to imitate this love in our own finite way.

Today we focus on the mystery that in the Holy Eucharist, the Risen Christ is truly and fully present under the appearance of bread and wine. Meditate on this. The Risen Christ is not only seated in glory at the right hand of the Father, but in all humility comes into our hands to be touched and tasted. Christ comes to us not only to nourish our souls but our bodies as well.

Each time we receive the Risen Christ in the Holy Eucharist, we are once again dipped in the waters of Christ’s baptism of solidarity. Our identity as disciples of Christ is strengthened and our mission to each other is renewed. As St. Augustine wrote, “Rejoice, O Christian! For by your baptism, you are more than a Christian, you are Christ Himself.” We receive Christ in the Eucharist so as to become more like Him. Seen in this light, the Holy Eucharist becomes food for our journey through life, not a reward for good behavior.

Today I am reminded of that great prayer of St. Theresa of Avila:

St. Theresa of Avila
Anonymous, 17th Century

“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which He looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which He blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, YOU are His body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

So today, as we leave our beautiful church and head back into our beautiful and broken world, let us remember that we take Christ with us. Our call is to make Christ visible in the world, and we do this best through simple acts of charity. And to all of us who are the Body of Christ, I give a resounding “Amen!”

Peace and all good,
Fr. Steve

The Mystery of the Trinity | Friar Reflections | Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Dear Parishioners,

This weekend we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. I think we can all agree the understanding of the Holy Trinity is one greatest of all mysteries of our faith: the One and Only God is a unity of Three Persons. In attempts to define the Trinity, we often hear it explained as a three-leaf clover, all being part of one stem. We’re also referred to the physical states water can take, as either liquid, ice, or steam, yet are all still water.

Perhaps you are familiar with a story from the life of St. Augustine on The Trinity:

It was around the year 415 A.D., and St. Augustine was walking along the beach on a bright, sunny day. He was frustrated, having taken a break from working on what’s become known as one of his greatest contributions to the Church, “On the Trinity.” The subject matter had left him bleary-eyed and in need of fresh air, so he went for a walk on the beach.

It was in this moment, as the frothy tide rushed out, that a little boy caught St. Augustine’s eye. He was a freckle-faced child who had a determined, furrowed brow. He was clearly up to something, running back-and-forth, back-and-forth, between the sea and a tiny hole in the ground.

The Vision of St. Augustine by Sandro Botticelli, 1488

“My son,” St. Augustine called over the crashing waves, “What are you doing there?” The boy held up the pink shell he was using to move water, “I’m trying to fit that great big ocean into this tiny hole,” he yelled, pointing assertively at the sand. St. Augustine smiled, charmed by the child’s innocence. He then followed the boy to kneel beside the hole, watching him spill out a few meager drops.

“My child,” the bishop of Hippo started, as he attempted to break the news gently, turning the boy’s shoulders to face the sea. He then spread his own arms wide, “You could never fit this great, magnificent ocean into that tiny hole!” The child didn’t flinch, but responded quickly: “And you could never possibly understand the Holy Trinity.” Then in a flash, the boy disappeared.

In our Franciscan tradition, the fact that God is Triune is not simply a dogma for the intellect. The Trinity should have meaning in all of our lives. Scripture and tradition establish key things. First, God is love. Second, as Trinity, God is in loving relationship with Godself. Finally, we are created in the image and likeness of a loving and relational God; this means we are most human when we are in loving relationship with God and one another.

On his window depiction in our church, St. Patrick holds a three-leaf clover, in reference to The Holy Trinity.

Although the hidden life of God remains a mystery inaccessible by reason alone, professing God as Trinity is not meant to distance us from him. Through the Son’s incarnation and the sending of the Holy Spirit, not only are we capable of understanding the eternal  relationship of intimate loving communion that is the Holy Trinity, we are able to share in it. This is why we were created, why every human heart cries out to be loved. The revelation of God as a relationship explains what it means to be human. Let us always pray inviting the Holy Spirit into our lives for the understanding of what it means to be in true relationship with God, each other, and all of God’s creation!

Peace and All Good,
Fr. Zack

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit as Sacred Heart | Friar Reflections | Pentecost Sunday

Dear Parishioners,

Pope Francis, in his homily at Mass on the Solemnity of Pentecost, May 24, 2015, said the following:

“The world needs men and women who are not closed in on themselves, but filled with the Holy Spirit. Closing oneself off from the Holy Spirit means not only a lack of freedom; it is a sin. There are many ways one can close oneself off to the Holy Spirit: by selfishness for one’s own gain; by rigid legalism — seen in the attitude of the doctors of the law to whom Jesus referred as ‘hypocrites’; by neglect of what Jesus taught; by living the Christian life not as service to others but in the pursuit of personal interests; and in so many other ways.

However, the world needs the courage, hope, faith and perseverance of Christ’s followers. The world needs the fruits, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul lists them: ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.’ The gift of the Holy Spirit has been bestowed upon the Church and upon each one of us, so that we may live lives of genuine faith and active charity, that we may sow the seeds of reconciliation and peace.”

In looking out into our parish it is wonderful to see how parishioners are willing to use their gifts for the betterment of our parish. As we celebrate this Pentecost Sunday, I would like to provide you, our parishioners, with an update on just how I have seen the Holy Spirit moving within our parish of late, and where I expect more things to progress as we head into the summer months.

More and more ministries are starting up again, not to mention new ministries in development. There is a group of women starting up a Women’s Prayer Group, to complement the existing one for the men of our parish. A committee on racial justice within our parish community is also forming. There are still more ministries that could use people’s gifts and talents. The staff and I plan on providing an updated ministry fair for late August.

This weekend we welcome Fr. Steven Kluge, OFM, who will be joining our parish staff. Fr. Steve and I were ordained together in 2001. Alongside the friars, I welcome Fr. Steve and look forward to having him in our local fraternity and sharing in our ministry to Sacred Heart. Over the summer Fr. Steve will be looking at what ministries he will be getting involved in.

The alcove alongside the spiral staircase will be enclosed to create a more private confessional.

Our Maintenance Committee has been hard at work, and we have several projects that we hope to complete this summer. In the church, we will be working with a restoration company to reinvigorate and fortify our front doors, along with the side entrance, handicap doors. In our alcove featuring the spiral staircase leading to the choir loft, a glass enclosure will be installed to create a more private confessional.

Up at the North Campus, two buildings are set to be renamed. The library will be renamed “Alumni Hall,” in memory and recognition of the alumni of the school. In an effort to make the space more useful for our ministries, the space will be redecorated, including painting and adorning the walls with photography and images that depicted life at Sacred Heart Academy while it was open. Our docents will be assisting with this venture.

Incremental progress continues on many North Campus projects.

Also slated for a name change is the old Pre-Kindergarten building, which will be renamed “St. Bonaventure Hall.” The restoration of electricity to the building is still scheduled for an early summer completion. Once restored, we can investigate if the air conditioning unit will also need replacement. We will also have to look at updating the bathrooms in that building as well. Our goal is to get it up and running for the Fall so that ministries can start using it for additional meeting space, reducing potential timing conflicts.

We’ve had initial talks about a way forward in updating the kitchen within the North Campus cafeteria. We are in the preliminary stages on this, trying to determine what the project would entail, and what functionality is of most need. It is then that we would be able to get an estimated cost to fundraise toward.

I look forward to providing you more updates as these exciting additions to our parish continue to come to fruition.

Peace and All Good,
Fr. Mike

Running Back to Home Base | Friar Reflections | “Bleacher Brothers” Mission Recap

By Rob Boelke, Manager of Communications

When introducing Fr. Casey Cole, OFM, and Fr. Tito Serrano, OFM, at the beginning of our parish mission this past Monday evening, I asked the pair of friars how the start of their ambitious tour was going, seeing as Tampa was just their second stop following the kickoff in Miami just days before. “There’s been a southern Florida cloud gently hovering over our  trip so far,” Fr. Casey stated. “Every part of our trip has had a little bit of ‘rain’ or a little bit of ‘slipping here, forgetting something there,’ but it has been great.”

Fast forward about 20 seconds, and he thought there was another cloud, as Fr. Tito’s microphone was fighting against him. Motioning to the congregation of more than 100 in attendance, Fr. Casey exclaimed, “we make plans and God laughs, and that’s what we are praying for.” Fr. Tito eventually figured things out (he forgot to turn it on) and thus began an evening of discourse that we rarely get to have in our parishes these days. One of openness and civil discourse, humility and humanity. I certainly hope their visit to Sacred Heart set a tone for their summer tour.

Watch the Full Mission Session Here:

Casey and Tito are on a pilgrimage more so than a tour, however. You’ll have seen in our advertisements over these last few months that the pair of young friars are visiting each and every Major League ballpark this summer, marrying ministry and their passion for the sport of baseball. When I asked where their passion for baseball emanates, Fr. Casey provided insight into this mission’s focus on evangelization in untraditional settings. “Who doesn’t love baseball? It gets in your bones…it brings people together. There is something spiritual about it, almost like a church. You have the fraternal aspect; you spend a lot of time sitting with your brothers in the dugout. For some, that may call it boring, but I call it quality time. The beauty of the stadiums attracts us as well. They are kind of like cathedrals, each slightly different, some ornate, some big, some beautiful. They are hubs for cities, and they house tradition. No other sport has the tradition that baseball does, rooted in something much bigger than yourself.”

Fr. Tito (left) and Fr. Casey (center), with Rob Boelke (right) during the Bleacher Brothers event at Sacred Heart on May 23, 2022.

“We are putting ourselves out there,” Fr. Tito mentioned as the discussion turned to the goals for their interactions at the stadiums. “We’re hoping people will approach us. You don’t go to a baseball game dressed like this (in their habits) unless you want that attention.” Fr. Casey interjected, “Oh, look the Padres are in town. You’ll get kids asking if it is Star Wars night. These (jokes) are pretty popular.” Tito continued, “You’ll get that look from people thinking, ‘Can I?’ (approach) and we say ‘Of course you can!’”

Fr. Casey then told us about one interaction in particular from their first game in Miami that exemplified their mission. “We were in the bathroom and a young guy, 19 years old, came up to us saying he wanted to talk to us, but not in here.” I remarked that I was glad the gentleman in question made such an important distinction, as the congregation laughed. Fr. Casey went on to explain that the man had really been struggling with his faith, with his parent’s faith and culture, and that he felt disconcerted. “He had some real questions for us, and he ended up hugging us after. It was great!”

Fr. Casey (left) and Fr. Tito (right) at Tropicana Field on May 24, 2022

Similar to the interactions they anticipate on having in each ballpark this summer, we had questions prepared for Casey and Tito, covering topics that face the modern Church, both specific to Sacred Heart and on an broader scale. We discussed how to grow alongside the population moving into our parish boundaries. We examined how to invite back our family or friends who have fallen away from the Church, and how to do so with dignity and respect for their experience. We talked about divisiveness, and how civil discourse and listening can help you connect with those who have a different worldview. And just like the encounter with the fan in Miami, it was great.

On behalf of the parish, I thank Fr. Casey and Fr. Tito for their time, honesty, and compassion during this visit, and I hope we see them again soon. And thank you to our parishioners who made the trip out to the church during a Monday evening rainstorm to join us.

Time To Get In The Game | Staff Reflections | The Sixth Sunday of Easter

Dear Parishioners,

This week’s Gospel opens with Jesus addressing His disciples about the coming of the Holy Spirit: “I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything.” It is more than a coincidence then that this week we will host a mission at our parish working to directly embody this early principle of evangelization that Jesus was preparing his disciples to embrace. Soon the Holy Spirit will descend on His disciples, and they will have new and innovative ways in which to deliver His message, His Passion and sacrifice, and most notably, His love. Soon we will have a pair of young friars visiting us to describe the new and innovative ways in which they are attempting to continue delivering His message.

Fr. Casey Cole, OFM, and his longtime friend and fellow friar, Fr. Tito Serrano, OFM, will likely be heading through Alligator Alley and up I-75 at the time you will be reading this, fresh off the first night of a tour that will see the brothers work their way to all 30 Major League Baseball cities over 11 weeks in an attempt to have His Word reach new hearts and minds in settings that may have never been engaged in this way. The pair are baseball fans, yes, and while a portion of their “Bleacher Brothers” tour will see Fr. Casey and Fr. Tito have the chance to visit every stadium to interact and spread the Gospel where people congregate, our time with them will have very little to do with our beloved Rays, or baseball in general.

Cole and Serrano will be stopping at parishes in each city for mission sessions in addition to the baseball games, to engage with parishioners about anything from current events to papal bulls and doctrine, in an effort to promote the Franciscan Charism. Fr. Casey reached out to me a few months ago and requested what I can only assume he may be doing with parishes at each of the additional stops. He asked me how he and Fr. Tito could best interact with our parishioners. The pair do not simply want to “talk at” those in attendance, and they showed a distaste for scripted talks. Given Fr. Casey runs a pair of successful YouTube channels, I could understand the idea of script-writing for each talk feeling a bit old-hat and too similar to his day job. We landed on the idea of hosting a panel, where the pair will be able to interact with each other and a moderator discussing a myriad of topics in an unscripted manor, followed by a chance for those in attendance to ask a few questions themselves.

Fr. Casey (left) and Fr. Tito (right) leaving on their summer-long, “Bleacher Brothers” tour.

READ MORE: For a full breakdown of the the friars visit to Sacred Heart on Monday, May 23, and to hear Fr. Casey’s interview on Spirit FM, click here.

A fair few of the topics up for discussion will cover challenges facing our modern Church, on local and national scales, from division and reconciliation to congregational growth or change and the alienation some parishioners may feel as a result. We’ll be talking about it all. That may seem like a lot to fit into an hour or so, but that is what young friars like Casey and Tito seem to do so effortlessly, though I am sure if you ask them, they will say it takes some doing. For Fr. Casey, it is something he has been doing on his YouTube for the better part of a decade.

I implore you, if you have the time, to join us Monday night for this mission. Watch a few of Fr. Casey’s videos too. You’ll get a good sense of how the Holy Spirit is continuing to work in new and innovative ways to spread the Word.

Peace and All Good,
Rob Boelke

Fraternitas | Friar Reflections | The Fifth Sunday of Easter

Dear Parishioners,

As St. Francis stressed the need for another kind of being in the world, so the Franciscan order seeks more wherein God calls all of us to be peacemakers and reconcilers. This evokes the Franciscan’s principle of “faternitas,” which can be translated as “fraternity” or “brotherhood,” but is defined with a certain emphasis by Pope Francis, who interprets the principle to represent “family.” Pope Francis uses fraternitas as a metaphor for reimaging social and political engagement. He summarizes that while families have disputes, healthy examples of family work to resolve their issues. Pope Francis believes fraternitas can be a model for thinking about the bigger picture within society.

Families may quarrel, but ultimately, the family bond is something that does not change. The pains and struggles of a family argument are felt by all its members, sometimes even after the resolution is reached. That is what it means to be family. As we reflect on this weekend’s Gospel, with Jesus providing the “New Commandment” to the eleven remaining disciples, we can learn how to apply the way Pope Francis defines fraternitas more regularly. For example, if we viewed our political opponents, or a rival in the workplace in the same way that we view our children or spouse, mother or father, what a difference we could make!

True peacemaking requires truth telling and shared commitment to the good of others. It also requires recognizing how decisions have consequences—some of which could have dramatically negative ones—for the most vulnerable among us in society. As Franciscans who work for a tranquil social coexistence, recognizing that the people of God should witness and walk in the footsteps of Christ, we never forget the inequality and lack of integral development to make peace possible. St. Francis promoted a model of fraternitas being a lens through which to view all relationships, while always prioritizing the poor and marginalized.

Pope Francis goes a step further by not condoning “easy” forgiveness or reconciliation, which often comes at the expenses of silencing or dismissing the discomfiting experiences and histories of those who have been victimized. Instead, Pope Francis insists on the importance of memory in a manner evoking the theological concept of “dangerous memory,” or the decisions and actions arising from fear and resentment. That memory should serve as an opportunity for healing through fraternitas.

St. Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio

READ MORE: For more on ‘Fraternitas’ and the three principles of Franciscan relationships as seen in Pope Francis’ Fratelli Tutti: click here.

In the spirit of St. Francis, Pope Francis appeals to all religious believers, regardless of their traditions, to be agents of reconciliation, recognizing the fundamental commitment that we all must promote the common good. St. Francis ties together the importance of the example of Jesus Christ and faternitas as the foundation for our universal human vocation to be peacemakers and reconcilers, for the well spring of human dignity and fraternity is the Gospel. From it arises the action of the Church, the primacy given to relationships, the emphasis to the encounter with the sacred mystery and enter into universal communion with the entire human family as a vocation.

Peace and All Good,
Friar Henry

For Our Mothers | Friar Reflections | The Fourth Sunday of Easter

Dear parishioners,

As you know, this Sunday is Mother’s Day. Although the holiday is secular in its origin, there is much that is sacred about the celebration of Mother’s Day. The Church does not provide special readings for Mother’s Day, and as such, today’s readings for this year’s Fourth Sunday of Easter do not particularly lend themselves to the virtues of motherhood. Any attempt at ‘reflection acrobatics’ trying to fit the readings onto this special day would be a stretch, so we’ll stick to moms for the day.

Mother’s Day is a special day. Today we pause to think about our mothers and those who have shaped our lives. Our mothers have given us the most important time of their lives by bringing us into this world and nurturing us through the most critical time of our own. The first sounds we hear are the beating of our mother’s heart, followed by her voice. Her eyes gazing on us were our first mirrors, helping us to open our own eyes to the wonder of the
new world around us.

We give thanks to God and share memories as we think about our mothers who have gone before us. We give thanks to God and reach out in love to our mothers who are in our lives today. We give thanks to God and celebrate those who, like mothers, have shaped us. We give thanks to God and celebrate those who are, or are like mothers to the ones we love. Let us not forget our other Blessed Mother, Mary the mother of Jesus, and how she loved as well. Mary is the model of all mothers and it’s appropriate that we celebrate Mother’s Day in May, a month set aside by the Church to honor Mary. Mary is also the first disciple, and there are lessons we can learn from her about motherhood and being a disciple.

Like any good mother, we know that Mary would have taught her son how to pray. Prayer was an essential habit to Mary and is an essential habit for all mothers and disciples. Another lesson we can learn from Mary is the importance of placing God’s will before our own. We see this most clearly in the Annunciation, when Mary says “yes” to the will of God to bear his son, Jesus. Mary’s willingness to place God’s will before her own also allowed her to put others’ needs before her own, which is the definition of love. Her ability to sacrifice is something all mothers and disciples can learn from.

In learning to accept God’s will, Mary also learned to embrace challenge and difficulty. In doing so, she gained the courage and grace to persevere. Being a mother has to be one of the most difficult things a woman can do. We need to constantly offer our support, gratitude and prayers for them, not just on Mother’s Day, but every day. As we seek to grow as disciples of Jesus, let us strive to follow the example of Mary and our mothers in being people of prayer, committed to doing God’s will, and accepting of challenges along the way.

On this Mother’s Day, and every day, let us thank God for our mothers and those who have played the role of mother in our lives. May all mothers know God’s deep and abiding love for them and ask Mary today to watch over our mothers and to anyone who may have been like a mother to us.

Wishing you all a very blessed Mother’s Day!
Fr. Zack

How Do We Tend His Sheep? | Friar Reflections | The Third Sunday of Easter

Dear Parishioners,

In her May 2019 column for the Third Sunday of Easter entitled Only Sinners Need Apply, Mary McGlone, a writer for the National Catholic Reporter, summarized the interactions between Jesus and Peter in this week’s Gospel:

Jesus never mentioned Peter’s failings, and Peter made no apologies or excuses. For Jesus, reconciliation was not a matter of guilt, blame or penance, but an opportunity for transformation. Three times Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” The first time, Jesus specifically asked if Peter loved him “more than these,” perhaps referring to Peter’s preference for being first. At this point, Peter would not claim priority. He simply answered, “You know that I love you.” This was Peter’s confession. Standing
humbled before Jesus, knowing that Jesus was fully aware of who he was and everything he had done, Peter acknowledged his weakness and claimed his source of strength. He needed to say no more than, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

In response, Jesus made no mention of the past. As He had done with everyone He healed or forgave, Jesus looked to the future and gave His forgiveness and grace by entrusting Peter with his mission. When Jesus had appeared among the disciples in the locked room, he commissioned them to forgive. Now, as Peter learned what divine forgiveness meant, Jesus commissioned Peter to feed and tend His sheep.

This week’s Gospel provides us a chance to reflect on how we’ve experienced God’s mercy and forgiveness. A chance to reflect on how, through our baptism, we are also being commissioned as Peter to go out and feed and tend God’s sheep. Seven years ago this week, Pope Francis, while receiving bishops in the Apostolic Palace as part of an official visit said, “(we) are called to feed the sheep by making a total gift of our lives, by washing the feet of others.”

The most obvious way our parishioners make themselves “a gift” and “tend His sheep” is through participation in a ministry. During the pandemic, many of our parish ministries were forced into holding patterns, or had to stop altogether. In keeping with the theme of renewal as our communications manager spoke to in his column last week, the friars and staff are searching for ways to assist parishioners and reinvigorate our ministries that were affected by the pandemic, while also looking to any new avenues we should explore. For example, there is a desire to see our RCIA process operate year-round, and we’d need assistance to accomplish that. Sacred Heart has a long-standing men’s prayer group, but is there an interest in having a dedicated prayer group for the women of the parish? With the hire of a new Parish Event Coordinator, we’d like to establish a parish event committee. As always there are liturgical ways to help tend the flock, as altar servers, lectors, Eucharistic ministers, and ushers.

Given the many ways parishioners can utilize their gifts for the parish, we are looking at conducting a new ministry fair, to provide parishioners with the necessary information to know how and where they may help Sacred Heart the most. In the interim, should you have questions about joining an existing ministry, please call the parish office. As always, if there is a desire to begin a new ministry, feel free to reach out to me directly. Remember, too, that Pope Francis guides you to “not bury your talents, the gifts that God has given you! Do not be afraid to dream of great things!”

Peace and all good,
Fr. Mike

A Desire for Renewal | Staff Reflections | The Second Sunday of Easter

Dear parishioners,

During the last few months you’ve become accustomed to reading thoughtful or informative reflections from your friars in this weekly column, but we’re switching it up a bit for the second Sunday of Easter. We’re doing this partially to give the friars a break following the marathons that are Lent and the Easter Triduum, but also to introduce an additional opportunity for our staff to speak directly with you. Consider this the first “Staff Reflection.”

I have been serving the parish as the manager of communications for just over seven months, starting in September of last year. While I’ve had the pleasure to meet and chat with dozens of parishioners in that short time, I often feel as if I am the parish’s “man behind the curtain,” which is not an unfamiliar position for me to find myself. I came to Sacred Heart following years of behind-the-scenes work, from broadcast engineering/production with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Amalie Arena, to ghostwriting content for many state and federal government outreach initiatives. Staying out of the limelight suits me just fine.

That’s continued at Sacred Heart. From week to week I am spoiled for choice on topics to adjust our collective focus to, from the history of our parish or its distinctive and devoted parishioners, to the Franciscan Charism, or, most importantly, our many outreach initiatives aiding the most vulnerable members of our community. These were among the many aspects that attracted me to the parish and this position to begin with, and I very much enjoy learning about and covering these topics. I have been humbled to bear witness from backstage these first few months, however, I feel it is time to step out and join you all on stage. I’ll be doing so in part to continue with the incredible traditions and philanthropic initiatives already in motion here at Sacred Heart, but also to address some of the challenges I have observed and heard reported by you, our parishioners.

After consulting with staff and volunteers, I’ve learned the last time the parish conducted listening sessions or surveys was nearly five years ago. A lot has changed in these last five years. A lot has changed in the last two and a half. Given the pastoral transitions, the pandemic, and staffing changes, I feel it would be prudent to produce a new set of listening sessions and surveys this year, to gauge parishioner sentiment and to present larger initiatives to parishioners, especially items that will affect the parish long term.

I’m not a fan of pushing for change when starting a new project or job. Working nearly eight years in the sports world, I can tell you that the quickest way to “lose a locker room,” or the collective buy-in from your constituents, is to make a bunch of changes without consulting those most invested: “the team,” or in this case, you, our parishioners. In providing these listening sessions, decisions will not be made in a silo from the new guy. I’ll look to this as my first major project within the parish.

One of the first items on the docket for discussion is evaluating the need for a renewed identity for the parish. More simply put, the friars and staff wish to create a new vision or mission statement for the parish, and potentially new branding to go along with it. Any prospective vision or mission statement should be succinct in defining what our internal and external priorities and goals are as a parish. We have so many wonderful ministries at Sacred Heart. It would be beneficial to have a unifying thread across these ministries, so that no matter how ministry members may meet visitors or prospective new parishioners, they could easily define who we are and what we do at Sacred Heart.

Creating a unified vision for Sacred Heart may help us address an additional growing concern. A concern that is certainly not exclusive to Sacred Heart, or any church for that matter. A recent Gallup poll suggests that church membership, irrespective of denomination or creed, is down more than 10 percent during the last decade, falling below a nationwide majority for the first time since the surveyor began measuring membership some 85 years ago. For the same reasons we wish to move forward with new listening sessions and surveys, we can assume our own membership and active participation have been affected in recent years.

We can address these concerns, however, with the renewed identity. We can devise better ways to communicate with members of our parish who may not have returned following the height of the pandemic. We can reach out to new residents moving into our parish boundaries from out of state. We can enhance or prioritize programming to cater to the needs of current and prospective parishioners in multiple demographic subsets. While this all sounds very technical, it has a common goal of renewal, a theme very much in line with our current liturgical focus.

There is a deep desire among the staff for renewal. While I cannot speak to the way things used to be, or whether the “way things used to be” is particularly the ways things should be now or in the future, I do share in that passion for renewal. I want to help Sacred Heart continue to be something it always has been; a community trailblazer focused on stewardship and charity. I look forward to working with you, our parishioners, to make that renewal a reality.

Peace and all good,
Rob Boelke

Franciscans at the Geographic Heart of Easter | Friar Reflections | Easter Sunday 2022

Dear parishioners,

I have been writing in these reflections about who and what we are as Franciscans, and on this most central and pivotal of weekends in our liturgical year, I wish to speak about the history of my brother Franciscans in the Holy Land, the area where the events central to our faith took place.

You may be surprised to learn the holy sites that people travel from all around the globe to see in Jerusalem are run by friars, specifically the Franciscan Friars of the Holy Land, or the Custody of the Holy Land. These brothers were given the obligation of maintaining and ministering at these holy sites in 1342, by a papal decree, known as a “bull,” from Clement VI.

Saint Francis before Sultan Al-Kamil of Egypt, witnessing the trial by fire (Wall Fresco by Giotto)

St. Francis of Assisi went to the Middle East at the beginning of the 13th century to visit and touch the places that offered an irreplaceable testimony of God’s revelations and love for the human person. During Francis’ journey, and despite the ongoing crusades, Francis encountered and dialogued with the Egyptian sultan Malik Al-Kamil, who was governing the Holy Land at that time. It was a peaceful encounter, which started the beginning of the Franciscans’ presence in the Holy Land and influenced the way in which the order has been present to this day.

The friars act as “guardians” of the important Christian sites in the region, preserving the value and experiences of these historical places, which ultimately aides pilgrims seeking to connect with that history.

The friars consistently tell of the miracles, manifestations, and footprints of the passage of God in this world. They echo the words of the Lord, who spoke to them through the prophets and apostles and became “flesh,” a man like us, living in our midst. This is what is meant when popes say that the friars’ mission is to work so that the biblical places become centers of spirituality, each as a sanctuary, preserving and handing on the evangelical message while nurturing the piety of the faithful.

The friars continue to fulfill their mandate of caring for the sacred shrines today. The following is a partial list of the shrines for which the Franciscans serve as caretakers:

    • The Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth
    • The Basilica of the Nativity, Bethlehem
    • Capernaum, Jesus’ hometown
    • The Church of the First Miracle, Cana
    • The Basilica of the Transfiguration, Mt. Tabor
    • The Church of St. Lazarus, Bethany
    • The Basilica of the Agony, Gethsemane
    • The Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem

The group of friars who have dedicated their life to serving and preserving these sacred places so important to our faith is known as The Custody of the Holy Land (Custodia Terræ
Sanctæ). The Custody is symbolized by the Cross of the Holy Land, a red, Greek cross on a white background that features four smaller crosses, also known as the Jerusalem Cross. The Custody can be traced back to the year 1217, when the first general chapter of the Friars Minor was celebrated at St. Mary of the Angels, near Assisi. In an act of inspiration, Francis decided to send his friars to all nations.

Francis and the order divided their numbers into “provinces,” and left from Assisi out to the four corners of the world. The Holy Land was listed as the most important province for this new mission. The province was entrusted to the care of brother Elias of Cortona, who, while not a cleric and never a priest, was a lay brother with significant organizational skills, which would have been advantageous in establishing a presence in the region amid the ongoing crusades.

As we celebrated Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, we began a journey into Holy Week, culminating with our Easter celebrations. The journey embodies the walk on the sands and rocky paths that Jesus had walked, fallen, and traveled to Calvary. I am humbled to know that my brothers, past and present, work so hard to protect and preserve these sites in which our faith is centered.

May these past few days of our Lenten journey bring us a new respect for the people who are oppressed by war, the poor, alienated, lost and unwanted. May we have a true appreciation for one another as God’s created gifts. I end with a translated portion of Mary’s canticle;

May our souls proclaim the greatness of the Lord, may our spirits rejoice in God our Savior…for He has looked with favor upon us. He is RISEN, He is Risen, Alleluia, He is Risen.

Peace and all good,
Friar Henry