Greetings Notre Dame Family,
What a year this has been! I remember celebrating Mass earlier in 2020 with no one in the church except a camera. What a surreal experience! As a Catholic priest, my family is the parish. It was very challenging to be separated from my Church family as well as my biological family (we live in different states).
I arrived at Notre Dame last September. We were already six months into this pandemic. Everyone was wearing masks. We had to do contact tracing for those attending Mass. There were no altar servers and no singing. Weddings were postponed and funerals were celebrated with ten people present.
I contracted COVID-19 in November and was isolated for more than two weeks as I battled a persistent cough. Even though I never had to go to the hospital, there were days when I wondered if I was going to get better. Normal illnesses last a few days, so after 10-12 days of COVID, I fought against the idea of facing my own mortality. Thanks be to God, I fully recovered and was so happy to be back in time to celebrate Christmas with the parish family.
What have been your biggest challenges over the past year?
What kind of things did you do to maintain your faith life during the pandemic?
What do we do now?
As of June 11th, our churches are now open to 100% capacity. Things are returning to pre-COVID protocols. There is an excitement as people return to church. I have said that the online Masses are better than nothing, but they do not compare to receiving Jesus in the Eucharist in person.
We want you to know that we are here for you.
My time as administrator of the parish will finish on Wednesday, June 30th and Fr. Mark Bernhard will arrive on July 1st as the new pastor. I am so excited for Notre Dame Parish because you are getting an energetic and bold evangelizer. Fr. Mark loves Jesus and wants nothing more than to make disciples of Jesus Christ.
I will remain in residence at Notre Dame and live with Fr. Mark in the parish rectory. I will retain my full-time position as Director for Adult Formation for the Diocese of Joliet, so I will be commuting to Crest Hill each day. Although I will not be around as much as I have been over the last nine months, you will see me around the campus. I will celebrate Mass periodically during the week and on weekends. I have come to love this Notre Dame parish community and like Fr. Mark, I have a deep desire to help form disciples of Jesus Christ.
We want you to know that we care about you and your family. Notre Dame Parish is a place that welcomes you with open arms. We desire to help you have a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ, to form you as a disciple, and to help you find the mission God has for you. Please let us know how we can serve you and help you become the disciple Jesus calls you to be.
St. Catherine of Sienna once said, “Become the person God created you to be and you will set the world on fire!”
Thank you for making me feel so welcome here at Notre Dame.
May God bless you.
PS In the Gospel this weekend, we hear the story of the hemorrhaging woman who touched the cloak of Jesus and was healed. The image above is a painting in a church in Magdala, Israel, the home town of St. Mary Magdalene. May we approach Jesus in faith to heal all of our wounds, especially those that we have experienced during this pandemic. Jesus’ healing power awaits us.
The Encounter, painting by Daniel Cariola