My letter on the Catholic Services Appeal
Bishop Vasquez has asked all parishes this weekend to present to you the annual Catholic Services Appeal. As most of you know, this is the annual diocesan appeal for funds to be used in support of the many ministries of the diocese. Usually, I do a presentation in place of the homily at all Masses on CSA weekend. However, given recent events in the Church and the impact both on you and on me, I have decided to give just a brief presentation at the end of the Masses this year. Instead of using homily time for talking to you about CSA I have decided, instead, to communicate with you by means of a parish letter.
As I write, I am sitting here with my own CSA pledge card. As I consider pledging I have to admit that the clergy abuse scandal is on my mind. Like many of you, my faith in the institutional Church has been shaken. I am somewhat heartened to know that the bishops of the United States are meeting on this issue next week at Mundelein Seminary in Illinois. I know, as well, that both Bishop Vasquez and Bishop Garcia are spending this week fasting and in intense prayer in preparation for that meeting. I am hoping that a positive movement forward will result. Since I do have what some might call a naïve faith that God takes care of His Church, I know that, in the end, the Church will be set on a better course as a result of its current suffering. It is just that right now we are in the midst of the suffering.
When I went away a few weeks ago to spend some days on retreat, I was not in a good place. I felt as abandoned by God and as drained of energy as I have ever felt. I canceled the Mass of Reparation that had been scheduled here on October 8 simply because I did not have it in me to do it. I was wondering, when I departed for retreat, if what I was experiencing was a sign that my time in active priesthood was coming to an end, and perhaps I should retire when I am eligible next summer. Fortunately I had a profound prayer experience while on retreat. That experience showed me that God is very much with me and that the strength that I need will come from Him if I am just willing to persevere.
That brings me to this moment when I have my CSA pledge card in front of me. There is one side of me that wonders about the human leadership of our Church. This side is exacerbated by what appears to be a growing conflict within the Church leadership in the wake of Cardinal Vigano’s letters in which he questions the leadership of Pope Francis. However, the other side is the side that experiences Church in the company of you, my parishioners, with my fellow priests in this diocese and with our bishops. As you are aware, this is a wonderful parish. It is filled with good people who are living out their family and faith lives in good ways. We struggle sometimes, but together, by the grace of God, we make our way and we have a beautiful faith community. We are blessed, as well, to be part of a wonderful diocese. As with all human institutions, it is far from perfect. However, in my 32 years first as a seminarian and then these past 27 years as a priest, I have always felt blessed that God called me to priesthood here, in this diocese.
In some ways, if I do not make a pledge to CSA, it is a statement that I am taking this blessing for granted. Yes, I know that some minor percentage of what I pledge might go for things with which I disagree. However the vast majority of what I pledge will help to support the education and formation of seminarians and deacon candidates. It will support, as well, religious education, Catholic Charities, retired priests and many other things that are very important to me and, I know, to you as well.
With that I am pledging to CSA this year an amount that equals 1% of my yearly salary. That is in keeping with commonly accepted guidelines on tithing which suggest 5% to the parish, 1% to the annual diocesan appeal and 4% to whatever else one wants to support. Along with my pledge I am offering my prayers that you will join me. I know that many of us are feeling all sorts of things about the institutional Church right now. However, as I realized during my time of prayer on retreat, God does remain with us. All that we need will be there as we go forward together as the Church of Jesus Christ. We just need to persevere and hold to our faith in Him and our faith in what He will make of His Church.
Father Samuel Hose
Emmaus Catholic Parish
1718 Lohmans Crossing Rd
Lakeway, TX 78734
Sent by Beverly Aviles on Thursday, November 1 at 9:26AM