This Week’s Message
The Real Deal
By Cliff Garvey
Father John Sassani was my first spiritual director, then my mentor, and then my friend. When we met nearly thirty years ago, he shook my hand and insisted that I call him “John.” He was wearing a worn clerical shirt, open at the collar, white tab in his pocket, boat shoes on his feet. His often relaxed appearance hid a deep, intense, sometimes fiery faith. As both a spiritual director and a friend, John often asked difficult questions; and he expected honest answers. He could always detect core emotions and kernels of honest truth. He would then dig into some small life experience or some big spiritual crisis in order to arrive at the fundamental question in almost every situation: Where is Christ in your life?
John’s many skills as a priest, pastor, and spiritual director were practiced while celebrating the sacraments, leading retreats, counseling directees, and conversing over dinner. During my years as a student at Saint John Seminary, John could sense when I needed encouragement or support. Over a good meal, we would discuss what was happening in the Church, what was happening at the seminary, and what was happening with my vocation. He always seemed to know what to ask; and he always listened with an open heart. In the end, the question always came back: Where is Christ in your life? His search for the answer to this question was both kind and tenacious, tough, and compassionate.
One summer, John invited me to join him on a week-long retreat at a retreat house on the shores of the Potomac River in Maryland. Our journey there was fun-filled and light-hearted. But upon our arrival, our interactions were minimal. John would eat alone and in strictest silence. He would nod pleasantly in the chapel or in the hallway, but he did not speak more than a few words for several days. When I asked him why he was ignoring me, he said simply: “You are not here to talk with me. You are here to talk with Jesus. Get to work.” Here again, as both pastor and friend, John’s first concern and primary mission was to search relentlessly for Christ’s presence in this one life that we are blessed to live.
Whether one knew him as a friend, pastor, or spiritual director, John always looked for what he called “the real deal.” These were people willing to wade into the deep waters of faith and spirituality; ready to take the next step in their journey of discipleship; and brave enough to truly love Jesus and to share that love in every thought, word, and deed. John had little patience for gooey piety or sentimental devotion. He could see through it and dismissed it with his razor sharp wit. What John craved was the real deal: an authentic Christian experience in life, in friendship, and in the Church. And he helped others find it through the sacraments, spiritual direction, the Cursillo Movement, and the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius.
John passed away on Easter Sunday Morning after a brave battle with brain disease. At first, it seemed so tragic that John’s life and priesthood was cut so short by the brutal cross of illness and suffering. It seemed so unjust that God should call him home when he had so much more to give. It seemed so sad for his family, his friends, and for his parishioners in Newton who loved him so much. At the same time, we can only marvel at the breathtaking beauty of leaving behind this poor life at almost the very same moment when the Risen Lord leaves behind that empty tomb. For John, that was certainly the realest deal of all! May Father John Sassani and all the faithful departed rest in the eternal peace of the Risen Christ!
Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport
Youth Faith Formation
Celebrating First Holy Communion
Sunday, May 19th
On behalf of the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport, Father Jim and our pastoral team wish to congratulate the seventy-five young disciples from Holy Family Parish and Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish who have successfully completed our program of preparation and who will receive their First Holy Communion in the coming weeks. During these past seven months, these seventy-five young fellow parishioners and their parents have prayed, studied, and grown together in prayer, fellowship, and service. They have learned together that disciples of all ages are called to live the Gospel, share God’s love and mercy, and rebuild the Church. They are all well-prepared to receive the Body & Blood of the Risen Lord and to become faithful and faith-filled disciples!
These children wish to sincerely thank their parents, families, and friends for their love, prayers, and support. In addition, the children also wish to express their deep appreciation for those who worked so hard to prepare them for their First Holy Communion: Father Jim Achadinha, Olga Alves, Fernanda Brown, Phyllis Comeau, Angelica Duran, Mary Duran, Donna Lupo, Mary Ellen McLeod, and especially Betsy Works. Please pray for all of our young fellow parishioners, their parents, and families so that they will continue to grow in faith, hope, and love; and that they will continue to join us for Mass on a regular basis. Please also pray in thanksgiving for our pastoral team and our dedicated volunteers who make these celebrations possible. Thank you for your prayers and support! May God bless you and your family!
Healing God’s Family & Rebuilding Our Church
An Evening with Saint Damien of Molokai
Thursday, May 30th
More than eight centuries ago, the Crucified Christ called out to the young man who would become Saint Francis ofAssisi: “Go! Rebuild my church which as you can see is falling into ruin!” Francis took the Lord’s command literally and set out to repair small chapels in and around his hometown. Over the years, however, Francis came to understand more fully that his vocation to live the Gospeland share God’s love was vital to rebuilding the Church all around the world.
In this spirit and in appreciation for the crisis facing the Roman Catholic Church in our own time, the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport will gather in commemoration of important feast days and pray for the healing of God’s family and for the courage to rebuild our wounded Church. In addition, we will also beg the saints to pray for us and to guide us in the hard work of discipleship during these difficult times.
All are invited to join us for our next Evening of Prayerfor the Healing of God’s Family on Thursday, May 30th in honor of Saint Damien of Molokai (1840-1889), who devoted his life to caring for those who had been discarded by society because of illness and stigma. This special evening of prayer will begin at 6:00pm with Evening Prayer and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. At 6:30pm, we will pray the Holy Rosary for the healing ofGod’s family. And at 7:00pm, we will conclude with Night Prayer and Benediction.
During Evening Prayer, Cliff Garvey will offer a reflection on the life and legacy of Father Damien. In addition, we will be blessed to pray with a beautiful hand painted icon of Saint Damien of Molokai that includes one of his relics. We hope and pray that you and your family will be able to join us for all or even just part of this special evening of prayer, reflection, and devotion. For more information, please contact Cliff at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please join us! All are invited! All are welcome!
Grand Annual Collections
Every Dollar Makes a Difference!
Last year, thanks to your generous support, both Holy Family Parish and Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish were able to balance their respective budgets. Two big reasons for this accomplishment is the success of our Grand Annual Collections. In each of our parishes, the Grand Annual Collection bridges the gap between our weekly gifts and our financial obligations (such as salaries and benefits, insurance premiums, utility bills, snow plowing, and essential parish programs). The Grand Annual Collections also help us to maintain our historic church buildings.
In order for each parish to balance its budget and ensure its long-term financial stability, we must meet our goals of $75,000 for Holy Family Parish and $45,000 for Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish. These fundraising campaigns are essential components of our annual parish budgets. Each year, we ask all parishioners to contribute what they can to our Grand Annual Collections. Every gift, large or small, helps us to achieve our goals and balance our budgets. Offertory envelopes are located at the doors of all of our churches. Please place your offering in the collection basket during Mass or mail it directly to me.
Although we have made good progress toward reaching our goal, we have much work ahead before the end of the fiscal year on June 30th. As we begin the final quarter of the fiscal year, all parishioners are encouraged to prayerfully consider giving to the Grand Annual Collection at either Holy Family Parish or Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish. Every penny raised goes directly to the parish of your choice. Please join me in praying that each of us, according to our means, will give generously to one of these all-important fundraising efforts. Thank you in advance for your generous and ongoing support of our amazing parishes! Peace and blessings to all! — Father Jim
Established in 2014, the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport is a collaborative of two historic parishes: Holy Family Parish and Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish. Working together as a Roman Catholic community united in prayer, fellowship, and service, we are committed to living the Gospel of Christ, sharing God’s love and mercy with all people, and rebuilding the Church in Gloucester & Rockport. All are invited! All are welcome! Always!
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