Our Pastor’s Message
A Radical Christmas Welcome
As a child, I grew up in a household infused with religious belief and practice. As a family, we attended Mass on a weekly basis. We said grace before meals. We even prayed the Rosary together. And as a young adult, I volunteered with our parish’s youth faith formation program. For me, the Catholic Church has always been a place of peace, a consolation during times of trial, and a second home. Sadly, we know that many people of faith and goodwill do not feel this way. During the past few decades, all too many people have left the Catholic Church behind. Some feel unable to join us for Mass for cultural, familial, financial, or personal reasons. Others simply feel unwelcome for reasons related to their marital status, sexual orientation, or simple lack of knowledge about the teachings and traditions of the Church.
At Christmas, however, many of our brothers and sisters in faith come home to the Church to experience again the miraculous joy of that holy night when God humbled himself and was born among us as a poor child. Even if for just one Christmas Mass, they come in search of peace, consolation, and meaning in their lives. They come in search of something that the world cannot offer: God’s endless love, intimate friendship, and boundless mercy. Whether they know it or not, they are called by the Lord to join us and hopefully find their place again in the Church, our spiritual home.
For some time now, I have been thinking and praying about Pope Francis, his message of mercy and inclusiveness; and his outreach to the poor, especially the poor in spirit. I have been praying for those among us, friends and family members, who might feel excluded from the beauty of our shared faith, the richness of our traditions, and the spirit of our parish life. When I became your pastor more than two years ago, one of my first decisions was to ensure that every announcement about every event or program in our parishes included this message: “All are welcome!” However, I have never fully explained what that means and to whom it applies. So, here goes!
Let’s be clear. The celebration of Holy Mass is the source and summit of our community’s joy and its life of prayer, fellowship, and service. All are welcome to join us for Mass and to participate in Holy Communion in accordance with a personal examination of conscience and the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. In this spirit, all are welcome means just that: “All are welcome!” So, whether you are a sinner or a saint, all are welcome! Whether you attend Mass every day, every week, or just every so often, all are welcome! Whether you know the difference between an Apostolic Letter and an Apostolic Exhortation, all are welcome! Whether you are healthy, living with a chronic illness, or suffering from a terminal illness, all are welcome! Whether you are fat or skinny or somewhere in between, all are welcome! Whether you are rich or poor or somewhere in between, all are welcome! Whether you are young or old or middle-aged like me, all are welcome! Whether you are single, married, or divorced, all are welcome! Whether you are straight, gay, or not so sure, all are welcome! Again and again and again, all are welcome means all are welcome!
Like Pope Francis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) was blessed with the heart of a true shepherd of souls. Bonhoeffer was a pastor who spoke out against Adolph Hitler and Nazism; and he paid for it with his life. In a meditation written from prison, Bonhoeffer challenges us to engage in a radical welcome to all who seek comfort and consolation during dark times. He writes: “Jesus stands at the door knocking (Rev 3:20). In total reality, he comes in the form of the beggar, of the dissolute human child in ragged clothes, asking for help. He confronts you in every person that you meet. As long as there are people, Christ will walk the earth as your neighbor, as the one through whom God calls you, speaks to you, and makes demands on you…Christ is standing at the door; he lives in the form of a human being among us. Do you want to close the door or open it?” This Christmas and beyond, let us learn from Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Pope Francis. Let us live the Gospel, share it with love, and rebuild the Church. Let us open wide the doors of our churches and our hearts! And let us exclaim with one voice for the glory of God, forever and always: “All are welcome!”
Peace and blessings to all for a Merry Christmas!
Reverend James M. Achadinha, Pastor
Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport
Note: On behalf of the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport, Father Jim wishes to thank Jody Cole of Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania, for allowing us to use her inspirational icon of the Nativity on our website and cover of our weekly newsletter. Prints of this icon are available for purchase. For more information, please visit: jcoleicons.com.
The Christmas Proclamation
The Proclamation of the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord at Christmas from the Roman Martyrology is based on sacred scripture and formally declares the birth of the Christ Child. The Christmas Proclamation begins with the creation of the world and relates the Lord’s birth with major events in human history. Those events help us to appreciate the birth of Jesus within the broad context of salvation history. On Christmas Eve, December 24th, the Proclamation is recited as part of the Liturgy of the Hours and will be announced at Midnight Mass. So, let us raise our hearts and voices in prayer as we proclaim the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ to the whole world! Merry Christmas!
The twenty-fifth day of December,
when ages beyond number had run their course
from the creation of the world,
when God in the beginning created heaven and earth,
and formed man in his own likeness;
when century upon century had passed
since the Almighty set his bow in the clouds after the Great Flood,
as a sign of covenant and peace;
in the twenty-first century since Abraham,
our father in faith, came out of Ur of the Chaldees;
in the thirteenth century since the People of Israel
were led by Moses in the Exodus from Egypt;
around the thousandth year since David was anointed King;
in the sixty-fifth week of the prophecy of Daniel;
in the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad;
in the year seven hundred and fifty-two
since the foundation of the City of Rome;
in the forty-second year of the reign of Caesar Octavian Augustus,
the whole world was at peace,
Jesus Christ, eternal God and Son of the eternal Father,
desiring to consecrate the world by his most loving presence,
was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
and when nine months had passed since his conception,
was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem of Judah, and was made man:
the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.
Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests!
May Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace,
have mercy on us and on the whole world!
Youth Faith Formation
Annual Christmas Pageant
Saturday, December 31st
Each year, the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the Season of Christmas from December 25th through the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. During Christmastime, we commemorate the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ; the choir of angels praising God in heaven; the call of the shepherds; and the adoration of the Magi with their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. As part of the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport’s celebration of the Season of Christmas, we invite the children of our parish communities (both Holy Family Parish and Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish) to participate in our Youth Christmas Pageant during the 4:00pm Vigil Mass on Saturday, December 31st in Saint Ann Church. This annual dramatization of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ depends on the participation of young angels and shepherds, along with those interested in playing the roles of the Magi and the Holy Family. For more information, please contact Betsy Works at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please join us! All are invited! All are welcome! Merry Christmas!
Adult Faith Formation
Adult Sacramental Preparation
Begins Sunday, January 29th
If you are an adult (age 18 and over) and have not received the Sacraments of Baptism, First Penance & Reconciliation (Confession), First Eucharist, or Confirmation in the Roman Catholic Church, then please prayerfully consider joining our adult faith formation fellowship which will meet on Sunday mornings after the 8:15am Mass beginning on January 28th in Saint Ann Parish House. All books and materials will be provided. Over the course of the next four months, our program will meet regularly (for approximately on hour) to prepare interested adults for reception into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil on Saturday, April 15th. We will learn about the teachings and traditions of the Church and address the challenge of living a life of faith in the modern world. If you or someone you love would like to join us in preparing for the Sacraments of God’s Holy Church, then please contact Cliff Garvey at email@example.com. Please join us! All are invited! All are welcome! Merry Christmas!
Youth Faith Formation
Confirmation Preparation Program
Begins February 5th
For too many teenagers, Confirmation has sadly become a kind of graduation from the Church, rather than the joyful beginning of life as an adult disciple in the Church. We hope to end this tragic ambivalence by transforming sacramental preparation into an engaging process for the whole family. First, we will place primary focus on attending Mass. For more than a century, the Church has asked every parish to provide a sacramental preparation program for children. During recent decades, however, we have neglected to remind parents of their baptismal promise to be the first teachers of their children in all matters related to faith and morals; and that the most important component of that responsibility is attending Mass as a family. In our increasingly busy world, its has become common for parents to entrust their children to us for an hour of instruction but not join us for Mass each weekend. So, we will continue to ask parents to dedicate one hour each week to their child’s religious education — by bringing them to church!
In addition, all high school students (beginning in the ninth grade) are invited to participate in our two-year program of formation that will prepare them to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. During the first year, students will participate in a series of interactive workshops about the teachings and traditions of the Catholic Church. These sessions will begin on Sunday, February 5th and coincide with our weekend Mass schedule. During the second year, students will participate in four additional workshops (and a four hour mini-retreat) designed to help them grow in prayer, fellowship, and service; to prepare them to receive the Gifts of the Holy Spirit; and to jumpstart their lives as faith-filled young adult disciples. If your child is currently in high school and wants to prepare for the Sacrament of Confirmation, please complete a registration form (see link below) and return it to us as soon as possible. For more information, please contact Betsy Works at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please join us! All are invited! All are welcome! Merry Christmas!
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. Our worship sites include Saint Ann Church in Gloucester, Saint Anthony Chapel in Gloucester, Saint Joachim Church in Rockport, and Our Lady of Good Voyage Church in Gloucester. We are a Roman Catholic faith community united in prayer, fellowship, and service. For more information about becoming a member of one of our parishes, please contact Father Jim at email@example.com. Please join us! All are welcome!
Follow us on Twitter: @CCGRonline