Father’s Letter — July 10, 2016

Dear Friends:

The second paragraph of the first reading stands out so much it bears to be repeated:  “For this command that I enjoin on you today is not too mysterious and remote for you. It is not up in the sky, that you should say, ‘Who will go up in the sky to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?’ Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?’ No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out.”  I’m willing to bet that all of us have felt this way.  We can think sometimes that God is just out of reach for us.  We learn here that’s not the case.  That’s how intimate our God is with us!

As we continue to learn about each other, I want to respond to many questions regarding my health.  In 2012, I was diagnosed with Epilepsy after observed “gran mal” seizures.  I was not able to drive for about a year-and-a-half and that slowed up many of the projects I was working on in the Diocese.  Fortunately, I had an excellent Associate Pastor in Father Francis Marotti, who assumed most of my responsibilities.  I still continue to have seizures, but they are of a type where I do not lose consciousness, awareness, or motor skills.  I’ve been under the care of doctors at Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.  In order to keep things under control, I need to be careful in selection of where I will be most involved, and where our parish staff is perfectly competent to perform their duties as leaders among the staff.

One responsibility I will continue is to serve as the Chaplain of the Battle Creek Police and Fire Departments.  This takes very little time.  Many of the responsibilities consist in meeting with officers and firefighters when they have things they want to talk about.  Plus, I’ve made a number of friends in these departments.  So I wanted to fill you in on that.

 Speaking of health issues, I am writing this column from a hospital room in Grand Rapids.  I contracted pneumonia early in the week and it was quite a ride.  So thanks for your continued support and patience! I had to cancel various meetings this past week because of my sudden illness.  But I look forward to meeting with our parish council, finance council, and staff. 

 Finally, many thanks to those who are planning this year’s parish festival.  Obviously this is my first one, and it sounds like a wonderful annual event.  And I appreciate that we will use this event as a way for me to meet more and more people.

Have a good week, and Praised be Jesus Christ!

 Fr. John

Father’s Letter — July 3, 2016

Proclaim the greatness of the Lord…

Dear Friends:

A long time ago, when I began writing a weekly column for the parish bulletin, I made the decision to use these words spoken by our Blessed Mother… “Proclaim the greatness of the Lord.” In essence, that’s what I believe we are called to do each day. In our words and actions and thoughts, we are to proclaim the greatness of the Lord. Of course, all of us…myself very much included…fall short many times. And yet, we also proclaim God’s goodness by accepting His undeserved mercy for us. I pray that as we begin this journey together, we will always find ways to proclaim God’s goodness.

The format of my weekly column also has been the same for a long time. First, I make brief mention of something in the scriptures of the day and offer a thought or two for us to ponder and pray about. The rest of the column is one way I am able to communicate with you on a weekly basis. I like to use this column as a way to highlight certain things going on in the parish; at least from my perspective. I hope this new format is helpful (and interesting) to you!

I have to be honest…my appointment to be your new pastor was a total surprise to me. After I had a chance to think about it, I realized how delighted I was that the Bishop, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, chose me to be your shepherd. What a fantastic parish this is. It’s actually not my first time here…a few of you might recall that I was here as a seminarian intern for a very brief period of time. Well, lots of years have passed since then and this year marks my 14th year as a priest. I’m very grateful to Father James Adams for his service as your pastor. He and I served together at Saint Catherine of Siena parish. I was his pastor and he was my associate pastor. So I know what a great and holy man he is and I am sure you will miss him. So let’s remember to keep him in our prayers!

Officially, Father Rob Johansen serves as associate pastor of our parish. However, it’s unlikely you will see very much of him as he is in residence at Saint Philip’s in Battle Creek. The reason for this, in large part, is because his primary responsibility is to serve as chaplain at Bronson Battle Creek as well as all local health care facilities. That includes visiting our parishioners in the hospital or any health care facilities. You probably know that I also serve as canonical pastor of Our Lady of Great Oak in Lacey and Saint Ambrose parish in Delton. Father Johansen will celebrate most of the weekend masses and serve their sacramental needs. Sister Constance Fifelski is the administrator of those churches so the day-to-day operation is taken care of by her.

Any new pastor is smart enough not to make too many changes (if any) at the starting gate. There may be a few little things but those are usually for his ease or for what he perceives as being good for the parish. Accordingly, I’d like to make a little change to the daily Mass schedule. We will now celebrate a 5:30 PM Mass on both Tuesday and Wednesday, and 8:30 AM on Thursday and Friday. This should provide consistency in schedule and it also adds another daily Mass (Thursday).

I look forward to working with those groups who will provide me counsel… Namely the Parish Council and the Parish Finance Council. Of course, I’m anxious to collaborate with Deacon Mike Carl, whose assistance so far has been so helpful, and our staff. And I know there are other groups out there that I will come to know. Most especially, I look forward to meeting all of our parishioners! (By the way… Please call me Father John. Father Fleckenstein takes too long to say)!

I have so much more to say, but I’m running out of room and we have plenty of time. So for now, please know in advance how grateful I am for the warm welcome of this parish. Have a great week and Praised be Jesus Christ!

Fr. John

Father’s Letter – June 19, 2016

Follow Jesus.
Go out and serve as He serves.
Form His disciples.

Of these three pillars of our St. Ann mission, “Follow Jesus” keeps resounding in my soul and I want to leave you with those words. It has not always been easy for me to remember how simple Christianity really is. There are so many teachings and with the growing complexities of the world, these teachings are constantly called into question. As a priest, I am particularly called to explain these teachings and how they really do bring the greatest happiness for mankind and lead us into the life and love of God. But sometimes it is easy to think of Christianity as simply the following of this set of ‘teachings.’ The most important thing that God has taught me over these last two years is that I must follow a person, Jesus Christ. He is the motivation for everything that I do. Even when I have not followed Him with all of my heart, He constantly loves me and pursues me. He is the meaning behind every teaching of the Church. And, to please Him brings the greatest joy the world will ever know. That was the experience of the first disciples. How else could they leave everything to follow Him?

There is no greater clarity to the purpose of life than to be known and loved by Jesus Christ and to seek to know and love Him in return. This is what caught the heart of Peter, James and John, Mary, Martha, Lazarus, and so many others. They encountered a person who made present, to them, the face of God. It is not until that desire for Jesus burns in our heart that we can come to love the Church and her teachings. It is not until we experience Jesus, personally, through the sacraments, that Catholic practice will ever make sense.

So if I can leave you with one last thought, it is – Follow Jesus. Pursue Him with all of your heart. There you will find the beauty of the Catholic Church and realize that her purpose is to lead us into an encounter with Jesus, and through Him, with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Please pray for me, that I will love Him with all of my heart. Peace to you and know you will be in my thoughts and prayers.

In Christ through Mary,
Father Adams

Father’s Letter — June 12, 2016

In our first reading and in the Gospel, we heard about two sinners who made big mistakes in their lives and yet became great saints. The key to their return was humbly and simply admitting their faults. We heard the Responsorial Psalm, “I acknowledged my sin to you, my guilt I covered not.” How easy it is to fall into despair after a mistake. The fear of coming out into the light bothers us terribly. We are afraid of being judged or misunderstood and so we justify ourselves and stuff away our sins. But these two individuals chose a different path. They humbled themselves. They pushed through the fear of humiliation and accepted their smallness before God. They knew they needed Him. They could not go on living a happy life without His healing and they knew it. They deeply desired God to look at them with His eyes of mercy, humiliating as that might be. Overcoming this fear gave them confidence to own their sins and to show them to the Lord with humble trust. And the Lord welcomed them back with great joy. They began to follow Him and to be transformed by a relationship with Him.

Is not this the story of each one of us? If we are really honest, there are those parts of our souls that we do not want to be illuminated by the light of Christ. Fear paralyzes us from coming into the light and the joy of being the children of God. But truly, there is nothing to fear. God’s perfect love casts out all fear and you are perfectly loved by your Heavenly Father. If we could just get this through our heads, how many more saints there would be in this world. These words may seem intense, but I am convinced that the Lord desires to set so many free in this Year of Mercy.

As my time with you here at St. Ann comes to a close, I want to share with you a few details about this time of transition. My last weekend Masses will be next week, June 18th-19th. I look forward to spending some time with you after each of the Masses to say our goodbyes. I depart for Rome on a pilgrimage with Hackett parents and students on June 20th. Father John Fleckenstein will officially become pastor on July 1st. Since neither of us are able to celebrate Masses the weekend of June 25th-26th, I have found two priests willing to substitute for Masses. Bishop Murray will celebrate Mass Saturday evening and the newly ordained, Fr. Andrew Raczkowski, will celebrate the Sunday Masses. I am so grateful for your support and prayers in this time of transition for our whole diocese.

Many blessings to you all and happy Sunday!

Fr. Adams