Midweek at Midtown – January 12

Calendars

The St. Thomas More calendars have finally arrived! This might not seem like that big of a deal but we have had a lot of inquiries. It’s good to know that these calendars are used. The calendars can be picked up in the back of the church.

Pancake Breakfast Cancelled

With the surge of Covid cases recently, the St. Joan of Arc Knights of Columbus has decided to cancel the pancake breakfast that was scheduled for this weekend.

Scrip and Hope

Scrip and Hope are two ways of say the same thing: easy fundraising for parishes. Purchase a gift card after Mass, use the gift card, and then the parish gets paid. It’s that easy. https://midtowncatholic.church/scrip-and-hope/

Bulletin Article

Fr. Frank is the author of this weekend’s bulletin front-page column. He discusses the need for change in our current circumstances. Read here.

Masks at Mass

Covid 19 and the Omicron variant are ramping up and you are sure to be aware of Omaha’s new mask mandate. The mandate will be effect for all parish office visitors. We will continue to encourage masks at Mass, but they will not be required, and the mandate is not enforced for religious services at this time, but we will follow any guidance from the city and county.

We Will Adjust

Dear parishioner,

You have undoubtedly heard that starting the first weekend in February, the Mass Schedule will be changing for the Midtown Catholic parishes of St. Thomas More and St. Joan of Arc. Fr. Lorig has given you some statistics on why this is happening. He has outlined how we have far fewer priests than we had ten years ago. He also gave you the Archdiocese’s projections for eight years from now. The statistics show why this will eventually have to happen. It does not show why the decision was made to do it right at this time. After all, Fr. Lorig and I have been handling the current number of Masses so far. Why not wait until it is necessary. To answer that, I would like to offer my two cents worth.

Most people see the basics that the priests do week after week. When I went into the seminary, I presumed that all a priest did was have
confessions every Saturday afternoon, a couple of Masses every Sunday, and visit the school a few times a year. I have learned a little since then. To give you an idea of what I have learned and how it affects this decision, I would like to provide some information about my current situation.

On a regular week, I have about nine Masses, confessions on Saturday afternoons, and periodic visits to the school. Then I have other things to do. Usually, I have one or two funerals per week. Funerals involve working with the family to make the wake service and the funeral itself a memorable experience for the family who has just lost someone very special to them. I consider each funeral I do to be for a family member. I think that way because I take the title “Father” very seriously. I see the weddings and baptisms I have in the same way. But that is just the start.

I am also chaplain for the Serra Club of West Omaha. The Serra Club is one of the groups that take on the special commission of supporting current priests and consecrated religious and, more importantly, promoting vocations to those roles so we will have priests in the future. Being chaplain involves a couple of meetings and one Mass per month. I am also the only Catholic priest currently enrolled as police chaplain for the Omaha Police Department, which means being available at any time of the day or night. In addition, I am one of a couple of priests who are on call for Bergan, UNMC, and Methodist hospitals. Again, this means being ready to take calls at any time of the day or night. I celebrate Mass at Bergan Hospital once a week for the staff and family members to help them deal with everything going on in their lives. I am on speed dial for several nursing homes and hospice workers in the area. And in case you haven’t noticed, I am also called upon to have Mass for Shut-ins and be on Spirit Catholic Radio. There are a few other odds-and-ends that I am involved in, but this gives you a general picture. It lets you know that every priest does
a lot more than just be there for his parish assignment. There are things like Engaged Encounter, Christians Encounter Christ (CEC), and Beginning Experience weekends, all of which I have been involved in but have dropped over the years. Actually, I still do CEC when I have
a chance. I can do so many of these extra things because, as pastor, Fr. Lorig takes care of most of Midtown Catholic’s meetings and
administrative work.

I don’t want you to think that this is anything but wonderful work. I love every bit of it. I love being a priest, but a second aspect makes today different and addresses why we need to decrease the number of Masses. In the past year and a half, we have had ten of our retired priests
pass away. We have also had several other priests who are now out of the workforce for various reasons. We depended on some of these priests to help handle what I just listed as my workload. Over the years, “retired” priests dealt with those calls to nursing homes and hospitals, along with doing some of the weekend experiences like CEC. They were available to substitute for priests trying to take a vacation. If you look at the number of priest work hours served by the average priest, this means an increase of ten percent in just the last two years. It does not factor in the increase from the previous ten years or the next eight. Since some priests are already at their limits, others must do even more.

Don’t get me wrong. I realize that many people face drastic changes in their personal lives. I ask that you recognize that when it happens, each person and each institution goes about looking at how it can rebalance things. That is precisely what we are doing at Midtown Catholic. There are a few things that we can cut and many that we cannot. An average of 800 people attend Mass per weekend. That is the total for all six Masses. Our churches hold a lot of people. Is it too much to ask people to look seriously at their schedules and consider whether a slight
change might be acceptable? Believe me when I tell you that there will be many cuts in all the parishes around the Archdiocese very soon. Because this is new to our two parishes, it seems like a shock. For other parishes, it is old hat.

The reality is that we will adjust. The church has survived for 2,000 years. It will survive this, and so will we. As changes occur, the question always on every priest’s mind is how many people will allow something like this to be their excuse for turning away from their faith. Look at how many people we lost because of the changes made due to Covid. Please pray for me, and I will pray for you.

Fr. Frank, Senior Associate

Midweek at Midtown – January 5, 2022

Have heard that our Mass schedule is changing?

It made sense to reduce our Masses, which you can read about here, but it was a lot harder to figure out a new schedule. It primarily came down keeping the most well-attended Masses in place.

St. Joan of Arc’s “best” Mass is its 5:00pm Mass. It is moving to 5:30, a minor change, so that when we eventually get permission for a 4pm Mass at St. Thomas More, one priest will be able to take both Masses. The 10:30am Mass at St. Thomas More is its most well-attended Mass and has the most young families attending so we didn’t want to mess with that either.

Welcoming Back Family Members to the Faith

Have you experienced the pain of seeing someone you love fall away from practicing the Catholic faith? You’re not alone. Starting February 2, 2022, Midtown Catholic will be hosting a program called Return which consists of 7 weekly workshops. We don’t have all the details worked out yet, but you can learn more about the program here. If you already know you want to be a part this program, contact TJ Simpson at 402-556-1456 or tjsimpson@midtowncatholic.church.

Alpha at SJA Starts Tonight

You don’t need to register, you can just show up.

The Alpha Course is a practical introduction to the Christian faith, where guests have an opportunity to explore the meaning of life in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere where no question about life or God is too simple or too hostile. The course meets once per week (dinner included) for 10 weeks at 6:30 pm. Two course are being offered this Winter –Wednesdays at St. Joan of Arc and Thursdays at St. Thomas More

Fr. Frank’s Sunday Morning Classes Resume

Father Frank will be restarting his Sunday morning classes this month. The classes will be from 9:10 am to 10:15 am in the STM cafeteria. The first class will be Sunday, January 9th and will be a look at the nativity narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Each class will be on a separate topic. In February, the classes will be held at St. Joan of Arc. No need to register prior to the class.

Help Wanted: Wedding Coordinators

Midtown Catholic is looking for someone to help with weddings for both parishes. Between the two parishes we have about 20 weddings a year. Wedding Coordinators have been used at St. Thomas More for a number of years and have proved to be very helpful for not only helping the clergy but the couples as well. This is a paid position. Email Fr. Lorig if you are interested in learning more @ jplorig@midtowncatholic.church.

You can now give 0nline giving for your tithing at both parishes.

Give to St. Joan of Arc

Give to St. Thomas More

New Mass Schedule

Starting the weekend of February 5/6, the Mass schedule will be as follows:

  • Saturdays, 5pm at St. Thomas More
  • Saturdays, 5:30pm at St. Joan of Arc
  • Sundays, 8am at St. Joan of Arc
  • Sundays, 10:30am at St. Thomas More

Somebody told me after Mass the other day that I was destroying their parish. If you need someone to be angry at, then be my guest. It’s misplaced, but I understand your need to be angry at someone. Let me remind everyone that by 2030, a short eight years away, we are projected to have 88 active priests on hand in our archdiocese, approximately 30 fewer priests than today, a -30% drop from our 2018 numbers.

While archdiocese has been fairly mum about this publicly for some reason, it is beginning another round of pastoral planning. The previous planning, which I was a part of, wasn’t drastic enough and we still will not have enough priests to fill all of our assignments. Here’s the outline of what they are planning.

  • Phase 1: Initial Consultation and Drafting. Now until Feb 2022 Clergy Conference
  • Phase 2: Consultation and Revision. Mid-February – December 2022.
  • Phase 3: Transition to New Reality. January – June 2023
  • Phase 4: Implementation of New Reality. Wave 1 begins 1 July 2023. Wave 2 follows on 1 July 2024.

I do not know what the “new reality” will look like, but I doubt it means keeping parishes open that have no good reason to stay open. A parish worth keeping open in this “new reality” will probably need to be committed to drawing people to Christ and walking with them on a clear path to growing as a disciple. Locking in a partnership with other parishes now and reestablishing a culture around these two things is a parish’s best bet not just to “stay open” but to actually fulfil the mission of Jesus Christ.

To this end, starting February 2, 2022, Midtown Catholic will be hosting a program called Return which consists of 7 weekly workshops. 

Written in 2016, this series works to help equip participants in navigating the journey of drawing their loved one to the faith at the same time empowers them in their own spiritual life. There is a fear, and a guilt and a hurt that happens when a loved one stops practicing their Catholic Faith. We not only try to equip people to have these conversations with their loved ones, but to give them some peace in the situation. Each night has a specific focus that utilizes a multitude of resources.  These nights work together to walk participants toward the path of true evangelization.

https://returnfaith.org/what-is-return

More details to come, but if you would like to learn more about Return, you can contact TJ Simpson at 402-556-1456 or tjsimpson@midtowncatholic.church.

Fr. Jeff Lorig, Pastor

A New Alpha Course Begins

The Alpha Course is a practical introduction to the Christian faith, where guests have an opportunity to explore the meaning of life in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere where no question about life or God is too simple or too hostile.

The course meets once per week (dinner included) for 10 weeks at 6:30 pm. Two course are being offered this Winter –

Wednesdays at St. Joan of Arc and Thursdays at St. Thomas More

Alpha at St. Joan of Arc begins January 5th and Alpha at St. Thomas More begins January 6th. There is no charge to attend the course.

Register by calling the parish office at 402-556-1456 or Rick Fanciullo 402-558-8861.

Three Comings of the Lord 

By TJ Simpson, Director of Evangelization

We believe in the three comings of Jesus: Birth, Present Moment, and the End of Time.  

Birth 

Tomorrow we will celebrate the first coming of Jesus in 1st century Palestine. The infancy narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke tell us the story. We know this story, but hear it less often than we think. Consider spending some time with these stories outside of the Liturgy this Christmas. 

Present Moment 

At the heart of Christian teaching is the Encounter. Born again Christians can often tell you the date if not also the time when they were saved. We, and many of them, understand that this is not a one and done. The disciples followed Jesus after meeting him once, but it took three years of getting to know him (and his Passion) for them to truly believe and commit to his teaching. We must constantly seek God. For it is by his saving action that we are saved.  

This action is presently available to you. As you read this sentence, wherever you are, God is waiting. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mk 1:15)  

The simplest way you can encounter Jesus is through praying with the scriptures. Learning to meditate on scripture and apply it to your life can be a game changer for your experience at Mass and an overflowing well of grace in your daily life. 

Our meditation need not only be when we read scripture. The author Jean-Pierre de Caussade captures this idea well in several of his writings, the most famous being The Joy of Full Surrender (also printed as The Sacrament of the Present Moment.) God is constantly speaking to us in the events of our life. Consider again our first article’s point on prayer- it is scandalously underutilized by Christians. 

End of Time 

The end of days incites both joy and terror. Icons of Christ Pantocrator (such as in the dome at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem) depict a stern Jesus in judgement. Take a look at such an icon, listen to The Man Comes Around by Johnny Cash, and read Revelation and you will get the idea of the terror. 

Jesus is coming. He last came in a time of strife, when no one was quite ready. The Jewish people were torn between different Priestly, Kingly, and Secular authorities. They were not ready for Jesus and his message. Is the Christmas joy you experience a genuine gift of the Spirit that allows Christ to embrace your brokenness? Does it bring you to look forward to Christ’s coming with eager expectation? Or, is our joy a flimsy shield that covers shame and loneliness? 

We look forward in joy for the things to come. This is a major theme of Advent that is lost in the bustle to get presents under the tree and feed our relatives. The reason we have given you these principles is not to burden you, but to give you joy. Most of us don’t like going to confession and doing our examinations of conscience, but we experience that joy of the Holy Spirit when our sins are forgiven.  

Final Thoughts: 

Christian perfection is not perfect, but as vulnerable as the child Jesus. I needed Fr. Belt’s mission talk this year. I needed to remember that the joy of the things to come is greater than my present worries and fears in a time of great public doubt and anxiousness. My hope for you this Christmas is that Mary will intercede and help you to let Christ be born anew in your life. There is a lot of work to do at Midtown Catholic as we seek to renew our Parish life. Everything will be for naught if a personal relationship with Jesus is not our first and last step.  

Recommendations: 

The Joy of Full Surrender: The Joy of Full Surrender (paracletepress.com) 

Christ Pantocrater: christ-pantokrator-jerusalem.png (2000×2000) (wordpress.com)

Johnny Cash: The Man Comes Around – YouTube 

Midweek at Midtown – December 23, 2021

jesus christ figurine

Christmas Schedule

Do you know which Mass you’re going to for Christmas? It’s likely the 4pm Masses will be somewhat crowded. What other options are there? Here’s the full schedule.

aerial view of parking lot

Christmas Hospitality

Save a parking spot and back pew for a guest. Read more.

gray steel chain on orange surface

No Two-Fers

Your Christmas Mass won’t count for your Sunday Mass, but then why wouldn’t you want to come to Mass twice in three days? Just in case you’re thinking about skipping your Sunday obligation because you were just at church for Christmas, think twice. Read more.

Online Giving at SJA

You’ve been asking for it and it’s finally here. St. Joan of Arc now has electronic giving capabilities. It’s safe, it’s secure, and it’s easy! See the giving options here.

Christmas Hospitality

This Christmas, when we fill up our churches for Mass and welcome many guests, I wonder if we could practice some simple steps of hospitality.

  • When you take your seat in church, move to the center of the pew to make room for others so they don’t have to climb over you.
  • Greet guests with a smile and wish them a “Merry Christmas.”
  • Introduce yourself. You may see them again sometime, and it’s nice to be able to put a name with a face. A personal greeting makes people feel welcome.
  • Park out of the way so that when I guests arrive they can find parking more easily.

This Advent let’s not just joyfully anticipate the coming of Christ, but also the arrival of guests!

Fr. Lorig, Pastor

Get Right with God

Celebrate Sacrament of Reconciliation 

If you’ve been to church lately, you have likely heard to go to the confessional. It is worth noting that we are obliged to confess our serious sins once a year. I have at different times forgotten that this is not just an obligation, but a sacrament full of graces and joy! 

As we prepare for the second coming of the Lord, we should be seeking every opportunity to grow closer to him. Regular refutation of sins helps “form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit. By receiving more frequently through this sacrament the gift of the Father’s mercy, we are spurred to be merciful as he is merciful (CCC 1458).”

I can honestly say I live a more joyful and stress-free life when I go to confession more frequently. Contrary to the popular sentiment, I experience less shame and guilt. Consider going to confession as frequently as once a month, or every two weeks like the pope! 

Examinations of Conscience | USCCB 

Practice Charity

God gave himself to humanity through the person of Jesus Christ. The idea of God becoming mortal alone is an unfathomable gift to us. That the word of God took part in our humanity is a gift that could never be matched, for, by baptism we take part in his divinity. In imitation of him we are expected to give generously.  

There are several opportunities around the metro to give. You can obviously give to the Salvation Army or the beggars standing on the medians. However, our time is much more valuable and we get something much greater in return for it. Consider visiting the imprisoned, elderly in nursing homes, or volunteering your time with two Metro missions: 

Open Door Mission Get Involved – Open Door Mission 

Bethlehem House Volunteer – Bethlehem House (bethlehemhouseomaha.org) 

A simpler thing to do: live charity daily. Find opportunities to speak and act charitably to those around you. Whether it’s the co-worker you can’t stand, family member you don’t want to spend time with, service worker who looks stressed, or stranger you pass by in public- we are all in need of God’s love and forgiveness. Smile at someone today, offer someone words of encouragement, and tell people you love them.  

Corporal Works of Mercy: 

  • Feed the hungry; 
  • Give drink to the thirsty 
  • Clothe the naked 
  • Harbor the harborless 
  • Visit the sick 
  • Ransom the captive 
  • Bury the dead. 

Prayer for Charity:  

Lord, 

Fill our hearts with the spirit of your charity, that we may please you by our thoughts, and love you in our brothers and sisters.