New Director of Evangelization

My name is TJ Simpson, and I am your new Director of Evangelization. I grew up here in Omaha at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish. I attended St. James Seton and Creighton Prep before heading off to Kansas and Benedictine College in 2012. There I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Marketing and Management. I stayed down in Kansas to work as a fire door inspector before joining St. Benedict’s Abbey in 2017. The Abbey formation took me to simple vows: a vow to live as a monk for three years. I felt called to leave the monastery in 2020 and have since been back in Omaha working at Hy-Vee before taking the job here at Midtown Catholic.

What is Evangelization? Christ commissioned the disciples saying, “You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Evangelization is the duty of every Christian, and the great mission Christ gave to the church. We witness to our relationship with Christ through prayer and sacrament, striving to help others come to encounter Jesus. Pope Francis has stressed the idea of encounter both before and throughout his papacy.

What I bring to Midtown Catholic: My witness is both charismatic and monastic. At Benedictine College I was heavily involved with St. Paul’s Outreach, a charismatic community that stresses Christian household life and charismatic worship. At St. Benedict’s Abbey, I received a wealth of education in monastic culture, virtue, and the wisdom of the Church. I was being formed particularly to be a Spiritual mentor to both monks in formation and Benedictine College students. Though final vows were not God’s plan, I believe He formed me for a purpose and hope my monastic vision can help you on your journey to heaven.

What I need from you:

Pray for our parishes. Pray that we may live up to God’s plan for our community and find the joy that awaits us.

Get involved. There are some incredible programs that have been bolstered with numbers from three parishes. I will also be starting some new initiatives and am open to feedback and new ideas.

Meet me. Help me get to know this community, its needs, and its history.

Email: tjsimpson@midtowncatholic.church

How do our parishes help our neighbors?

It has been a common experience for me since I’ve served in parishes for the last 17 years that people in need come to our door. Growing up I heard stories about Fr. Jack McCaslin who would make sandwiches for those who would come to his door. The sandwich ministry continues today at Holy Family Church on 17th and Izard.  I later learned at his funeral that he sold a life insurance policy to make a down payment on a house for the homeless, which is now known as the Siena-Francis House. I have been very much inspired by Fr. Jack’s witness of serving the poor. Fr. Jack’s experience of priesthood was very different from the one I experience today, but the desire to make sure that those in need are able to find help in our parishes still tugs at my heart. I’m sure I’m not alone. I’m sure there are others in our parishes who wish they could do more but aren’t quite sure to where to start.

At my previous parish, I found a way to help. All the churches in Creighton, NE would have a collection for the poor. As the young pastor in town, I was responsible for meeting with those in need and writing a check to help with a bill when needed. One of my regrets when I was the pastor there, was that I did not share this ministry with others in the parish.

Since I’ve been here in Omaha, I discovered that many of the parishes serve those in need through a St. Vincent de Paul Conference. When I lived at St. Cecilia, I recognized what a great ministry it was. There were people coming to the door and being helped regularly. Working in the chancery, I had the opportunity to interview different pastors and learn about all the great things their parishes were doing. Two parishes stood out. St. Peter’s and Holy Cross both have very active St. Vincent de Paul Conferences. Here’s a description of St. Peter’s SVDP Conference.

The St. Vincent de Paul Society of St. Peter Church is a group composed of all types of people, young and old, English- and Spanish-speaking, who desire to love Christ in the poor. Inspired by the life and spirituality of St. Vincent de Paul, the members, or Vincentians, extend care to the less fortunate who live in our parish boundaries.

Our parish St. Vincent de Paul Society oversees many charitable efforts, including but not limited to participation in neighborhood community meals for the hungry and homeless in the area, weekly assistance with utilities and material needs, hosting food and coat drives, providing the annual Thanksgiving Day Meal for those in need and missing family, managing the Angel Tree that provides gifts to the poor and aged at Christmas time, and stocking the St. Peter food pantry, and partnering with the Least of My Brethren and Bridges Out of Poverty organizations.

Here at St. Joan of Arc and St. Thomas More, both SVDP Conferences are in need of a reboot. To that end, we will have a guest preacher at our parishes for the weekend Masses. Deacon Marty Smith, who is the Executive Director of the St. Vincent de Paul Society here in Omaha, will preach and do some recruiting at St. Thomas More on September 18/19 and St. Joan of Arc on October 3/4.

Fr. Jeff Lorig
Pastor

Priesthood Sunday

I don’t know when it started but a while back the Serra Club started what is known as Priesthood Sunday.  I happen to be the current chaplain of the Serra Club of West Omaha, so I thought that it would be a good idea to be the one to push this activity this year.  It is traditionally scheduled to be the last Sunday of September.  This year that is Sept. 26th.   

The Serra Club’s role is to promote vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life.  It also supports our current clergy and consecrated men and women.  With that in mind Fr. Lorig and I would like to encourage you to celebrate Priesthood Sunday but praying for vocations.  We are worried about the shortage of young men and women being willing to serve the church in this way.  So we figure that the greatest thing that can happen to support us is to help us continue the work we are doing by praying for our replacements. 

Many of you did that during the week before our non-ordination Saturday.  You did Holy Hours before the Blessed Sacrament on June 1st and we had a special Holy Hour that night and then at 10am, 6/3, when we would normally have had an ordination.  I hope you did not think that those prayers are no longer needed.  In the last three years we have had a net loss of over 20 priests.  In the next eight years we are figuring another 30 less than we have now.  Part of that is because of the good news of 40-50 years ago, when we had a lot of ordinations.  One year we had 14.  Some of those priests are already gone or, like me, are getting really old.   

What Fr. Lorig and I are proposing is that we have another push for Holy Hours for vocations.  The nicest opportunity is on this Monday, Sept, 20th, but obviously any time is a good time.  At St. Joan of Arc the Blessed Sacrament is exposed for adoration and prayer 24/7.  There are people at both churches praying all the time.  If you are not one of them, this is another reason to push yourself. 

The opportunity on Monday, 9/20, and a Holy Hour with Archbishop Lucas at St. Margaret Mary Church from 7-8pm.  Exposition will be done with a special monstrance that was blessed by Pope John Paul II, who is now Saint John Paul.  The Serra Club is sponsoring this time and will have a meet and greet opportunity starting at 6pm that evening.  This will be held at the old Chancery building that is now owned by SMM.  This is your chance to see what that building is like, in case you have never been called into the principal’s, I mean the Archbishop’s, office.  That building is directly west of SMM Church, 100 N. 62nd St.  There will be a few snacks and the Serra Club will explain some of the activities that they are doing year after year.  Then we will all head across the street to attend the Holy Hour.   

Fr. Lorig and I encourage you to come as individuals, as families, or as representatives of our parish organizations.  And we will pray for you as you continue to pray for us and our successors. 

Fr. Frank Baumert
Senior Associate Pastor 

Job Opening

Director of Evangelization

Description

Midtown Catholic is a family of parishes in the center of Omaha, Nebraska. Starting in 2020, St. Thomas More and St. Joan of Arc parish came together and share a pastor, parish office, and staff. We are looking for an energetic Director of Evangelization who will help the pastor create and implement a Clear Pathway for discipleship for our parishioners and anyone who is interested in joining the Church. The Director of Evangelization will report directly to the pastor and give support to our coordinator for religious education and Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, as well as a number of small groups and ministries.

Duties

  • Developing and supporting evangelization initiatives in both parishes
  • Building a Clear Path of Discipleship and create and support teams leading each step of the path
  • Building relationships with school leaders and teachers to find ways to help them grow spiritually
  • Work with school leaders to find ways to help parents grow spiritually
  • Directly support coordinators of Religious Education, Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, junior high and high school ministries
  • Recruit, train, and support small group leaders
  • Attend Senior Leadership Team meetings and collaborate with SLT members to execute team decisions. Identify and develop leaders who can help lead evangelization efforts.
  • Reports directly to the pastor

Requirements

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities

  • Enthusiastic worker with an openness and desire to learn new skills
  • Must be a practicing Catholic in good standing with the Catholic Church
  • People person who does not mind meeting and speaking with new people
  • Ability to work either with a team or independently with little direct supervision
  • Previous work in Evangelization preferred
  • Experience leading small groups and classes

Education and Experience

Bachelor’s degree in Theology, Philosophy, Evangelization, or related field preferred.

Must be Safe Environment certified and background check completed or complete within first month of employment.

Application Instructions
Send resume and cover letter to Eric Keisling, Director of Finance and Operations, at ejkeisling@midtowncatholic.church

St. Augustine 2nd Collection

Support Mission Work Close to Home

During the weekend of August 28th, the Feast of St. Augustine, there will be a second collection for the St. Augustine Indian Mission in Winnebago, Nebraska. Founded in 1909 by St. Katharine Drexel, the Mission educates over 100 children from the Omaha and Winnebago Tribes in the northeast corner of our state. Serving the poorest communities in rural Nebraska, St. Augustine Indian Mission is dedicated to helping Native American children know their cultural heritage, realize their identity as sons and daughters of God, and build bright futures for the children and their tribes. Your support helps the Mission serve in the name of Jesus and carry on the legacy of St. Katharine Drexel.

First Ever World Day of Grandparents and Elederly

This past Sunday, July 25th, three parishes in midtown Omaha: Holy Cross, St. Thomas More, and St. Joan of Arc, combined efforts to host three meals throughout the day to honor our seniors. The turnout was amazing and the comments were overwhelmingly positive. Many attendees commented that it was nice to see familiar faces again all in one place and it was just nice to sit and visit. Thank you to everyone who made the festivities possible.

Pope Francis asked the Church to celebrate this day especially in the light of the difficult pandemic we are going through, which has been acutely felt by the elderly. He writes:

The last year has “been a time of trial for everyone, but especially for us elderly persons. Many of us fell ill, others died or experienced the death of spouses or loved ones, while others found themselves isolated and alone for long periods.”

“The Lord is aware of all that we have been through in this time. He is close to those who felt isolated and alone, feelings that became more acute during the pandemic…

Even at the darkest moments, as in these months of pandemic, the Lord continues to send angels to console our loneliness and to remind us: ‘I am with you always.’ He says this to you, and he says it to me. That is the meaning of this Day, which I wanted to celebrate for the first time in this particular year, as a long period of isolation ends and social life slowly resumes. May every grandfather, every grandmother, every older person, especially those among us who are most alone, receive the visit of an angel!”

Read the whole message. It aims to affirm the dignity and Christian vocation of elderly people.

Grateful to Steven Branscombe for taking photos of the St. Joan of Arc evening meal.

Saturday Morning Men’s Group

Understanding what it means to be a Christian man is harder than ever in our world today. The Midtown Catholic That Man is You group gives men clarity about their identity and purpose around what it means to be a husband, a father, a son, and a brother to other men.

The group of men watch a thirty-minute video every week and discuss what they learned and how it might impact their lives. It is a forum where men get together hoping to learn something from one another’s life experiences. It is a group of “Good Men Trying to Get Better”. 

There is no obligation to speak up in the group.  You are welcome to just sit and listen. 

All men are welcome from any parish, any background, or faith.

The group meets every Saturday at 6 a.m. in the St. Thomas More cafeteria. Each session normally concludes around 7 a.m.  Please enter through the door on the West side of the cafeteria. 

Coffee and donuts are provided. 

Any questions, please call Jerry Hassett at 402-650-0360.

Moving Forward

Last summer when I first arrived, I set a vision for our organizational structure. All the items on that list of where we need to be are complete or in process. These tasks were essential for us to move forward to the next phase of parish renewal. The first phase of renewal was mostly an internal structural reorganization that was needed in order for two or more parishes to work together with one pastor. I envisioned that we needed an organizational structure that:

  • Has a centralized office and shared employees
  • Has a centralized workflow for funerals, weddings, and baptisms
  • Has one name under which all communications flow
  • Has a centralized database with CRM capabilities (customer relationship management software)

And so, it is time to move forward with the next phase of the vision that is a bit more churchy and fun (at least for me). Again, last summer when I arrived, I wrote another list of items of where I would like us to be in the near future. I’ve shared that vision with a small number of people and now it’s time to share it with a larger audience. I envision a church that:

  • Has one mission that drives everything we do
  • Has a clear path for discipleship growth
  • Helps people take next steps along that path
  • Equips people for the work of mission and ministry
  • Is more interested in raising givers than raising funds
  • Emphasizes and organizes outreach as one church
  • Creates community and faith maturity through small groups and steps
  • Offers prayerful, transcendent, and meaningful liturgies
  • Raises up leaders for mission to be sent to other parts of the city and world

I’m excited for this next phase. With the help of the Parish Councils and a church consultant group we will formalize our mission, vision, and strategic plan this coming year.

In Christ
Fr. Lorig – Pastor

Fr. Greg’s Retirement

Some of you are already aware that Fr. Greg Benkowski, former Pastor and now Senior Associate at St. Joan of Arc, officially retired in January. At the end of July, he will be moving to Wisconsin to be closer to family. His last Mass will be on July 24th at 5pm. If you know him at all, he doesn’t like to have a lot of attention directed towards him, which is why we haven’t made any early announcements, but in this final month he’ll have to put up with our saying goodbye and thanking him for his faithful service to our parish and archdiocese.

St. Joan of Arc Parish would like to set aside some time after the 5pm Mass on Saturday, July 17th to say goodbye and wish him all the best. After the Mass, we will have a reception with pizza and drinks in the gym. If you are not able to be present at the reception, please consider sending him a card, which can be mailed to the St. Joan of Arc address – 7430 Hascall St. Omaha, NE 68124.