Scrip Classroom Contest

It’s that time of year again to help your child, earn a classroom pizza party.   The classroom with the highest average amount of Scrip (Gift Cards) sold between Monday, November 8th andSunday, January 2st wins a classroom pizza party.  Second place gets ice cream and third place gets candy.  Every week anyone that purchased that week goes into a drawing for a $25 gift card to be given away. Order forms are available at the school office, parish office, in the back of church or on both the school and parish website.  Family gatherings and work are two great examples of places to ask friends to fill out a scrip order sheet.  Payment must be included.  Make sure all forms have your child’s name and grade listed on the order sheets.   All orders on the RaiseRight app count towards the contest also.   

Any questions call, text or email Marsha at:   402-651-3423     scrip.stm@gmail.com

Scrip Contest Form

Help your Neighbors in Need

The primary way in which our parishes help our neighbors in need is though our St. Vincent de Paul Conferences. The Conference is made up of a team of people who volunteer to meet or call back people from our neighborhoods who have requested financial help. There has been some interest from folks to join, but still not enough. Take a next step to learn more and reach out to Deacon Ron Ryan at St. Joan of Arc Parish @ (402) 558-3100 or Maureen Roberts at St. Thomas More @ (402) 917-4776. 

Another way to learn more but not yet commit is to attend an SVdP orientation on Saturday, November 6 from 9am – 1:30pm @ Holy Family, 1715 Izard Street, Omaha, NE 68102. Here’s what you’ll learn and how you will grow!

9:00am – Introductions
9:15am – Part I: Introduction to the Society
9:30am – Part II: History
10:00am – BREAK
10:10am – Part III: Spirituality
10:30am – Part IV: Conference Life
10:45am – Part V: Council Life
11:00am – Part VI: Understanding Poverty
12:00pm – Mid-Day Prayer
12:05pm – LUNCH
12:30pm – Part VII: Home Visits
12:45pm – Home Visit Video (12 min) and Discussion
1:15pm – Closing Prayer

Internal Audit for Money Collection – STM

Introduction

In the spirit of full transparency for the parishioners of St. Thomas More, below are the findings and recommendations based on the audit of our collections and money counting processes.  There was no wrongdoing discovered.  The changes which are recommended are being done only to make sure our procedures are compliant with the Archdiocesan Handbook and are a return to pre-pandemic protocols. It is the expectation of the pastor and parish office that these changes will be implemented no later than November 20, 2021. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact Eric Keisling, Director of Finance and Operations at ejkeisling@midtowncatholic.church.

Current protocol:

Collection bags are placed in the sacristy prior to Masses.  Metal collection baskets are on the altar, and ushers approach the altar, pick up a collection basket and proceed to collect contributions. 

Once all aisles have been collected, each usher deposits their collection into a wicker basket at the foot of the altar, where it remains until the end of Mass. 

Following Mass, the priest or deacon takes the bag from the sacristy and puts the collection into the bag at the foot of the altar where people can see.  He then seals the bag and carries the bag back to the rectory where it is kept in an unlocked cabinet where the money counters will take it on Monday morning before the count.

Archdiocese Handbook Protocol:

Before each mass an adult usher will record the date, time, and his/her name on a pre-numbered tamper proof bag, as well as complete and detach the perforated bag receipt, placing it in the bag.

Following the collection of the offering, two unrelated ushers will bring it forward to the altar in a collection basket.

Immediately following each mass, two unrelated ushers will place the offering in the tamper proof bag, sealing and transporting it to a secure location (a safe is preferred) on the parish property, before it is counted. Access to the secure area must be limited to authorized individuals only, with the key or safe combination appropriately safeguarded.

Adjustments to Current Protocol:

To be implemented no later than November 20

Before each Mass, one usher will sign and date the collection bag which will be in the sacristy until the end of Mass, as well as fill out and detach the bag receipt, placing it in the bag.

Metal collection baskets will be kept in the back of the nave along with the wicker collection basket.  After the collection, all the baskets will be emptied into the wicker collection basket.  Two unrelated ushers will bring the wicket basket to the foot of the altar.

Immediately following each mass, two unrelated ushers will place the offering in the tamper proof bag, sealing and transporting it to the safe in the sacristy.  Either the head usher or the deacon will have access to the key to the safe to deposit the collection.

On Monday morning, either a deacon, a money counter, or on exception bases the Director of Finance, will transport the tamper proof collection bags from the safe in the sacristy to the conference room of the rectory by 7:30 a.m. to be counted by the money counters.

No material changes in the counting process are required at this time.

Mass Attendance

We have been tracking our weekend Mass attendance closely for over a year. The good news is that we are seeing an increase of total Mass attendance by about 32% from a year ago from an average of 585 per weekend to 775 per weekend. The bad news is that the numbers seem to have plateaued the last couple of months and they are still about 30% below our pre-Covid numbers. We are also seeing one of our Masses consistently below the 100 person mark.

Sacrifices – I recently gave a couple of presentations in Knox County to six parishes (St. Andrew in Bloomfield, St. William in Niobrara, St. Wenceslaus in Verdigre, St. Ludger in Creighton, St. Ignatius in Brunswick, and St. Paul in Plainview) about our current pastoral planning in the archdiocese and projections for numbers of priests in the next 10 years. I explained that when one of their priests moves, he will not be replaced. They will then have one priest for that entire area (it is 42 miles from Niobrara to Plainview). Likely, some parishes may choose to close not for financial or attendance reasons, but rather because they are able to see the big picture and are less concerned about self-preservation for the sake of staying open. The others will have to decide which parishes will become the “hub” parishes where there will be regular weekend Masses. They will then decide on a schedule for a weekly rotation of Mass at the other “spoke” parishes.

Without a doubt, they will have to make some difficult sacrifices. They are not alone. We also will have to make some tough choices in the near future. We know we can do without all of our Masses between our two parishes. It is also increasingly difficult to find priests to cover for us when Fr. Frank and I are gone. If we reduce our Masses from six to four on a weekend, we will no longer need to find a priest to sub. When both of us are here, one of us can make himself available to another parish when other priests need to be away. No definite plans have been made, but I want us to prayerfully begin to be open to this reality that will be coming sometime in the near future.

Fr. Lorig, Pastor

All Souls

As we approach this month of November, we remember in a special way all the deceased of our parishes. All Souls’ Day, also known as the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, is a day of prayer and remembrance for the souls of those who have died, which is observed annually on November 2nd. Aside from our normally Masses on that day (Mass schedule), St. Thomas More and St. Joan of Arc parishes will be honoring those who have died from our parishes over the last year in a special way at the 10:30 am Masses on November 7th,The names of those to whom we have said goodbye in this past year will be read and a special candle with their names on it will be lit. During the month of November, each candle will remains lit to remind us to pray for all our loved ones.

Choosing Our Words

Last week I shared some revealing information from a study that focused on the perceptions of women going through a crisis pregnancy. An article published by First Things magazine summarized this study. Let’s review.

  • When faced with a crisis pregnancy, many women see abortion as the lesser of three evils. The first evil is the loss of self. Many young women might imagine themselves being mothers later in their lives, but they view an early unplanned pregnancy as a death of self. Many young women do not find their identity in motherhood. Bringing a child into the world means the loss of their own life. They view choosing abortion as a choice for survival.
  • Abortion is considered an evil by many women. “The scores of women involved in the study (none of whom were pro-life activists and all of whom called themselves “pro-choice”) agreed that abortion is killing.”
  • While many of us know adoption to be a beautiful and courageous option, it is rarely perceived as such by a woman in a crisis pregnancy. Adoption, for many women, is seen as a double death. Not only would the woman have to carry the pregnancy to term as a mother, a death of self, but then be a “bad mother” because there is a sense of death by abandoning her child. Many perceive adoption as the worst of the three evils.

I would encourage anyone who claims to be pro-life not to judge women who have these views. It is simply not helpful. Listening, understanding, and empathizing are the keys to effectively communicating a pro-life message. If we want to share, we also have to listen.

Empathizing with women going through a crisis pregnancy should provoke us to reconsider our pro-life rhetoric and slogans; otherwise, much of our pro-life message falls on deaf ears and only makes things worse.

Consider the common pro-life slogan, “Abortion Stops a Beating Heart.” The First Things article that I mentioned above points out that, “While this may be an effective phrase among pro-lifers, the effect upon a young woman in crisis would probably be to 1) provoke anger at the messenger (pro-lifers), 2) confirm her sense that pro-lifers ignore her life and situation, and 3) drive her further into denial and despair.”

I know some in the pews would prefer that my brother priests and I give more strongly worded and more frequent anti-abortion homilies. When I preach, I have to consider who is sitting in those pews. Consider this:

It was Jesus’ gaze of mercy, care, and concern that changed the hearts of those he encountered. As the Body of Christ on earth, it will serve us well if we share that same gaze of mercy, care, and concern to those whom we encounter. If we want to remember the unborn, we have to care for the mother first, understand her situation, and then choose our words carefully.

Fr. Jeff Lorig, Pastor

Check out Part One of this Article- Abortion and Empathy

Abortion and Empathy

As we enter into the month of October, Respect Life month, I thought it might be good to share a few thoughts in regard to the issue of abortion.

Before I do that, I want to give you my pro-life “credentials” just in case somebody might become suspicious of where I stand on the issue.

I have been part of the pro-life movement since I was 18 years old. It was the summer before seminary, and I met a girl (thanks God, not confusing at all). As I got to know her, she shared a deep darkness that had been plaguing her. She revealed that she had had an abortion. I didn’t really know what to do, so I bought a book at Cosgrave’s on the topic of healing from an abortion. It recommended a prayer exercise that included a healing of memories. My friend experienced God’s forgiveness and was able to forgive herself as well. She named her child and found great healing throughout the process.

When I was in college seminary, I prayed at the abortion clinic routinely and did sidewalk counseling almost every Thursday. I was the president of the Students for Human Life at the University of St. Thomas for two years. Since my ordination, I have counseled numerous women and men who have experienced the pain of abortion. I’ve also attended several March for Life rallies in Washington D.C. over the years.

As I get older (and hopefully wiser), I’ve begun to change my mind about what the most effective ways are to communicate the pro-life message on the issue of abortion. I’ve only recently become aware of some research that was done almost twenty years ago that confirmed my thoughts.

A group called the Vitae Foundation funded research to better understand the hearts and minds of women who were in a crisis pregnancy so that their pro-life message wouldn’t fall on deaf ears. The research is summarized in an article published in First Things written by Paul Swope titled “Abortion: A Failure to Communicate.”

I’ll share a few highlights this week and share a few more next week.

The report suggests that women do not see any “good” resulting from an unplanned pregnancy. Instead they must weigh what they perceive as three “evils,” namely, motherhood, adoption, and abortion.

https://www.firstthings.com/article/1998/04/004-abortion-a-failure-to-communicate

The scores of women involved in the study (none of whom were pro-life activists and all of whom called themselves “prochoice”) agreed that abortion is killing.

https://www.firstthings.com/article/1998/04/004-abortion-a-failure-to-communicate

Unplanned motherhood, according to the study, represents a threat so great to modern women that it is perceived as equivalent to a “death of self.” While the woman may rationally understand this is not her own literal death, her emotional, subconscious reaction to carrying the child to term is that her life will be “over.” This is because many young women of today have developed a self-identity that simply does not include being a mother.

https://www.firstthings.com/article/1998/04/004-abortion-a-failure-to-communicate

While many of us may not agree with these perspectives, it would serve us well to try a little empathy. No one cares what we have to say until they’re convinced that we actually care. Our failures to communicate often begin with our failure to listen.

Fr. Lorig -Pastor

Check out Part Two of this Article – Choosing Our Words

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