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.

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.

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.

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.


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

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 

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.

Adoration for Vocations

Dear Parishioners of St. Joan of Arc and St. Thomas More,

In the not-too-distant future you will be seeing an article in the Catholic Voice concerning some needed prayers.  The Archbishop is asking for prayers for vocations.  He has obviously been asking for these all along, but this is different.  Most of you started hearing about the problems of a priest shortage from me two years ago.  Fr. Lorig has been sharing some of the statistics.  Two years ago it was projected that we would probably have at least twenty less priests ten years from then.  By my calculations, the first year of that countdown, we had a net loss of eleven priests.  This year I estimate a net loss of four.  We have no ordinations to the priesthood this year.  Next year we will hopefully have two ordinations, one will be Minh Tran who spent a year and St. Thomas More.  In two years we were hoping for three ordinations.  Right now it looks like that is down to one.  The Archbishop is realizing that the number of twenty could end up double that amount, so he is asking for our help.

On the day we would have had an ordination, Saturday, Jun 5th, he is going to have an hour of prayer and Eucharistic Adoration at the Cathedral in place of the ordination Mass.  He is also asking others to have the same kind of adoration time in their parishes.  He is also asking for a week of prayer leading up to that date.  Parishes are encouraged to pick one day to during that week from Sunday, 5/30 to Saturday, 6/5 and dedicate it to prayers for vocations before the Blessed Sacrament.

I am hoping you will join me in doing our part in this project.  We need the Holy Spirit to be working hard in our archdiocese or we will need to come up with an even more drastic plan for how priests will be working in years to come.  After working with the STM Vocation Committee, here is the plan we have come up with. 

St. Joan of Arc, which is one of the very few parishes in the Archdiocese of Omaha that has Eucharistic Exposition everyday, will have the fewest changes but the most opportunities for extra prayer.  Throughout the whole week we ask people to come and pray to SJA and spend as much time before the Blessed Sacrament as possible, praying for vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. 

At St. Thomas More Church there will be one day of focused prayer, Tuesday, Jun 1st.  It will start with Exposition after the 7:00am Mass and end with Benediction and a special prayer service that I will lead from 9-10pm.  On Saturday, June 5th, there will be a similar hour of prayer with Benediction at St. Joan of Arc from 10-11am, that I will also lead.

This time of prayer is for everyone.  I really encourage families to participate.  If the next generations do not understand that God might be calling them to serve Him, it becomes a roadblock to the work of the Holy Spirit.  Please watch for more information in the Catholic Voice on the situation, and the hopes and prayers of the Archbishop.

God bless you all,
Fr. Frank, Senior Associate

Saint Thomas More will host a DAY OF PRAYER for Vocations on Tuesday, June 1st with Eucharistic Exposition and Adoration starting at 7:30am and continuing all day until the Benediction, which will run from 9:00pm – 10:00pm.

Sign up for an hour or more of adoration. 

Activities of the Parish

By Fr. Jeff Lorig, Pastor

The activities of a parish will flow from its purpose. In a recent bulletin article, I explained that the purpose of the parish is encapsulated in the ministry of the pastor. A parish without a pastor is not a parish. The Church has specific expectations of her pastors, which you can read about in that other article.

But let’s be honest, there’s a lot going on in a parish. How does a pastor sort out what takes priority of his time, his staff, and the parish budget?

One of the fruits of this past year working with both parish councils has been the revamping of our Parish Council Guidelines. Now most might find this a drag, but I find the exercise especially important in sharpening a council’s focus. Both councils have had a practice of committees and groups reporting to the council. I personally do not like this way of running a council meeting because the meeting easily turns into an informational dump and if everybody is honest, we begin to experience what is known as “Death by meeting.” As business leadership guru Patrick Lencioni says, “Bad meetings are the birthplace of unhealthy organizations, and good meetings are the origin of cohesion, clarity, and communication.”

That’s all well and good, but the pastor still needs to know what’s going on at his parish. One of the fruits of our revamping process at St. Joan of Arc has been our discussion and understanding of the relationship between the Parish Council and all of the committees and groups that are part of the parish activities. The following is a summary of that discussion.

There are three categories of activity in a parish. It’s possible there are more, but these three seem to answer a lot of questions about distinct levels of strategic alignment of parish resources including parish staff’s time, parish budget, and parish facility space.

  1. The first category is a parishioner’s personal apostolate. The parish really doesn’t have much to do with the project or group except to allow the use of its facilities (maybe rent free), communication in the bulletin, and offer encouragement from the pastor or one of his staff when needed. A personal apostolate is an activity that is parishioner initiated and driven. It may be a fantastic initiative and the pastor may eventually want to make it a priority for the parish, but it needs to be part of parish’s strategic plan.
  2. The second category is a parish club or group that uses the parish’s tax ID, name, image or likeness. The Men’s Club, Ladies Guild, and Athletic Club are good examples of this. They often do excellent work and support the parish in many ways. At this level, the parish has oversight of finances and has some input about direction and leadership (usually when there’s a problem), but for the most part, the clubs do their own thing.
  3. The third level is parish ministry. Parish ministry primarily supports the work, ministry, and responsibilities of the pastor. Parish ministry should also include the overall parish strategic plan for making disciples (aka evangelization), which is the mission of the Church because it is the mission that Jesus gave to his Apostles. In this category, the pastor or one of his staff should be involved in the direction, format, and leadership of the group. The fact that most parishes do not have a strategic plan for making disciples and growing the parish is telling. As the saying goes, “A goal without a plan is just a dream.”