Category: Pastor’s Blog

Stephen’s Soliloquies 07-23-2017

JULY – A TIME FOR REFLECTION
Brothers and sisters in Christ, one of my favorite quotes from Pope Francis in his pastoral letter, Evangelii Gaudium (the Joy of the Gospel), is that a Christian is “essentially one who remembers” (EG 13). Remembers what?

Something very important to Pope Francis, is that believers have both a personal encounter and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ; the God who love s them. And so, the importance of remembering becomes essential in the Christian life.

Pope Francis calls us all to remember how we have come to know God throughout our lives. Where have we encountered God’s love? Where have we witnessed God, or, who have we seen the face of God in? How is God present to us day-to-day? Do we remember God in the happy times? Was God present to us during times of great trial? How is God present to us now? Where is God calling us to grow in our spiritual lives? How have we been challenged to grow in a deeper relationship with the Lord?

Pope Francis, wants us to be able to respond these questions with answers that are rooted in our own personal history; a personal history rich in the experience of God. And this is why remembering, and taking the time to remember (prayer), is so important. If we never reflect on our relationship with God, and hold on to those memories of encounters with God, we run the risk of forgetting that God has indeed been journeying with us. Pope  Francis doesn’t want us to forget. He wants us to remember why we come to Church. We come to Church because we have experienced a God who loves us. We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

Friends, we find ourselves in the month of July. A month that hopefully is a chance to rest, to spend time with family, and be rejuvenated. When we find ourselves enjoying the gift of rest during these summer months, maybe this is a chance to sit down and to remember. To remember the gifts that God has given each of us; namely, the gift of God’s presence in each of our lives.

In Christ’s friendship,
Fr. Stephen

Russo’s Reflections 07-09-2017

2017 BLESSINGS

In the past 6 months Our Lady of Consolation has been truly blessed with 3 Parochial Vicars (associate pastors) and a seminarian intern.

Fr. Darrel Kempf, Pastor of St. Joseph, Pewamo (Served OLC from Jan 2015-Jan 2017)

Fr. Peter Damian, Pastor of St. Paul the Apostle, GR (Served OLC from Feb 2017-June 2017)

Fr. Stephen Durkee, Parochial Vicar at OLC (July 2017– present)

Andrew Ayers (Internship from Feb 2017-July 2017)

I am grateful to Bishop Walkowiak for considering Our Lady of Consolation, Rockford as a training parish for priests  and seminarians. Please continue to pray for our priests and seminarians.

RETIREMENT

After serving OLC for 7 years as Business Manager, Frank Siegel has retired effective May 31, 2017. I am grateful for Frank’s commitment and dedication to our parish family over the past seven years. May God’s blessing be upon him and his family as he begins a new chapter in his life. Thank you Frank Siegel!!

Going forward, I have contracted with Neinhuis Financial Group to handle all of the financials for OLC. Steve Slachter (CPA) and Bridget Nieubuurt (Bookkeeper) will be in the parish office 4 days a week.

REST & RELAXATION

The month of July is usually quiet at OLC. As many of our parishioners  vacation and enjoy the summer, it is a great time for us on staff to relax as well and get caught up on miscellaneous stuff that has been pushed aside during the busy months.

July is also a wonderful time for study and reflection. I encourage all of us to spend some time each day in the classroom of silence and do some spiritual reading. Why reading? Because books change our lives.

I will be away this week with Fr. Troy Nevins and Fr. Mike Alber attending  priest conference given by St. Paul Center For Biblical Theology in West Virginia. Please keep us in your prayers!

Be safe and enjoy the rest of the summer!

Have a blessed week!
Fr. Tony

Stephen’s Soliloquies 07-02-2017

NEW PAROCHIAL VICAR
Please welcome to OLC our new parochial vicar, Father Stephen J. Durkee.

Dear friends in Christ,
I am Fr. Stephen Durkee and it is a great joy to begin priestly ministry at Our Lady of Consolation. I am the third of the four children of Mary and Doug Durkee. I grew up in Caledonia, Michigan and graduated from high school in 2008. From there I went to study at Central Michigan University. At that time, it was my hope to be a high school math teacher and  eventually coach high school basketball. However, after my second year at CMU, I decided to go into the seminary. It was the best decision of my life. I went to Saint John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota where I earned a degree in philosophy and catholic studies. From there, I
began my studies in theology in the fall of 2013. I graduated this spring and was ordained to the priesthood on June 3, 2017 at the Cathedral of Saint Andrew in Grand Rapids.

Why am I a priest? The simplest answer is: Jesus Christ has changed my life. Through the Sacred Heart of Jesus I have encountered God’s mercy and transforming love. It is where intimacy and friendship with Christ remains a concrete reality in my own life. I also have a desire to participate in the mission of Christ, that is, to bring people back into a loving relationship with our Heavenly Father.

Last weekend I had a great opportunity to go with some of the youth from OLC to a youth conference at Franciscan University of Steubenville. It was a great experience where many of the teens encountered God in a profound way. As a newly ordained priest, it was incredible to witness God working in the hearts of the young people at the conference. The priests heard over 1,000 confessions on the weekend. God is good.

I am very excited about this opportunity to come and learn under the guidance of Fr. Tony Russo. Also, I am excited about the opportunity not only to learn from all of you, but also to get to know you, and to pray and worship with you. Please know of my prayers for the parish community of Our Lady of Consolation and I look forward to meeting you personally as I begin my assignment here in Rockford.

God Bless,
Fr. Stephen J. Durkee

Russo’s Reflections 06-18-2017

One of the great joys of being a priest is presiding the altar of sacrifice, the Holy Mass. Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.The Second Vatican Council teaches that when we gather around the Lord’s table we gather as a community. It is the Eucharist, (the source and summit of the Christian life) that unites us as Catholics here in the Local Church of Our Lady of Consolation and that of the Universal Catholic Church throughout the world. We are all connected through the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Our Catholic Doctrine on the Eucharist is what separates us from all the other Christian denominations. We welcome non-Catholics to attend the Mass, however, the reception of the Eucharist is reserved for practicing Catholics who are in good standing with the Church. We invite those who are non-Catholics to come forward with their arms crossed over their chest to receive a blessing.

St. Paul reminds us in his second letter to the Corinthians, “We appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.” (2 Cor 6:1) The Eucharist is sanctifying grace that nourishes and transforms our very being in the likeness of Christ. It is our desire and hope that no individual receives our God in vain, thinking they are consuming only a piece of bread or a cup of wine. “We call this food Eucharist; and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true…. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these. But since Jesus Christ our savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change which our blood and flesh is nourished, is both the flesh and blood of that incarnate Jesus.” -St. Justin Martyr , First Apology, 150 A.D.

“Fortnight for Freedom”
As we prepare to celebrate our nation’s Independence Day on Tuesday, July 4, the United Stated Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) urge us to reflect on the freedoms we are blessed with here in the United States of America; most importantly our freedom of religion. As a means of support to preserve this fundamental right of religious liberty, the USCCB have called for a nationwide “Fortnight for Freedom”, a 14-day period of prayer, education and action in support of religious freedom from June 21 through July 4. During this time we will be praying the Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty at the end of all weekday and weekend Masses.

Have a blessed week!
Fr. Tony

Andrew’s Articulations 06-11-2017

SOLEMNITY OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY

God is consistent, reliable, constant, true, and generally, more stable than even the ground we stand on. He is before all things. That he exists, we know because all that exists must be sourced in something eternal. However, we cannot even begin to understand who or what he is. It is said that if we think we have found who God is, or defined him, then we have only found an idol. Whenever we describe him, he is always greater than our description.

That being said, the transcendent God also keeps us in a relationship with him. He reveals things to us, like that he is a Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, yet one God. The Father is the kind ruler of all things. He sent his son into our state of being in order to offer us a share in that divine life. Remember that love means to desire the very best for another, so much so that one is willing to die so that the other may have the best. God has an inexhaustible love for all of us his children. Thus, he sent his Son to us.

Our love for our brothers and sisters joins us in Christ’s work of redemption. God has given us this gift of his divine life, especially when we are at Mass and receive him. And so, this knowledge should give us a little spring in our step as we spread his good news to all we meet. The number one method of evangelization is to enter into the life of the Trinity. Know that you are loved by the Father, offered to him by the Son, and filled with the love of the Holy Spirit. This love will bring you to defend God’s honor, do as he does in trying to bring him to all people, and will give you serenity, even in dark times. That serenity will be really attractive to all you meet, and they will say “I want that serenity also.”

God bless you all,
Andrew Ayres

From Heart to Heart (Fr. Peter) 06-07-2017

PENTECOST As a convert to the Catholic faith, I have a special appreciation of this particular liturgical season which comes after the Solemnity of Pentecost. With Pentecost we conclude the Easter time, but… not really. Let me elaborate on that.

On the first and second Sunday after Pentecost, we do not resume the Sundays of ordinary time (unlike we do with the weekdays) right away. There are two Sundays on our calendar, which are very peculiar to Roman Catholic Liturgy: Trinity Sunday and Corpus Christi.

There are important theological reasons behind this choice of the Church. With Easter and the Easter season (which concludes with Pentecost), we have received the fullness of Revelation: God revealed himself to us and did so fully. The Paschal Mystery revealed to us how much God loved the world and after the Passion, Resurrection, Ascension of Christ and gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we now live in a time when the most important events of our redemption are so to speak behind us. We are called to constantly make them ours by allowing the mystery of God’s presence with his Church to unfold before our eyes, and to faithfully follow Christ’s command to make disciples of all nations.

The Faith in the Holy Trinity, in One Triune God, is not a mere appendix to our beliefs. It is central to our faith and truly to your life. God took centuries to fully reveal himself to us and so the Church felt the need to celebrate with awe and wonder this central aspect of our faith. Trinity Sunday is a special Sunday, following Pentecost Sunday, when the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Holy Trinity, revealed himself to us as the promised gift of the risen Christ, descending from the Father on his beloved ones.

Corpus Christi, the Solemnity of the Precious Body and Blood of Christ, is another joy-filled celebration of God’s closeness to us. A sign of extreme humility on God’s part, a sign of extreme love of the Beloved wanting to be united with his Spouse, the Church. Physically present, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. The joy and exultation typical of this feast are something I can’t wait for, every year since I became Catholic.

On the second Friday after Pentecost (usually following Corpus Christi) we celebrate the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This too is a very Catholic feast, stressing the fact that underlining everything God is and does, is a heart… a heart who so much loved the world to die for us! Same goes for Christ’s Mother and our Mother, Mary, and we venerate her Immaculate Heart on the following Saturday. This year is very special in that regard, as we celebrate 100 years since the apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima, in Portugal. Here at Our Lady of Consolation, we are particularly celebrating this anniversary with initiatives aimed at deepening our relationship with the Lord through Mary, the most humble servant of the Lord.

Let us rejoice and grow in faith and love, dear brothers and sisters, as we have many reasons to!

May you be blessed!

Fr. Peter

Russo’s Reflections 05-28-2017

AN EVENING OF EXUBERANCE!
I thoroughly enjoyed the 80’s Glow Party last weekend. The evening was filled with excitement, laughter, high energy, great food, and fellowship! If you were unavailable to attend this year, make every effort to attend next year! This event is the annual fundraiser for the OLC Education Foundation, which helps finance all the educational programs in our parish community. Because of your generosity the follow ministries and programs are funded through the OLCEF:
♦ Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults
(RCIA)
♦ Faith Formation
♦ OLC School (PK-8th)
♦ Bible Studies
♦ Marriage Prep
♦ Baptismal Prep
♦ Lighthouse Catholic Media CD’s
♦ Distribution of Books at Christmas

The OLC Education Foundation truly makes a difference in the lives of our adults and children. Please continue to give generously to the education foundation.

I would like to thank Amy Hartman, Jennifer Jakary, MaryBeth Readwin,
Lori Warwick, the committee members and the many volunteers who gave of their time and talent in organizing this event so masterfully that made it a grand success. Well done, good and faithful servants!

MEMORIAL DAY
Memorial Day weekend begins the season of summer and extreme busyness
for all of us. Over the next few months our calendars will be filled with numerous events and activities, such as, graduation parties, weddings, family gatherings, sporting events, vacations, etc. As we prepare to enjoy the summer months with family and friends, let us begin by remembering all who have gone before us to eternal life, especially the men and women who died in military service so that we may continue to live in freedom. Please join us Monday, May 29 at 9:00 am as we celebrate our Memorial Day Mass, thanking God for the gift of freedom and praying for all of our brothers and sisters who have gone before us to eternal life.

Have a safe and blessed Memorial Day!
Fr. Tony

Russo’s Reflections 05-21-2017

Ordination of Priests
On Saturday, June 3, 2017, at the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Grand Rapids, the Church celebrates the Sacrament of Holy Orders and will ordain 3 men to the priesthood for the Diocese of Grand Rapids. Please pray for these men as the begin their pastoral appointments on July 1, 2017.

Fr. Stephen J. Durkee, 27, is appointed parochial vicar of Our Lady of Consolation Parish, Rockford.
Fr. Steven W. Geerling, 43, is appointed parochial vicar of St. John Vianney Parish, Wyoming.
Fr. Kyle J. Kilpatrick, 30, is appointed parochial vicar of St. Francis de Sales Parish, Holland.

New Parochial Vicar
This past Sunday it was announced that OLC will be assigned a new parochial vicar (associate pastor) beginning July 1. Once again, Our Lady of Consolation is blessed to have a newly ordained priest assigned to our parish. I look forward to attending the Ordination of Priest for Deacon Stephen J. Durkee.

If you are aware of a young man who is interested or has inquired about the priesthood or if you thought to yourself, “I think he would be a good candidate for the priesthood”, I would encourage you to invite him to attend the Ordination of Priests on June 3 at 10:00AM at the Cathedral of St. Andrew. As a community of believers let us storm the gates of heaven with our prayers asking our God to call young men to serve Him at the altar and young women to serve Him in religious life.

Have a blessed week!
Fr. Tony

From Heart to Heart (Fr. Peter) 04-30-2017

The Easter Season is finally here! And with it many of those celebrations so characteristic of our Catholic life: Baptisms, First Holy Communion, Confirmations, Weddings, Priestly and Deacon’s Ordinations. All this in the beautiful setting of Spring, for us in the Northern Hemisphere at least, when we see nature all around us come back to life and blossoming with its typical splendor!

God speaks to us in many ways and one of them is through the language & rhythm of nature. Everything around us speaks to us about renewal; how about our spiritual lives? We believe that the basis for our interior renewal, as sons and daughters of God, consists not only in hoping, but is actually the belief in a fact that took place two millennia ago, which radically changed everything. It is the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, as the Liturgy stresses, this truth “in his flesh”. It is Him, in his risen Body, who encounters us at every Mass and unites us to him in his sacrifice to the Father in the Holy Spirit. The Sacrifice of the Cross, Jesus’ total offering of himself to the Father, is re-presented to us at every Mass and through the gift of his Body and Blood Jesus unites us to him in this great work of renewal of the whole world, which we call redemption.

Over two weekends here in our parish we will see with joy and delight how many of our children will receive for the first time Jesus in his Body and Blood. The solemnity of these festivities should be a powerful reminder of how we are to receive and unite ourselves to the risen Lord. Girls are often dressed as little brides on this occasion, boys in their best, reminding us that our souls are destined to be united to the Lord in the same way a bride and a groom are united to each other. Mass is not only a banquet, but a nuptial banquet, in which each one of us is the bride because we are the Church that Christ won for himself through the ultimate sacrifice. Do we really feel like that when we receive Holy Communion? When we come in for Mass? When we participate in the Liturgy? Every Mass is our wedding day! Our wedding with the Lord. Consecrated men and women remind us of this truth through the sign of their consecrated celibacy: they do not marry because they point to the ultimate truth, which is that even when one is married, we should never forget its the Lord we should be wedded to!  And our marriages have to be a sign and instrument [the very definition of sacrament] of Christ’s marriage with his Spouse, the Church.

The white the children wear for their First Communion is an exterior sign of how our souls should be when we receive the Lord in Holy Communion. How clean is our soul when we go to Communion? When was the last time we approached the Sacrament of Reconciliation? The Church says it should occur every time we commit a grave sin and at least once a year. At least. All this is not to make us scrupulous and afraid of God, it only reminds us of taking the Lord seriously and lovingly. Would you dare go to a wedding with dirty clothes? The joy and excitement of First Communicants is  another reminder of how we should always approach the Lord! Certainly the uniqueness of a “first” contributes to that, but let us be children once again with them! Let us relive our own First Communion! Let us at least aspire to be like that whenever we attend Mass. Wish you all a blessed season of Easter!

Andrew’s Articulations 04-16-2017

THE RESURRECTION
There is not a single thing that we can accomplish without the power of God to back us up. This is most true with regards to freedom from sin and  death. God had revealed this in the Old Testament when he said “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is your God, the Lord alone. Therefore, you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6: 4-5) Because of our extraordinary weakness, human beings could not grasp that  love, instead of servitude to a law, is primary.

God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to give us a way out of our incredibly dark experience of sin and death, by refocusing the emphasis of our life from conformity to law to the love of God. Now, the law is followed because we love God.

Imagine, then, the discoverers of the empty tomb, and their extraordinary jubilation at Christ’s reappearance after the Resurrection. Not only was their inspiring leader, their dear brother, and greatest friend no longer dead, whose crucifixion had brought acute pain and fear, but perhaps his message came back to mind: he came that we might have life (see John 10: 10). He wanted to show us a new way wherein death has lost its “sting” (see 1 Corinthians 15: 55), where suffering has meaning, and eternal life is the reward. This is one way in which the Resurrection changes everything.

Andrew Ayers