Category: Pastor’s Blog

Stephen’s Soliloquies 11-05-2017


Brothers and Sisters in Christ, in the beginning of October, I asked the parish staff if it would be a good idea to write bulletin articles regarding major life issues since October is Respect Life Month. The staff loved the idea. And so my hope with these bulletin articles has been to teach how the Church looks at these issues and to understand our urgency in protecting the dignity of human life.

In 2004, Clint Eastwood starred in the drama Million Dollar Baby. This was a movie about a young woman, Maggie (Hilary Swank), who was estranged from her family and lived alone. She was seeking to become a successful boxer and really wanted Frankie (Eastwood) to coach her. The problem was Frankie did not coach girls. After talking with Scrap (Morgan Freeman), a previous fighter Frankie had managed, Frankie miraculously has a change of heart and decides to coach her. As the movie progresses, Maggie and Frankie develop a beautiful Father Daughter like bond. Maggie experiences great success and rockets up the rankings. Finally, she is able to fight the best female boxer in her division, and after a dirty punch, breaks her neck and becomes paralyzed from the neck down.

Maggie’s spirit is crushed. Life was finally looking up for her, and now everything she has worked so hard for is gone. Frankie, visits her every day at the hospital. After a while Maggie asks Frankie to help her die. Eastwood’s character responds: “I can’t. Please, please don’t ask me…”

At the end of the movie (spoiler alert), Frankie goes to the hospital, gives Maggie a lethal dose of Adrenaline and leaves. Afterwards, Scrap says that “Frankie never returned to the gym and no one saw him again… I don’t think he had anything left.” The movie ends with Eastwood’s character sipping coffee at Maggie’s favorite diner.

This is another movie I highly recommend, it’s both well done and very thought provoking (disclaimer: not a movie for young children). But with that last scene in mind, one is left wondering: is Million Dollar Baby promoting physician assisted suicide or euthanasia? I think the answer is obviously No.

Frankie did not want to help Maggie die. His initial response, “Maggie, I can’t” is his intuitive understanding that to be the agent or to be the one that causes the death of an innocent human being, is immoral. But it’s his actions at the end of the movie that are more telling. Scrap says, “I don’t think [Frankie] had anything left”. “Helping Maggie” cost Frankie something… It cost him his peace. And that’s what Scrap says to end the movie, “I hope Frankie finds peace”.

Friends, this is an issue that we understand on both sides. We understand it’s wrong to take human life. At the same time, it can be very difficult for us to see those that we love suffer. But here’s the beautiful reality, those who suffer and those who are nearing the end of their life have a lot to teach us. They can teach us how to hold on to God’s presence in the most difficult times. They can also teach us how Christ sanctifies us through suffering. We will never know the answer why suffering was necessary. But at least we will always know that we do not suffer alone. Christ, who did not deserve to suffer greatly, did so out of great love for us. We can be confident then, that when we suffer, we do not suffer alone. Christ is with us.

Fr. Stephen J Durkee

Stephen’s Soliloquies 10-22-2017

When they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘ Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him .’ Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’ ~ Matthew 1 :13-15

Friends in Christ, immigration is one of those divisive issues amongst goodnatured Catholics on both sides of the issue. With it being Respect Life Month, my intention this weekend is to clarify that it is very much a life issue, and why we as Catholics should be concerned about it.

The Scripture above is an important starting point for us when we begin to think about the issue of immigration. It reminds us that even our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, experienced the same fears and dangers that many immigrants who are seeking refuge in the United States face today. It also is a reminder that this country began as an immigrant people. Most of us, if not all of us, are here because family who came before for us sought to better their lives by coming to the United States.

Just as Joseph fled with Mary and Jesus in order to seek refuge, the United States Council of Catholic Bishops explains that undocumented immigrants face similar difficulties in their home countries: “violence from war, lack of economic opportunity to earn a livable wage, or being deprived of basic human freedoms, these issues are the motivating force for why immigrants are willing to risk so much, to often times leave everything they have, and move to another country with unfamiliar customs and cultures … This is the migration of the desperate” (USCCB: Welcoming the Stranger Among US).

Why should we be concerned about this? As Catholics, everything that we believe about the human person, is centered around the Imago Dei, that is, that all of us are created in the Image of God: God created humanity in His image; in the image of God He created them; male and female he created them ~ Genesis 1:27. All peoples, no matter their race, country of origin, gender etc. are all endowed with the image of God. Thus all peoples have this human dignity and are members of the one Christian family, For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Thus, our concern for people extends to all peoples, especially those who face crises, whether here or abroad.

The United States Council of Catholic Bishops offers us the document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” to guide us on our decision making regarding Immigration:

“The Gospel mandate to ‘welcome the stranger’ requires Catholics to care for and stand with newcomers, authorized and unauthorized, including unaccompanied immigrant children, refugees and asylumseekers, those unnecessarily detained, and victims of human trafficking.” Additionally, “comprehensive reform is necessary to fix…family reunification policies…refuge for those fleeing persecution and violence; and policies to address the root causes of migration. The right and responsibility of nations to control their borders and to maintain the rule of law should be recognized but pursued in a just and humane manner. The detention of immigrants should be used to protect public safety and not for purposes of deterrence or punishment; alternatives to detention, including community-based programs, should be emphasized” (81).

To close, there are two key points to highlight from above. First, we do have a Christian duty to welcome the stranger among us, especially if there exists grave reasons for migration. At the same time, the Church recognizes both the need and duty of countries to control their borders in a humane way in order to protect the common good of the people.

My hope is that this article was both informative and challenging. As a Christian people, we must always be focused on protecting the dignity of human life. This article will not solve the issue, but I hope it at least is helpful as we open our hearts to the needs of people around us.

Fr. Stephen

Stephen’s Soliloquies 09-10-2017

Brothers and sisters in Christ,
In October of 2015 I had the privilege to visit France with my classmates in the seminary. It was an amazing trip filled with many graces. But unfortunately this trip is connected to one of the worst terror attacks in recent years. Just a month after our visit to France, 130 people lost their lives to coordinated terror attacks throughout all of Paris. I’ll never forget that sinking feeling I felt watching the news about these horrible attacks in Paris, and also the haunting realization that “it could have been me.”

Unfortunately since our world has seen the attacks in Paris, we have seen even more at Brussels (2016), the Bastille Day Massacre (2016), Berlin (2016), London (2017), to most recently the events in Spain on August 17th. Sadly, the violence exists in our own country as well as we have watched racial tensions increase tremendously.

Friends, I write this bulletin for two reasons. First, I write this because Monday, September 11, is a day that many of us will never forget. It is the one of the worst experiences of terror in our country where so many innocent men, women and children lost their lives to unnecessary violence and evil.

I also write this because Bishop Walkowiak has urged us all to pray for peace. In particular, in response to the increased racial  tension/violence in our country, he has asked us each to “reflect on how the sin of racism has potentially impacted [our] own lives and [to] ask the Lord for the courage and grace to resist this evil. Please pray for [our] community and our nation that we may come together as one seeking a solution to this wound that yet divides us.” And so, Bishop writes that these “recent events, and indeed the events unfolding over the last few years, days and hours all point to the need that we, as a nation, as a people, have for conversion.” And so friends, tomorrow in a particular way let us pray for peace and healing, not only in the United States, but among the entire human family through-out the world.

Heavenly Father,
Though the human race is divided by
dissension and discord, yet we know that by
testing us you change our hearts to prepare them for reconciliation.
Even more, by your Spirit you move human
hearts that enemies may speak to each other
again, adversaries join hands, and peoples
seek to meet together.
By the working of your power it comes about,
O Lord, that hatred is overcome by love,
revenge gives way to forgiveness, and discord is
changed to mutual respect.

(Preface, Eucharistic Prayer Reconciliation 2).

Fr. Stephen J Durkee

Russo’s Reflections 09-03-2017

Domestic Discipleship
I am pleased to announce a new parish wide program starting this fall.  The success of the Lenten Sunday night Alpha program is the catalyst for a new parish wide family catechesis called Domestic Discipleship.

You may be asking yourself, “Why is OLC offering another new program?” There are many benefits of parish wide family catechesis. Pope Francis encourages this method. In his book, Joy of Love, he says, “Family catechesis is of great assistance as an effective method in training parents to be aware of their mission as evangelizers of their own family.”

Domestic Discipleship will provide families of all ages a time and place to engage in their faith through hands-on activities. These evenings will help parishioners to understand their faith better and to deepen their relationship with Christ. As a community, families will have time to pray and learn about their faith while being present with each other.

By being a part of our parish and attending Mass you have acknowledged the desire to pass along your faith to the next generation. We realize in our busy society families have less and less time to spend together. Through Domestic Discipleship, we hope to provide the opportunities for our parish family to spend time together and have fun learning about their faith! This program is open to all parishioners.

The evenings will consist of:
♦ A potluck dinner and fellowship
♦ Hands on catechesis for all ages from DK- adult
♦ Take home resources to implement faith activities into daily life

How to be a part of the program:
♦ On-line registration through the Faith Formation tab on OLC’s web page
♦ Each month prior to the event a Sign Up Genius will go out to all parishioners

We ask that the parish prays for the implementation of this program and the staff as we take on this new endeavor.

The Gift of Labor
As we celebrate the holiday weekend, many of us rest from our daily tasks and enjoy these last few days of summer with family and friends before resuming another busy school year.

Labor indeed is a gift from God. We have heard it said, “Idle hands are the Devil’s playground.” Too much time on our hands can lead to boredom and sinful behavior because of our inactivity . Therefore, labor is good and a gift from God. All of us lead busy lives and strive to seek balance in all areas of our life, i.e. work, study, exercise, prayer, sleep, diet, etc.  As servants of Christ, we are also called to be busy in building the Kingdom of God here at OLC, especially in our relations with our family, friends and the surrounding community.

All of us are striving to live better lives by becoming debt free, planning for the future and providing for our families. Let us also continue to build up the Kingdom of God by seeking holiness, encouraging one another, spending time in the classroom of silence in perpetual adoration, spiritual reading and continuous giving of our time, talent and treasure.

Have a blessed and safe Labor Day weekend!
Fr. Tony

Stephen’s Soliloquies 08-27-2017

Welcome Back Students!
It seems hard to believe that the summer months are now coming to an end. It is certainly a strange feeling for me, as for the past 22 years of my life, I have been preparing to begin another academic year. I have to confess that it is hard for me to hide my excitement that I do not have to return to school this fall. It’s awesome that I can remain here, with all of you at Our Lady, as your Associate Pastor. Two months of priesthood have been amazing, and it’s just the beginning! I look forward, with great joy, to the upcoming school year at Our Lady. I hope all of the students and young people had an awesome summer vacation and are ready as well for school to begin. I will certainly be available in the school and look to teach each of the grades periodically through out the school year.

Coming Soon:
Young Adults of Our Lady
One of the many blessings that I have received in my own faith journey has been the encouragement and friendship experienced with my peers. It is my hope to create this experience for the Young Adults currently involved at our parish. So, Our Lady is beginning its very own Young Adult group. The purpose of this group is to provide Young Adults with faith sharing, events, and ministries that strive to bring them into an encounter with Jesus and experience authentic Christian community. From this shared encounter, authentic Christian community can grow. When we come together for prayer, edification, and friendship, we find the fuel required to live out our faith in a public way. Rooted in parish life at OLC and the sacraments, this community of young adults will search and encourage one another to look for new and courageous ways to take the Gospel to the people of God wherever they are found.
Who: Young Adults ages “college age”- 30
What: Group for the “Young Adults of Our Lady”
Where: Kateri Lodge (West Side)
When: Thursdays (every other week) starting October 5th at 7pm – 8:30pm
Why? To provide Young Adults with faith sharing, events, and ministries that strive to bring them into an encounter with Jesus and experience authentic Christian community.
Hope to see you there!

Getting Acquainted
As a priest it is my task to help people come to encounter Christ; to know him to love him, as well as to be Christ to others. And that is something not just in church itself. That is why it is always a great joy when parishioners invite me to their home for a meal. It is a great opportunity to bring Christ to you in your home and in your lives. It gives me a great opportunity to get to know you and your family better and allow you to get to know me better. So please consider inviting your associate pastor to dinner. Get to know me, don’t worry about the mess of your lives; priests lives are messy, too! We grew up in families with siblings and relatives and it’s all part of the joy of life and bringing joy into that life, always and everywhere.

Fr. Stephen J Durkee


Russo’s Reflections 08-20-2017

I hope everyone had an enjoyable, relaxing, and fun summer. It is hard to believe that we have only one more week of summer vacation. Here at OLC and throughout the Diocese of Grand Rapids, we welcome back our students and teachers as we begin the new school year of 2017-2018 on Monday, August 28. Summer is by far my favorite season and it is always disappointing to see it come to an end.

Matthew Leonard
The Triumph & Power of Suffering Love
On Saturday, September 23 from 9:00 am-11:45 am Mr. Leonard will
present the following talks: Love Hurts: The Truth Behind Redemptive Suffering Immaculate Conception & the Holy Spirit: Understanding the Mystical Role of Mary in Your Life

Tickets may be purchased for $5.00 at
Matthew Leonard is a Catholic author, speaker, Vice President & Executive Producer at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. I met Mr. Leonard last month in Wheeling, West Virginia at the Priests Conference with Dr. Scott Hahn and the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. I am very much looking forward to his presentation on September 23 here at OLC!

Have a blessed week!
Fr. Tony

Stephen’s Soliloquies 08-13-2017

Friends, this week Tuesday we will celebrate the feast of the Assumption. This feast is when we celebrate the moment when Mary is taken up into heaven, body and soul, at the conclusion of her earthly life.

The difference between “Christ’s Ascension” and “Mary’s Assumption”

This may seem like moot point, but it’s important to highlight the difference between the two. For Christ’s Ascension into heaven, we celebrate that Christ goes up to heaven after the Resurrection. So Christ, in his glorified body, by his own power goes up into heaven.

For Mary’s assumption, we say that she was assumed into heaven. Paying
attention to the verb is key here – it reminds us that Mary is the one receiving the action. Mary is lifted up into heaven by the power of God. This difference reminds us that Mary is still one of God’s creatures, his beloved daughters, and she lives in the power of his grace – as do all of us.

Did Mary ever Die?

This is actually a good debate to have with other interested Catholic
theologians over a drink (of sprite of course!) 🙂 For us, it is important to
note that theologians in good standing with the Church argue both sides.
Some will say, “Yes Mary died on earth and then was assumed body and soul” into heaven. Others will argue, “No, Mary was brought into heaven before her earthly pilgrimage ended and therefore did not die.”

It may seem overly simplistic to say it this way, but this debate really does not matter. We believe that Mary is in heaven, and that she was brought into eternal life (body and soul) by our Heavenly Father.

Is there proof?

First, our Church, takes very seriously consistent beliefs of the faithful that have been there since the beginning. this belief is grounded in credible witnesses, that is, those disciples of Jesus who knew Mary when she was alive.

The second key point lies in the fact that we have No Remains of Mary. This may not seem odd to us now, but it really is an odd thing. Why? Consider that we have relics and burial places for several of the early saints, and yet we don’t have this for Mary – the most revered and saintly person in our Faith – but we have it for Saint Peter and others?

What’s the big deal about the assumption?

At Mass we confess our creed each week and we say, “I look forward to
the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” Mary’s
assumption into heaven is a sign of hope for the life we will receive. The
question we may ask is why did Mary enter into heaven with her body, before all of us? The answer is simple: We also believe that Mary was Immaculately Conceived, that is, born without Original Sin. Therefore, “it
would follow that she would not suffer the corruption in the grave, which is a consequence of sin (Gen 3:19)”. But one day, we too, at the resurrection of the body, will be united with God in heaven both body and soul.

Fr. Stephen J Durkee

Russo’s Reflections 08-06-2017

Today we celebrate the Transfiguration of the Lord. Jesus leads Peter, James and John up Mount Tabor to be transfigured before them. Jesus
revealed his divine nature and for a brief moment, Peter, James and John encountered the presence of God and the Kingdom of Heaven. Peter
enjoyed this so much that he did not want this experience to end so he suggested to the Lord, “If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses and on for Elijah.”

Throughout the summer I hope many of us had an opportunity to get away from the busyness of life and encounter Christ in the “Classroom of silence” to be transformed by His presence, word and love. We have only a few weeks left of summer so I encourage all of us to find those quiet moments with the Lord and allow him to speak to our hearts.

Saint Cajetan
August 7 is the feast day of St. Cajetan. Who is St. Cajetan? He is the patron saint of job seekers and the unemployed. Born in October 1480 at Vicenza, Italy. Studied law in Padua. Ordained a priest at 36 in 1516. In 1522, he founded a hospital in Venice, Italy for victims of incurable illness. Founded a bank to help the poor and offer an alternative to usurers (loan sharks); it later became the Bank of Naples. He died in 1547 at Naples of natural causes.

October 8, 1629 by Pope Urban VIII

April 12, 1671 by Pope Clement X

If you know someone who is considering another opportunity for
employment or is currently unemployed, I highly recommend they
pray the Novena to St. Cajetan.

Please Note
Tuesday evening reconciliation from 7:00-8:00 PM will be available
throughout the month of August except for Tuesday, August 15, The
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Have a blessed week!

Fr. Tony

Andrew’s Articulations 07-30-2017

The Diary of a Country Priest by Georges Bernanos details a priest who, at a certain point, feels no presence of God, and in increasingly secularizing France, adults and children routinely mock him. In that context, God brings to him an elderly woman who lost her infant boy decades before and has wallowed in guilt, self-loathing, and hatred towards her family and neighbors ever since. This priest, in that moment, is given the words of the Holy Spirit—the message of surrender—and thus he leads her to an ultimate peace, and she dies soon after.

The priest comes away from this occasion shocked because of what he calls “the miracle of giving what I do not have.” Friends, I see this happen all the time, if with less drama. Bishop Walkowiak, when he ordained Fr.
Durkee and his classmates to the diaconate, reminded us all that we  are “broken vessels.” He does not call the perfect “because then it would seem like God needs the perfect” to accomplish his work. God prefers
sinners, like his clergy, laity, and religious. Thus, the Lord says “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” and Paul continues “I will all the more gladly boast of my weakness that the
power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12: 9).

My time in seminary and the parish has gone very smoothly, so that I cannot attempt to say how unworthy I am of my great progress in priestly formation. I cannot endeavor to characterize the pleasure of ministering
at Our Lady of Consolation. If you could see the scared 18-year-old who entered seminary just a few years ago and where I am today, your jaws would drop to the floor and bore a hole to China. I love my life, because God loves me even though I am such a damaged instrument.. I am living
evidence for the power of your prayers for priests and seminarians, friends and family.

Continue those prayers, and thank you for teaching me how to be a priest. I close my time here with Solomon’s words in our first reading today: “I am a mere youth, not knowing how to act. I serve you in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a people so vast that it cannot be numbered or measured. Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and distinguish right from wrong” (1 Kings 3: 12).

With a promise of prayers,

Andrew Ayers

Stephen’s Soliloquies 07-23-2017

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