August 17, 2014

Dear Parish Family:

It’s that time of year again! Can you believe it? As many students, teachers, and school personnel prepare to return to school over the next couple of weeks, there is always a lot to do; whether it be new school shoes or a new book bag. It’s a time for new beginnings!

As disciples, everything should be marked by prayer. Whatever school it might be, whether we are students, teachers, parents, family members, or fellow parishioners, we all know someone who is starting the new school year and we can pray for them. Here are some prayers to get us started.

A Student’s Prayer
Help me remember that you’re always by my side at school and all day long. Help me be the best student I can be, using all the gifts and talents you’ve given me. Help me study well and finish all my homework. Help me listen to my teachers and coaches. Help me play fairly and safely. Help me be honest when I’m tempted to cheat. Help me always tell the truth. Help me to be kind to everyone at school and to treat others as I’d want them to treat me. Help me make good friends and help me be a good friend to others. Help me love and respect, trust and appreciate my parents and teachers – and to be honest with them. Help me remember that you’re with me always, Lord, and that you’ll never leave my side. Amen.

A Parents’ Prayer for Students
Dear Lord, as my children leave for school, I pray that you will keep them in your care. Send your Spirit to open their minds to all that is true and beautiful and good. Help them to see the gifts and talents you have given them and to use them well. Help them to grow in knowledge and wisdom. Give their teachers patience and understanding and help them teach what is just and true. Send your angels to guide and guard my children and to keep them from all harm. Open their young hearts to your presence and enfold them in your peace and protection. Hold them in the palm of your hand and bring them home safely at day’s end. Amen.

A Teacher’s Prayer
Dear God, a new school year is about to begin and my classroom door will be open to the students you’ve assigned to my care. Open my mind and heart to each of them. Help me challenge my students to study, to learn, to grow in knowledge and wisdom. Help me to understand that sometimes my students may not understand me: may I be clear in the things I say and do, and in how I say and do them. My students don’t know the burdens and worries my heart brings to the classroom, so help me remember, Lord, how anxious and heavy my students’ hearts may be. Let my decisions in the classroom be fair and just, honest and true. Send your Spirit to fill me with gifts of knowledge and understanding, counsel and wisdom. Lord, open my mind and heart to my students’ parents. Help me to teach as you would, Lord. Help me be understanding when I need to be firm, gentle in all things, and patient until the last bell rings. Keep me open to what you will teach me each day. Amen.

A Parents’ Prayer When a Child Leaves Home for College
Gracious God, you blessed me with the gift of my child and entrusted me with his/her care. Now he/she leaves this home and begins a new part of life apart from me. Surround him/her with good people and watch over him/her each day. Let him/her know that I will always be near whenever he/she may need me. Heal any hurts we may harbor with each other and forgive our failings as we learn to be in this new step of our relationship. When the sight of his/her empty room pierces my heart with sadness, may I find comfort in knowing that my child is your child too, filled with your grace and sheltered by your love. Amen.

With love and prayers,
Father Neil Sullivan


August 10, 2014

Dear Parish Family:

This Friday (August 15) we will celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and commemorate the death of Mary and her bodily assumption into Heaven, before her body could begin to decay–a foretaste of our own bodily resurrection at the end of time. It is a Holy Day of Obligation and Catholics are required to attend Mass that day.

The Assumption is the oldest feast day of Our Lady. The exact year of it first celebration is unknown.  Why?  We need to remember that the early Christians were persecuted during the first three centuries after the resurrection of Jesus.  Christian worship was against the law. Being a follower of Jesus could cost you your life.  Many things had to be done in secret and literally underground. In 313, the Emperor Constantine decriminalized Christianity.  His mother, Saint Helena, began the important work of finding and marking the holy sites of Jesus’ life. The sacred places began to be restored and memories of the life of Our Lord began to be celebrated publically by the people of Jerusalem.

One of the memories was about Jesus’ mother. It centered around the “Tomb of Mary,” close to Mount Zion. On the hill itself was the “Place of Dormition,” the spot of Mary’s “falling asleep,” where she had died. The “Tomb of Mary” was where she was buried.  Later on, the name was changed to the “Assumption of Mary,” since there was more to the feast than just Mary’s death.  It also proclaimed that she had been taken up, body and soul, into heaven.

The belief in the Assumption of Mary dates back to the apostles themselves.  There was no grave where her body lay buried.  There was only an empty tomb on the edge of Jerusalem near the site of her death. That location also soon became a place of pilgrimage.  The early Christians understood, believed, and taught Mary had died in the presence of the apostles and was immediately buried.  When they went to visit her body soon after, the tomb was found empty and so the apostles concluded that the body was taken up into heaven.

Why?  It was through Mary’s body that God took flesh.  The Incarnation took place.  In her body she conceived of the Holy Spirit, carried Jesus in her womb, and gave birth to him.  Her’s was a sacred body.  God the Father would not allow decay to corrupt this precious vessel that brought his Son into the world.

The Assumption is God’s crowning of His work as Mary ends her earthly life and enters eternity. The feast turns our eyes in that direction, where we will follow when our earthly life is over. The feast days of the Church are not just the commemoration of historical events; they do not look only to the past. They look to the present and to the future and give us an insight into our own relationship with God. The Assumption looks to eternity and gives us hope that we, too, will follow Our Lady when our life is ended.

Our Lady of the Assumption, pray for us.

See you at Mass for the Assumption either Thursday at 5:30 p.m. or Friday at 6:45 a.m., 9:00 a.m., or 7:00 p.m.

With love and prayers,

Father Neil Sullivan


August 03, 2014

Dear Parish Family:

On August 4, the Church celebrates the feast day of St. John Vianney, patron of priests.

John Vianney, also known as the Holy Curé de Ars, was born May 8, 1786 in Dardilly, near Lyon, France to a family of farmers. He was ordained a priest in 1815 and became curate in Ecully. He was then sent to the remote French community of Ars in 1818 to be a parish priest.

Upon his arrival, the priest immediately began praying and working for the conversion of his parishioners. Although he saw himself as unworthy of his mission as pastor, he allowed himself to be consumed by the love of God as he served the people.

Vianney slowly helped to revive the community’s faith through both his prayers and the witness of his lifestyle. He gave powerful homilies on the mercy and love of God, and it is said that even staunch sinners were converted upon hearing him. In addition, he restored his church, formed an orphanage, “La Providence,” and cared for the poor.

His reputation as a confessor grew rapidly, and pilgrims traveled from all over France to come to him in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Firmly committed to the conversion of the people, he would spend up to 16 hours a day in the confessional.

Plagued by many trials and besieged by the devil, St. John Vianney remained firm in his faith, and lived a life of devotion to God.  Dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament, he spent much time in prayer and practiced much mortification. He lived on little food and sleep, while working without rest in unfailing humility, gentleness, patience and cheerfulness, until he was well into his 70s.

John Vianney died on August 4, 1859. Over 1,000 people attended his funeral, including the bishop and priests of the diocese, who already viewed his life as a model of priestly holiness.  The Holy Curé of Ars was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1925.  He is the patron of priests.  Over 450,000 pilgrims travel to Ars every year in remembrance of his holy life.

In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI, commemorating the 150th anniversary of St. John Vianney’s death, declared the Year for Priests, encouraging all priests to look to the Curé of Ars as an example of dedication to one’s priestly calling.

John Vianney is not only a model for ordained priests, but a model for all disciples.  He gives us a wonderful example of simplicity, humility, and faithfulness.

On Monday, let us pray for each other: priests and people praying, believing, and living as disciples.  Let us as the humble and holy servant to pray for us.  Perhaps we can use a prayer that he wrote himself.

 I love You, O my God,
and my only desire is to love You
until the last breath of my life. 
I love You, O my infinitely lovable God,
and I would rather die loving You,
than live without loving You. 
I love You, Lord
and the only grace I ask is to love You eternally.

My God, if my tongue
cannot say in every moment that I love You,
I want my heart to repeat it
to You as often as I draw breath.

With love and prayers,

Father Neil Sullivan


July 20

Dear Parish Family:

Thursday, July 25, is the Feast of Saint James the Apostle. James was the big brother of John, the Beloved Apostle of Jesus.  He was the son of Zebedee and Salamone.  He is sometimes called James the Greater to distinguish him from the Apostle James who is called James the Less. James was the first Apostle to be martyred, which tradition holds happened in 44 A.D.

The Way of Saint James (in Spanish: El Camino de Santiago) is the pilgrimage route to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the apostle Saint James are buried. The Way of Saint James was one of the most important Christian pilgrimages during medieval times, together with Rome and Jerusalem. The Way can take one of any number of pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela. Traditionally, as with most pilgrimages, the Way of Saint James began at one’s home and ended at the Cathedral.

The scallop shell, often found on the shores in Galicia, has long been the symbol of the Camino de Santiago. Over the centuries the scallop shell has different meanings.  One of the legends is that after James’ death, his disciples shipped his body to the Iberian Peninsula to be buried in what is now Santiago. Off the coast of Spain, a heavy storm hit the ship, and the body was lost to the ocean. After some time, however, it washed ashore undamaged, covered in scallops.

The scallop shell also acts as a metaphor. The grooves in the shell, which meet at a single point, represent the various routes pilgrims traveled, eventually arriving at a single destination: the tomb of James in Santiago de Compostela. The shell is also a metaphor for the pilgrim: As the waves of the ocean wash scallop shells up onto the shores of Galicia, God’s hand also guides the pilgrims to Santiago. The scallop shell also served practical purposes for pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago. The shell was the right size for gathering water to drink or for eating out of as a makeshift bowl.

Today, tens of thousands of Christian pilgrims and many others set out each year from their front doorsteps or from popular starting points across Europe, to make their way to Santiago de Compostela. Most travel by foot, some by bicycle, and a few travel as some of their medieval counterparts did, on horseback or by donkey.  Many consider the experience a spiritual adventure to remove themselves from the bustle of modern life. It serves as a retreat for many modern “pilgrims”.

We are all pilgrims on a journey. The most important journey: The Journey to Heaven.  The great part is that we don’t make the journey alone.   We make it with and toward God.  Jesus walks with us.  Mary and all the saints cheer us on.  And we walk with each other.  May Saint James keep our eyes on the destination and protect us as we make the way!

This Friday, July 25, from 6:30—8pm, we will have our own little version of the Way of Saint James right here at Saint Catherine’s.  There will be a litlle walking, interactive games, a Spanish snack, and guided prayer experiences.   You can arrive between 6:30 and 7:15, and our guides will help you make a “buen Camino” (good walk).  I hope you can join us!  There are more details on page 5 in this week’s bulletin.

Love and prayers,

Father Sullivan


June 22, 2014

Dear Parish Family:

Summer is upon us!   May this be a holy, healthy, restful, and safe summer for all of us!

Summer for our Parish Staff is a time of regrouping, planning, and preparing for what we call the Ministry Year.  To help organize and direct our planning, we identify our Ministry Year as July 1 to June 30.  It coincides with the academic year and the fiscal year.  Every June, the staff meets to look at dates for the coming Ministry Year and set the parish calendar.  As of right now, there are over 5500 items on our calendar.  These include Masses, Sacraments, retreats, spiritual renewal programs, social events, faith formation, classes, athletic activities, wellness programs, service projects, council/committee meetings, organization gatherings, parish celebrations, etc. Wow! This number will only grow as we move through the year.  The number is not meant to impress or show how busy we are.  These events are not just items on a calendar. Rather, they are part of the mission and ministry of our parish. They represent incredible opportunities to pray, believe, and live as disciples.

Here are just a few of the dates that serve as our parish “pillar” events around which the 2014 – 2015 year is structured.  It is by no means exhaustive.  But it gives us all a look ahead to see where we are headed.  So, please mark your calendars for:

August 15 Assumption of the BVM  (Holy Day of Obligation)

August 17 Parish Picnic

August 25 First Day of School

September 7 First Day of PREP (Religious Ed/CCD)

September 14 Stewardship Sunday

September 21Catechetical Sunday

September 28 Time and Talent Sunday

October 4 Oktoberfest

October 13-15 Parish Mission

November 1 All Saints Day (Holy Day)

November 2 All Souls Day

November 23 Thanksgiving Basket Distribution

November 27 Thanksgiving Day/Miraculous Medal Feast Day

November 28 Saint Catherine Laboure Feast Day

November 30 First Sunday of Advent

December 8 Immaculate Conception  (Holy Day of Obligation)

December 11 Parish Advent Penance Service

December 21Giving Tree Gift Distribution

December 25 The Nativity of Our Lord (Christmas Day)

January 1 Mary, the Mother of God (New Year’s Day)

January 25 – 31Catholic Schools Week

February 6 Mardi Gras

February 14 Friends of Saint Catherine’s School Gala

February 18 Ash Wednesday

February 21 First Penance

March 26 Parish Lenten Penance Service

March 29 Palm Sunday

April 2,3,4,5 The Easter Triduum

April 25 Sacrament of Confirmation

May 2 First Communion

May 10, 11, 12 Forty Hours

May 14 Ascension of Our Lord (Holy Day of Obligation)

May 24 Pentecost Sunday

It’s going to be a great year!  During the year, we will be focusing on how to pray, believe, and live the joy of the Gospel as disciples.  Look for more details about this “joy” as we move forward.

Love and prayers,

Father Sullivan

P.S. Today (Sunday) I head to Boston for the Partners in Mission Conference in Boston with other members of our school staff.  We will be learning  new and exciting ways to advance the mission of Catholic Education.  Many thanks to Father John Acri who will be helping with Mass during the week.  I’ll be back on campus Friday

June 15, 2014 (Trinity Sunday)

Many thanks to our dedicated Parish Pastoral Council for the fantastic Pentecost Sunday Breakfast!  It was a wonderful opportunity for us to gather together as parish family!

Speaking of family…

Today we honor all our fathers – those living and those deceased, those fathers who have lost a child, our spiritual fathers, and all who fill a fatherly role.  Pope Saint John XXIII said this: “It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father.”  So what is a real father?

A father is someone who wants to catch you before you fall but instead picks you up, brushes you off, and lets you try again. A father is someone who wants to keep you from making mistakes but instead sometimes lets you find your own way, even though his heart breaks in silence when you get hurt. A father is someone who holds you when you cry, scolds you when you break the rules, shines with pride when you succeed, and has faith in you even when you fail. And even when a father dies, the bond of father and child does not end. But that connection of love cannot be destroyed. He watches over you and prays for you to our Heavenly Father, our Almighty God!

Here is a special prayer for all our fathers, grandfathers, godfathers, and spiritual fathers:

 Lord, please bless our fathers,
these men who mean so much to us,
who are greatly responsible
for who we are and who we are becoming.
Bless them for having the courage
to do what’s necessary to keep us out of trouble,
for making us do the right thing,
for helping us build our character,
even when it makes us angry;
and bless them for pushing us to do our best,
even when they just want to love us.
Bless our fathers for being our protectors,
for leading us through stormy times to safety,
for making us believe that everything
will be all right and for making it so.
Bless our fathers for quietly making a living
to provide for those they love most,
for giving us food, clothing, shelter
and the other material things that really matter,
for unselfishly investing time and money
Bless our fathers, Lord,
for saving some energy for fun,
for leading us on adventures
to explore the outer reaches of ourselves,
for making us laugh,
for being our playmates and our friends.
Bless them for being our secure foundation, our rock,
for holding on tight to us…until it’s time to let us go.
Lord, bless these men we look up to,
our role models, our heroes, our fathers.
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen..

 Happy Father’s Day! I am so happy, honored, and humbled to be your Spiritual Father!  God bless you!

Love and prayers,

Father Sullivan


June 8, 2014 (Pentecost Sunday)

Dear Parish Family:

Happy and Blessed Pentecost!

Each year the Church celebrates 50 days of Easter, culminating at the feast of Pentecost.  Yes, can you believe it?  It has been 50 days since Easter.  Pentecost marks the occasion of God’s sending the Holy Spirit upon Jesus’ disciples after His resurrection. Before Pentecost, the disciples were unsure of what they were to do next, and spent most of their time hiding in prayer.

After Pentecost, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, they understood their mission to spread the Good News of Jesus, and they had the courage to come out of hiding and speak openly about who Jesus was, and what he had accomplished by his dying and rising.

Because Pentecost brought the disciples this clarity of mission, it is regarded as the founding feast of the Christian Church. Therefore we refer to Pentecost as the “Birthday of the Church”. Before Pentecost, the disciples of Jesus are tentative and unsure. After Pentecost, they are a people with a mission, who perceive themselves as spiritually and sacramentally connected to the Risen Christ.

Today’s celebration of Pentecost centers on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the power of those gifts to both draw people together, and to send them forth to spread the word.  At Baptism, we receive these seven special gifts. They are freely given to us to help us live as followers of Jesus and to build up the Body of Christ, the Church. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are sealed and strengthened within us at Confirmation. These seven gifts help us to respond to the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, to make good choices, and to serve God and others.  The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit are:

Wisdom is the gift of knowing the right choices to make to live a holy life. The gift of wisdom helps us to avoid the things that could lead us away from God.

Understanding is the gift of comprehension, or the ability to grasp the meaning of the teachings of the Church. The gift of understanding helps us be tolerant and sympathetic of others. It helps us sense when someone is hurting or in need of compassion.

 Right Judgment, or Counsel, is the gift of prudence. The gift of right judgment helps us make choices to live as a faithful follower of Jesus.

 Fortitude (Courage) is the gift that helps us stand up for our faith in Christ. The gift of courage helps us overcome any obstacles that keep us from practicing our faith.

 Knowledge is the gift of knowing and enlightenment. The gift of knowledge enables us to choose the right path that will lead us to God. It encourages us to avoid obstacles that will keep us from Him.

 Reverence, or Piety, is the gift of confidence in God. This gift of reverence inspires us to joyfully want to serve God and others.

 Fear of the Lord (Wonder and Awe) is the gift of wonder and respect that encourages us to be in awe of God. The gift of wonder and awe moves us to so love God that we do not want to offend Him by our words or actions.

This Pentecost, may the Holy Spirit stir up all those gifts in us.  May we use those gifts as we pray, believe, and live as disciples.  Happy Birthday everyone!

Love and prayers,

Father Sullivan