We anticipate a busy weekend here at St. Francis. We remember the feast day of our patron saint, St. Francis of Assisi, who died on October 3, 1226, near the church of the Portiuncula which is just outside the walls of Assisi. One of the more popular events of   the weekend is the blessing of the animals which happens in the labyrinth area outside of the Assisi Community Center. I remember doing this when I was at Immaculate Conception in Durham and seeing that people bring their dogs, cats, birds – even once, in a pillow case, a python! I sent that one over to the other friar who was helping that day.

The blessing of the animals highlights something   from the life of St. Francis himself. He loved animals. He would catch a fish and set it free. He would buy a lamb from the market to “ransom” it and set it free. And in one of the more charming stories that is passed down, he used to pick up worms on the road and bring them over to the side of the road so they would not be harmed by passing traffic. What do these stories tell us about Francis, beyond their simple charm? They tell us that Francis recognized the dignity and beauty of the created world, that he saw in all things something of the goodness of their Creator.

His vision, nearly 800 years after his death remains vital to us today – can we strive to see the environment, the earth, our neighbors, our friends, our enemies, the entire created web of all things – as relational, and not as something to be conquered? In his beautiful “Canticle of the Creatures,” written toward the end of his life and, remarkably, when he was nearly blind, Francis looks out at the world around him, the sun, moon, stars, fire, water – and calls them his brother or his sister. It’s a beautiful insight into the nature of the created world. If water is our sister, how then do we care for our lakes, ponds, rivers, oceans? St. Francis of Assisi remains a prophetic voice in our world today.

Also this weekend, more than 150 of our youth received the sacrament of confirmation from Bishop Burbidge. Congratulations to those who received the sacrament and thank you to all who helped prepare them.

Blessings to all on the week ahead.

Fr. Steve

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There is something about a long drive that can be reflective, and I found that as I drove back to Raleigh from Philadelphia just over a week ago. There was an accident on Route 95 in Richmond which caused a long delay, and when the traffic finally broke, it was only a few more miles to Petersburg and the turn onto Route 85 South, with the sign that says “Durham, Atlanta” – promises of cities farther south. I love driving on 85 at twilight, with the sun disappearing in the trees just ahead, the lights coming on, hitting “seek” on the radio and having it go all around the dial searching for some faraway signal, maybe the faint call of a baseball game in a city far to the north. Or sometimes just turning the radio off and driving in the silence.

I realized, driving back from Philadelphia, something that was pretty obvious but still dawned on me in an unexpected way. I realized I didn’t live in Philadelphia anymore, that a new friar had moved into my old room and I had now returned as a guest. I knew all that of course. It’s the nature of our lives as friars, our life asks us to “go to other towns and villages to preach the gospel.” (Luke 8) But still, it hit me in a way that I did not expect, and made me think about transitions. We leave the familiar and move out into the unknown. There is the promise of what is new, and the leaving behind of what is known and familiar. A transition can be a time of grace and a time of loss. And I think that’s what hit me as I drove back on that highway.

Once more, a thank you to all here at St. Francis for your welcome and your kindness and your patience with me as I learn my way around, slowly learn names, and go through this transition time. And remember – Francis Fest is next weekend. We also have members of our sister parish in Guatemala who will be visiting us this week. All signs of a Holy Spirit moving in our midst.

Blessings on your week!

Fr. Steve

 

Let me say thank you to everyone who has been involved in our annual Offertory Pledge Appeal and especially to Julio de la Rosa, a long-time member of the parish for his words at Mass last weekend about his own understanding of what it means to be a steward here at St. Francis. And to follow up on his words, I would ask you to consider, what does it mean to belong to a place like St. Francis? As I preside here at Mass on the weekend, and look out over our worship space, what I see are the People of God, called together to hear God’s word and to remember that deep down, amid all the anxieties and pressures of our lives, we are called by God to be people of peace, reconciliation, kindness, and generosity in an often fractured world. And so I ask you, especially as you receive the Pledge Appeal letter in the mail to consider your own share in the vital mission of St. Francis in North Raleigh.

This past week I was in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey for the annual Guardians Meeting for the Franciscan Friars of Holy Name Province. Frs. David, Bill, and I are all part of this province which is based out of New York City and has ministry sites all along the East Coast. A “guardian” in our province is a friar who is responsible for the local friar fraternity and so I am both pastor of the parish and guardian of the local house. I was able to stop in Philadelphia both on the way up and on the way back and it was nice to be back at St. Francis Inn where I served for two years before coming to Raleigh in August. It’s a big contrast between here and Philly – at the Inn in Philadelphia the elevated subway rumbles by every 15 minutes or so, and here of course we have the close roar of jets from RDU. It was great to see the friars and the lay volunteers at the Inn even for a short time.

I went to see one of the Friday night productions of The Justice Theater Project’s “A Raisin In the Sun” and I recommend it highly. It’s an intimate setting right here on the campus of St. Francis. The play is set in Chicago in the 1950’s. It tells the story of what happens when a black family buys a house in a white neighborhood and raises timely questions of the state of race relations in our culture. This is very good theater – great set design, great acting – all right here at St. Francis.  See it if you get a chance!

Also last weekend was my installation mass at 5:30 on Saturday, and I want to thank everyone once again for your kindness and welcome, both to me and to my family who were visiting here from Boston. Blessings to all as we enter these cool September days.

Fr. Steve

Well, let me continue to say thank you to all at St. Francis for your ongoing kind welcome to me as I begin here. There is much to learn, and I suspect it will take some time for me to learn names and faces. This weekend, as I am sure you have noticed, is the weekend of our Annual Offertory pledge appeal, and it has of course come up quickly for me as I settle in. The Annual Offertory Appeal is an opportunity for all of us to consider, first of all, what we have received from God, all that we have and all that we are, as pure gift from God. And it’s an opportunity for us to consider our own   engagement at St. Francis and our own part in supporting the ministries here. Please read over the stewardship letter you will receive in the mail, pray over the letter, and consider your financial support of your parish.

One of the more fun parts of my week is visiting the Franciscan School.  One morning last week I was asked to come and read a gospel story to the kindergarten students. They were all gathered together in a classroom and they had a rocking chair ready for me. The children were engaged and full of questions and, at one point, I asked them if they knew any bible stories. One student raised her hand and said, yes, I know the story of Jonah and the whale. Well tell us that story, I asked her. She told it this way:  God was mad with Jonah because he wouldn’t do what God asked, so God put Jonah in a “time-out” in the whale for three days. What a great take on a classic bible story!

Fall is on the way, always a beautiful time of the year as the days begin to get shorter and cooler. There’s a sense of summertime coming to an end with everyone back from summer vacations. There’s also a sense of things starting up again, of all kinds of activity on our campus. What a great time of the year. Thank you again to all for your kindness and patience with me as I begin to learn my way around.

Blessings to all!

Fr. Steve

Well hello to all and welcome back if you’ve been away over the summer. If you’ve been away you may notice a change at St. Francis. We have a new pastor. My name is Fr. Steve Patti, and I’m just getting started, and thrilled to be here. Fr. Mark Reamer has taken a new position in our province, working in the president’s office at Siena College.

Some background on how all this came about:

In June, the friars had what we call a “chapter,” a gathering of all the friars in our province (just under 300 total) in which we elect friars to different leadership positions in the province, and also in which friars may receive   new assignments in the province. A week or so after the chapter, the friars are told to have their phone literally by their side to await a phone call about possible new assignments. Mark had been at St. Francis for 19 years, 10 of those years as pastor. Pastors generally serve nine-year terms, so Mark knew he would be awaiting a call with a new assignment. I was serving at St. Francis Inn, a Franciscan soup kitchen in Philadelphia, and knew that St. Francis and a few other places were open. I made it known at the chapter that I would be willing to serve at St. Francis as pastor.

And so, in the early afternoon of Monday, June 16, as I stood in the dining room of St. Francis Inn in Philadelphia with my phone in hand, the call came asking me if I would come to Raleigh and serve as pastor. I replied yes, I’d be thrilled. So here I am, very happy to be with you.

I arrived toward the end of August and am beginning to find my bearings, to meet people, to meet staff, and to get to know the parish. I’m familiar with St. Francis from the time that I served at Immaculate Conception in Durham, from 2003-2011. I know both David and Bill from my time at IC and am happy to be joining them as part of this local friar community. St. Francis is a big place, so please forgive me if it takes me a while to get names and faces down. I can see that I am coming into a vibrant faith community and I’m very happy to be getting started.

Thank you for your kindness and welcome.

Fr. Steve

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I’m thankful for your cards and good wishes and the parish’s gift to me as I departed from the Catholic Community of St. Francis after 19 years of being a partner in ministry with you. My heart overflows with gratitude. I’ve gotten unpacked and settled at the St. Bernadine of Siena Friary and helped to welcome the class of 2018 at Siena College this past week. And now I’m thrilled to be in Assisi with many parishioners for the parish’s Franciscan Italy pilgrimage.

The week before departing Fr. Steve and I were privileged to be able on behalf of all the friars of Holy Name Province to present the Francis Medal to several parishioners who through their generosity of spirit, service, and support, continually give witness to the values and ideals of St. Francis of Assisi.

Julio De La Rosa

Julio retired from St. Francis of Assisi in 2005 after serving as the parish’s first business manager for more than 10 years. For each of the friar pastors who have served St. Francis, Julio has been a trusted advisor. Holy Name Province has also benefitted from his wisdom when ministries have been in need of financial guidance and advice. In addition to serving the parish’s finance council for more than two decades, he has been a retreat leader for the pastoral staff sharing the depths of his Benedictine spirituality. Most recently Julio has served as Acting Director of Finance and Planning from April through August.

Jim & Judy Barton

Jim and Judy are founding members of the Catholic Community of St. Francis of Assisi. They have volunteered faithfully in various capacities over the 30 years of the parish’s life. Jim has served in fulfilling the corporal works of mercy as a columbarium attendant, visiting the sick, feeding the hungry and clothing the naked through his work at Catholic Parish Outreach. Judy has been a partner with him also serving in many leadership roles including the pastoral council and building committees. Together, as a couple, they have been great witnesses of married love within the St. Francis Community. As generous stewards of their time, talent, and treasure they have helped us live out our mission “inspired by our patron Francis, we   seek to proclaim the reign of God.”

Richard & Carol Derrenbacher

Rich and Carol have been long time members of the parish. Rich has been a friend to each of the friars and provided great leadership within the parish wherever needed. Rich also serves Holy Name Province on the advisory council for development and shares his business background by managing Franciscan pilgrimages for two of our Franciscan parishes. Carol has been a steadfast volunteer sharing her gifts and talents mostly quietly behind the scenes as a caregiver through her natural pastoral care and wellness instincts. A teacher by profession, she teaches in our safe environment   program, but mostly teaches by the witness of her life, as Francis would say preaching the gospel always, using words only when necessary.

Congratulations to each of these partners in ministry.

Peace and all good,

Fr. Mark

Dear brothers and sisters,

Welcome to Fr. Steve Patti, OFM, who preaches and presides at each of the liturgies this weekend. I’m thrilled that Steve’s gifts and talents will be utilized for leadership to continue the wonderful mission of our parish: “Inspired by our patron Francis of Assisi, we seek to proclaim the reign of God by growing in Holiness through our experience of Christ in word, sacrament and one another, offering Hope to those who hunger for human dignity, and extending Hospitality to all.”

You’re likely familiar with the story of Sir Christopher Wren, the architect of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London who one day when visiting the construction site asked a stone worker, what are you doing? He responded: cutting stone, just making a living. He asked a second stone worker the same question, who with a great smile and a gaze towards the heavens, replied: I’m building a cathedral. If Christopher Wren were to stop by and ask us what we’re doing? I’d say we’re building the Body of Christ. If I was simply a stone cutter, it would be easy to say good-bye – saying good bye to brick and mortar is always easy – What’s difficult is saying good bye to the Body of Christ – here and now as I’ve come to know you – you are the Body of Christ. Which is not to say we haven’t cut a lot of stone, there always seemed to be a capital campaign underway. I witnessed your generosity through the construction of our current sanctuary, the addition of elementary and middle schools (Thea, Bonaventure, Jacoba, Juniper Halls), two campaigns for the diocese responding to the Diocese’s growth (God’s Work Our Challenge and the Cathedral), and our Growing In Faith Together expansion (Elizabeth Hall, Assisi Community Center, St. Mary of the Angels Chapel and Siena Center for Lifelong Learning). From the papacies of John Paul II to Benedict to Francis, we planned for the future, responded to the signs of the times in our midst. And you’ve done that.

Together we have received Eucharist and washed one another’s feet, as we have celebrated new life through baptism & memorialized our beloved dead. In this we have known the presence of Christ walking with us in our midst. For any priest, the greatest gift is to be able to share people’s lives in times of both joy and sorrow and to walk the Christian journey with you; from simple days of Advent to the great Easter Vigil, gathering about our altar Sunday after Sunday. Thank you for being the Body of Christ growing in holiness by creating vibrant schools and family faith formation to form us as disciples of Jesus Christ, extending hope to those who hunger for human dignity through our many outreach opportunities and extending hospitality by being faithful to the cornerstone of our church my house shall be a house of prayer for all people.

And yet there is much work yet to be done. How do we continue to evangelize in a secular world? How do we continue to reach out and welcome people who are hurt or alienated or indifferent? How do we engage those who are disinterested in their faith. I know you will keep on having these conversations. You will be a better parish because of them.

On a personal note, I’ve been especially grateful to have been surrounded by Bill and David, caring brothers in the friary – and thankful for the dedication and excellence of so many partners in ministry – our pastoral staff, teachers and all who support our education and pastoral ministries along with the leadership of so many parishioners.

As I bid farewell, my hope and prayer is that the Holy Spirit will continue to stir into flame the love of Christ that I have witnessed in your hearts: that you may grow in holiness, extend hope, and offer hospitality as you bear witness to the presence of God in the world. Everything you do and are, is rooted in the Eucharist. Here Christ continues to be broken and poured out for the hope and well being of all in this house, a house of prayer for all people. We, like the Canaanite woman of last Sunday’s gospel have been entrusted with a great gift, the gift of faith. May that faith grow ever deeper by being inspired by our patron Francis as you seek to proclaim the reign of God in your lives, building the Body of Christ.

Peace and all good,

Fr. Mark