All of Us Are Called to Be the Good Shepherd – Father Peter Patrick’s Homily for April 26, 2015

Photograph of Father Peter PatrickAs we continue to celebrate Easter, today we hear different readings, not about resurrection, but about the purpose of Christ coming. He had a choice of not laying down his life, but he opted to do the will of God. Today’s Sunday is known as ‘Good Shepherd Sunday,’ and also known as ‘Vocation Sunday.’ It’s a day dedicated to promote vocations to priesthood and religious life.

I like going back to Baltimore Catechism that said: “We were created by God; to know him, to love him, to serve him and to be with him when we are done with life here on earth.” Becoming a priest or a religious man or woman is not primarily our own decision…. Rather it is the response to a call and to a call of love. (From a talk to seminarians and novices by Pope Francis, July 2013.)

Sometimes in life, it takes a long time to know our true calling, and that’s why we need other people to help us to discover it. In the Hebrew Scripture, we read about the calling of Samuel, who did not recognize that God was calling. He needed someone to guide him. He was in the right place and with the right person, Elia. Here in the parish we are blessed to have the St. John Paul II (JPII) Discernment House, and also the Director of Vocations for the Archdiocese Fr. Luke Strand, as well as Fr. Dennis and myself.

In today’s gospel we hear Jesus saying he is the ‘Good Shepherd.’ He is taking up this divine task initiated by God. He laid down his own life so that we can have life, and have it abundantly. Jesus did not only come to seek the lost children of Israel, but he said; “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.” He meant the Gentiles, and we are the Gentiles.

Then the question arises: “How will they hear the voice of Jesus if there is no one to preach to them?” We need to nurture vocations; we need to encourage young men and women to consider priesthood and religious life. We need to continue praying for vocations. Please consider picking up a prayer card for vocations after Mass and make use of it every day.

All of us we are being called to be good shepherd, as parents, children, students, and workers. Let us be our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper by leading the life to which Christ has called us.

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Thank You for Your Generosity!

SR Letterhead LogoAs of Easter Sunday, the Parish is ahead of last year’s collections by $40,000 in weekly and monthly Parish support. Our prayerful thanks to the many parishioners who support St. Robert so very generously. However, we still need $130,000 to meet the Parish budget over the next four months.

Here are the figures as of March, 2015:

Actual This Yr.

Actual Prev. Yr. Variance from Prev. Yr. Budget Year To Date

Budget Variance Year to Date

9 Months Fiscal Year

$580,294

$540,122 $40,172 $541,000

$39,294

Annual Budget

$710,000

Needed Over the Next Three Months

$129,706

“As stewards, we receive and use God’s gifts with gratitude.”

Thank you for your support.
Finance Council and Stewardship Committee

Ministering to College Students and Mass Times at St. Robert

Portrait of Father Dennis DirkxPope Francis is calling us to return to the passion the first disciples had for the mission of Jesus. Jesus’ first disciples understood that he called them to “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). If they had focused only on themselves, Christianity would have died before the close of the first century. A church that only focuses inward is a dying church. I am proud that our parishes have chosen to be a living church that reaches out beyond itself and evangelizes.

Cor Jesu, our Wednesday young adult outreach ministry, serves college students and young adults from throughout our Archdiocese. We have learned that Catholic students from Cardinal Stritch, MSOE, MIAD, and other area colleges are looking for spiritual mentors and a Mass specifically targeted to college students. Our central location and active young adult community have led to a partnership with our Archdiocesan Campus Ministry Office to serve these students in ways that also create a number of helpful developments for our parishes.

  • As of May 3, the Campus Ministry Office under the direction of Pete Burds and Margaret Rhody will assume responsibility for St. Robert’s 5:30pm Mass. The Mass will target college students and incorporate Cor Jesu style contemporary music. Like Cor Jesu, even though the Mass will be targeted at college students, all are welcome.
  • This summer, the Campus Ministry Office is launching a College Campus Missionary Program, in which recent college graduates will devote a year to ministering on local college campuses while renting living space in the St. Robert’s parish center.

Preparing for Vision 2020 and Beyond

Thank you to those who responded to my survey and request for input on how to restructure our Mass schedule at St. Robert. Right now more of our priests are retiring than are being ordained. It is likely that within two years we will have only one pastor shared between the two parishes. Even with the help of Senior Priests, we may not be able to support the Sunday Mass schedule we currently enjoy. A number of helpful suggestions to address this have been put forward, and soon a committee of representatives from St. Robert and Holy Family Parishes will be formed to prepare for the transition. Please watch for more information and opportunity to participate.

May God bless you as you continue to enjoy this Easter Season,

Fr. Dennis A. Dirkx

Forgiveness: Essential for Life – Father Dennis’ Homily for April 19, 2015

Portrait of Father Dennis DirkxDuring Lent, we focus upon sins, repentance and forgiveness. It is unusual that our readings for the Third Sunday after Easter are so prominently focused upon sins, repentance and forgiveness. The heart of Easter Joy is through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are forgiven of our sins and reconciled to the Father. Like the disciples’ encounter with Jesus in the upper room, we too encounter the Risen Lord in repentance and forgiveness.

Forgiveness requires on our part, honesty and a willingness to admit to our wrong doing that has hurt the other. Where would a marital relationship be without forgiveness? If there is no forgiveness in a relationship between a husband and a wife, the relationship stops growing. It can no longer experience the depth of love. This past week I asked a married man how often do you ask forgiveness from your wife? Jokingly he responded, “Daily.” He said, “It is very important to say, ‘I am sorry. Please forgive me.’” If repentance and forgiveness is essential to a marital relationship, how much more is it in our relationship with God?

In the gospel, Jesus tells us that repentance and forgiveness is to be preached in His name to the whole world and we are witnesses of these things. We can only give witness to repentance and forgiveness because we have experienced it in our relationship with God. Think about your greatest sin for a moment. Your greatest sin is like a drop of water in a furnace—the furnace of God’s love for you. This sin disappears forever in God’s forgiveness. St. John, in our second reading, tells us that if we do sin, we have One who will plead our cause with the Father—Jesus Christ. This is the joy of Easter.

We have to understand that God the Father does not want to be separated from us even by our sins. We have a God who loves us so intensely that when we are separated from Him because of our sins, His heart waits and anticipates our return. When we turn from our sins and seek repentance, God is not going to scold us because He is so overcome with joy to have us back. This is love! This is life! This is Easter! St. Paul said in his letter to the Romans, “Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, (Romans 8:39).” Forgiveness is at the core of proclaiming the resurrection. When we seek God’s forgiveness, we are admitting our sinfulness, we are recognizing our need for conversion, and expressing our belief and desire for the new Life Jesus offers us in His resurrection.

We are to give witness to the repentance and forgiveness we have received from our merciful God. We witness these when we let go of a grudge we have carried for a long time, and in this action we encounter the presence of the Risen Lord. We experience His presence when we heal the brokenness of a relationship because of our self-centeredness. We give witness to repentance and forgiveness when we work to overcome oppression and injustice that diminishes human dignity. We experience the Risen Christ when we repair the damage done to another’s reputation through idle gossip. In all of this we not only experience the new Life of His resurrection, but we become the channel of that life for the other.

Sincerely Yours In Christ,

Fr. Dennis Dirkx

Jesus Is Our Advocate With the Father – Peter Patrick’s Homily for April 19, 2015

Photograph of Father Peter PatrickThe beginning of today’s gospel is the continuation of the story of the journey to Emmaus, where two disciples of Jesus were conversing and Jesus joined them, but they did not recognize him. Their eyes were opened at the breaking of the bread. The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way, and how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of bread.

Immediately after the crucifixion of Jesus, the disciples were afraid that what happened to him would happen to them. Some decided to take off as these two disciples we have heard in the gospel. Others secured themselves behind locked doors. In that confusion over what would happen next, Jesus appeared. They were so terrified because they thought it was a ghost.

Where do we put ourselves in this gospel? Remember that the disciples of Jesus had not really known who Jesus was. And because of that, they opted to go back to their former life. In other gospels we hear Peter and other disciples went back to fishing, but that did not stop Jesus loving them. He never gave up with them despite their weaknesses. He still entrusted to them the ministry of the proclamation of the kingdom of God.

No matter how much we have distanced ourselves from Jesus because of our sins and bad habits, he still loves us and entrusts to us the ministry of the proclamation of the kingdom of God. In the second reading, John is encouraging us not to sin, but he faces the reality that we will sometimes fail. The good thing, he reminds us, is that Jesus is our advocate with the Father and he is expiation for our sins. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, never be discouraged because of your weaknesses. Let us call upon the name of the Risen Lord when we are tempted and sinking into the sea of sins.

Sincerely Yours in Christ,

Father Peter Patrick

Of One Heart and Mind – Father Dennis’ Homily for April 12, 2015

Portrait of Father Dennis DirkxThe American political field has become so polarized that our elected officials cannot even find the common ground. Decisions ought to be made in light of what will further the common good. It is self-interest and big money that is far too often behind the decisions our elected officials make. In our Catholic Church, we have allowed such polarization to occur since Vatican II. We are from the early Christian Community described in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles. “The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common, (Acts 4:32).” What would these early Christian say to us today? I don’t think their words would be harsh or condemning. They would call us to what is essential about being a community of believers.

They would ask us the following questions: 1) Is the mission of Jesus Christ the central action of our parish? 2) As a community of believers, do we give witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus? 3) Do we break bread together and pray together—the emphasis is on the “we?” 4) How do we treat the poor among us? 5) How willing are we to suffer for the sake of the gospel?

When we look into the early Christian community we see that evangelization is the top priority. The apostles went daily into the greater community to preach Jesus as crucified and risen. “But many of those who heard the word came to believe and the number grew to about five thousand, (Acts 4:4).” Evangelization is essential to the life and the growth of a faith community. For the past several years, we have awoken to the importance of evangelization.

Bearing witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus was at the heart of this early community. As it was true for them it is also true for us today. A few weeks ago I baptized Nathan Joseph about fifteen minutes after he was born. Nathan lived for twenty-four hours. A week later on a Saturday morning I celebrated his funeral. His parent wrote this in the order of worship. “Nathan taught us some profound lessons. He taught us about life without saying a word. With just his eyes, he said, ‘I love you.’ He trusted unconditionally the first time he met you. Without effort, he was perfect…We thank God for blessing us with him.” This is giving witness to the resurrection of the Lord.

The apostolic community devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers. When we come together, we have to become more aware of breaking bread together. This is doing what Jesus asked at the Last Supper—“Do this in memory of me.”

The early church suffered greatly for the sake of the gospel. It is not that as a parish community we go looking for suffering, but when suffering for the sake of the gospel comes, are we willing to embrace it? They knew that in embracing the suffering for the sake of the gospel they were participating in the suffering of Jesus Christ.

The treatment of the poor was a hallmark of the early community. The Acts of the Apostles tells us that there was no needy person among them. Service to the poor and care for them is the mandate of our founder—Jesus, Son of God.

These five areas would be the points the early community of believers would have us seriously reconsider. It is also these five points that Pope Francis is calling the Church today to embrace. If you will, it is returning to the basics of being a Christian community.

Sincerely Yours In Christ,

Fr. Dennis Dirkx

What Difference Has the Resurrection Made in Your Life? – Father Dennis’ Homily for Easter Sunday, April 5, 2015

Portrait of Father Dennis DirkxThe Church of the Holy Sepulchre is built around the summit of Golgotha. This site is the holiest of all the sites in the Holy Land. Liturgical celebrations at this site began in the year 66 AD, some 30 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Those who both witnessed the death and the resurrection of Jesus gathered to remember what saving deeds happened there. The early date of these celebrations authenticates the site as the place both of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Here on this spot lives were changed forever, for Mary of Magdala, the Apostles, the disciples, the followers, the countless women and men who have gone before us, and our own lives.

A few weeks ago I baptized Nathan Joseph about fifteen minutes after he was born. Nathan lived for twenty-four hours. A week later on a Saturday morning I celebrated his funeral. His parent wrote this in the order of worship. “Nathan taught us some profound lessons. He taught us about life without saying a word. With just his eyes, he said, ‘I love you.’ He trusted unconditionally the first time he met you. Without effort, he was perfect…We thank God for blessing us with him.” This is how resurrection changes people’s lives forever. It rises us from the darkness of death to life—life eternal.
Mary of Magdala weeping at the tomb because she believed the person standing in front of her hid the body of Jesus. It is only when Jesus said to her, “Miriam,” that she recognized Him—a voice that was so familiar to her. She becomes the first proclaimer of the resurrection. She is often called the Apostle to the Apostles. Resurrection changed her. It lifted her from sadness and loss of a good friend to becoming a proclaimer of the resurrection.

Peter in the gospel we have just heard was at a different place than the Peter in our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles  the Peter who was boldly announcing the fruit of the resurrection; that through belief in Him there is forgiveness of sins. Peter’s experience of the Risen Christ on that first Easter night changed his life forever. With the boldness of the Spirit he proclaimed the Risen Lord even to the gates of Rome. Thomas did not come to believe in the resurrection of Jesus until a week later when he was with the others in the upper room. Jesus, the Risen Lord came into their midst. After He greeted them with peace, He invited Thomas to examine his nail marks and put his hand into Jesus’ side. Thomas became a believer and it changed his life forever. He went on to proclaim the Good News to the people of India. The disciple whom Jesus loved saw the burial clothes and believed. Seeing does not always mean believing. Loving always means believing.

Therefore, I ask you, “What difference has the resurrection made in your life?” How has it changed your life forever? More importantly, what action has the resurrection taken in your life?

Sincerely Yours in Christ,
Fr. Dennis