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Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ January 14, 2018

Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,
 
This Sunday (today) parishioners from Saint Bernadette and some parishioners from Saint Mary in Fredericksburg—all together 44 of us—are flying to Tel Aviv to begin our Holy Land Pilgrimage.  The itinerary is wonderful and we plan to keep moving!  We will carry your prayers and the intentions of the parish with us to all the holy shrines, as we celebrate the Mysteries of Christ in condensed form.
 
Besides the profound realization that these are the real, actual places where Jesus himself was born, walked, worked, talked, performed miracles, died and rose, I think the thing that I love the most about this pilgrimage is that we get to celebrate a big feast day everyday.  It is like we collapse the entire liturgical year into one week.  Once we get on the ground, starting Tuesday, we will celebrate Masses each day:  Annunciation/Nazareth; Transfiguration/Tabor; Jesus preaching the Beatitudes/Galilee; The Baptism of the Lord/Jordan River; Nativity of Jesus/Bethlehem; Last Supper/Mt. Zion Cenacle; Way of the Cross and Resurrection/Jerusalem. When we cross into Jordan the Christian sites aren’t as prevalent, but we will celebrate Masses in the desert, at the Red Sea, at Wadi Musa (the ancient city of Petra was established at the spring where Moses struck water from the rock) and Mount Nebo, where Moses looked out over the promised Land that he could not enter.
 
Please keep us in your prayers.  I will write and send pictures about our pilgrimage over the next couple of weeks.  Follow on twitter: @frdonrooney
_   _   _   _   _
 
This week we said farewell to Fania in our front office of the parish as she accepts a position in another parish.  We have been fortunate in our search, once again, to find someone who will be able to join us immediately.  Please welcome with me Ivonne Blanco de Frias who will begin after the holiday on January 16.  I think she is going to be a most kind and pleasant addition to our parish family in helping to take care of all our good people.  Be sure and stop in to say hello to Ivonne.
_   _   _   _   _
 
You may have noticed that our School Auction is coming up on April 14, Saturday.  It will be here before we know it!  It is a vital source of resources for the school in our ongoing attempt to provide excellence in education and formation to our children. 
Our theme this year is “The Music Man,” and we will honor Mr. Barry Ward, who has been teaching our award-winning school band and music program for 37 years!  That is a real legacy, and we are hoping that alumni from the school will rally and celebrate with us in thanking Mr. Ward for his constant inspiration and care.
 
Here’s what I’m asking you to do:
 
1) Buy tickets.  This is far bigger than a school-only event.  It is the chance for the parish to provide significant support in forwarding the Christian responsibility of our parish family for our children.
 
2) Come and bid in the silent auction rooms with drinks and hors d’oeuvres as well as the live auction showcase after a delicious dinner. We are in the process right now of procuring items for the auctions—a lot depends on the kind of items we are able to feature.  We will give periodic updates.
 
3) Donate items for the auction.  Do you have some great old furniture you don’t need anymore?  Or items that just might be the thing for someone who has everything? Valuable auction items tend to be popular collectibles, art, a week at your timeshare in the mountains or on the beach, a service or product that your company provides or produces.  Our director of procurement is Mrs. Becky Garcia, beckyvgarcia@gmail.com.
 
4) Perhaps you would like to do some productive advertising in the form of sponsorships and underwriting.  Sponsors are able to donate at various levels of giving and will be recognized in the program (both listed and advertised), website, and are invited to private preview of the auction and a “Red Carpet Reception” that I will host at the rectory before the auction begins.  You can also underwrite the expenses of different aspects of the evening:  the expenses of the bar(s), publications, reception and dinner.  All will be acknowledged as Sponsors are.
 
5) Buy an ad in our Auction Program.  If you need help with layout and design, we can do it for you.
This will be a significant—even historic—event in the life of Saint Bernadette School, “forming minds and hearts in Christ.”  I call upon you, the parish to rally around our wonderful school, which only gets better day by day.  All the information about opportunities listed here will be available on the parish and school websites February 1st.
 
God bless you.
 

Announcements ~ January 7, 2018

fleur cross logo Religious Education Classes resume this weekend on Sunday, January 7, 2018. Please Note: Due to the late start of the school year, make-up Religious Education Classes will be held on January 14,15 and 16th.
 
fleur cross logo March for Life: This year’s March will be held on Friday, January 19, to commemorate the 45th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Please plan to join your parish family in this peaceful protest against abortion.  Please see page 5 for details.
 
fleur cross logo Mark your 2018 calendars for upcoming classes on Sunday mornings with Fr Don.   Sunday mornings, between the 9am and 11am Masses:  10-11am.  We are planning a 23-week series of adult catechesis by Fr. Don, called “Sunday School for Adults.”  Watch the calendar, classes will be held whenever the calendar allows, probably starting after the parish pilgrimage to the Holy Land is finished beginning in February.
 
fleur cross logo Inclement weather policy:  Saint Bernadette Parish and School follows the Fairfax County School System regarding closings for snow and other inclement weather. An announcement will be made even on Saturdays and Sundays because the school buildings are used for extracurricular and community activities on the weekends. You may also call the Parish Office for a recorded message. Please take this policy into account when scheduling use of Parish facilities during winter months.

Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ January 7, 2018

Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,

Each year the Pope chooses a particular topic for his message for January 1st, World Day of Peace. Two years ago he challenged us to overcome indifference and seek compassion. Last year he proposed nonviolence as a style of politics for peace.

This year his message is titled “Migrants and Refugees: Men and Women in Search of Peace.” He begins with his best wishes for peace and calls everyone to embrace those who are fleeing war, hunger and persecution. Some excerpts follow:

Peace to all people and to all nations on earth! Peace, which the angels proclaimed to the shepherds on Christmas night, is a profound aspiration for everyone, for each individual and all peoples, and especially for those who most keenly suffer its absence. Among these whom I constantly keep in my thoughts and prayers, I would once again mention the over 250 million migrants worldwide, of whom 22.5 million are refugees, “men and women, children, young and elderly people, who are searching for somewhere to live in peace”[Pope Benedict XVI].

In a spirit of compassion, let us embrace all those fleeing from war and hunger, or forced by discrimination, persecution, poverty and environmental degradation to leave their homelands.

We know that it is not enough to open our hearts to the suffering of others. Much more remains to be done before our brothers and sisters can once again live peacefully in a safe home. Welcoming others requires concrete commitment, a network of assistance and goodwill, vigilant and sympathetic attention, the responsible management of new and complex situations that at times compound numerous existing problems, to say nothing of resources, which are always limited. By practising the virtue of prudence, government leaders should take practical measures to welcome, promote, protect, integrate and, “within the limits allowed by a correct understanding of the common good, to permit [them] to become part of a new society”[Pacem in Terris, Pope John XXIII].

Were we to behold one another with what Pope Francis calls a “contemplative gaze,” we would be more aware of the fact that we all “belong to one family, migrants and local populations that welcome them, and all have the same right to enjoy the goods of the earth, whose destination is universal, as the social doctrine of the Church teaches. It is here that solidarity and sharing are founded” [Pope Benedict XVI, 2011]. Pope Francis describes fulfilling the promise of peace through this gaze of faith, which sees God dwelling in their houses, in their streets and squares, fostering solidarity, fraternity, and the desire for goodness, truth and justice (Evangelii Gaudium). The “mileposts for action,” he says are fourfold: Welcoming, Protecting, Promoting and Integrating.

This past year we observed the 100th anniversary of the death of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, who devoted her life to the service of migrants and these mileposts for action. Most of our Church in the United States has origins in immigrant populations, whether forced or freely chosen. I claim grandparents who, themselves, migrated from Germany a little over 100 years ago, and great-great-great grandparents who were refugees, fleeing starvation in Ireland.

The Epiphany of the Lord, this great feast which we celebrate today recalls the revelation of God Incarnate to strangers who came to seek him from a foreign land. God himself takes the form of a Child whose family will shortly flee as refugees to Egypt to escape murder.

Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington has an honored history of working with the State Department and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in welcoming people and helping them get established as good citizens, but recent shifts in attitudes and policy have called into question the future possibility of these programs. The number of refugees permitted this year was limited to less than half the total our agencies anticipated. Security is fragile in this dangerous world, and we must proceed cautiously. Resettlement is a topic of heated debate with many good points made on both sides. But there are human beings at stake, people whose lives literally depend upon our generosity, and who are being forgotten as the argument continues. We’ve created a refugee community made up of people who helped our military and intelligence in their own countries, where now their homes have become places that are too dangerous.

Pope Francis ends with words of Saint John Paul II: “If the ‘dream’ of a peaceful world is shared by all, if the refugees’ and migrants’ contribution is properly evaluated, then humanity can become more and more a family, and our earth a true ‘common home’”(2004). Let us keep this dream before us.

God bless you.

Announcements ~ December 31, 2017

fleur cross logo The Solemnity of Mary, The Holy Mother of God, Monday January 1st. Although not a holy day of obligation, we invite you to join us at one of our addtional Masses at Noon or 6:30pm. All are welcome.
 
fleur cross logo Religious Education Classes will resume next weekend on Sunday, January 7, 2018
 
fleur cross logo March for Life: This year’s March will be held on Friday, January 19, to commemorate the 45th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Please plan to join your parish family in this peaceful protest against abortion.  Please see page 5 for details.
 
fleur cross logo Mark your 2018 calendars for upcoming classes on Sunday mornings with Fr Don.   Sunday mornings, between the 9am and 11am Masses:  10-11am.  We will start with something light, the “Catholicism” series by Bishop Robert Barron.  Then we will continue with a 23-week series of adult catechesis by Fr. Don, called “Sunday School for Adults.”  Watch the calendar, classes will be held whenever the calendar allows.
 
fleur cross logo Also, watch future weekly bulletins in print or on line at our parish website about developments in the coming year for parish renovations and construction!  This summer we are set to expand to two preschool classrooms and our school administrative facilities and meeting spaces.  It is an exciting time to be involved!  Thank you for your continued support with the monthly building fund.

Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ December 31, 2017

Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,
 
I was looking through last year’s Christmas bulletin and came across a two+ page piece I wrote entitled “Preparing a Parish Plan for 2017.”  Gosh, that seems like a long time ago.  Nearly everything we set out to do has been accomplished, or at least begun.  We hosted our first Called and Gifted Workshop last year AND began a Parish Council who continues to grow into parish leadership.  We held our first ministry fair, and built a catalog of ministries to make sure that everyone in the parish knew they were personally invited by God and by our parish family to get involved in the life of the Church.
 
My most immediate challenge at this time last year was rapidly-dropping enrollment in the school, as we were losing the trust of our families.  At our lowest point last year we numbered around 360 students.  This year we are back up around 415, and have balanced our budget and made many positive advances in the professional depth and breadth of staff and faculty, thanks to our terrific new principal, Barbara Dalmut.  We are a great school again.  We have continued to correct and improve the physical plant of our school in ways that have greatly enhanced our curriculum as well as the health of the students with an environment that is, in many ways, newer, brighter and much cleaner!
 
Our parish has come together in new and wonderful ways, united as one family, crossing lines of language and culture.  We have shared celebrations and feasts, soup in Lent and processions of saints, and explored new ways of joining in Liturgy.  Although things with Father William didn’t work out, I think we have become stronger with a new unity and I am glad to feel free to serve the Spanish-speaking members of the parish as their pastor, too.
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Rick Caporali came on board here one year ago as Pastoral Associate, and David Mathers soon after as Director of Music Ministry.  With these two talented and hardworking partners in ministry, almost anything is possible for us.  With their help we have introduced new layers of liturgical, administrative and social life to the parish.  Many new prayer opportunities, bilingual celebrations, Taize on fourth Mondays, Forty Hours, seasonal programs, new choirs for children and youth were all made possible with the great collaboration of David.  Our parish family is singing so much more at most Masses as we have shifted focus from performance to prayer.  Rick has continued to broaden the social and charitable outreach of our parish into the community, as well as helping accomplish Called and Gifted and our phenomenal parish picnic last fall.  We look forward to producing our first School Auction here at the school in many years.
 
Other wonderful things happened this year as many of our staff unexpectedly moved on to find better positions in other parishes or different career paths.  We welcomed a new business manager, Linda Al-Jaradat, who has brought a lot of joy and professionalism to our office.  Our new Youth Apostles’ youth team under Kara Lilly’s leadership and guidance of our dear friend Fr. Jack Petersen continues to touch the lives of more and more of our youth.  I think the most dramatic addition to our staff was the sudden arrival of Martha Drennan who, in one month, more than doubled the enrollment quadrupled the number of volunteer catechists and aides in our Religious Education program.  It has been an amazing year.
 
We haven’t yet figured out a second time each week for confessions, nor have we added the early daily Mass.  These are still in the plans, provided we have a third priest assigned to the parish.
 
Capital improvements have happened more slowly than hoped.  We did get a new sign at the street; after finally completing requirements for permits and zoning we will break ground on the second preschool classroom and the expansion of school administrative spaces this March!  As soon as that is complete, we will move right into the expansion of parish office spaces.  Included in the plan is a nice choir room and an elevator which will make the entire Parish Center building accessible to all.
 
We still regularly discuss the renovation in the church.  As I was reading last year’s bulletin, I was surprised how much we were already considering then and how many details were already included.  With continued meetings with Mike LeMay, the original architect of the church, I think our ideas and designs have matured in even better ways that remain respectful and will harmonize with/enhance the “good bones” of the wonderful church we already have.  We also have some wonderful developments in our discussions about the organ, which I hope to share with you soon.
 
All in all, I hope you are as pleased and energized as I am about all the good work that has happened here this year.  A bright and promising happy new year to you! 
 
God bless you. 
 

Announcements ~ December 24, 2017

fleur cross logo MERRY CHRISTMAS!   We wish each of you every blessing and happiness in this Christmas season, as well as the coming year!
 
fleur cross logo There will be no Religious Education Classes this week, December 24-30 or December 31 through January 2. Classes will resume on Sunday, January 7, 2018
 
fleur cross logo Mark your 2018 calendars for upcoming classes on Sunday mornings with Fr Don.   Sunday mornings, between the 9am and 11am Masses:  10-11am.  We will start in January with something light, the “Catholicism” series by Bishop Robert Barron.  Then we will continue with a 23-week series of adult catechesis by Fr. Don, called “Sunday School for Adults.”  Watch the calendar, classes will be held whenever the calendar allows.
 
fleur cross logo Also, watch future weekly bulletins in print or on line at our parish website about developments in the coming year for parish renovations and construction!  This summer we are set to expand to two preschool classrooms and our school administrative facilities and meeting spaces.  It is an exciting time to be involved!  Thank you for your continued support with the monthly building fund.
 
fleur cross logo Inclement weather policy:  St. Bernadette Parish and School follows the Fairfax County School System regarding closings for snow and other inclement weather. An announcement will be made even on Saturdays and Sundays because the school buildings are used for extracurricular and community activities on the weekends. You may also call the Parish Office for a recorded message. Please take this policy into account when scheduling use of Parish facilities during winter months.

Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ December 24, 2017

Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,
 
A few years back when we were selling our family home and farm I asked my brothers if anyone was interested in keeping the log that had sat on our hearth since 1968.  You see, it wasn’t just any log, it carried for me many memories of our vacation in 1968 when I was seven years old and we went to Wyoming and Colorado.  While in Wyoming, my Dad, who I now realize was twenty years younger than I am now, had this crazy idea to take a tree trunk from a petrified forest park in Wyoming.  As I remember it, these logs were just lying around as if they had dropped from the sky, for miles.  There was a broken-down fence with gates that were open; I clearly remember knowing that we probably were doing something wrong, but it was very exciting.  We—my Dad, me and my eight year-old brother John—hoisted this thing weighing what seemed like hundreds of pounds, into the little red wagon we had been dragging my brother Bob around in, then put it in the station wagon, and this log became our travel companion for the next week until it found a home on our hearth.  Actually, we rescued a number of them, but this was the big one.
 
The log is something of a marvel; it’s a little hard to wrap your mind around it.  It is a tree trunk really, with bark and all, but it is stone.  It was a mature tree that lived 225 million years ago.  I wonder what prehistoric bugs are still preserved inside?
 
Somebody asked me why I wanted it.  Such a heavy log-looking rock.  So I’ve been thinking about it.  It is the same reason we take out the same Christmas ornaments each year and put them on a new (or a newly-assembled) tree that takes up space in our home.  Sometimes each one of these ornaments carries a different memory with it.  The enjoyment of putting up the tree with the family involves recalling different things—this one used to hang on our grandparents’ cotton-white tree with the color wheel that threw changing colors up on it.  This one we bought in Venice.  That one we made the year we moved to the farm...  We would put the tree right in the middle of our great room floor and invite all the memories back into our home.
 
It’s the same reason we come back around each year to familiar songs and prayers.  We decorate with old and newly-created decorations hopefully so that when we walk into church it is newly-assembled to feel fresh and new, as well as worn, and familiar and home.  We have a Eucharist, and in our thanks come to mind all the beautiful and even well-worn but always renewing miracles of Jesus.  His call is today, throughout the years.  The whole family is back in the room, even those who are gone, and we find our anchor, this is really our place, and God is here.  I am grateful that you are here with us for Christmas.
 
Too many people are off on their own today without an anchor, without a story.  Let’s write the story for our generation and generations to come, together, here, in this church.  Let’s enter into the Mystery of Christ as it unfolds this beautiful season, and enfolds us in love. 
 
God bless you, and merry Christmas!
 
 
 

Announcements ~ December 17, 2017

fleur cross logo Monday, December 18 is our Parish Advent Penance Service, 7pm.  Don’t miss this opportunity with a dozen priests participating:  confessions will be quite limited afterward with only Fr. Don and Fr. Vu in the parish.  Don’t put it off, please.
 
fleur cross logo It is last call for your Commitment Cards.  You are welcome to drop it collection basket, mail it in, or bring it into the parish office. This year’s Commitment Renewal process has come to an end. Thanks to you who made a commitment to living your faith by getting involved in the parish!
 
fleur cross logo Next weekend is a little confusing because Sunday is both the Fourth Sunday of Advent as well as Christmas Eve.  Please be advised that one Mass does not satisfy the obligation for both days, all are expected to attend one Mass for Sunday (or Saturday Vigil) and one Mass for Christmas Monday (or Sunday evening Vigil).
 
fleur cross logo There will be no Religious Education Classes the week of 17-19, 24-27 December and 31 December through 2 January. Classes will resume on Sunday, January 7, 2018

 

fleur cross logo Inclement weather policy:  St. Bernadette Parish and School follows the Fairfax County School System regarding closings for snow and other inclement weather. An announcement will be made even on Saturdays and Sundays because the school buildings are used for extracurricular and community activities on the weekends. You may also call the Parish Office for a recorded message. Please take this policy into account when scheduling use of Parish facilities during winter months.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ December 17, 2017

Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,

Monday this week is our Parish Advent Penance Service and, as last year, I have two important requests for you.

1. If you are planning to come to confession before Christmas, please take advantage of this opportunity. There will not be a guarantee that we can cover demand later, or at the last minute. It is a great blessing to have so many priests (12!) give up an evening for our parish, and we will accomplish more in one evening that Fr. Vu and I alone could do in over a week. But you must come Monday night, 7pm.

2. This one is just as important. Come prepared, and do not plan on a counseling session or spiritual direction. Already have done the work of examining your conscience, know your sins, say them, receive a penance and absolution. Our goal here is simple: serve as many people as is humanly possible as efficiently as possible. One of the reasons people give up on confessions is that they get stuck behind someone (or maybe several people) who take up so much time that there is no more time. I used to be a lay person, remember? And I remember this one clearly. If you wish to have a longer conversation, plan on another day, or make an appointment with one of us, please.

I am not proposing an irreverent practice of the sacrament, but have done this before. If people know they aren’t going to get a lecture, you’d be surprised how many come back after many, many years. People already know the lecture they should get, that is why they come to confession! I believe in treating everyone like an adult. As of that evening we will have offered confession already to every student in the school as well as our Religious Education program.

It was not always so: when I was first ordained I liked confessions because it was an opportunity for me to cast my pearls of wisdom on poor penitents, solicited or not. I made it a point in every confession to admonish, to inspire and to affirm. Eventually I realized that most people don’t actually care. There is something to be said for the simple acknowledgement that I have sinned, that I can’t fix this without God, and I need certain forgiveness. As I always tell the kids, if you truly forget something, it is okay, because Jesus already knows all of it, even the ones we are indifferent to. The one thing he can’t do for us is say “I’m sorry and I intend to do better from here on.” Let’s keep it simple and welcome hundreds of people back to the sacrament of Reconciliation on Monday.

You will find a valuable resource for examinations of conscience on the USCCB website: http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/sacraments-and-sacramentals/penance/examinations-of-conscience.cfm as well as a guide to confession: http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/sacraments-and-sacramentals/penance/upload/Bulletin-Insert-Penance-ENG.pdf. - - - - -

Reflection

The apostle Paul reflected in his letter to the Romans how Christ’s coming fulfilled the hopes of patriarchs and prophets and brought joy to his people:

For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written:

“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing the praises of your name.”

Again, it says,

“Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people.” And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles; let all the peoples extol him.”

And again, Isaiah says,

“The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him the Gentiles will hope.”

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15: 8-13)

Rejoice in the Lord! The pain, the suffering, the unfulfilled longings will all meet their end. We have a Savior. He is coming. Rejoice!

On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak. The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing” Zephaniah 3:16-17

It’s not to late to find the joy that fills the waiting!

God bless you.

Announcements ~ December 10, 2017

fleur cross logo December 18 (Monday) is our Parish Advent Penance Service, 7pm.  Don’t miss this oppor-tunity with a dozen priests:  confessions will be quite limited otherwise with only Fr. Don and Fr. Vu in the parish.  Don’t put it off, please.
 
fleur cross logo This weekend our Second Collection is the Catholic Charities’ Christmas Collection. This collection provides for much of our diocese’s Catholic Charities’ annual budget and is vital to our Church’s service to the poor and those in need. A sacrificial gift of any size will be a gift of Christ’s love and mercy to those in need. We ask you to please be generous. If you forgot this week, please remember to bring your gift next week.
 
fleur cross logo We will celebrate a special bilingual Mass honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas and the unborn. Visitation and Veneration of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the church will begin at 4pm on Tuesday, December 12 and continues following the evening Mass. A procession of Our Lady will begin at 6:30pm and all are invited to a dinner hosted by the Knights of Columbus following the Mass.
 
fleur cross logo If you haven’t yet returned your Commitment Card you are welcome drop it collection basket, mail it in, or bring it into the parish office. We are wrapping up this year’s Commitment Renewal process this month. Everyone is encouraged to make a commitment to living your faith by getting involved in the parish!
 
  • Mark your calendars!
    December 15 (Friday): School Christmas Pageant, Church
    December 16 (Saturday): Diocesan Simbang Gabi Mass and Reception following, here at 7pm.