A Prayer for the Merry…and the Not-So-Merry

Heavenly Father, We thank You and praise You today for the miracle of Your Son’s birth. Thank You for bringing great JOY to the whole world! Thank You for giving us the assurance that because You came to us in the form of a human, we who believe in Jesus can know with absolute certainty that we’ll spend eternity with You.

We thank You, Lord, for the many reasons we have been given a merry Christmas. And we rejoice for each blessing. New life. New love. A home. A job. New opportunities. Second chances. And more.

We know, Lord, that You bring the sun and the moon and set the stars in motion. You tell the ocean where to stop and the snow when to start. And we thank You for the mighty gift of Your creation.

Thank You, Father, for spiritual leaders and faith-filled friends who keep encouraging us when we are close to giving up.

And although we have many reasons to rejoice today, Lord, we also know December 25th can be not-so-merry for a whole host of reasons. We pray for those who are experiencing loss this Christmas: relational, financial, spiritual and physical.

We pray for those who are coping with loving a prodigal and our friends and family members whose hearts are far from You. We pray for those dealing with unemployment and addictions and chronic sickness … and unending pain and frustrations of all kinds. Thank You, Lord, that You are The Wonderful Counselor and Prince of Peace, even in the midst of our not-so-merry circumstances.

Finally, Lord, we ask You to grant us peace. Peace in our homes, peace in our churches, and peace in our hearts, when the world all around us spins out-of-control. Help us to stay focused on You, this Christmastime and always. Thank You for loving the whole world enough to send the greatest gift, Your Son, so that we might truly have a very merry Christmas. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

~ Steph Raquel

Wishing you Peace and Joy…

“God travels wonderful ways with human beings, but he does not comply with the views and opinions of people. God does not go the way that people want to prescribe for him; rather, his way is beyond all comprehension, free and self-determined beyond all proof. Where reason is indignant, where our nature rebels, where our piety anxiously keeps us away: that is precisely where God loves to be. There he confounds the reason of the reasonable; there he aggravates our nature, our piety—that is where he wants to be, and no one can keep him from it. Only the humble believe him and rejoice that God is so free and so marvelous that he does wonders where people despair, that he takes what is little and lowly and makes it marvelous. And that is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly…. God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings. God marches right in. He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would least expect them. God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost, the neglected, the unseemly, the excluded, the weak and broken.” ― (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas).

On this holy night, while we contemplate the Infant Jesus just born and placed in the manger, we are invited to reflect. How do we welcome the tenderness of God? Do I allow myself to be taken up by God, to be embraced by him, or do I prevent him from drawing close? “But I am searching for the Lord” – we could respond. Nevertheless, what is most important is not seeking him, but rather allowing him to seek me, find me and caress me with tenderness. The question put to us simply by the Infant’s presence is: do I allow God to love me? (Pope Francis, December 24, 2014)

Let us give our concerns to our Lord Jesus, giving Him everything in our lives that needs redemption and healing. Let us celebrate His birth in Bethlehem and His coming again and into our lives as the greatest Gift of all, by gratefully receiving the gifts of life and salvation He gives. And, let us rejoice that this Gift of a Savior frees us to be as Christ to our neighbor, making a difference in the lives of others.

May the blessings of the Christ Child bring you peace and joy in this Christmas Time and in the coming New Year 2018! And may the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus!

Celebrating Feast of Immaculate Conception in Cagayan de Oro

On December 8, 2017, the Immaculate Conception Parish in Aluba, Cagayan de Oro, celebrated its Patronal Feast of Immaculate Conception. The concelebrated Mass was presided by Fr. Francis Pupkowski, SCJ, while the homily was delevered by Fr. Patrick Gutib, SCJ, both from the neighbour Sacred Heart Formation House.

At the end of the Holy Eucharist, the parishioners renewed their Act of Dedication to the Blessed Virgin Mary, followed by floral offering and common meal.

The Immaculate Conception Parish in Aluba is being administered by the Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (SCJs) since June 1, 2011. At the moment Fr. Janusz Burzawa is the Parish Priest and is assisted by Fr. Niño Etulle, Deacon Rev. Nathanael Robilla, and a seminarian on exposure Fra. Julius Socorro, SCJ.

Dedication of the New Parish Church in Aluba

On December 2, 2017, the Immaculate Concepcion Parish in Aluba, Cagayan de Oro City, celebrated the dedication of its newly constructed church. The construction of the new parish church officialy started on February 28, 2015, and in less than three years has been completed. It looks impressive! All the details has been studied and implemented by the construction committee under the supervision of the parish priest Fr. Janusz Burzawa, SCJ, who was the initiator of this project and also fundraiser. By the way, this is the third project that Fr. Burzawa is involved. In his past assignments he built a new church in Dimataling, Zamboanga del Sur and prepared complete plans for the new church in Dumalinao, also in Zamboanga del Sur, which now is in its final stage of completion.

The construction of the new church went in pair in building of the local Christian Community, which Fr. Burzawa considers as the most important. There is a number of pastoral initiatives introduced by him such as home visitations, special catechesis, pledges, retreats and recollections for all the faithful, and recently “Parade of Saints” replacing the pagan Halloween.

The ceremony of dedication was presided by Fr. Florencio Salvador, SSJV,  a former pastor of this parish and delegate of the archbishop Most Rev. Antonio J. Ledesma, SJ,DD, who was assisted by several diocesan priests from the vicariate and SCJs from the neighbor communities.

After the Eucharistic celebration and lunch together, the parish community celebrated its “Family Day”, which in the future will be held   on the first Saturday of December.