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In this week’s Gospel we hear again about Martha and Mary. So let us begin with the better part.

Mary: As of Sunday we’re nine days out from the feast of St. Ann, our parish patron. St. Ann is more important than ever today. As the grandmother of Jesus, the loving mother of the Blessed Mother, and a patient believer in God’s will, she is a powerful patron for families. Today there is a seemingly unending litany of brokenness in family life; divorce, death, abuse, infertility, unwanted pregnancies, pornography, infidelity, drugs, over incarceration… While there is much we can do as “Marthas” to help those who are suffering, and as Mary (Magdalene) we can repent , but the most important thing we can do for our world is to pray. Starting Monday for nine days through the Feast of St. Ann on July 26th we will conclude our petitions at Mass with this novena prayer to St. Ann for family life. I invite you to pray with us, either at Mass or on your own.

Novena Prayer to St. Ann
Oh Blessed St. Ann, mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary and grand-mother of our Savior, Jesus Christ,
When life seems barren, help us to trust in God’s mercy.
When we are confused, help us to find the way to God.
When we are lost in the desert, lead us to those whom God has called us to love.
When we are selfish, teach us to cling only to that which lasts.
When we are afraid, help us to trust in God.
When we are ashamed, remind us that we are God’s children.
When we sin, lead us to do God’s will.
You who know God’s will for the family, keep all families close to you.
You who trusted in God’s will, help us to respect God’s gift of family life.
You who gave birth to the Blessed Mother, strengthen all parents.
You who taught the Mother of God, protect and nurture all children.
You whose hearts trusted in God, hear our prayers. Amen

Martha: there are so many that do so much to make this parish what it is. I want to thank all that labor to make our parish such a beautiful community. I want to make special note of three projects you might notice around campus. First, the Men’s Club has agreed to pay the majority of the cost of repairing the blacktop behind the school. That blacktop was no longer safe for use as a playground. Volunteers from the Men’s Club have dug up the rough spots and leveled them out. Next a contractor is going to cover the whole thing with asphalt.

You may have noticed that the sidewalk in front of the most “recent” addition to the school is roped off. Some of the brick work on that side and part of the building has deteriorated rapidly and needs major tuckpointing work. This is a serious enough and big enough project that we are contracting with a tuck pointing company. I want to thank the parishioners who helped identify, assess, and arrange for a contractor to fix this problem before it got worse. Hopefully the bricks stay put and repair work will begin in a week or two. Finally, the Knights of Columbus have volunteered to help pay for and install new LED lights for the Church. These new lights should last longer and use less energy, saving the environment and saving the parish money. Hopefully the church will be “bathed in new light” in the next week or two!

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July 17, 2016

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As I reflect on today’s Gospel of the Good Samaritan, I feel a need to thank you for your warm welcome. Once again I am so privileged to be called to lead this community closer to Christ.

It was such a gift to meet so many of you. As you introduced yourselves, there was a constant refrain of offers to help. And so…

I want to propose having a simple family picnic like event on Sunday July 31st. There are several reasons for this suggestion. More than one person mentioned how nice it would be to have a light-hearted and simple family picnic. In seeing the year 1856 proudly posted on everything, it occurred to me that this year is the 160th anniversary, and that is something to celebrate. The 26th of July is the Feast of St. Ann and that would be the Sunday after the Feast. Finally, more selfishly, it would give me an opportunity to meet more of you. Of course, this is something that can only happen if some people step up to make it hap-pen. If you want to help organize this little event, please contact me.

Speaking of 160 years of history… Many parishes have no documentation from the past. Here, the parish office and rectory spaces are sometimes overflowing with the artifacts of this parish’s rich history. As parochial administrator, I have the obligation to be a good steward of the parish’s past, present, and future. We can’t expect a box of random pictures stuck willy nilly in a closet to properly preserve the St. Ann story. I am looking for some people who would be willing to help build, secure, and share the contents of our parish archives. I, we, need to make sure much of the St. Ann story will be around for parishioners in another 160 years.

Finally, one of the first questions someone asked me is “do you like parish councils?” Short answer: yes. A priest, after leading this community for a long time, knows his people, and who to ask what. I am not in that position yet. I know I need a pastoral or parish council to help me listen to you. In addition, as parochial administrator it is important for me to follow best practices and the advice of my mentor priests. These mentors have suggested a slightly different model of a parish council than the traditional one. Instead of a strictly elected or discerned group, the council will be where leaders of various parish organizations and some at large members gather to share ideas, inspiration, and prayer. I have been at three parishes that implemented this model to general acclaim. July is not a good month for meetings, so nothing is happening till fall, but I ask you to pray for this project.

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July 10, 2016

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July 3, 2016

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As I write this I am still technically Associate Pastor at St. Joseph Parish in Imperial, but by the time you read it, I’ll be the Parochial Administrator of St. Ann Parish. So first, what is a parochial administrator? The short answer is a parochial administrator is basically a pastor. The medium length answer is an administrator is sort of on probation, admonished by canon law and the Archbishop to be extra careful with the parish.

The Archbishop appoints all first time pastors as Parochial Administrators, typically for a year, before naming them Pastors. He has also arraigned for me to have a mentor to help me be successful at St. Ann. Both this period as parochial administrator and the mentor should assure you the Archbishop cares about St. Ann and its future.

So now for a brief introduction: Hello!
I’m Fr. Nick Winker. I grew up in St. Kevin’s parish, now Holy Trinity Parish, right near Northwest Plaza. I’m the oldest of 5 children. I attended the parish grade school, with the exception of 3rd-5th grade when we attended the St. Louis City Magnet schools. I went to SLUH for High School. I studied Computer Engineering at what was then the University of Missouri Rolla. I was involved in the Newman Center on campus and through the opportunities and relationships present there I was able to hear God calling me to the seminary. (God was pretty busy there, three other of my contemporaries at UMR students are now priests and one will be ordained a priest next year.)

I was ordained to the Holy Priesthood in 2010, and since then I’ve served as associate pastor at Immaculate Conception-Dardenne Prairie and St. Joseph-Imperial. Being a priest is a great honor and blessing. It is a blessing that requires sacrifice, yes, but each sacrifice seems to be repaid a hundred fold. I love being a priest.

I am so happy to be at St. Ann. I remember coming up to St. Ann many times during childhood for soccer games. Always carefully watching the speed limit on Natural Bridge. In fact, one year, when my parish didn’t have enough for a team, I played soccer for St. Ann. Today, I look forward to years of growing closer to Christ together.

Finally, I thank Fr. Bill for his leadership here and his kindness to me. I can only imagine how difficult it is for him to leave this special community after so many years.

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June 26, 2016

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Blew it out of the water…
$75,642. That is how much we raised this year at the Sponsor’s Dinner Dance. That is the MOST money raised at the dinner dance in my 16 years of being here. KUDOS to Kate Flatley and her team for an AMAZING gift to this parish. We are already using some of those funds for school repairs, as well as replacing the carpet in Fr. Nick’s sitting room and bedroom. (The gentlemen who is doing the installation said he has been in the business 32 years and has never seen the set up for securing the rug that they used. So, my guess is the rug is at least 33 years old…)

Perhaps you remember, but some weeks or so after I became the Pastor here at St. Ann, I shared my experience of ‘life without a map.’ I realized that I had a vision of what life would be as an associate pastor. But I did not have an image in my head about what being a pastor should look like. My “map” had run out.

So, with great patience, you taught me what being a priest/pastor might look like. Leading from the front, not from the side or behind as I was accustomed to doing. Learning how to say “Yes” when I could, and “No” when I had to. (The Fr. Bernie Nienhaus rule of being a pastor.) Learning how St. Ann worked and who did what. Mostly, I think, just learning the rhythm of life and love and service here at St. Ann as we prayed and played and worked together. Long before I got here, you were ‘doing the kingdom of God.’ And long after I leave, God willing, you will still be doing that.

So, thank you for teaching me how to listen and walk with you in that role as pastor. And now, you get to train another ‘rookie’ how to be the chief shepherd of St. Ann Parish. I pray that you are as gentle to him as you were to me.

As I head to St. Justin, it occurs to me that I am again going to a place where I have no preconceived “map”. But because of you, I can walk into that place trusting that God will be there as he was here. Thank you for giving me that confidence. And know that as often as we partake of the one bread and the one cup, we are joined together in that bond we call the Mystical Body of Christ.

Though no one ever really leaves St. Ann, we do move locations. So my new location is:

11910 Eddie and Park Road
Saint Louis, MO 63126
314-843-8482

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June 19, 2016

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hand me downsI suspect most parents learned, with exasperation, all about growth spurts. And how hard it was to keep their children in clothes and shoes that fit. The solutions in the Kempf house, where mom and dad had 5 boys to tend to, were twofold. Hand me downs. I had more than my share of those. And we had clothes that were bought ‘with room to grow’. Mom would put cuffs on those ‘longer than we needed at the moment’ pants, make us wear an extra thick pair of socks with our oversized shoes, and then, when we ‘grew into them’ – would let the cuffs out and give us normal socks, and we’d be fine. It was a practical way to stretch the clothing dollar in the Kempf house. Buying clothes with “Room to grow” was a way to make sure we got all the use we could of the clothes we wore.

Sometimes the most important truths we learn in life take time to “grow into” as well. It takes time, maturity, repeated failures and the resulting life wisdom to understand fully, or to live fully, the deep truths of life. We know that in our relationships. And in our parenting and pastoring. The tasks we are called to do and the people we are invited to be, take time to grow into.

Paul knew that as he set forth these simple, yet profound words that were a gauntlet of challenge for the people of his time. “In Christ there is no Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female; for you all are one in Christ.” Many will argue, and correctly, that the church and our society have not yet grown into that set of clothes even now. So it is okay to kill the pre-born, it is okay to put the elderly to death. It is okay to go into an LGTB nightclub in Orlando and start shooting. Corporately and as individuals, we still do not see and stand in that radical equality before God that is ours by grace. We have room to grow.

But even more so, we learn about ‘growing into’ truths in today’s gospel. Peter and the disciples were pretty happy that they had passed the pop quiz. “Who do people say I am? Who do you say I am?” They all got the first one right. Simon Peter got the second one correct for them all. But, like a parent with kids in the middle of a growth spurt, Jesus warned them that they had some ‘room to grow’ in WHAT this meant.
“The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.” That is part of what it means to be the messiah. But Jesus does not stop there. “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

That is the “growing into” that I need you to be about, Jesus tells his disciples. It is not enough to ascribe to me the title messiah. Anyone can say that. But if you are to be my disciple, then, as I have done and will do, so you must do. That is the growing into the clothes of discipleship Jesus wants us to do. So, what does that look like? We know what cuffed pants and oversized socks look like. But:

Who do I say Jesus is in the usual post Orlando debate about guns and gun violence? Will be another example of people wringing their hands, and feeling sorry, but nothing more happening? Will I lend my voice and vote to likely strategies to prevent even more guns to find their way to the streets?

Who do I say Jesus is in the prejudices I still nurture, the judgments I utter, and the gossip I pass on in the office or at the pool?

Who do I say Jesus is – in the prayers that I say and the time I set aside to spend with the Lord?

Finally, Who do I say Jesus is in the forgiveness I offer my fellow human beings; the charity I extend to those in need, and the compassionate concern I show to those whose life has taken an unexpected turn for the worse?

I never liked that phrase “Room to grow” when I was shopping for clothes with mom. But in my life of faith, it is the only reality that matters. You see, there is ALWAYS room to grow in the life we live as Christians. There is always room to grow in our understanding of the practical consequences of saying Jesus is the messiah.

And you, who do you say Jesus is?

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