“He is carrying on his back the entire weight of the drama.”
His name is Gunter Lubitz and his agony is a particular and specific suffering I will never know. If his first name is not familiar, maybe over the past two weeks you have heard his last name: Lubitz. Gunter is the father of the Germanwings pilot who apparently deliberately crashed his plane into the French Alps on March 24th. The horrific act not only killed 149 innocent people, but also shattered so many families, including Lubitz’ own.
It is hard for me even to imagine what Gunter, age 60, is going through. He and his wife Ursula went to the little village near where the plane went down to pray with the families of the other victims. It wasn’t until they got to the memorial service that they discovered the truth of the tragedy, that it was their son, their beloved son, who purposely flew the plane into the ground. Even considering that Lubitz had serious mental problems, even with the notion that the parents may have been unaware that he was still piloting airplanes, Gunter’s torment and heartbreak must be crushing. It is hard for me to even conceive of that cruel anguish Gunter Lubitz must be enduring.
He spoke with the mayor of a small community after he discovered the brutal truth. The mayor said: “His life has broken down. He is a man whose life is in ruins. I felt incredibly sorry for him as he expressed all his emotion, he expressed his emotion because he has lost a loved one, but also because his son is perhaps the cause of all this tragedy. I have great respect for this man who despite himself is at the centre of a tragedy that he did not seek. He is carrying on his back the entire weight of the drama.”
How do you handle this torture? How do you deal with this torment? How do you begin to even face this profound and overwhelming sadness?
That is what this day, this amazing day is all about.
Good Friday reminds us, in shocking and even scandalous terms, that our God, the source of all being, the foundation of all life, understands our deepest sorrow. The author of the letters to the Hebrews boldly declares: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.” The scandal of the Cross is that Jesus knows our hurt, he knows our sadness, he knows our agony, he knows our sinfulness and even our rejection of him and all that is good. And that connection, that bond is the exact point where the healing of our souls can occur. As we gaze upon the Cross of Christ, we discover a God who does not stand aloof from our sorry human condition. Instead, we have a Savior who knows what we know, who feels what we feel, who understands precisely our particular grief. Fr. Bill may not know Gunter’s loss, but God knows.
In the main Catholic church in Montebaur, the town where the Lubitz’s live, there is a book of remembrances. In it, various people have written notes of support for that poor family. One note said: “The family of the disaster-pilot lost their son, too, and has the right to grief. No one can judge here.” Another couple wrote: “We wish the victims’ families and especially the parents of the co-pilot a lot of strength and God bless. May such a terrible tragedy never happen again.”
This Good Friday I will be praying for Gunter and Ursula. I pray that they may know the truth of this day: He does not have to carry on his back the entire weight of the drama. That has already been done, for him, for his wife, for all of us…
* Kudos and thanks to Fr. Kevin Schmittgens, the author of this wonderful homily, which I so shamelessly stole this Good Friday…
Last night at the Newman Center, we said goodbye to Zack Liley, our part time campus minister. Zack had some prepared remarks – things that he had learned from his time with us. Things that he hoped we had learned from our time with him. He took the opportunity to tell us how much we mattered to him. And how much he loved us. People had the chance to say how he mattered to them, how much they loved him. People laughed. And cried. And were irreverent. And were serious. And were very reverent. At the end of that time, the community “prayed him on” from his service to the Newman Community to his service with the military.
After last night, it is easier to put myself into that upper room where Jesus gathered with his disciples, because in truth, I had just been there as Zack said his farewells. And even though it looked a lot like the fireplace room of the Newman Center – what was present in that room was exactly what was present in that upper room with Jesus. You see, Zack talked about the pivotal moment of his young life when he was in fourth grade. It was September 11. He told us how the call came over the intercom for every teacher/staff/custodians – basically every adult in the building – to report to the office. When her teacher came back to their room about 10 minutes later, she was white and just put her head down on the desk and sobbed. He was petrified! What had happened? Finally, with the whole class begging to find out, she said: “I guess you should know.” And she turned on the TV, just in time to watch the second plane crash into the second world trade center tower.
At that moment, Zack ‘knew’ what his life was going to be about. Protecting this great country. Being a soldier so that no more innocent people should die. Spending his life so that we could celebrate ours. It was the moment in his young life that summarized all he would be in his adult life. And it set the steps for all the stages of the journey from that point onward – to live in concrete ways a sacrificial love. That is what we heard last night – the story of one man’s commitment to be intense love to everyone he met.
In that context, it was not hard to understand what that upper room was like for Jesus. Jesus knows that ‘everything’ is coming to an end. His life. His ministry. His time among his disciples. His preaching. One way or the other, whatever was going to unfold was going to unfold soon. So he took advantage of the opportunity that was before him on that last evening – as they gathered in that upper room. He wanted to make sure his disciples knew EVERYTHING that was important for them to know about him and his mission. That they (and we) would know how much he loved them. And that we would know the steps for all the stages of our lives. That was what mattered to Jesus that night.
And so he gave us two gifts: himself in the Eucharist and his mission for us in the Mandatum – the washing of feet. Understanding both of those are essential for us to know who we are. So that we would know he loved us to the end, and would be with us until the end of time – he invited both his disciples and us into that upper room. There, by the gift of self and the gift of his service, he would love all who would be his disciples into life. That is, at least in large part, what that last supper night must have meant for Jesus.
Because of last night at the Newman Center, it was also easier to understand how difficult that night must have been for Simon Peter/the disciples/ and why I sometimes resist this meal and this foot washing. As always, Peter voices what the others were thinking. “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus replies with those ever so difficult words: “If you do not let me wash you, you will have no part of me…” Or another translation says: “You will not belong to me.” How hard it is for me/us to do that. We want to SERVE. We want to DO STUFF. Our School’s Lenten ‘theme’ –was “DO SOMETHING this lent. I loved that theme. I know how to do stuff. What I am less good about is receiving things. Tonight Jesus says: Do nothing UNLESS you have first learned to receive. Unless you have first come to know that foundational, rooting, source of everything that I am – which is my Father’s love for me – then your service will eventually become about you and not the one served. That is the second thing Zack modeled so powerfully last night – letting people in to love me.
So if you struggle with either of those truths of the upper room tonight – the call to give love away in service or the call to receive love in humility – this ‘upper room’ has the antidote for you. If you need to just be loved – then let me kneel as the presence of the risen one and wash your feet at this center station. And if you need to learn how to give yourself away in service, then come to side aisle – first to have your feet washed, and then, to wash the feet of the person following you.
And then, bring all of that experience – the struggle to be loved and the struggle to be of service – here to this altar – there to receive the one who still and always and forever loves each of us till the end…
Fiscal Year 2014 (July1. 2013-June 31, 2014) showed St. Ann Parish with an operating deficit of $20,333. (For the members of the 21 Club, with the Archdiocesan year-end audit, we reclassified some expenses/receivables into the current fiscal year, thus the slight discrepancy from the original $21,007) That deficit was after capital expenditures and bad debts were added in. In terms of ‘normal’ operating budget items, we showed a slim ‘profit’ of $25,418, compared to a ‘profit’ of $85,189 in FY 2013. Cash in our checking account and money market fund total $76,585, down from $121,789 last year. But, as I mentioned in my homily on Stewardship Sunday, that operating deficit is a direct result of the founding grant by Ann Lucas Hunt which set the mission of this parish: “To see to the needs of the congregation and the education of the children.” Here is the breakdown.
Expenses – Capital and Non-Cash
Capital Expenditures (cost element 61) totaled $34,599, significantly down from the year that saw the replacement of the boiler and redoing of the school computer lab. The breakdown of major costs is as follows:
- Parish Building expenses of $8,400 covered repair of the gym floor from some water damage, the second half of the window replacements in the school hallways, and the internet rewiring project of this summer.
- Equipment expenditures for the parish/school were $26,078, which included 2 replacement a/c units; an additional boiler water treatment tank; the hearing assist units for the church sound system; some replacement computers for teachers, plus $16,587 for a Mac-Mini and 30 i-Pads for school whose costs were split between the parish and a Boeing grant.
Non Cash expense (65) was $11,158, attributable to bad debt and uncollectable tuition.
Expenses – other than Capital or non-cash Capital
- Personnel Costs (51) rose at a 4.7 % level, reflecting an Archdiocesan mandated 3% raise for faculty, with the resulting increases in Federal taxes, Health Insurance premiums and the like.
- Supplies (52) showed a overall decrease of $8,649. Major variances include: The costs to replace the English Series as compared to last year’s Math Series ($3,500) and Parish Organizations’ expenses – aka: Men’s club, SAPO, Ladies Guild, etc., ($4,314) were offset by savings in janitorial supplies, (-$1,503) one time software Operating Systems for the computer lab purchased in FY13, (-$5,752) a reclassification of Teachers wish list monies to the areas where we spent them -transportation, instructional items, supplies, etc.) (-$10,316)
- Fees and Services (53) showed a decrease of $5,327, as a result of some savings by our School Marketing committee as well as reclassifying the Shipping and Handling fees for our textbooks into the just mentioned “Supplies” category.
- Occupancy (54) saw a decrease of -$7,151 overall as compared to the previous year. Higher heating costs and Snow removal costs (Remember the Polar Vortex?) were offset by having less Repairs and Maintenance needed, (Remember the hail storm the night of the 2012 Dinner Dance?). The purchase of a copier last Fiscal Year resulted in $3,103 of savings in the Equipment Rental category.
- Transfers to Other Parishes/Diocese (55) jumped as expected. The bulk of this ($11,430) was due to the Alive in Christ Initiative, as this ‘tax’ hit its “2% of external revenues” ceiling, and an increase ($2,000 ) to the Priests Retirement Fund expenses.
- Unrestricted Revenues (41) of $364,236 were flat this year, showing a minimal $554 increase from last year’s giving. This includes our Sunday Envelopes, Holy Day and loose changes, as well as memorial and other unrestricted gifts. (Offertory gifts for normal Sunday collections were up, but were offset by a decline in unrestricted gifts – funeral memorials, and gifts given in honor of individuals, etc.)
- Restricted Offerings and Gifts (43) were down (-$11,034) as compared to the previous year’s specialized appeals for the boiler fund in both our Visitation Appeal and the Pay It Forward appeal. (Visitation netted $35,906. The bulk of the Pay It Forward appeal came in the previous fiscal year, with the remainder trickling in this year at $2,385.)
- Program fees (44) compromise tuition, book fees, registration as well as the Archdiocesan Alive in Christ Scholarship money to St. Ann School families. There is good news and bad news in this category. The good news is that the Alive in Christ program supplied 36 school families with $59,300 of scholarship money to help them afford the Catholic education we provide. The bad news you know: nearly 20 families initially took advantage of the School Transfer Law, so that our enrollment based revenues were down by -$43,276. This was partially offset by the sale of some cemetery plots, ($5,200) for a net decline in program fees of -$37,987.
- Investment Income (45) – It was another good year for the markets, showing a net increase of $7,688. We were able to realize $21,667 from the endowment from last fiscal year, and we will receive $5,664 this coming July 1. Endowment earnings are held, as of Dec. 31, in a protected fund for budgeting purposes, until they are deposited into our account on July 1 of 2015.
- Grant Revenue (46) was up by $19,500 from last year. We were the recipients, once again, of a generous gift from the Catherine Manley Gaylord Foundation to St. Ann School of $5,000. And, as mentioned above, Archdiocesan Grants to St. Ann parish through the Alive in Christ initiative; Tuition assistance to Teachers in Catholic Schools and CFTA, (offset by no insurance settlements this year), rose by nearly $28,000. We continue to pursue grants for our School and Pre-school to help pay for improvement projects in the future.
- Other Revenues (47) shows decrease of -$5,091. It was a good year for the fiscal health of the various organizations that comprise St. Ann parish – Men’s Club, Ladies Guild, SAPO, and the like, showing an increase of $14,230. These revenues were offset by a decline fund raising revenues from the previous year to the tune of $16,134 (School plays, fish fry’s Dinner Dance, Recycling, etc)
Thus, total revenues show a decrease of $26,370 over last year’s totals. So, when you add it all together, we are left with a net income of – $20,333.
In summary, we nearly absorbed the decreased enrollment numbers due to the School Transfer Ruling.
People’s amazing generosity in response to my Stewardship appeal in October has stabilized our financial bleeding. In the short term, our cash reserves are not where I would like them to be. And the school enrollment trend, which most Catholic Schools are fighting, is still problematic. Yet, I am confident that we will continue to be able to fulfill the mission given to us by both our Savior and Anne Lucas Hunt, to “see to the needs of the community and the education of the children.” We will be conducting the Pay It Forward appeal this spring and the Visitation Appeal in the fall, as usual. And we will be doing some long range planning in the near future to look at building improvements and ongoing maintenance. In the mean time, for the 158th year and counting, we will continue to be a community “living Faith since 1856”.
— Fr. Bill
As you read in my pastor’s pen this weekend, besides thinking of Stewardship in terms of the three “T’s” – Time, Talent, and Treasure – we are invited to think of three other words: Prayer, Participation and Generosity. All three of these lead back to the fundamental insight of St. Ignatius of Loyola – that all we are given is a means to either help us or hinder us on the journey back to God. To the extent that we are people of prayer, that we participate in the life of our parish and community, and that we are generous with the gifts and talents God has given us, to that extent will we align our wills and actions with that of our savior and God, Jesus Christ. That is the ultimate gift of stewardship – it leads us on the path of faith.
As a (hopefully) good steward of the resources of this parish community, it is part of my responsibility to publish our annual financial report. As I wrote in our pastor’s pen a few weeks ago, this year we were significantly in the RED, due mainly to our capital expenditures. Here is a ‘verbal’ breakdown of the FY2013 report, beginning with those capital expenditures.
Capital expenditures totaled $180,590.96. (For those who read the bulletin closely, this number is ~$15K higher than was I reported in my Aug. 3rd Pastor’s pen, because the Archdiocese asked us to reclassify where we had expensed the new computer lab- paid for from the Auction- into the Capital Expenditures section) The breakdown is as follows:
61 – Capital Expenditures:
Parish Building expenses of $21,365.94 including $13,142 for the Parish Center Bathroom remodel, $866 for a new door for the shed and $ 7,358 in window repairs and replacements. (some of the window costs were offset by Insurance payments in #46 –Grant Revenues listed above)
Equipment expenditures (parish) were $115,179.43, which included $109,049 for the new boiler and HVAC infrastructure, etc. as well as $2,625 to repair water damage to some of the pipes in the organ. We also purchased a new office computer for Eileen, bought out the end of lease rectory copier and procured a used riding lawnmower for the cemetery for a total of $2,506 additional expenses.
Building improvements in the school totaled $10,994 and included $6500 for computer room plastering and painting, some artwork for the front school foyer, a water fountain replacement, repairs to the gym floor and half the expense of the stairway window replacements. (The other half of the window expense will hit in this fiscal year)
Equipment expenses for the school totaled $33,051. Of this total, $23,570 revamped the antiquated computer lab, $4,275 purchased a new copier for the school, (cheaper in the long run than leasing), $41 provided doorbells for morning care, and $5,165 went for new short throw projectors and wall mounts for our MIMIO interactive whiteboards.
65 – Non Cash expense – attributed to bad debt and uncollectable tuition.
Back to the beginning of the report on the revenue side:
41 – Unrestricted Revenues – of $363,682 was down by $17,649 from last year’s giving. This includes our Envelopes, Holy Day and loose changes, as well as memorial gifts.
43 – Restricted Offerings and Gifts – Up by 114% due to the specialized appeals for the boiler fund in both our Visitation Appeal and the Pay It Forward appeal. (Visitation = $41,853 and Pay It Forward/Boiler appeal = $12,866)
44 – Program fees compromise tuition, book fees, registration and the like. As you see, it is for accounting purposes, unchanged from ’12.
45 – Investment Income – It was a good year for our endowment, with increases of on our principal from negative numbers to positive gains. We were able to realize $2,651 from that investment (That gain hit our books July 1st of THIS fiscal year, so will be in next year’s report.) Barring any significant change in the markets between now and December, we should see a similar return next year.
46 – Grant Revenue – up by $11,527, due primarily to a gift from the Katherine Manley Gaylord Foundation to St. Ann School of $10,000. Insurance claims, teacher’s tuition re-imbursement and a bit of Alive in Christ moneys composed the rest of this category.
47 – Other Revenues – shows an 21% jump, partly due to a reclassification of Teacher’s Wish List monies from the Dinner Dance into this category, as well as reflecting the relative fiscal health of the various organizations that comprise St. Ann parish – Men’s Club, Ladies Guild, SAPO, and the like.
Thus, total revenues show an increase of 6.3% or $75,586, two thirds of which can be attributed to the Boiler fund via the Visitation Appeal and the Pay It Forward Appeal.
On the “non-capital” expenses side,
51 – Personnel Costs rose at a 3.9% level, reflecting a 3% raise for faculty and staff, with the resulting increases in Federal taxes, Insurance premiums and the like.
52 – Supplies – were slightly higher over all because of the purchase of a new Math Series of Textbooks for the school. (We are replacing a series of books a year going forward…)
53 – Fees and Services – were steady.
54 – Occupancy – a slight rise, but when you realize we are comparing the mild winter of 2011-2012, when the boiler was shut down from early March through the season, to 2012-2013’s more normal experience of winter, the new, more fuel efficient boiler is making a difference.
55 – Transfers to Other Parishes/Diocese – jumped with the first year of the Alive in Christ formula of 1% of external revenues going to the Archdiocesan fund. I expect to see a similar jump this year, as the initiative hits its “2% of external revenues” ceiling.
So, when you add it all together, we are left with a net income of a negative $107,164.65.
In summary, as years go, this was an expensive one. In the short term, our cash reserves are not where I would like them to be. And the school enrollment is also lower than I would like it to be. I am cautiously hopeful that we will continue to be able to fulfill the mission given to us by Anne Lucas Hunt, when she donated the land and a few thousand dollars to the Jesuits to “see to the needs of the community and the education of the children” without resorting to extraordinary measures. However, we are watching the budget numbers very closely this year, and will keep you appraised should anything need immediate attention. We will be conducting the Visitation Appeal later this fall, and the Pay It Forward appeal this spring. In the mean time, for the 157th year and counting, we will continue to be a community “living Faith since 1856”.
— Fr. Bill
I know the question is a little backward. But please notice that I am not asking you what you are giving up, or what practice you are choosing, or even how you and the world will be different because of this Lent. Rather the question is: What aren’t you going to do this Lent?
I ask because Pope Benedict announced to the world what he was not going to do during Lent. He informed us that he was not going to lead the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics as our Holy Father. It’s a pretty phenomenal thing, isn’t it? In his own words, he told the world: “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.”
Let me make sure you heard that correctly. After repeatedly looking to his conscience. It was not like he woke up and said to himself, “I’m feeling pretty fallible today, I may as well step down.” Rather, it was after repeated prayer and after repeated reflection on what he was good at and what he was no longer good at, that he realized God was asking him to give up the Papacy. His prayer was not about what he wanted, but about asking God what God wanted him to be doing. And not only did he have the courage to ask that question, but he had the faith to say ‘yes’ to that invitation. He is the first Pope to do that in 600 years.
I’m not sure I have the courage to even ask that question – about St. Ann or the Newman Center – much less than to listen for an answer.
It would sound like this, wouldn’t it? “God, do you still want me to be the pastor at St. Ann… and the director of the Newman Center? I love them both, you know. I really don’t think I want to leave either of them, for a long time, if I can help it. But the prayer that I am afraid to pray and the question I am afraid to ask is the one that Benedict just prayed and asked and responded to: God, do YOU still want me to be doing those things?”
I wonder how different our Lents would be if that was the question in all of our hearts and prayer? “Lord, what don’t you want me to be doing? What good thing am I involved in, (and we are all involved in lots of good things) what practice or ministry or service am I doing because I said ‘yes’ years ago to your invitation, that now you want me to stop doing. Stop, either because I can no longer do it well, and you need your people loved in ways that I can no longer do, or stop, because you want someone else to be in that position or ministry?”
Or, perhaps the question looks like this: “What good thing am I doing that is getting in the way of the GREAT thing that you want for me, for my family, for the school/parish or the world?” When we get so caught up in what we are doing, it is hard to see that God may be inviting us to something different – because our attention is fixed on the things we are already doing.
I think for many of us, a way to approach that question this Lenten season is along the old adage: less is going to be more. It seems most of us run at 110%, always doing, always on the go, always cramming in as much of life as possible. So much so, that we don’t ever have time just to listen, just to be quiet, just to pray that bold prayer: What do YOU want me to be doing, O God?
My brother’s wife’s sister’s daughter (aka, my sister in law’s niece) gave birth to a new baby on Christmas day. (I have no idea what that makes her to me – a cousin twice removed by marriage? Twin sons of different mothers? Nothing?) Despite our best suggested names for a baby born on Christmas day texted to them while she was in delivery – such as Holly or Ivy if it was a girl, Nicholas, Ebenezer or Jacob if it were a guy – they went and named her Hattie Lynn. Born into the world 3 weeks early, baby Wiegert is doing fine and weighed in at 7lbs, 7 oz.
And if you have ever had kids, or, like me, been around families when they have their first born, you know where they are right now. Smack dab in the middle of dealing with the NEW NORMAL. Everything is wrapped around little Hattie. Lizzie and Andy are learning the rhythm of eating and sleeping and changing diapers; learning the wonder of holding that tiny child, attentive to every stretch and yawn, watching every facial expression, and doing the best to surround that new life with love in every possible way. The new normal means that every moment, every decision gets weighed in light of that “other” who is born into their hearts and lives and realities. It is a wonderful kind of new normal that they are happy to deal with.
That got me to thinking: what would it be like for us to walk through our days like that? What if we approached the unfolding of this year with the same gentleness, the same awe, the same wonder as my sister in-law’s niece will? What if we allowed this New Year to be an experience of ‘a new normal’ for us?
In some ways, it already is. The world is different, but not necessarily better because of the events in Newtown, CT. I am pretty sure that no one wants that to become the new normal. So will we let those events make us look as deeply into our culture of violence as Andy and Lizzie look into little Hattie’s face?
What policies will we push for, to bring a different normal into our world?
In my own world, this is my 13th year at the Newman Center, and my 11th as pastor here. I confess, it is easy to become comfortable and perhaps a bit complacent in leading. I know the rhythm and routines. I know who to call in emergency. I think I know what it is to preach. But, do I approach my prayer in the same way Andy and Lizzie approach looking into Hattie’s face – alert for every wrinkle, every change in mood, every new expression and movement of the Spirit. Or do I already know what I will see there? A new normal is a good thing, I think…
Mary knew about several “new normals” in her first days and years with baby Jesus. Making an 11 day journey from Bethlehem where she was for the census and the birth back to Nazareth with a newborn. Pulling up stakes to flee to Egypt with the only evidence being Joseph’s dream. Leaving Egypt to return to Nazareth. Yet, as we hear from St. Luke, in the midst of all these new normals, she kept “all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” That is what allows her that freedom to trust in God. In that reflecting, she realized that she didn’t have to know what New Normal would be next. She did not have to have it all scripted out or prepared. Rather, she simply had to be faithful to each new moment, each new twist and turn in her life, because she knew that God would do the rest.
So whether the “New Normal” is as exciting as a new baby or as troubling as news from a doctor or headlines from Newtown Connecticut, what Mary teaches us is that there is never a moment when God was not a part of our lives, guiding us and leading us. Because of that, we can celebrate all the days that lie ahead.
Happy New Year. And moreover, Happy New Normal, whatever that may look like in your world…