Dear St. Paul parishioners,
In the span of a few weeks, after a period of relative tranquility because of the stay-at-home orders, a lot has transpired for us as a community and I wanted to take the opportunity to reflect with you on these extraordinary events as well as to share some important updates with you.
Specifically, I would like to share with you:
Response and Reflection on the Death of George Floyd
In the immediate aftermath of the death of George Floyd, I put together a brief note for a student group chat that was also shared on social media. After further reflection and prayer, I wanted to share with you the following reflection, which is an amended version of what I shared with the students:
St. Paul's is blessed through our diversity. On Sundays, it's common to have worshipers from every continent in our community. As beautiful as this is, we are called to do more, to mourn with those who mourn, to pray for and to create a better world.
As men of women of faith, we should be deeply saddened and righteously indignant when people are treated unjustly. We also believe in the dignity and importance of every human life, regardless of skin color.
After the tragic death of George Floyd and the protests which have followed, we are particularly impelled to ask difficult question of ourselves and our community. How am I contributing to the problems of racism and division? How can I be a part of the solution? And so many more difficult questions. As Archbishop Thompson said in his own statement: "As Christians we cannot turn a blind eye to acts of racial violence and hatred. We are called to do what we can to end this injustice."
We are called to change ourselves and our society. To leave the world better than we came into it. To be forces of good, love, truth, and unity. Even in a world of billions and a society on edge, change starts with you and me. It's an arduous task ahead, but the challenging path, the way of the Cross, is always the path of a disciple of Jesus Christ.
At St. Paul's, we will continue to pray for the victims of injustice and racism and work to build a community that is welcoming and open to people of all backgrounds. When Jesus looked into people's eyes, he looked into their very souls and love them. May he grant us the grace to be and act the same.
If you'd like to talk or pray, I'm here and are are the other priests and staff.
Our responsibility as Catholics toward victims of violence, unjust prejudices, racism and any forms of discrimination
It seems, given the current crises, there are constantly new challenges to be addressed and new questions to be answered. It's enough to make your head spin and nearly explode simultaneously.
As Catholics, we have a special responsibility to love those who are victims of violence and unjust prejudices, racism and any forms of unjust discrimination. We also have the special responsibility of loving everyone, even those who hate us or make us angry. Conversion, both personal and societal, is extremely challenging and requires determined and persistent efforts. At the same time, taking personal responsibility for addressing injustice is essential to our own flourishing and for the building up of a just society.
Because of these challenges, we are called to serve in ministry (as a parish and individuals) with special sensitivity. For some, we won't do or say enough. For others, we will do and say too much. It's critically important for me, for you, for all of us to take all of these challenges seriously, to ask hard questions of ourselves. And it's essential to respond to others charitably, to overcome frustrations, and make new resolutions to love more deeply, and to work more tirelessly for justice.
As a result, during these days, I cannot stress enough how absolutely and critically imperative it is for us as people of faith to prioritize our spiritual lives. In order to see our neighbor as God does -- as his beloved sons and daughters made in His image -- we need to sit for intentional, extended periods of time under the gaze of the God who loves me deeply, personally. Even though each of us is imperfect, broken, and struggling, we are loved beyond measure. Experiencing and knowing this love intimately in prayer is necessary if we desire to share it with the world.
Slowly (and often painfully) He transforms our gaze into His gaze. We start to see and love our enemies, the people we don't like, and the people who have hurt us, as God sees and loves them.
Yes, we must work for justice, create a community of welcoming and hospitality, and stand up to and against injustice. But, for these actions to have a lasting impact, they must come from our own identity in Christ. We must remember His love conquered sin and death. His love, and His love alone, unites and restores all.
On this note, I want to share with you a 2018 document from the USCCB on racism, "Open Wide, Our Hearts." This is a marvelous document and I highly recommend it to all of you for your reading and reflection. I would also like to share Archbishop Thompson's statement after the death of George Floyd.
June 17th Evening of Prayer for an End to Racism and Greater Peace and Justice in Our CommunitySt. Paul welcomes parishioners and friends to a Prayer Service for Peace and Justice. Readings, songs, and prayers will help us move, together, through the difficult realities of pandemics, both from disease and injustices.
Please wear a face covering and enter the building through the east facing double doors near the circle entrance. Because of capacity limitations, registration is required.
Donations will be collected for the June Food and Hygiene Drive sponsored by Bloomington Unitarian Universalist community. Items will be shared with Black Lives Matter, Shalom, and the Pantry at College Square.
We look forward to sharing this prayer service with you. Questions can be directed to Fr. Dennis, O.P.
To register to attend, please visit: https://prayerserviceforpeaceandjustice.eventbrite.com
Fr. Justus Celebrates 60 Years of Priesthood
At morning prayer on Thursday, June 4th, as we celebrated his 60th anniversary of priestly ordination, I was thinking of how beautiful a soul Fr. Justus is and how his life and ministry in Nigeria are a paragon for us in these times.
As a kid who grew up in an almost entirely Polish parish in inner city Chicago, his life's ambition was pretty simple: be close to Jesus and to bring Jesus to people. Whether it was to people in northern Nigeria who had never heard of Jesus or the people of our parish today, his life is really that simple and it is a great example for us. When you love Jesus so well, you serve everyone with the love of Jesus. In other words, love Jesus and serve others.
We are immensely blessed and enriched by Fr. Justus' presence among us. Congratulations, Fr. Justus!
Notes from Reopening for Sunday Mass
I wanted to share my joy with you about our reopening for weekend public Masses this past Sunday. Though the crowds were much smaller than normal (which was expected), it was a great blessing to be able to celebrate the Sunday Mass with our community after 13 weeks of separation. We recognize not all parishioners can be with us at present, but we rejoice in what progress we are able to make toward making the Sacraments more widely available.
Because many of our parishioners are unable to attend Mass at this time. We will make Holy Communion available for those of you who are able to drive to St. Paul's but are unable to come into the Church. On Wednesdays from 9:00-10:30 am and 2:30-5:00 pm, one of the priests or deacon will be available to bring you Holy Communion in your car. To participate, drive to St. Paul's, park in the parking lot, and give the front desk a call. The minister will come out with face covering and sanitized hands to bring you Holy Communion. For the best information, please go to our website.
If you would like the Sacrament of Confession without having to enter the Church, call the parish office to set up an appointment with a priest and one of the priests will meet you in the parking lot when you arrive.
For the time being, here is our schedule:
Dear St. Paul Community,
First of all, I want to thank all those who reached out to me during this next step in my cancer treatment. The support and prayers have been gratifying. While it was not ideal spending Easter in the hospital, I was constantly reminded that the resurrected Jesus is not only present in a church. One of our students sent me a note saying, "(This) is a great chance for us to celebrate Easter like the disciples by allowing Jesus to enter our homes."
My stem cell transplant was Monday and it went very well. The nurse who was with me said that my vital signs were steady, so that was a positive sign. Now I am still resting in the hospital being watched by a great team of doctors, nurses, and patient care techs. The two doctors I see every morning has said that everything is where they expect things to be!
Thank you, again, for your thoughts and prayers. It is at times such as these that our faith is tested, but ultimately faith prevails and is stronger.
Peace to you all,
As much as my priestly heart aches to be separated from the people, especially during the celebration of the Eucharist, I must admit the contemplative Dominican in me was quite excited about the stay-at-home orders because it offered something I have found exceedingly rare in pastoral ministry: the opportunity to pray and to study in silence for extended periods of time.
As a religious, my initial formations began with essentially a year-long retreat called the novitiate. Adjusting to the slow pace of the novitiate was quite difficult at first, but, after I got used to it, I had a year of profound joy found in silence and in sacred study.
I have discovered in my conversations with our student and resident parishioners that very few have any idea how to thrive in a time of silence and separation without the ease of access to the Sacraments and praying with other people.
Religious life, however, is simply an amplification of the regular Christian life; it is a taking of the basic practices which open the heart and mind to God and leading the religious to these encounters often. The Lord and His will, therefore, are often found most readily in the rhythm of religious life. In other words, religious life, with its consistent schedule and the clear, intentional space set aside for prayer, softens and open the hearts of those in the community through something simple and ordinary: routine and sacred space.
Taking these lessons, there are two imperative steps everyone should take during these days.
First, set a prayer schedule.
The best time to pray consistently is in the morning. Interestingly enough, many people already have an unwavering morning routine with exercise, reading the news, making coffee, eating breakfast, etc. It gives you a sense of a calm as you enter the day.
As you pray during these days, add prayer to those morning rituals. For instance, as you're waiting on the coffee to brew, read the Gospel for that day's Mass and sit quietly and reflect upon it as you drink your coffee. At the end of the day, too, as you prepare for bed and brush your teeth, give thanks for the day's blessings and ask God for His help and guidance for tomorrow's challenges.
The key is routine. Set times to pray and pray. You don't need to make a daily holy hour, but you do need to consistently invite God into your life at set times of the day. From there, He will take the lead and show you His face at other times.
Second, create a prayer space.
In every religious community, there is a chapel. Some of these chapels are the most beautiful chapels; some are re-purposed closets or bedrooms. The important thing is there is a space in the community set aside for silence, for prayer, for an intentional encounter with God.
Even if all you have control over is a little room, pick a corner and make it your place of prayer. Place a crucifix there and, if you have some, images of saints, especially the Blessed Virgin. Whenever you pass by the corner, bow to the Cross. When you go there to pray, kneel down and say out loud, "God, come to my assistance. Lord, make haste to help me." Just as importantly as making the space, you must use the space and keep it sacred. The space will start to form you.
These two steps of setting a prayer schedule and creating a prayer space will help you encounter the Lord in new and profound ways. They will also help you when these stay-at-home orders are lifted. Think of how much more beautiful and powerful your reception of the Eucharist will be when Jesus, because of your consistent, simple prayer life, is the absolute center of all you do and are.
In the end, these days are hard, but God and His Church have shown us the ways, even in the darkness, to invite the Light of Christ into our hearts, our days, and our houses. Now, the decision is yours.
Dear St. Paul Community,
Those of you who pray morning and evening prayer virtually with us during this time may have noticed that suddenly this past week there were four Dominicans in the chapel, and not the usual five. Bringing that up allows me to provide an update on my cancer treatment.
You all know that I went underwent three significant chemotherapy treatments in Bloomington at the end of December and the beginning of January. Thanks to my care team here in Bloomington (and the “Angel” nurses on 4 East at IU Bloomington Hospital) these treatments were as successful as expected. Post-chemo scans showed that there was “significantly” less cancer. This then leads to the next step of my treatment, which is a stem cell transplant.
I was directed to a bone marrow transplant specialist in Indianapolis, and after a consult with him things were put into motion (albeit slower than I wanted). I made another trip to Indy on March 16 for my pre-transplant work up and began preliminaries for the actual procedures on March 28. My “disappearance” from morning and evening prayer was because I was in Indy last Tuesday through Thursday for the insertion of a central line and the harvesting of my stem cells. Something positive to take from that experience was that the transplant team got all the needed stem cells in one day, so I didn’t have to return for more. I returned to St. Paul’s on Thursday to wait for the next step in my treatment.
Having said that, know that I will be hospitalized for approximately three weeks beginning April 7 for another round of chemotherapy and the stem cell transplant. We all hope this is what kills my cancer once and for all.
While I will not be around the community physically, the wonders of social media will allow me to stay connected. Your prayers continue to be appreciated and needed, and the fact that so many people regularly reach out to me serves as a balm. Our IU students are particularly supportive. Many of the ones I have gotten to know in my relatively brief time here have been very attentive to offering me support. I can still be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The services of the Triduum are my favorite of the entire liturgical year, and I am not looking forward to missing them this year. However, we all have crosses to bear and are reminded at this time of year of the powerful reality of hope. I will get through this, as we all will get through these times. Know that you will be in my thoughts and prayers during my time in the hospital. I will provide the Dominican community periodic updates and will make sure Fr. Patrick knows what he can share with you all.
Thank you to all and we will see each other face to face very soon.
Peace and Happy Easter,
I have been thinking a lot about Job lately. Here was a guy who lost everything he held dearly in this life for seemingly the most capricious of reasons. Not only that, but, when his best friends heard of his plight, they went to visit him and rub his face in his own misery. Yet, in the midst of the torment and the struggle, he cried out, "I know that my redeemer lives!" (Job 19:25)
As scared and afraid as I am, the hope and the joy of the coming of Easter overcomes all of it. With him and, I pray, with all of you, I proclaim: I know that my redeemer lives!
The power of sin and death have been vanquished by the death and resurrection of Jesus. The witness of the spotless lamb being put to death for us sinners then rising to open for us the gates of heaven is a daily reminder of how the joy of Easter and life in the resurrection always comes after the challenges and trials of the Cross and Good Friday.
Yes, we are in the midst of a painful suffering, an undeserved beating, an isolating separation from each other, but we also believe, if we persevere through the flames and pains, the other side of this particular Cross is something greater, something better than our wildest dreams could have ever imagined.
What it is exactly only time and the eyes of faith will reveal to us, but, as we walk these last days of Lent and begin the days of Easter ahead, God is writing His greatest masterpiece in our hearts at this very moment.
So today, and every day, we walk with a special closeness to Jesus on His way to Calvary, into the tomb, then into the light of the Resurrection.
Sincerely yours in Christ, Fr. Patrick Hyde, OP
Movies with a twist ending are frustrating. You spend the whole movie thinking things are one way only to have the rug completely pulled out from underneath you at the end. You realize what you held to be true and real was but a figment of what was really real and true. Frustrating as it may be, this is also what makes these types of movies so enjoyable because in the end you can go back and look for clues, realize where you went wrong, and enjoy the story all over again. When you come to terms with how little control you had, you realize how beautiful the story was.
Right now, control has been wrested from us. We can't go into work or out to eat. Our semester will be finished from mom and dad's living room couch and the friends with whom we have shared so much are left behind. It is frustrating and the source of incredible anxiety. What we thought we had was unceremoniously and abruptly ripped from our hands.
At a time like this, it makes complete sense to feel alone and isolated, to feel lost and dejected, to question everything. As a person of faith, however, we know that there is an answer to all of this and it is good.
In his book Abandonment to Divine Providence, Fr. Jean Pierre de Caussade notes the challenges and the angst of not knowing what lies ahead and responds thusly: “What God arranges for us to experience at each moment is the best and holiest thing that could happen to us.”
As frustrating as the twist of shelter-in-place, online classes, extended time in confined spaces with family, the fear of contracting a devastating disease, our faith lifts us up and challenges us to recognize God is in control and He is working out something more amazing and beautiful than we could even imagine on our own.
Think of it this way: All of the things which normally keep us from prayer, from family time, from intimacy – sports, social lives, crazy work schedules, competing family schedules, and so on – have been stripped in an instant from our lives. We now have time to pray, to be together, to serve the poor and vulnerable.
It’s tough right now and it may get tougher, but God has a plan, God will provide, God desires your heart and offers you salvation and boundless love.
Sincerely yours in Christ, Fr. Patrick Hyde, OP
It shouldn't be this way. The Sunday ending Spring Break is the day when students should be coming back to campus. Yesterday, however, as I walked around campus I watched as students packed their things and moved out. It was surreal. This isn't how this school year, our community is supposed to be. Yet, here we are and, by golly, it hurts.
These next few weeks were supposed to be a celebration, a time to be together with the seniors I have known since they stepped on campus as freshmen, a time for Easter, a time for the Little 5, a time for sitting outside, a time to be together. Who knows? Maybe in a few weeks the impact will lessen and we will all get to come out of our caves. But, until then, it stings.
This past Sunday, the Gospel from Mass was the story of Jesus opening the eyes of the man born blind. This man was not only blind from birth, but, because of this, he was ridiculed in his culture and believed to be a terrible sinner (even though he was not). He was cast aside, despised, and thought to be nothing. It is, however, precisely to such as these that Jesus comes. He comes to us in our darkest hours, he heals our deepest wounds, he opens our eyes when we are blind and alone.
Venerable Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan was imprisoned and tortured in Vietnam for 13 years, 9 in solitary confinement, before he was released and forced into exile. Yet, as he reflected and wrote about his struggles, he noted, almost serenely, how they led him to deeper faith and trust in God. He wrote, "To treasure each suffering as one of the countless faces of Jesus crucified, and to unite our suffering to his, means to enter into his own dynamic of suffering-love. It means to participate in his light, his strength, his peace; it means to rediscover within us a new and abundant presence of God.”
Though my heart aches and breaks because of what I'll miss, but more so because of what you will all miss, our faith shows us that now is the time to rediscover within us a new and abundant presence of God. All of the things that normally keep us from God -- social lives, sports, going out -- are taken from us but this suffering opens time in our life to find and to know more intimately the God who loves us.
During these days, I will remember each of you every day as I pray at Mass and walk around campus praying the Rosary. I am also still available to meet and chat (though digitally) almost every day.
In the meantime, here are a few tips on how to keep your prayer life and Catholic community going during these days of social isolation:
1) Set a daily prayer schedule and stick to it. Even if you are only praying for a few minutes, make sure you pray at the beginning, middle, and end of each day.
2) If you were in a small group Bible study, reach out to the leader and try to have a Bible study each week.
3) Check in daily with at least one Catholic friend.
4) Livestream the 5:30 pm Mass every Sunday then join your friends digitally for a Sunday supper.
5) Set a daily prayer schedule.
You are loved beyond measure!
Sincerely yours in Christ,
The events unfolding these past few days and weeks are troubling and have left many of us deeply saddened. With the novel coronavirus now a pandemic and our Church closed until further notice -- something most of us never even dreamed would ever happen -- there is a need to pause, take a deep breath, and reclaim who we are as a community and individually.
To be fair, this is also a time for grieving as we have lost regular access to the Sacraments, especially the Most Blessed Sacrament, the Holy Eucharist, which is the source and the summit of our Christian lives. We have never had to go through such a trial. At the same time, we are a people of faith, beloved sons and daughters of our heavenly Father, missionary disciples on our pilgrim journey. Though we recognize the pain, the challenges, and the uncertainty of what lies ahead, we do so with the confidence of Christians who know the other side of the Cross on Good Friday is the glory of the Resurrection on Easter Sunday.
As a community, we honor and cherish the values of hospitality and community. In our ministries, we treasure the path of accompaniment which leads people, through our community and the celebration of the Sacraments, into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church. Yes, these gifts, these treasures, are, for a time, taken from us, but the values and the goal remain. We are still called to love and to serve our neighbors, especially the stranger. We are still marching in our lives of prayer and virtue toward a deeper and more abiding union with Christ. Therefore, we must find ways to make, build, and maintain community and familial bonds; we must continue to deepen our lives of prayer and sacrificial love.
Venerable Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan was imprisoned in Vietnam for 13 years, 9 in solitary confinement, before he was released and forced into exile. He was a man of profound, yet simple, faith whose cause for canonization is ongoing. He suffered for years because of his faith and he had to go to extraordinary lengths to acquire bread and wine to celebrate Mass while in prison. Yet, at the end of his life, as he reflected and wrote about his struggles, he noted, almost serenely, how it led him to deeper faith and trust in God. He wrote, "To treasure each suffering as one of the countless faces of Jesus crucified, and to unite our suffering to his, means to enter into his own dynamic of suffering-love. It means to participate in his light, his strength, his peace; it means to rediscover within us a new and abundant presence of God.”
During these days of frustration, angst, fear, and whatever else you may feel, it will be my prayer for each of you every day while celebrating Mass that you rediscover a new and abundant presence of God, and, if our faith teaches us anything, I know you will in and through the love and mercy of Jesus.
Over the past three years, the number of students actively engaged in our ministry has increased dramatically. This is the fourth in a four part series to help resident parishioners understand the student parishioners and how we go about our mission of evangelizing and building up disciples among them.
In this part, I am sharing some statistics of how the vision of reach, transform, send has been effective the last three years among our student parishioners. Records in Campus Ministry are spotty before 2016, but, in the past three years alone, we have seen incredible growth.
I welcome your questions, comments, and prayers. ~Fr. Patrick
Over the past three years, the number of students actively engaged in our ministry has increased dramatically. This is the third in a four part series to help resident parishioners understand the student parishioners and how we go about our mission of evangelizing and building up disciples among them.
In this part, I am sharing the actions we take to implement our vision of reaching, transforming, and sending students. The chart below is not one-size-fits-all, rather it provides a framework for how our ministry works and how students normally progress. It also provides guidance to our engaged/committed students as they discern how and where to invite the students they reach.
Most of our efforts are exerted in the pre-evangelization and evangelization boxes. In other words, we invest most of our resources into reaching out to the students, meeting them where they are, inviting them into relationship, and proclaiming to them the Good News of Jesus Christ. The biggest components are our Sunday Suppers, our FOCUS ministry, which comprises the small group ministry and formal 1-on-1 discipleships, and our retreats (Awakening and Connection).
In the next and final part , I will share the numbers on how effective our efforts have been the past three years. As always, I welcome your questions, comments, and prayers.
Fr. Patrick is a Dominican priest and the Campus Minister.