Pastor’s Message

Message from Fr. Mike

MY TRIP HOME  ~ Part 2  By Fr. Mike

Instead of inviting the families to come to our home, I took the food to their homes. The problem with this system of distribution is that not everyone would receive food on December 31st, as they live far apart from each other. Secondly, I am not acquainted with ninety percent of the beneficiaries, so I needed to ask for directions. The positive aspect was that this method preserves their privacy. They did not know that they were on the list, so there was an element of surprise, some never expected me to come to their home. Personally, it gave me the opportunity to know their home situation.

 

The distribution took two days, December 31st and January 1st. It took four phases. My younger brother, John, accompanied me on the first phase. He knew those families and where they live. My two nephews and a niece accompanied me on the second phase. The local Catechist accompanied me on the third distribution. My nephew, who lives in Pico Rivera, and my brother John, helped me on the last distribution. Here are few examples of the recipients of this grace of God. The fathers of two of the families were blind, their wives did everything. These wives do not have serious jobs, they work here and there. One lady was both a widow and blind, and the son who takes care of her is himself disabled. In another family, the woman has three or four children, and she is blind. The husband walked away from the family, and she is completely dependent on her 13 year old daughter. There were widowers, too, and couples.

 

This project was not planned, it was completely spontaneous. However, I believe it was God ordained because of the many beautiful things that came out of it. By participating in this project and visiting these families, my nephews and nieces saw a world that was not obvious to them in that town. They were so touched by this experience that my nephew, who lives in Pico Rivera, promised to buy more bags of rice the next time I go home. I said to him; “From our visit it is clear that they need more than rice. A few are blind and have no help. There is no government program or public assistance for them.”  My niece replied; “I am concerned about the 13 year old girl with a blind mother. What about her education?”

 

On January 11th, I went back to Lagos to be with my uncle who was sick. He is the younger brother of my mother. According to the family, he had been waiting for me. When I entered his room, to the surprise of the wife and the nurses, he opened his eyes, smiled, and spoke for the first time in three weeks. We talked late into the night. He was happy and relaxed. The next day, I celebrated Mass in his room, Anointed him, and prepared him for the inevitable. Every day, I would recite the Rosary with him in the morning and in the evening. Like his mother, reciting the Rosary was his favorite prayer. Things got worse on Wednesday, by Thursday afternoon his breathing became rapid and shallow. At 10:14 pm on Thursday he took his last breath. It was as if he knew that I was about to go back to Los Angeles, and he did not want me to leave him again. He left before I left. Although I am deeply saddened by his death and my inability to be at his funeral, I am happy he got his wish — to see me, and to have me there when he took his last breath. I ministered to him as a priest and a nephew, just as I did for his sister.

 

I left Lagos on the evening of Monday, January 18th, and arrived at Atlanta International Airport in the early Tuesday morning. In Atlanta, we walked straight to immigration, presented our documents, and went to the connecting flight to Los Angeles. Los Angeles County requires all returning residents and visitors to register with the city. I did. They also require every returning resident and visitor to quarantine for 10 days. I quarantined for the next ten days, starting on January 19th. My trip was designed by God, everything fell in place.

 

To God be the glory and praise!


MY TRIP HOME  ~ Part 1

By Fr. Mike

 

Have you ever returned to your home town, where you were born, and where your family has existed for about four generations, for vacation? Was it really a vacation, or work? This is the question I have concerning my recent trip. It was a trip to remember. The original purpose of the trip was for the following:

 

  • To attend and preside over the funeral of my brother-in-law.
  • To attend the traditional wedding of the sister of my godson.
  • To attend the funeral of Dr. Agu (who died in Harbor City near San Pedro in California).
  • To visit my ailing uncle.

 

When I arrived, the agenda quickly changed from four items to nine. It now included the following:

 

  • To visit and give rice to the poor.
  • To attend the funeral of the mother of a family friend from Inglewood, California.
  • To attend the wedding of the sister of a priest friend.
  • To officiate at the wedding of my cousin.
  • To arrange for the funeral of my uncle.

 

I had about three weeks to finish these tasks. The locations of some of these events were far from each other. It is about an eight to ten hour’s drive from one location to the other.  None of the deaths were as a result of Covid-19.

 

With regard to Covid-19, the two countries, the U.S and Nigeria handle it differently. The Nigerian government requires that you take a Covid-19 test 72 hours prior to arrival to Nigeria. After taking the test, the traveler has to email the result to the Nigerian embassy. If the result is negative, the embassy will issue a travel permit that allows you to board an airplane. On arrival at the Nigerian airport, the first station is the Covid-19 station. You need to show the travel permit as well as your Covid test result. They take your temperature. If everything is alright at this station, then you proceed to Immigration, and later to Customs. I was pleasantly surprised by their seriousness. However, once inside the country it was a different story. As in many countries, some have taken it seriously, and others have not.

 

My first assignment was to preach at the funeral of my brother-in-law. His death did not come as a surprise because he had been sick for more than a year or two, and he was elderly. He was the traditional ruler of that part of the town. Many dignitaries attended the funeral. For our family, it was two day event, the 29th and 30th of December.

 

Prior to my arrival, I had inquired about the impact of Covid-19 on the economic life of the ordinary citizens. It was not good. In Nigeria, I changed all the generous Christmas gifts I received from the Parishioners of Assumption into the local currency, and bought 21 bags of 25kg (about 55lbs) of white rice, onions, and other condiments. This was to be given to families in need. The criteria we used to identify beneficiaries was as follows:

 

  • They must be widow or widower with little children or with unemployed adult children, and are barely getting by.
  • Couples with children who are not meaningfully employed.
  • Single ladies with no meaningful employment or source of income, therefore very vulnerable.

 

In this part of the world, people live off the land and conduct little businesses. It is by the grace of God that they make it every day. The plan was to give these bags of rice to the families on December 31st so that they could celebrate the New Year with it. I collected a list from my brother and the local Catechist.

~Part 2-Food Distribution

 

 

 

 

 

 

Message from the Holy Father Francis for Lent 2021

Part 1 ~ Faith

“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem” (Mt 20:18).

Lent: a Time for Renewing Faith, Hope and Love.

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Jesus revealed to his disciples the deepest meaning of his mission when he told them of his passion, death and resurrection, in fulfilment of the Father’s will. He then called the disciples to share in this mission for the salvation of the world.

In our Lenten journey towards Easter, let us remember the One who “humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8). During this season of conversion, let us renew our faith, draw from the “living water” of hope, and receive with open hearts the love of God, who makes us brothers and sisters in Christ. At the Easter vigil, we will renew our baptismal promises and experience rebirth as new men and women by the working of the Holy Spirit. This Lenten journey, like the entire pilgrimage of the Christian life, is even now illumined by the light of the resurrection, which inspires the thoughts, attitudes and decisions of the followers of Christ.

Fasting, prayer and almsgiving, as preached by Jesus (cf. Mt 6:1-18), enable and express our conversion. The path of poverty and self-denial (fasting), concern and loving care for the poor (almsgiving), and childlike dialogue with the Father (prayer) make it possible for us to live lives of sincere faith, living hope and effective charity.

  1. Faith calls us to accept the truth and testify to it before God and all our brothers and sisters.

 In this Lenten season, accepting and living the truth revealed in Christ means, first of all, opening our hearts to God’s word, which the Church passes on from generation to generation. This truth is not an abstract concept reserved for a chosen intelligent few. Instead, it is a message that all of us can receive and understand thanks to the wisdom of a heart open to the grandeur of God, who loves us even before we are aware of it. Christ himself is this truth. By taking on our humanity, even to its very limits, he has made himself the way – demanding, yet open to all – that leads to the fullness of life.

Fasting, experienced as a form of self-denial, helps those who undertake it in simplicity of heart to rediscover God’s gift and to recognize that, created in his image and likeness, we find our fulfilment in him. In embracing the experience of poverty, those who fast make themselves poor with the poor and accumulate the treasure of a love both received and shared. In this way, fasting helps us to love God and our neighbor, inasmuch as love, as Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches, is a movement outwards that focuses our attention on others and considers them as one with ourselves (cf. Fratelli Tutti, 93).

Lent is a time for believing, for welcoming God into our lives and allowing him to “make his dwelling” among us (cf. Jn 14:23). Fasting involves being freed from all that weighs us down – like consumerism or an excess of information, whether true or false – in order to open the doors of our hearts to the One who comes to us, poor in all things, yet “full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14): the Son of God our Savior.

 

Part 2 ~ Hope

  1. Hope as “living water” enabling us to continue our journey.

 The Samaritan woman at the well, whom Jesus asks for a drink, does not understand what he means when he says that he can offer her “living water” (Jn 4:10). Naturally, she thinks that he is referring to material water, but Jesus is speaking of the Holy Spirit whom he will give in abundance through the paschal mystery, bestowing a hope that does not disappoint. Jesus had already spoken of this hope when, in telling of his passion and death, he said that he would “be raised on the third day” (Mt 20:19). Jesus was speaking of the future opened up by the Father’s mercy. Hoping with him and because of him means believing that history does not end with our mistakes, our violence and injustice, or the sin that crucifies Love. It means receiving from his open heart the Father’s forgiveness.

In these times of trouble, when everything seems fragile and uncertain, it may appear challenging to speak of hope. Yet Lent is precisely the season of hope, when we turn back to God who patiently continues to care for his creation which we have often mistreated (cf. Laudato Si’, 32-33; 43-44). Saint Paul urges us to place our hope in reconciliation: “Be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20). By receiving forgiveness in the sacrament that lies at the heart of our process of conversion, we in turn can spread forgiveness to others. Having received forgiveness ourselves, we can offer it through our willingness to enter into attentive dialogue with others and to give comfort to those experiencing sorrow and pain. God’s forgiveness, offered also through our words and actions, enables us to experience an Easter of fraternity.

In Lent, may we be increasingly concerned with “speaking words of comfort, strength, consolation and encouragement, and not words that demean, sadden, anger or show scorn” (Fratelli Tutti, 223). In order to give hope to others, it is sometimes enough simply to be kind, to be “willing to set everything else aside in order to show interest, to give the gift of a smile, to speak a word of encouragement, to listen amid general indifference” (ibid., 224).

Through recollection and silent prayer, hope is given to us as inspiration and interior light, illuminating the challenges and choices we face in our mission. Hence the need to pray (cf. Mt 6:6) and, in secret, to encounter the Father of tender love.

To experience Lent in hope entails growing in the realization that, in Jesus Christ, we are witnesses of new times, in which God is “making all things new” (cf. Rev 21:1-6). It means receiving the hope of Christ, who gave his life on the cross and was raised by God on the third day, and always being “prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls [us] to account for the hope that is in [us]” (1 Pet 3:15).

~https://press.vatican.va/

 

Lent 2021

Message from the Holy Father Francis for Lent 2021 (click on link)


Pope Francis’ Fasting Suggestions

 

  • Fast from hurting words ~ say kind words
  • Fast from sadness ~ be filled with gratitude
  • Fast from anger ~ be filled with patience
  • Fast from pessimism ~ be filled with hope
  • Fast from worries ~ trust in God
  • Fast from complaints ~ contemplate simplicity
  • Fast from pressures ~ be prayerful
  • Fast from bitterness ~ full your heart with joy
  • Fast from selfishness ~ be compassionate
  • Fast from grudges ~ be reconciled
  • Fast from words ~ be silent so you can listen

Lent is a 40 day season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving that begins on Ash Wednesday (February 17) and ends at sundown on Holy Thursday (April 1). It’s a period of preparation to celebrate the Lord’s Resurrection at Easter. During Lent, we seek the Lord in prayer by reading Sacred Scripture; we serve by giving alms; and we practice self-control through fasting. We are called not only to abstain from luxuries during Lent, but to a true inner conversion of heart as we seek to follow Christ’s will more faithfully. We recall the waters of baptism in which we were also baptized into Christ’s death, died to sin and evil, and began new life in Christ.

 

Many know of the tradition of abstaining from meat on Fridays during Lent, but we are also called to practice self-discipline and fast in other ways throughout the season. In addition, the giving of alms is one way to share God’s gifts—not only through the distribution of money, but through the sharing of our time and talents. As St. John Chrysostom reminds us: “Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours, but theirs.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2446).

 

In Lent, the baptized are called to renew their baptismal commitment as others prepare to be baptized through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, a period of learning and discernment for individuals who have declared their desire to become Catholics. ~USCCB


Lenten Resources

Loyola Press loyolapress.com/

The Living Lent Daily e-mail series for 2021 is inspired by the new book, I Am with You: Lessons of Hope and Courage in Times of Crisis by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan.

Dynamic Catholic dynamiccatholic.com

Best Lent Ever journeys through Matthew Kelly’s latest book, I Heard God Laugh: A Practical Guide to Life’s Essential Daily Habit.

Word on Fire lentreflections.com/

Bishop Barron sends daily Lenten Gospel reflections

National Catholic Education Association ncea.org/

Lenten resources for Families

Ecospirituality Resources ecospiritualityresources.com/

Provides free resources for personal and group use during Lent for those who want to respond not only to Jesus’ suffering and death, but also to the suffering of our planet.

 

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