Shepherd's Notes

January 3, 2016

 

Happy Epiphany & Happy New Year

 

            May 2016 become an even better for all of us!  Are you looking for ideas for New Year’s resolution?  How about starting with the observance of the Jubilee Year of Mercy?  There’s no better time to start out spiritually fresh than turning to the guidance of Pope Francis as to how we can get closer in our relationship with Our Lord Jesus this year.

            A good way to examine what acts of mercy we can draw inspiration from would be the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.  The works of mercy are defined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2447) as:  "The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities. Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God.

For simple suggestions on applying these works of mercy I recommend this website:

http://www.oratoryschools.org/memos/January2015/Practical-Suggestions.pdf

            Have you gone to confession yet?  No spiritual resolution is complete without receiving the sacrament of reconciliation.  The Jubilee Year of Mercy should be the very incentive you need if you haven’t gone in a while.  This is the only guaranteed way that we cut ourselves off from our past sins.  Our Advent confession promo (Pink Slip Sunday) drew over 265 penitents in 4 days of hearing confession with one final night (Dec. 23) to go (usually the largest crowd) before Christmas.  Every year our parish is blessed to have many come back to the sacraments during Advent and Lent and we certainly welcome them home.

 

How about including the Rosary for your resolution?

 

            Another great way I highly recommend to anyone who wants to make a big leap to becoming a super follower of Jesus in a short time is by praying the rosary regularly.  Each day you wait to pray this beautiful devotion is another day of missed opportunity to receive spectacular graces.  This simple prayer has made gazillion saints over the centuries and you could be next!  We have a website designed to help you pray the rosary the easy way and how you can increase your participation in it.  Just go to www.rosarygraces.com or visit www.saintfrancisparish.org.

 

Help our persecuted Christian brothers & sisters

 

            The Knights of Columbus have set up a website to efficiently raise funds to support our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters especially the refugees in Muslim countries.  Please visit this website to help: www.christiansatrisk.org.

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

January 10, 2016

 

Interested in going thru a “mystery porthole”?

 

            Those who love reading adventure stories enjoy the thought of going through a porthole of some sort that could transport them into another world or dimension. One could not help but fantasize how exciting that could be if such a journey were possible. Actually, this year you can!  There are 3 mystery “portholes” in the Washington Metropolitan area where you can take a rare opportunity to take a trip to Rome in a matter of seconds and receive tons of heavenly graces in return.  No, I’m not kidding and I just did it this past week (January 4) and it really works!  (See photos)

            Pope Francis opened the Holy Door (Porta Sancta) to each of the major basilicas in Rome (St. John Lateran, St. Peter, St. Mary Major & St. Paul) for the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy (December 8, 2015 to November 20, 2016).  The Holy Father has granted special blessings and a plenary indulgence to all those who pass through any of the Holy Doors.  Most people in the world cannot make it to Rome but Pope Francis has extended the Holy Doors to the world by designating certain doors as “portals” for the Porta Sancta.  Most of them are the local cathedral doors.

            The 3 designated doors near us are:  St. Thomas More Cathedral (Arlington Diocese), St. Matthew Cathedral (Washington Archdiocese) and the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (Washington, DC).  The conditions to receive all of the blessings and the plenary indulgence by walking thru the Holy Doors are as follows:  1) Go to confession (recommended within 1 week before or after going thru the doors); 2) Receive Holy Communion on that day; 3) Pray for the intentions of the pope (1 each of Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be would suffice); 4) Not be attached to sin.

It was easy doing it at the Basilica last Monday because you can walk right through the Holy Doors anytime between 7 AM – 7 PM and confessions are offered there daily.  I also celebrated the Mass at the Immaculate Heart of Mary chapel that day and prayed for the pope’s intentions.

I highly encourage you to find the time to walk through the Holy Doors at any or all of these churches.  Going through these sacred doors that are normally opened once every 25 years will give you the extra blessings that you need.  If you get the plenary indulgence this porthole will serve as your purgatory bypass and get you straight into heaven!

You can go on your own or if you are interested in doing a parish pilgrimage please let me know.  For a group trip from I do need someone to organize it.  We can either get a bus or just carpool together.  We can go to 1 or to all 3 Holy Doors if there is a desire for it.  A Saturday morning or a Sunday afternoon is probably a good day to do it.  I usually go to the Basilica about once a month so I can even take smaller groups on Mondays that I’m off from the parish.

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

 

January 17, 2016

 

A sad but necessary march

 

            This Friday is the annual March For Life in Washington, DC.  It is a very large event that yearly draws a six-figure crowd of prayerful and devout participants to raise awareness and to protest our nation’s legalized abortion.  Our citizens know a great deal about the terrible threat of terrorism and the challenge to keep our nation safe from harm.  But it is very sad that many Americans, including our sitting president, congressmen, Supreme Court judges, and politicians do not recognize the sacredness of human life prior to birth.  It is very appalling to hear of even just one person killed by a terrorist but pro-abortion/pro-choice people in our country adamantly defend women’s right to choose to have an abortion.  Over 1 million unborn American children are put to death annually thru abortion facilities and that averages to over 2,700 children legally put to death everyday.  That’s not counting thousands more aborted thru abortifacients such as the Morning After Pill (RU-486).  It is a very sad fact that our nation legally kills more innocent people per day than ISIS, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban combined!

That’s the sad reason why since 1974 the annual March For Life is held.  The helpless unborn children have no voice to defend themselves so we have to speak up for them; not just at the march but as often as we can.  It has been a difficult battle to promote pro-life issues since the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade that paved the way for legal abortion.  Nearly 60 million known abortions have been performed since then (in contrast, Great Britain’s current population is at 63 million).  The only consolation we have from Roe v. Wade was that the previously anonymous “Jane Roe”, real name:  Norma L. McCovey, deeply regretted being “pawned” for this terrible court decision and later converted to become a devout Roman Catholic in 1998. She has been most active in the pro-life movement to this day and calling for the reversal of Roe v. Wade.

 

Bulletin clarification

 

            Last weekend an announcement in the bulletin titled, Gun Violence Prevention, was placed without my authorization.  Our parish does not participate in promoting dubious and controversial topics that are irrelevant to spreading the Gospel and the teachings of the Catholic Church.  As Catholics we are pro-life and always vigilant about defending the sacredness of life in all stages and that includes the individual’s right to self-defense.  The sponsor for that talk is the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV).  While their intentions may be good, many of us in the parish disagree that their modus operandi is effective in getting rid of gun violence.  Their website is heavily slanted towards supporting liberal political agendas and candidates that are dedicated to banning gun ownership from legitimate citizens under the guise of safety and gun violence prevention.  We’re all opposed to arming criminals and terrorists but there is a right and wrong way about doing this.  Many, including the priests in our parish, strongly disagree with the CSGV.  Although this event is scheduled in another parish, the Catholic Church does not endorse this organization (their website will confirm that).  Many of our dedicated soldiers, security, and law enforcement personnel became adept in defending our nation using firearms because they have received proper training since their childhood days including Father Mullaney who served as an FBI agent for 7 years before entering the seminary.  Though I didn’t join the military or law enforcement, I’ve had responsible firearms training since my early teens and have done my part to keep the motorists safe by reducing the deer overpopulation in our area.  One morning I “bagged” 3 deer for the freezer (3 shots in 7 minutes @100+ yards) and attribute this skill thru my early familiarity with firearms.  My apologies to those who were offended by the unauthorized ad last week and we will do our best to screen the announcements in the future.  If anyone is really serious about saving lives, please pray and work to end abortion.  After going thru the background of some of the politicians mentioned in the CSGV, I just find it rather odd that everyone so far are also proud to be pro-choice/pro-abortion.  Abortion is the NUMBER ONE cause of violent death in the U.S. at over 2,700 a day.   Then why is CSGV supporting these people who are responsible for keeping abortion legal if they are really serious about promoting the health & safety of Americans?  I just don’t get it!

 

                                                Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                Father Escalante

 

 

January 24, 2016

 

January 24 is the Feast of Saint Francis de Sales

 

            Who was Saint Francis de Sales?  He was born in Savoy, France on August 21, 1567 from a devout Catholic family who later became the Bishop of Geneva, Switzerland.  Unfortunately, due to the persecution of Catholics during the counter-reformation period he was not allowed by the Calvinists to live in Geneva and had to govern his diocese from inside the border of France in a town called Annecy.  Regardless, he still performed his duties so well as a bishop in exile that his efficient running of his diocese became a model for all the other dioceses in the world!

            St. Francis de Sales was a prolific writer and wrote many books including the classic, Introduction to the Devout Life, which is still on sale today on just about every Catholic bookstore and websites.  He was a big proponent of printing pamphlets that clarified questions regarding the Catholic faith and placing them at the hands of the people and leaving them on their doorsteps [the modern “evangelizers” who do the same today are only St. Francis copycats!].  For this reason he is the patron saint of writers, journalists, publishers, and of those who have impaired hearing.  He once developed a sign language for a deaf man so that he could teach him about God.  But most of all, St. Francis de Sales was a great saint because he was truly a holy man.  He was firm with his teachings but what separated him from the others was his gentle approach that so many people admired.  We can all learn from his great example however far away we may be from his admirable traits!  Our religious education director, James Blankenship, has a deep devotion to St. Francis de Sales and has read just about everything this saint has written.  One of his favorite quotes from his saint is:  “Cook the truth until it tastes sweet.”  [Though he didn’t model for it, the new portrait of Saint Francis de Sales in the Catholic education center even resembles James!]

 

New info on the Holy Doors pilgrimage

 

            The Women’s Council has offered to handle our pilgrimage to the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception tentatively scheduled for Sunday, April 24.  The newly elected president, Maggie Bunnell, will be coordinating the pilgrimage and we’ll give you more details as soon as we finish working out the logistics for the trip.  This is an opportunity for our parishioners to go through the Holy Doors (see bulletin 1/10/2016 online for more details) during the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy and receive many graces including the privilege of a plenary indulgence (complete remission of purgatory time).

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

January 31, 2016

 

How to get storm updates of the parish

 

            Loudoun Now newspaper says that we likely reached a record snowstorm in Northern VA.  Round Hill topped the list at 36.3 inches, followed by Ashburn at 36.0, Leesburg at 34.0, and Purcellville at 33.0.  It is a good idea to stay tuned with the local news because many Catholics found out that way that the local bishops in our region excused the faithful from attending Sunday Mass and encouraged them to make the day holy at home.  If one had access to TV, the bishops recommended praying with the Mass like many of the homebound regularly do.

            Since our rectory is right here on the parish grounds, all the Masses are celebrated regardless of the weather.  Mass intentions have already been assigned and we fulfill them by celebrating the Mass.  However, we do have super die-hard and heroic Catholics who would love to be at Mass even though the obligation has been lifted due to bad weather.  Believe me, I’m always thrilled to see who actually makes it on those rare extreme days and welcome them wholeheartedly!  To help them make that decision, I placed a condition report on the church road and parking lot on the parish website.  It helped the few who made it to church decide which Mass to go to.  We only had attendance at the 10:30 AM, 12:30 PM and 6 PM.  I mentioned that the roads on Saturday were impassable so no one showed up that day thru early Sunday morning. But later that Sunday our incredible snow clearing crew did such a marvelous job opening up our parking lot and I mentioned that on the website.  Next thing I knew parishioners slowly started trickling into the church!

So in the future make sure to check our website (www.saintfrancisparish.org) for announcements of road conditions and cancellation notices of church activities such as CCD, youth activities, and specially scheduled events.  But if you couldn’t make it to Mass, please make sure to include your collection contribution for that Sunday to the following Sunday.  With the expanded parking lot, the snow removal is going to cost us quite a bundle this year.  We will also need your financial help to recover the lost income to pay our bills and staff!

 

Bingo Volunteers needed

 

            One of the ways parishes raise money is to host Bingo games.  The state has approved us to operate the games but we can only make this possible if we have enough Bingo teams that could rotate their turns.  Our goal is to have a team of 10 members that would serve only once a month.  We do have a big mortgage to pay for our new center (close to $40k/month) that will kick in a few months from now so we really need to get going with something.  If you are 18 or over and would like to volunteer please contact me directly or our fundraiser coordinator, Paul Kerstanski (pkerstanski@hotmail.com).

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

February 7, 2016

 

Ash Wednesday/Lent/Fish Fry is early this year

 

            It wasn’t that long ago when Christmas season just ended (Jan. 10) and now Lent begins this coming Ash Wednesday (Feb. 10).  If observed properly, this penitential season moves us closer to God and focus our minds and hearts towards God and away from distractions of the world’s temptations.  Observing fasting and abstinence, as required and recommended by the Church, do wonders to both our spiritual and physical health.  It is not by chance that eating less and/or abstaining from “comfort foods” makes us pray better and feel healthier.  The less we give in to the demands of the flesh the better our souls are drawn to holiness.  As the Lord reminded us on the first Holy Thursday, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).  Start your Lent by coming to one of the Ash Wednesday Masses (check the schedule).  Remember, we only distribute ashes at Mass so be sure to get your ash in church this Wednesday!

 

The return of Fish Fry Ministry & Stations of the Cross

 

            Keep in mind that everyone from the age of 14 and above is required to abstain from eating (land/fowl) meat on Ash Wednesday and every Fridays of Lent.  Those who from ages 18-60 are required to observe the Fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.  Please check the bulletin for the guidelines.

Our amazing crew from the Fish Fry Ministry is back to help you with the Friday meals.  For the 6th straight year Tim and Joyce Sparbanie are once again providing an opportunity for parishioners to have a meatless meal and good Catholic fellowship on the Fridays of Lent.  Afterwards, you can stay for the 7:30 PM Stations of the Cross at the church.  Once again we will serve fried Alaskan Pollock fish (and other meatless options such as grilled cheese & mozzarella sticks—added last year) at our new gym.  The Sparbanies and their helpers will also be sporting their brand new uniform—you’ve got to see this one!  All the proceeds help pay for the cost of our new building.  So come and join us every Friday night of Lent for a nice spiritual meal adventure!

 

The Light Is On confessions starts February 17

 

The Light Is On Lenten Confession begins on February 17.  You can go to most parishes in the Arlington Diocese and Washington Archdiocese on any Wednesday between 6:30-8 PM during Lent and confession will be available.  Every Catholic should not pass up an opportunity to be spiritually renewed by the sacrament of Penance.  If you have not gone to confession in a while, now is the time to do it.  Remember, if you have committed even just one mortal sin and have not confessed it, you have an obligation to go to confession as soon as possible.  You are also to refrain from receiving Holy Communion until after you make a sacramental confession.  If you only have small venial sins it still helps a lot to go to confession.  This sacrament always makes us holier and more virtuous.  Have a great season of Lent!

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

February 14, 2016

 

Gigantic Youth Group retreat participation

 

            Last weekend 46 of our high school parishioners attended the annual Mount 2000 retreat at Mount Saint Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, MD.  That was the largest group we’ve had in my 7 years in the parish (my anniversary is coming up this week:  February 18).  The following Monday I stopped by the Monday night HS CCD class and they were still talking about how great their spiritual experience was.  Thank you, Jane and helpers, for having another successful spiritual retreat for our youth group!  These wonderful special moments with God is something our youth will benefit from for the rest of their lives and likely for all eternity!

 

What are you doing for Lent?

 

            How about praying the Rosary for Lent?  If you haven’t done so, please go to our website in the Rosary Challenge section and learn how to pray the rosary.  If you prefer, there are printed rosary guides in our pamphlet rack in the back of the church.  We also have Friday night 7:30 PM Stations of the Cross right after the Fish Fry Fryday at our hall.  On Friday afternoons you can swing by for Eucharistic Adoration between 12:30 PM-5 PM.

 

Upset at a “pro life” Super Bowl 50 commercial???

 

            Pro-abortion groups and their supporters are still fuming at the Doritos Super Bowl 50 commercial last week that showed an unborn baby thru a live ultrasound image as a “human being” interacting with humans already born.  These unintelligible “pro-choice” people have become so far out of reach from the truth that they constantly live in denial that life really begins at conception.  I don’t understand how they could even celebrate the birth of Jesus and gloss over the part of scripture in Luke 1:39-45 that speaks of the encounter between Jesus and St. John the Baptist while they were both still in the womb.  If you missed the commercial go to this YouTube link from Doritos:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vH2LsFcWOFY.  I thought the commercial was one of the very few this year that was good and funny.  If you revere and respect human life from conception and beyond, this cheese chips commercial is for you.  But if you support Planned Parenthood, NARAL, Catholics for Choice (an oxymoron name), pro-“choice” politicians (and their supporters), and/or you yourself are a pro-“choice/abortion”, then you will be disappointed because this Doritos commercial is …nacho cheese!

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

February 21, 2016

 

Record-setting at Friday’s Fish Fry

 

            We had an exciting start with our Lenten Fish Fry Friday.  The Fish Fry crew members sported for the 1st time their new uniform (see front page pix in this week’s bulletin).  9 boxes of tasty Alaskan Pollock fish were needed to serve 280 fish that night and they made $2,674 in record sales that will help fund our new Catholic education center!  Baked sweet potato was also added to the menu this year.  We kept putting out more tables to accommodate the crowd because it was very relaxing to just hang around the gym and socialize with the other parishioners.  We were amazed to see several non-parishioners swing by and some came all the way from Ashburn who discovered us thru Google.  They searched “Fish Fry” and we were identified as the closest to them.  After tasting the fish they are planning to come back every Friday and they also commented how much they enjoyed our welcoming atmosphere.  (And who says Lent is about having sad faces while doing penance?  Even Jesus wants us to look “normal” when we’re fasting and doing penance! Matthew 6:1-:18)  Many proceeded to the church for the 7:30 PM Friday Stations of the Cross.

 

Update on the church repair + pew replacements

 

            Last week while I was at a diocesan meeting I showed pictures of our damaged pews, floors, carpets and ceiling in the church to our diocesan officials and agreed that we need to move quickly on fixing the problem.  Last year we improved the bathrooms and this year we can now work on repairing the church because we are now capable of closing down the church for repairs while we move the Masses to the new gym.  We are targeting to do this in between weddings so we’re looking in between July and late August.  Next week I will give more details including issues we’re having in the sanctuary.  The good news is we have 44 of the 48 pews already pledged to be paid for by the donors.  We’re still working with the final numbers with the pew company but it looks like it will be around what I estimated a few weeks ago:  $3k per pew.  I would like for those who reserved a pew (or pews) to please contact me directly to confirm that I have you listed down as a donor. 

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

 

February 28, 2016

 

Badly needed church repair/renovation in prep of our anniversaries!

 

            Looking up at the rear ceiling of the church you will find multiple cracks and traces of water leaks from defective windows.  13 windows and their frames need to be replaced and repaired to keep out rain, moisture and mold.  After all the work in the ceiling and the support beams the church would also need to be repainted. When you sit or kneel down on the pews you will find that several of them are badly worn out or don’t even have any kneelers at all (see pictures in the bulletin).  The carpets are torn up in several places and are hazardous to tripping.  We will replace them with non-slip porcelain tiles that are maintenance-free.  The good news is we have a family who offered to cover the repair of the ceiling cracks and a parishioner-contractor who will replace our windows at cost.  We now have 48 pews already pledged so they and the tiles around them are pretty much paid for.  We also have 4 donors who will split the cost for the new crucifix.  We’re exploring an alternate plan to increase pew capacity to 58 pews. If approved we can relocate the 2 confessionals and add a 3rd to the proposed additional area on the backside of the church.  Our used organ originally bought for $5k is nearing its end and a new or quality used organ replacement would complement our hardworking adult/youth music ministry.

Our sanctuary area is way too small and there’s not even enough room for the priest, deacon and servers to pass each other in front of the altar.  The altar servers have also been stepping on the plants during Christmas and Easter seasons due to lack of walking space.  There’s not a lot of sitting area for everyone especially when a Christmas tree is added on either side.  Our congregation has grown and we have been using more ciboria for communion.  As a result, the altar has become way too small and it’s not easy turning the Missal pages without hitting something.  The liturgical directives also require a permanent immoveable altar (preferably made of stone) for the main altar so we’re looking into moving the current altar table to the Oratory and get a larger one.  It would be nice if we could get an altar “rescued” from a church that closed down.

The year 2017 is a major landmark for our parish.  June 28th marks the 25th anniversary (1992-2017) of the dedication of our current church.  On September 1st our parish celebrates her 50th anniversary (1967-2017) as a parish.  Now that we have the capability to temporarily relocate our Sunday Masses to Our Lady of Victory Hall (gym) for 2 or 3 weekends during the renovation and pew replacements, it is the perfect time to give attention to the most important part of the parish property:  the Church!  Let us give the House of God its much-needed repair and facelift as we prepare to celebrate our upcoming important anniversaries.  Please pray that our work will go smoothly and finish everything on schedule.

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

March 6, 2016

 

Are you being called to be an Extraordinary Minister

 of Holy Communion or to be a Lector?

 

            Every year the diocese offers training sessions for those interested in becoming an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion (EMOHC) to serve in local parishes.  This is a special privilege granted by the bishop through a mandate that allows lay people to administer the Holy Eucharist to the faithful at Mass and/or to the homebound.  Parishes are allowed a certain number of lay ministers and we do have openings due to retirement and relocation.  The choices for the diocesan training dates are:  (1) Saturday, April 2, 2016 at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More (in the upper Church) in Arlington; (2) Saturday, April 30, 2016 at St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception (in the upper Church) in Fredericksburg; and (3) Saturday, May 14, 2016 at Our Lady of Hope (in the upper church) in Potomac Falls.  You only need to attend one. The time frame for all workshops will be from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 Noon.  Please contact me directly if you are interested.

            Here are the requirements for EMOHC candidates:  at least 21 years old; fully-initiated in the sacraments (Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist); weekly Mass attendance; receives sacrament of Penance regularly; if married, in a union recognized by the Catholic Church; a registered parishioner; 100% in support of Catholic doctrine (ministers required to sign/proclaim oath of fidelity to the Catholic Church); if involved in public service/office, positions taken must not be in opposition to Catholic teaching (e.g., support for pro-choice/abortion, same sex marriage, euthanasia, etc., disqualifies a candidate); has love for the Eucharist; and, charitable and modest in speech, appearance, and temperament.

            The requirements for Lectors are the same except that the diocese does not require an age minimum.  We could also use more lectors and the training is done locally right here in our parish.  You may also contact me directly if you would like to proclaim the Word of God at Mass.  On the average our lectors serve about once a month.  Both special ministries are very spiritually rewarding and you will also be doing great service ministering to your fellow parishioners.

 

Don’t send your money yet for the pews!

 

            Back in June 28, 2015 I put out a “feeler” in Shepherd’s Notes to see the support we would get for the pew replacements.  I was amazed at your generous response and last week we reached donor #48 to replace our 48 pews!  We’re exploring the idea now of an expansion towards the back of the church to move the confessionals so to make more room for 10 more pews.  If approved, we can take more pew donors/dedications. [I can take 9 more “standby” donors as we currently have 49 donors.]  In the meantime, please hold any payments until we finalize the contract with New Holland Pews when we know the actual cost of the pews.  We expect to get the info before the end of March.  Our best estimate is that the individual pew and porcelain tiles surrounding it will cost around $3k.  We want the new pews to last hopefully until Jesus returns!

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

March 13, 2016

 

“Pink Slip” Sunday…a week late!

 

            Last weekend’s bulletin was prepared 2 weeks ahead and Laetare “Pink Slip” Sunday slipped my mind!  This is one of only 2 weekends (Advent, Lent) when priests are allowed to wear a rose (a cousin of pink) colored vestment.  In 2014 I started inserting a confession guide with the examination of conscience on pink paper to promote confession during the 2 penitential seasons.  The results have been incredible.  Last Advent we had nearly 400 people go to confession during the final week of confessions.  Lent usually surpasses Advent in numbers so plan early and take the enclosed pink slip confession guide from the Busted Halo.

 

Have you gone to confession during Lent yet?  Has it been a long time since you’ve gone?  Now is the perfect time during the Light Is On program.  You can go to nearly any church in the Diocese of Arlington and Archdiocese of Washington on Wednesdays of Lent from 6:30-8:00 PM and there will be at least 1 priest available to hear confessions.  Remember, all Catholics are required to receive this sacrament at least once a year regardless if one has committed a mortal sin or not.  [During the Year of Mercy I’m giving a maximum penance of 7 Our Fathers and 7 Hail Marys for any sin regardless how long ago since your last confession!]

 

Roof leaks and cracks

 

            You’ve seen pictures of the many interior repairs we need to do in the church from a couple of bulletins ago.  If you look up above the choir loft you will see many cracks and water residue on both sides of the ceiling especially near the organ.  I went to the chancery office to show these pictures and they were concerned there may be more issues than what meets the eye.  They will have their crew examine the situation and see what maintenance work needs to be done on our nearly quarter-century old roof before we can proceed with the repairs and renovations of the windows/pews/floor/sanctuary.  As soon as they figure it out, we’ll take the necessary repair action.  Once this is finished we can move on with our important renovation project.  Please pray that we get all of these done quickly and get our church ready next year for our 50th anniversary as a parish and 25th anniversary in our present location!

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

 

 

March 20, 2016

Holy Week is here!

 

Early Easter means early Holy Week.  Make the best of your Easter spiritual preparation by coming to church during Holy Week.  If you feel like you have not been able to do a lot during Lent now is your chance to make up for it..  You are invited to participate in every Holy Week event this week in church to honor the Paschal Mystery:  the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus. 

 

  • Monday, 7:00 PM:  “A Moment in Time – Come Walk With Me” –A Eucharistic Holy Hour featuring International Irish tenor, Mark Forrest, singing songs of praise and spiritual meditation.
  • Tuesday, 6:30 AM Mass; Wednesday, 9 AM Mass
  • Wednesday, 8 PM:  Tenebrae –Meditation and music to honor Our Lord’s Passion and Death as the church is gradually darkened.  Experience the unique feeling of emptiness of the tomb of Jesus as you leave the church in silence and darkness after the service.  For the rest of your life you will remember the earthquake and closing of the tomb effect of Tenebrae.  (Bringing a flashlight for the darkened parking lot is recommended.)
  • Thursday, 7:30 PM:  Mass of the Lord’s Supper followed by Eucharistic Adoration until midnight
  • Friday Confessions:  10:45 – 11:45 AM
  • Friday, 3 PM:  Traditional Stations of the Cross
  • Friday, 7:30 PM:  Good Friday Liturgy + Veneration of the Cross + Holy Communion
  • Holy Week Confessions:  Tuesday & Wednesday (6:30 – 8 PM), Friday (10:45 – 11:30 AM), Saturday (8:00 – 8:30 AM, 3:00 – 4:00 PM)
  • Saturday, 8:30 PM Easter Vigil Mass:  (This is a 2-1/2 to 3-hour Mass!)
  • Easter Sunday Masses:  7 AM, 8:30 AM, 10:30 AM, 12:30 PM, 6 PM

 

I look forward to seeing you this week and feel free to just stop by in prayer to visit the Lord in silence.  His real presence is always here in the sacred tabernacle.  Even on Good Friday and Holy Saturday when the Blessed Sacrament is reposed in the closed Oratory (not open to public during this time), Our Lord Jesus is not far from us.  This is also a good time to go to confession especially if you have not gone in a while.  Take advantage of our extra confession hours.  Have a most blessed celebration of Holy Week and Easter!

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

 

 

 

March 27, 2016,

 

Happy Easter to everyone!

 

            “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).  Once again we are celebrating the most important Christian Holy Day of them all:  Easter!  No matter how our Easter Sunday turns out it will always be a good day because the Lord has truly risen, alleluia!  If we have a spectacular day, that’s great!  Even if our day appears less stellar than what we expected, it will still be a great day because Jesus promised that those who remain faithful to him will receive a resurrection into eternal life!

 

As a parish we have so many blessings to be thankful for including the 17 in our RCIA/RCIT/RCIC programs who were prepared to receive the sacraments this Easter season.  We are thrilled that our parish is growing annually every year with new members embracing the Catholic faith.  If you know of anyone who might be interested in becoming a Catholic please contact me directly or the Religious Education office.  I’m already preparing and recruiting for next year’s RCIA class!

 

Thank you Fish Fry volunteers & patrons

 

            I want to thank the Sparbanie Family and their wonderful, lovable, and multiple volunteers who helped with our Lenten Fish Fry.  Every Friday was a record day of fish meals sale compared to last year.  The addition of the crew’s uniform and lively music also helped the ambience of the Friday meals.  Many stayed from beginning to end.  We had such a great time and we will miss the amazing camaraderie everyone had this year.  We really appreciated our patrons and some came every week.  The proceeds of the sales will be used to pay down the cost of our new parish center.  Great work, everyone, see you next year!

 

Divine Mercy Sunday next week

 

            Remember, next Sunday is Divine Mercy Sunday.  If you go to confession a week before or a week after next Sunday and offer your Holy Communion honoring God’s Divine Mercy, you will receive many special graces and blessings including the remission of all your temporal punishments (purgatory time) up to that moment.  You can also offer this special grace to someone else if you wish.  You are invited to the afternoon Eucharistic Adoration with the recitation of the Divine Mercy Chaplet and the Holy Rosary from 2:45 to 4 PM on Divine Mercy Sunday (April 3).

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

 

April 3, 2016

 

A legendary nun:  Mother Angelica

April 20, 1923 – March 27, 2016

 

            On Easter Sunday Mother Angelica of the Annunciation, best known as the founder of EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network), was called by God into eternal life at the age of 92.  She was quite a Catholic “revolutionary” (in a good sense).  As a cloistered Poor Clare Nun (Franciscan Order for women), Mother Angelica extended her mission in 1981 outside of her monastery walls to pursue God’s call to use the television media as a means to spread the Word of God.  She succeeded in providing the first 24/7 All-Catholic worldwide television network.  Mother Angelica was the first woman in history to become a founder and CEO of a TV network.  At the time of her death her cable/satellite/radio/internet program could be reached in over145 countries/territories and accessed by over 258 million people.

All of Mother Angelica’s programs are 100% faithful to authentic Catholic teaching and are loved by millions throughout the world.  EWTN is a favorite especially for the homebound who get to enjoy daily televised Mass, Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet.  Many of Mother Angelica’s fans are exclusively Catholics.  Many non-Catholics enjoy the 24/7 religious programs that cover different topics including biblical faith study.  The famous Southern Baptist pastor and author of the best-selling book Purpose Driven, Rick Warren, publicly acknowledged that EWTN is his favorite and most watched TV program and tunes in daily with his wife (and record the shows they missed!) to learn more about scripture and to pray their favorite 3 PM recitation of the Divine Mercy Chaplet (you can read/watch Warren’s interview thru this link:  https://churchpop.com/2016/02/05/rick-warren-ewtn-divine-mercy-chaplet/).  For 35 years Mother Angelica has brought joy and multiple conversions to countless souls in the world.  Her great faith and confidence in God, infective personality that includes lots of humor and wit, and unapologetic way of proclaiming Jesus Christ with courage, will be greatly missed.  I personally believe that in a short time a cause for her sainthood will be introduced because she truly lived a saintly life and inspired many to become spiritually closer to God.

 

Divine Mercy Sunday

 

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday.  The Catholic Church officially recognizes the Sunday after Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday.  It is a Sunday dedicated to bring awareness to the great loving mercy of God.  This day is an opportunity for us to receive numerous graces simply by receiving Holy Communion in the state of grace.  Jesus reveals to Saint Faustina:  “My daughter, tell the whole world about my inconceivable mercy.  I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and a shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of my tender mercy are open.  I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of my mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment.  Let no soul fear to draw near to me, even though its sins be as scarlet” (Diary #699).  So make sure to offer your Holy Communion in honor of Our Lord’s Divine Mercy this Sunday and go to confession (preferably the week before or the week after Divine Mercy Sunday).

Join us this Sunday afternoon (April 3) for the special observance of the Divine Mercy.  From 2:45 PM until 4 PM we will have Eucharistic Adoration, the recitation of the Divine Mercy Chaplet (3 PM) and the Holy Rosary.

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

 

 

April 10, 2016

 

Spectacular Lent-Holy Week!

 

            Every year we look forward to our solemn observance of the Lenten Season from Ash Wednesday thru Holy Week/Easter.  We’ve had a noticeably higher attendance during Holy Week than the previous year even though the liturgical services were not obligatory.  The 3-hour Easter Vigil was the largest crowd I’ve seen in my 7 years here.  The beauty of the liturgy and the excellent sacred music that accompanied it seemed in everyone’s mind a swift breeze thru the night as Our Lord’s resurrection was commemorated.  I am most grateful to our music and liturgy ministries for the many days and countless hours of preparation they sacrificed to pour forth such a heavenly experience for us.  The daytime Easter Sunday Masses were also packed with standing room only.  It’s great that the Risen Jesus factor is still going strong for so many people!

            One of the most important celebrations we have is administering the sacraments to our new faithful.  We were blessed to welcome 12 new Catholics (including 6 baptisms) this past Easter plus 5 uncatechized adult Catholics who received Confirmation.  We also have 2 more candidates who will be received in full-communion with the Catholic Church at a later date to eventually bring our total to 19 this year.  The presence of Jesus bringing the joy of faith thru our humble little parish is very much alive.  Please pray for our new Catholics and make every effort to search for more souls for our next Easter Vigil Class 2017 in September.

            Now let us pray for our young Confirmandi (mostly middle-school) who will be Confirmed by Bishop Loverde on April 16—over 100 of them!  Another 100 are scheduled for First Communion on May 7.  Let’s not forget that during Lent we heard around 700 confessions (according to my baseball pitch counter).  Yup, we’ve got a sacramentally vibrant parish all right!

 

Support our seminarian, Jordan Willard

 

            Another super blessing from our parish:  On Holy Thursday, Bishop Loverde called our seminarian and former altar boy, Jordan Willard, to Holy Orders.  A big congratulations to Jordan who has been a faithful altar server and Masters of Ceremony for our Christmas and Holy Week liturgies since his high school years.  Jordan is scheduled for ordination as a transitional deacon at St. Thomas more Cathedral on June 4.  His priesthood ordination will be in 2017.  As far as our parish history, he would become the first diocesan priest from Saint Francis de Sales ordained for the Arlington Diocese.  Say prayers and offer your support to Jordan.  He can be reached at his seminary address until the 2nd week of May at:  Jordan Willard, Pontifical College of the Josephinum, 7625 N. High St., Columbus, OH 43235.  [The altar boy program is by far the largest source of priesthood vocations. We’ve been building up a large core of altar boys in the last few years so we can expect to inspire more towards the seminary in the future.  It’s a slow process but very effective once it gets going!]

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

April 17, 2016

 

Understanding “Amoris Laetitia”

 

            Pope Francis released on Friday, April 8, 2016 a new apostolic exhortation titled “Amoris Laetitia” (The Joy of Love).  It addresses primarily the beauty of marital love after the pope convoked two synods on the family in 2014 and 2015.  It is a very lengthy document comprising 325 paragraphs (265 pages, nearly 400 footnotes).  To get a glimpse of the exhortation, the Vatican provides a 12-page summary of the 9 chapters.  These contain the very basic contents of the document.  I’ve gone thru very quickly the exhortation to get beyond just the basic summary but Pope Francis says, “I do not recommend a rushed reading of the text.”  So I will need to reread it again to get the most of the pope’s words.

            To dispel the myth of what some have been reported in the media, I do need to point out these facts.  This apostolic exhortation does not change any of the doctrinal teachings of the Catholic Church especially with regard to the constant Catholic teaching on marriage.  Amoris Laetitia is not a legislative document but simply a papal exhortation in an attempt to pastorally address major challenges that bishops and priests deal with on a parish level.  The synods provided testimonies from several people that represent the major issues families face today.

To the disappointment of many, the pope did not change or relax any of the Church’s constant teachings but instead encouraged bishops and pastors to be devise practical and more effective means of conveying the Church’s teachings to the people.  So the pope stressed that marriage is still proclaimed as between one man and one woman (paragraph 251); contraception is to be rejected (par. 80); abortion is strongly condemned (par. 83); cautioned against radical feminism (par. 173) that insists on uniformity and devaluing the essence of motherhood; and there was no mention of receiving Holy Communion between a divorced and remarried without the benefit of an annulment and marriage convalidation [Paragraph 291 was the first reference to the divorced and remarried (“breach in the marriage bond”) that the Church needs to pay special attention.  In par. 305 it follows the possibility of them receiving the Church’s help but only offers a suggestion of the possibility of going to confession but not Holy Communion when you look at footnote #351].

The pope clearly expresses a need for pastoral flexibility in the midst of upholding the Church’s teachings.  However, there wasn’t any guidance on how to implement a new approach on presenting Catholic teaching so this task becomes a bit of a challenge for those who are in the forefront of the action in local parishes.  Perhaps in the future the Holy Father will follow this up giving us specifics on how this can be done.  Most priests I know have been pastorally sensitive to implementing some of what others claim to be difficult teachings of the Church and we are always interested in learning new and effective ways of preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We are hopeful that there will be a follow-up that would outline this.

 

Good news about healing marriages

 

            If there’s one thing I’m very happy about is that long before Amoris Laetitia I already began in May 2009 to make a big push in our parish to help couples who were divorced and remarried outside the Catholic Church to get their marriage healed and convalidated.  With the help of our parish canon lawyer, Tara McIntosh and I have successfully processed many annulments.  I have done far more convalidation (“blessing of”) marriages than regular weddings in our parish by at least 4:1 ratio in the past 7 years. Know that we are here to try and help you heal your marriage situation so that you can receive the sacraments again.  Please contact me for more info.  You can also read a link on our website about marriage and annulments for starters at:  http://www.saintfrancisparish.org/is-your-marriage-valid/

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

 

 

April 24, 2016

 

April:  A “month-ful” of youth faith

 

            Our high school spring youth retreat was well attended with 33 students who enjoyed a spiritual weekend together at Brethren Woods retreat center near Harrisonburg, VA from April 8-10.  They are to be commended for leaving behind their schoolwork and other extra curricular activities including sports for a spiritual experience they will treasure for years to come.  There is something unique about a faith retreat.  Praying, meditating, eating, playing, and lodging together bond people with God and with each other in a very special way.  History shows that those who were active in high school parish youth groups were the most likely to keep their faith after graduation.  It is also the 2nd highest of source of vocations for the priesthood and religious life.  I was blessed to be able to join them for the 3rd year in a row.  On Saturday night we got to pray the rosary during Eucharistic Adoration after Mass.  Parents, do your kids a big “faith” favor and encourage them to be active in our youth group!

 

             We also had 100 kids receive Confirmation on April 16.  Bishop Loverde administered Confirmation and made note how impressed he was with the contents of the kids’ letters to him.  I’m not surprised because I interviewed each one of them before Confirmation and found that they were very serious about their Catholic faith and looking forward to becoming responsible members of the Church.  One of the things we implemented this year was signing their names when they go to church (or bring back a bulletin from another parish signed by the priest!).  This corrected the problem of non-churchgoing students as has happened in the previous years.  We hope that through the grace of the sacrament they will continue to come to weekly Mass even after Confirmation.  Next year every confirmandi will be required a weekly homework of giving a summary of the priest’s (or deacon’s) Sunday homily.  This will help both their attendance and paying attention at Mass!  [This is not my original idea.  Other parishes have done this for years and I think it’s a great idea to introduce it to ours.]

 

B-I-N-G-O we go!

 

            We’ve had 2 Bingo sessions so far and about 40 participants in each.  Now that our crew has experience running it please spread the word that we’re now hosting this twice a month and is open to the public.  The proceeds will help pay for the debt we still owe on our new parish education center.

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

 

 

May 1, 2016

 

Big turnout for the Jubilee Year Holy Doors pilgrimage!

 

            Two full-size buses and 110 parishioners jam-packed their way to the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception for the Jubilee Year of Mercy + Holy Doors pilgrimage last Sunday (April 24)!  Several other parishioners drove separately and met us there so the number got bigger when we arrived.  It was a blessing to be seated in the front section of the basilica for the noon Mass that was filled to capacity.

            I would like to thank the Women’s Council for successfully organizing this pilgrimage.  They did a great job making everything work out.  When they began working on this 3 months ago no one knew that the day they picked would be a very special occasion.  It turned out to be a special Memorial Mass for Mother Angelica!  EWTN was broadcasting the Mass live so our parishioners were seen all over world.  (Even my mom called me and said, “Hey, I saw you on TV”!) Many were first-timers at the basilica and everyone loved the visit to our nation’s patronal church.  Several already discussed their desire to return soon because they want to spend more time in prayer at the different chapels and learn more of their fascinating history.

            A funny thing happened on the way to the basilica.  Half of the lunch was accidentally left behind at Subway.  I decided to pick them up so that none of them would miss the noon Mass.  After all, I had already celebrated 3 Sunday Masses at our parish so I had already fulfilled my “obligation” threefold.  Nevertheless, I caught up with the group in my trusty Subaru and met them in front of the shrine while they were still unloading the bus (I’m at the basilica about a dozen times a year and have been visiting there since 1976 so I learned thru the years a quicker way to get there).  There was one family that was accidentally left off the bus list and I felt bad for them.  Since I drove there myself and didn’t have to ride back on the bus, I gave the family a bonus Holy Land pilgrimage at the nearby Franciscan Monastery as a “consolation” prize.  We had a superb time together and now they want to go back to both the Immaculate Conception Basilica and the Franciscan Monastery! 

 

Pray for little ones for their First Communion

 

            This coming Saturday our young children will be making their First Holy Communion.  Please keep them in your prayers as they prepare to receive Our Lord Jesus in the Eucharist for the first time.  This is a very special spiritual occasion and hopefully something they will treasure for the rest of their lives.  It is always my prayer intention when I celebrate this Mass that all the children will regularly go to church and receive the Eucharist. 

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

May 8, 2016

 

Jesus became a “real” Astronaut in 2013!

 

            As we celebrate this Sunday the Solemnity of the Ascension of Jesus, we recall how Our Lord rose from the ground towards the clouds to return to his Heavenly Father.  That must have been an astonishing sight for Jesus’ disciples to witness as related in sacred scripture (Acts 1:6-11, Luke 24:50-51).

 

            On September 25, 2013 Jesus Christ became part of space age history by again taking off from the Earth and ascend way past the clouds.  This is no science fiction but a true story.  We’re talking about the “real” Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who was on board the Soyuz TMA-10M rocket ship that docked at the International Space Station for 24 weeks (till March 10, 2014).  Here is how it happened.

 

            NASA astronaut, Michael S. Hopkins, had completed his RCIA classes at Mary Queen Catholic Church (near Houston, TX) and converted from a Methodist to a Catholic in 2013 just before his space flight.  Receiving the real presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist became so important to him that he couldn’t imagine missing Mass and Holy Communion for half a year.  So he made an “out of this world” request from his pastor to take communion with him into space!  This would require a special permission from the Galveston-Houston bishop and I could only imagine how the pastor addressed this extraordinary plea to his bishop: “Um, Bishop of Houston…we have a problem!”  The bishop must have been pleased because he granted the astronaut’s unusual request.  The pastor gave Hopkins 6 communion hosts in a pyx broken in 4 pieces so that he could receive the Eucharist every week for 24 weeks in space while working at the International Space Station.  As Catholics we believe in the “real presence” of Jesus in the Eucharist so you can see now how Jesus became a real astronaut in 2013.  [I plan to tell this story at our weekend’s First Communion to encourage the children and their family how important it is to go to Mass and receive Holy Communion regularly thru the example of this extraordinarily devout Catholic astronaut.  No excuse to miss Mass on Earth!]

 

Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms!

 

            As we thank and greet our earthly moms a Happy Mother’s Day, let us also remember to thank our Blessed Heavenly Mother who also watches over us.  A single Hail Mary prayed devoutly for both of our moms is a gift worth more than gold.  And praying a whole rosary in their honor is worth an eternal treasure!

 

            This is one busy weekend with the celebration of Our Lord’s Ascension, First Communion, Mother’s Day, and…on a smaller scale, today (May 8) marks the 40th anniversary of my family’s [legal] immigration and arrival to the U.S.!

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

 

May 15, 2016

 

May as the Month of Mary

 

            The popular devotion of honoring Our Blessed Mother during the month of May can be traced back towards the end of the 13th century.  Many religious orders especially the Dominicans and Franciscans during that time helped spread devotion to the Rosary and helped usher in a month where Mary was the main focus of private devotions. 

But history indicates the Jesuits in Rome were primarily responsible in popularizing to the rest of the world the dedication of May as the Month of Mary.  The practice was started in the Jesuits’ mother church in Rome, the Gesu.  The parish publicly practiced the devotion and by the 1700’s young seminarian students in Rome really liked the devotion and took it back to their respective dioceses and religious orders.  Afterwards, several subsequent popes promoted the devotion in their teachings and writings and it cemented its popularity worldwide.

All Catholics are encouraged to honor Our Blessed Mother in a special way this month.  If you haven’t done so, I highly recommend praying the Rosary daily as a good way to show one’s love for Our Blessed Mother.  The powerful effects of the rosary will bring you closer to Jesus and whatever your prayer intentions may be will likely be answered sooner and a big way through this time-proven devotion. You will also receive eternal rewards you’ll be able to claim as treasures in heaven.

 

Host the Pilgrim Virgin Statue in your home

 

            It’s easy to have Our Lady of Fatima’s Pilgrim Virgin visit your home.  All you have to do is reserve a Sunday when you would like to host the Pilgrim Virgin for a week at a time by emailing the coordinator, Diane Waller (dianewaller@msn.com).  For those who do not use email, please call the parish office to make the arrangements at 540.338.6381 and ask for Angela.  Make sure to include in your email your name, phone number, address, and the Sunday date you wish to begin hosting.  For available “open dates” and hosts schedule, just go to our website (ww.saintfrancisparish.org) and click on the Pilgrim Virgin Statue button.

The system of transfer we devised from home to home is easy.  After you sign up, just pick up Our Lady’s statue in her travel box in the narthex (left side of the glass doors in the church) next to the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and return her (no later than the following Saturday morning) in the same place for the next person to pick up and you’re all set.  You can pick her up either after the Saturday vigil Mass (5 PM) or after any of the Sunday Masses you attend that weekend. 

For nearly a hundred years the hosting the Pilgrim Virgin of Our Lady of Fatima has brought many blessings and even miracles to those who devoutly prayed the Holy Rosary before her sacred image.  This is an opportunity to receive graces in abundance from Our Blessed Mother whom the archangel Gabriel addressed as “full of grace” (Luke 1:28).  And Happy Pentecost Sunday!!!

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

May 22, 2016

 

99th Anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima

 

            We celebrated on May 13 the 99th anniversary of Our Lady’s first appearance at Fatima to the 3 children:  Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta.  Our Blessed Mother’s peace plan for the world is very simple for everyone of all ages to follow:  prayer, penance and atonement for sins.  Outside of the Mass, the prayer that Our Lady highly encouraged is the Holy Rosary.  The power of evil has caused much suffering to God’s faithful in today’s society coming from all fronts.  There are lots of concerns about terror threats, wars, gangs, drugs, attacks on traditional family living, financial issues, political turmoil, health issues, etc.  It seems like a bleak future is constantly lurking ahead of us.  Is there a way out of all this?  There most certainly is!

 

            Back on September 12, 2015 we launched a Rosary Campaign to encourage everyone to follow Our Blessed Mother’s invitation to pray the rosary regularly as a means to achieve this peace.  Wherever you are in your spiritual life the rosary will help enhance your personal relationship with God.  A minimal time set aside for the rosary will more than sufficiently get your soul back on track.  One rosary a week was the goal set for everyone to do for starters.  Praying one decade a day will easily allow you to complete the rosary with plenty of time during the week.  You can do this while driving in your car, waiting at the grocery line (if at the DMV you can easily do the whole rosary!), or even while in bed before you go to sleep if that’s the only time of the day you have left.  Regardless, praying the rosary will transform you into having a very satisfactory spiritual life that you’ve desired.  So if you’ve hit some rough spots in life and need something to jolt you into spiritual excitement, pick up that rosary and start praying.  If you need help learning how to pray the rosary (that even young 7-year olds can do), just go to www.rosarygraces.com or thru our website: www.saintfrancisparish.org and click on the rosary image.  Sign up for the pledge or just send the number of rosaries you’ve prayed by clicking on the Challenge button.  We have surpassed the 20,000 rosaries prayed as of this writing so please continue to send in your report.  Our goal is to reach 100,000 rosaries prayed in honor of Our Blessed Mother’s 100th anniversary at Fatima by October 13, 2017 (date of final apparition to the children). Those who have been doing the family rosary are still raving how much good this has done for them and I know that you will have similar spiritual benefits if you do the same.

 

Catholic Hikers Group

 

            A newly formed and growing Catholic adults/young adults hikers group in our area is inviting you join them at Ida Lee on May 30 for a pot luck/picnic from 10am-2pm at the Billy Cox Pavilion next to the library.  There is no cost to join and you can sign up for the event thru:  www.meetup.com/catholic-community.  I spoke to their organizer, Tierri Alexandre, 2 weeks ago and I really like their group and their Catholic spirituality!

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

May 29, 2016

 

            What is “Corpus Christi”?

 

Corpus Christi (Latin for the body of Christ) is the most central belief in the Catholic faith.  During Mass bread and wine are miraculously transformed into the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ.  The catechism clearly defines this mystery in the following words: “In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist ‘the body and blood, together w/the soul and divinity, of Our Lord Jesus Christ &, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really and substantially contained…’ it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God & man, makes himself wholly & entirely present” (CCC 1374).

 

While some Christians believe that believing in Jesus as their Lord savior and the Bible as the most important part of their salvation, the Catholic Church in her 2,000+ years of history focuses in believing that Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is present Himself in the Holy Eucharist for us to spiritually worship and be physically united!  Catholics believes literally what is written in the Gospel of John (6:53-54) when Jesus says, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day”?  The only place on earth where the true flesh and blood of Jesus Christ is offered is in the celebration of the Mass.  Others only offer a “symbolic” bread and wine for communion.  The Catholic Church has taught since apostolic times that the Holy Communion we receive is the real presence of Jesus. What a great gift from God!

 

Congratulations to Stephen Cypher:  Eagle Scout!

 

One of the most devout and active teens in our parish, Stephen Cypher, received the prestigious rank of Eagle Scout at a ceremony held at Ida Lee on May 21st.  His project was to place trail markers for Ida Lee Park.  Home Depot and Tart Lumber helped by donating the materials.  Stephen has been very active for several years growing up at Saint Francis de Sales.  If he’s not on duty as an altar server (and meticulously very good at it), Stephen is either cantoring or singing with the church choir.  He has also helped his mother, Sue Cypher, in her pro-life activities.  I loved the quote he used from Saint John Paul II for his program back cover:  “Do not be afraid.  Do not be satisfied with mediocrity.  Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”  The ceremony went very well and included dignitaries Sate Sen. Dick Black and Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Kristen Umstattd.  Congratulations on your great accomplishment, Stephen, and we also appreciate all the work you do in our parish!

 

                        Your shepherd in Christ,

                        Father Escalante

 

June 5, 2016

 

Your chance to have your name etched in stone!

 

            Would you like your name, your loved ones, or a special event in your life perpetually commemorated on the grounds of Saint Francis de Sales parish?  We are offering a rare opportunity to have your commemorations engraved on the brick front of our new Catholic Education Center.

The dedication can be made on just about any* special occasion:  anniversary, birthday, Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation, Wedding, “in memory of…”, graduation, workcamp or any other service project year, sports team/event, etc. 

Dedications can be made for both the living and the dead so feel free to dedicate the bricks for living family members.  This is a limited offer so once we run out of bricks—that’s it!  The 4x8-inch bricks are $250 and the 8x8-inch are $500.  See our flyer or go to our website for details and to order:  www.saintfrancisparish.org.

            Proceeds from the commemorative brick campaign will be used to pay the mortgage on our parish center’s $3 million debt.  [*Dedications must be in conformity with the Catholic Church moral guidelines and are subject to final approval.  E.g., we cannot accept dedications for organizations such as Planned Parenthood, KKK, Hemlock Society, etc.]

 

Middle school kids:  You are invited to MAC PAC Day Camp!

 

            Rising 6th graders thru 8th graders are invited to a 3-day faith-filled Day Camp with fun and excitement.  The program runs from June 20-22 (3:00– 9:00 PM).  Registration is $20 and dinner is included.  Father Jeremy Lambert, LC and Bro. Domingo, LC of the Legionaries of Christ will lead the MAC PAC event.  See the bulletin and/or our parish website for details.  Father Jeremy will be celebrating the 6 PM Sunday Mass on June 12 and will be available from 4:30-5:30 PM to answer any questions about the Day Camp and their ministry.

 

NEW FRIDAY CONFESSION TIME:  10:30—11:30 AM (July 1)

 

            Starting July 1, 2016 Friday confessions will be adjusted from 10:30 AM to 11:30 AM.  Penitents have been regularly coming closer towards the 11:45 AM for confession.  We don’t want to discourage confession (we actually like it!) but the previous schedule (10:45 to 11:45 AM) has become problematic if there is only one priest available to hear confessions and happens to be the celebrant for the Noon Mass.  The other confession schedules have been adjusted a few years ago to give the priests a half hour to prepare for Mass but now it has become a necessity to do the same for the Friday confessions.  So come to confession early…and often!

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

June 12, 2016

 

“Historic ordination:  1st in 49 years!”

 

            Last Sunday’s morning Masses (8:30 & 10:30) were celebrated for the 1st time with a deacon who grew up in our parish.  Deacon Jordan Willard is the first parishioner from Saint Francis de Sales (in our 49-year parish history) who was ordained for the Arlington Diocese.  Jordan was still in high school when I first arrived at the parish 7-1/2 years ago.  He was always very comfortable up there around the altar and had a knack for knowing the details of the Mass.  He served as Master of Ceremonies especially for our most important liturgies:  Christmas and Easter.  His services of coordinating the complex Holy Week liturgies will certainly be missed as Bishop Loverde has assigned him to Saint Charles Borromeo in Arlington for his diaconate.  The other seminarian ordained, Deacon Stephen Vaccaro, was assigned at Saint Thomas More Cathedral.  They have wonderful assignments and will gain lots of parish/ministry experience because of their proximity to the chancery and cathedral (less than 10 minutes).

            Next year’s priesthood ordination is on June 10 and Deacon Jordan can make history again as the first diocesan priest to come from our parish.  The day will be here before we know it.  Before his ordination Deacon Jordan and I were reminiscing when we first met in my office some 6 years ago because he felt strongly about leaving Virginia Tech to begin his seminary formation.  You can only imagine the excitement and turmoil one goes through in making such a life changing decision.  As he recalled, I assured him that anyone who truly seeks God especially in desiring to serve Him fully can never go wrong.  Even if it he realizes this was not his calling God would still take very good care of him.  We’re so happy that several years later Jordan still feels called to be a priest and now ordained a transitional deacon—one step away from fulfilling his ultimate vocation.

Conversation with a priest regarding the priesthood and religious life is so important that I encourage others not to be too shy about having a discussion with a priest.  The grace from the sacrament of Holy Orders often plays a big role in one’s vocation.  The ministry of Jesus Christ through the priesthood can help someone hear the silent voice of God speak to one’s soul.  A few years ago there was a young man who had a lot of apprehension about leaving his career to pursue the priesthood.  After our meeting he found enough encouragement to eventually make the big leap to leave everything behind and has been a very successful and happy priest in our diocese ever since.  Right now I’m working with Father Jaffe, the diocesan vocation director, to bring more priests and nuns from the diocese and other religious orders for our youth (and adults) to see just how beautiful their vocation really is.  Lately I’ve been getting a lot of inquiries about the priesthood and religious life from the kids who have grown up with me in the parish.  They have gotten to know me very well and quite comfortable to ask about vocations.  I really believe that just a few years from now our parish will become an abundant source of priest and nuns.  I want to thank the parents for encouraging their children to pursue these special vocations and I also commend those involved in creating a solid Catholic religious education in our parish.  It is not enough to just know the teachings of the Church to inspire others to lead a holy life.  It is necessary that teachers are also virtuous people that live and teach the faith.  Our parish is very blessed to have virtuous and dedicated teachers of the faith who have been moving numerous souls to Our Lord Jesus Christ and his kingdom.

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

June 19, 2016

 

Reviving Middle School Ministry

 

            Middle school age is a crucial time for youth formation.  At this stage the kids wonder more about the meaning of life and their role in it.  It is also a time when their minds can easily be swayed by wrong beliefs and ideologies.  Parishes that have a successful middle school ministry have enjoyed keeping most of the kids in high school youth ministry.  A large number of our current active high school members came from MAC PAC (Middle Schoolers Acting in Christ: Prayer – Action – Charity).  The current program started about 5 years and was successfully run by volunteers. 

We needed a new volunteer to reorganize and run the program and we’re blessed that TWO parish volunteers came forward to restart it with a new name (TBD).  We welcome Pat and Danielle Orender as our new Middle School ministry coordinators!  The Orender family has been very active in the parish since they move to Purcellville a few years ago.  Danielle has been teaching CCD and VBS.  Pat has been an usher and Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion.  Their kids have participated in practically all the available activities for them including VBS, altar serving and JAS (Junior Altar Women Society).

If you have rising 6th graders thru 8th grade, make sure to save the 2nd Sunday after the evening Mass when the school season begins.  During the summer break we hope to do several activities for them. The new format will continue the spirit of MAC-PAC having these 3 main elements of formation:  spiritual, social & service.  The Orenders are a fun-loving family and I’m confident that the kids will have a lot of fun growing in their faith in God.  It will be nice because they can use of the gym for their Sunday activities!  In the Fall their time slot will run simultaneously but separately with the high school.

 

No more 6 PM Sunday Night Mass…read on but don’t panic!

 

            At the last pastoral council on June 9, the members expressed the importance of reorganizing the middle school ministry.  They also desired that a regular activity on Sunday nights be held for them.  Since it would be too late for kids as young as 6th graders to take part on activities after the current 6 PM Mass (and go home at 9 PM prior to school on Monday), the members unanimously requested that the 6 PM Mass be moved to a 5 PM Sunday Night Mass.  Our youth ministry director, Jane Treado, and Sunday night music bandleader, Kevin Bills, also believe that this is a good idea for the youth.  (The priests are also thrilled with this motion to finish our 7th & last Mass of the weekend an hour sooner!)  Starting on August 7th Sunday Mass will begin at 5 PM.  A couple of parents were even considering volunteering to set up a dinner plan for the kids right after Mass so that they are fed before their activities.  With enough volunteers this could work really well and even draw more kids to participate!

            Also, remember that the Friday confession time will now be from 10:30 AM to 11:30 AM starting on July 1st.

 

High School Youth Ministry “Adjustment”

 

            Jane Treado is not leaving youth ministry but is transitioning to continue working with the youth in our parish as a volunteer and pass on the torch to a new director of youth ministry.  As parents and grandparents, Jane and Chris would like to have more opportunities spent with their family members but they don’t want the youth to miss out on activities because they are away.  Both of them would like to remain as active as they can with their new role as volunteers and don’t want a farewell party because…they’re not leaving!  This was a complete surprise to me last week but I totally understand the importance of family time.  I’m also very grateful to Jane’s amazing leadership with the youth ministry the past several years and glad to hear that she and Chris will still be with us.  In the meantime, please join me in praying to find the best new youth ministry director to lead and enhance the faith of the kids in our parish.  God has blessed us with a very good staff and I will follow the formula that has worked well in the past several hires:  pray hard, consult, check the references, and interview only from resumes that qualify for the job description.

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

June 26, 2016

 

MAC PAC returns 40-strong!

 

            MAC PAC stands for:  Middle-schoolers Acting in Christ – Prayer Action Charity.  We begin a new era with MAC PAC that just sponsored a very successful 3-day Day Camp held from 3-9 PM (June 21-23) with 40 middle school kids participating!  Grade 6 thru 8 is a very important age group and they are the key to sustaining a good core of high school youth participants.  Nearly all of the high school youth who took part in this week’s leadership role were one-time members of MAC PAC.

 

            I would like to thank Father Jeremy, LC and his wonderful crew for leading the 3-Day camp.  They led the kids in prayer, Mass, spiritual talks, team building and sports activities.  Jane Treado, Janice Rees and our HS youth group also were a big help in making the camp do very well.  The heavy Tuesday thunderstorm didn’t hamper their activities because we are now blessed with a nice education center that includes a big gym!  It was so much fun seeing our youth enjoying themselves while learning the importance of their Catholic faith.  Last week was a great way to jump start our MAC PAC so stay tuned for more activities this summer and beyond from our new middle school youth coordinators, Pat & Danielle Orender.

 

            Please keep in your prayers this week our high school youth and the volunteers who are going to the annual Workcamp.  This year their service work is around the poor section of Virginia Beach.  I will celebrate Mass and visit them in their work sites. 

 

                                                Your shepherd in Christ,

                                                Father Escalante

 

July 3, 2016

 

Parish Mission Statement formulation

 

            On June 28th our parish celebrated the 24th anniversary of the dedication of our current church.  Next year we’re excited and looking forward to our 25th Silver Anniversary here in our scenic location.  2017 also is going to be the 50th Golden Anniversary of our establishment as a parish (September 1, 1967-2017).  We are so looking forward to having a new look in our church by the time of the big anniversaries.  We expect the new windows to be installed in July and the roof repair in the late Fall. We are also working with replacing our lighting with LED (you may have noticed some of them don’t turn on anymore).  All of these have to take place before we can repair/reprint the cracks on ceiling.  After all these we can finalized our plans to schedule the replacement of the pews, install new non-slip porcelain tiles, dedicate a larger and permanent marble stone altar, and replace our crucifix (already ordered from a 500+ year-old German company in historic Oberammergau!)

You may have noticed in the past 3 bulletins the publishing our new Parish Mission Statement.  It is important that we publicly proclaim the reason why we exist as a parish here in Purcellville to assist God’s people in our area.  With monumental help from the past 2 Pastoral Councils (2014-2016:  you can see their names/pictures in the website), we were finally able to finalize at our last session (June 9)  a concise identification of the mission we have been doing well in time for our upcoming major anniversaries.  We are working on  a nice permanent presentation of the Mission Statement to be placed in the narthex and in the education center.  Our staff and volunteers have been cranking up so many amazing activities to bring the mission of Jesus Christ to God’s people that it became difficult to express them in a few words.  This Sunday the Gospel (Luke 10:1-20) speaks about Jesus sending his disciples in pairs to proclaim His saving message to the people and says, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.”  This is a synopsis of how the mission statement was formulated the inspiration of our patron, Saint Francis de Sales.

It all started with a council member who reflected on the words of Saint Francis de Sales saying that the grace of God is always around us.  Another  recommended using an acronym to use as a mnemonic device to easily recall important points of the message (his military background was a big influence).  From the letters G-R-A-C-E another member drafted a summary of our activities and fitted them in each of the 5 letters.  And for the next several months pouring into the current council members we were all finally able to craft the final version that was first published on June 19, 2016 bulletin.  Key elements needed to express that we are a Catholic parish dedicated to proclaiming 100% of what the Catholic Church teaches through the official magisterium and loyalty to the pope.  This includes authentic liturgical worship of our God, the Most Holy Trinity at Mass and the celebration of the sacraments.  Our mission includes the fostering of true evangelization and the performance of both the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy.  We also remind everyone that stewardship is an obligation for all parishioners to promote the success of the Church’s mission.  The acronym’s order of words does reflect the order of importance.  It just worked out that way.  Instead of GRACE it would have spelled out as RCAEG.  We would need a game of JUMBLE to see who can figure out the correct word order!

            I am writing this column down in the Virginia Beach area in the midst of our annual High School Workcamp.  The 120+ crew are having a great time and they already have plenty of adventures to share when they come back on Saturday!  We had a nice big Mass with everyone there at the school auditorium followed by a “God-sighting” sharing/prayer & praise in the gym.  I want to thank Jane Treado and her terrific crew of volunteers and supporters for another successful summer charity program and for the prayers and support you’ve offered as well.  See you Sunday and have a great 4th of July weekend!

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

July 10, 2016

 

It’s the little ones’ turn:  Vacation Bible School!

 

            Once again we’ll have a jam-packed church filled with youngsters for the annual Vacation Bible School.  The theme this summer is “Egypt:  Joseph’s Journey from Prison to Palace.”  Joseph, one of Jacob’s 12 sons, was one of the most beloved heroes of the Old Testament.  His life story of faithfulness to God even through difficult adversities is the central theme of the weeklong spiritual camp.  For several centuries Joseph’s faith has inspired so many not to lose hope and to trust that God does not forget his faithful people even when they are in the bleakest situations.  We look forward to capturing the spirit of Joseph as our volunteers have been working hard preparing their props, talks, skits, songs and dance.  With the help of our new education center the number of participating kids have dramatically increased.  We expect Saint Francis de Sales Church to swell beyond 250 excited kids from Monday to Friday (July 11-15).  Please keep our Vacation Bible campers in your prayers this week.

 

Pray that this “rumor” is true…

 

            There’s some renewed interest that our diocese may look into taking over the failed attempt by a private group to build a cemetery right here in Purcellville.  This time the plan is to make it a Catholic cemetery.  There are still a lot of details that need to be worked at but I heard that there are serious conversations going on regarding this project.  A lot of our parishioners were very disappointed (I was too!) when I shared the news that the private investors working on the cemetery ran into some roadblocks and could not continue.  But now there is renewed hope that a future Catholic cemetery may still be built and it could happen right within our parish boundary.  The proposed location is in the same place of the original plan just across the road from Loudoun Country Club.  Wouldn’t that be nice and I know other parishes would support it too.  Let’s add this intention in our prayers and let the Lord guide those involved to be successful.  When I hear more news I’ll let you know.

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

July 17, 2016

 

Record-setting Vacation Bible School!

 

            We capped off the final major summer youth activity for the 2015-16 academic year this past week with Vacation Bible School setting a new record of 215 campers with ages ranging from nursery to 5th grade!  VBS also had 130 volunteers that put on another spectacular and memorable presentation.  The pictures inside show only a glimpse of the immense talent and hard work the VBS crew did.  This year’s theme focused on the faith of Joseph, one of Jacob’s 12 sons.  The faith program was titled, “Egypt:  Joseph’s Journey from Prison to Palace.” I would like to acknowledge and thank our religious education staff and volunteers for hosting another very successful Vacation Bible School.  The kids also contributed to this year’s VBS charity contribution by supporting building water wells for the poor in the Dominican Republic.  Vern and Mary Sue Conaway gave a very nice presentation on this urgent need to the VBS kids and we thank them for their superb project.

 

Great job, everyone, and what a great year we had!  Thank you, so much, dear Lord Jesus, for helping us minister to so many youthful souls in our parish!  I also want to thank everyone who prayed for the success of our mission.

 

            Now that VBS is done for the summer we can now start working on the physical upkeep of the church.  First on the list are the 14 badly worn windows.  All the rectangular windows need to be replaced and many of the windowpanes are rotting.  We were able to get a good price of just under $15,000 to get all the windows replaced and windowpanes repaired.  The round and curved windows were replaced back in 2011.  Thank you so much for your generous contributions for the maintenance of our church. 

 

We’re working hard to have a super nice house and church of God in time to celebrate our 50th anniversary as a parish on September 1, 2017 and for the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima on October 13, 2017.  Keep praying your rosaries as we are trying to reach the goal of 100,000 prayed by the time of the anniversary.  We’re currently inching our way up to 25,000 a couple of months from our halfway point.

 

Very nice Catholic Charities YouTube video

 

            The Diocese of Arlington recently released a well-done video giving a brief look at the kind of services Catholic Charities does in our diocese.  I really think you’ll enjoy watching this short 7-1/2 minute video.  Here’s the link to the YouTube video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wzy0KYBE2hE

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

 

July 24, 2016

How do we respond to troubling news?

            In the past month we have been hit hard with troubling news of extreme violence.  In our nation alone we’ve had the killing of innocent people in Orlando, Minneapolis, Dallas and Baton Rouge.  We also hear of violent activities in other countries most recently the bloodshed in Nice, France and Turkey.  How do we cope with these kinds of somber news?  Is there anything we can do?  Yes, there is!  Our response is the same way that God has prescribed for us to do:  prayer, atonement and sacrifice.  The atonement and sacrifice can be done through fasting or offering up some hard tasks to God.

            Perhaps now you realize why we launched the Rosary Campaign last year on September 12 on the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary.  The rosary is a simple meditative prayer but it is a very powerful tool in combatting the forces of evil.  This devotion is the perfect complement to the graces we receive from the sacraments and the official prayer of the Church.  Since St. Dominic popularized the rosary 802 years ago (1214) it has helped a lot of people overcome many challenges in life whether it was personal or even an international level.  The Battle of Lepanto (1571) serves as a reminder of how praying the rosary averted Europe falling into Muslim rule when Christians fought with sword in one hand and a rosary on the other. 

            I encourage everyone not to lose heart when we hear troubling news.  Jesus prophesied that the world would continue to get worse before he returns and restores peace (read the Book of Revelation and you’ll see).  Everyday we wake up is one day closer to the return of Jesus.  We celebrate Advent primarily because we are keeping vigilance for Jesus’ return.  I encourage everyone again to pray the rosary regularly even if just one mystery/one decade a day.  Families, try praying together even briefly at least once a week and you’ll notice the difference.  You’ll give your kids the confidence to face the challenges in life far better than if you didn’t spend time together in prayer.  If you are able, offer a fast or a partial fast sometime during the week or the month.  A combination of prayer and fasting overcomes the powers of evil by leaps and bounds (see Matthew 17:14-21).

 

On a good note…

            The Vacation Bible Campers raised $2,242.40 to help build the first water drinking fountain in the Dominican Republic!  It will be installed in the NPH orphanage where our parishioners, Vern and Mary Sue Conaway, have been involved in helping for several years.  Another parishioner, Amanda Gingras, just returned from there after serving as a volunteer for one year.  She and the Conaways made their presentation to the kids about NPH during camp.  I spent almost a week there last year at NPH and was impressed with the incredible ministry they have to the kids.  Here the grade totals of the collection arranged according to amount raised:  4th Grade ($517.87), 3rd Grade ($402.03), 2nd Grade ($264.13), 1st Grade ($224.19, 4-year olds ($176.75) & Kindergarten ($161.01).  The 4th Grade winners were treated to an ice cream social last Tuesday and we had a fun time in the gym/patio. Thank you all for your great generosity!

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

 

July 31, 2016

 

New church windows are in!

 

            The major church repair/renovation has begun with the replacement of 14 new church windows and windowpanes.  On July 19 all the rectangular windows have now been replaced with triple-paned windows and and everyone felt difference.  The previous weekend several parishioners were fanning themselves during the midday Sunday Masses because of the heat.  Last weekend the temperature was much higher in the mid 90’s but several said the church was too cold for them.  The thermostat has been set at 68º for the whole summer so the new and better-insulated windows must have caused the new cooler church!  Perhaps now we can raise the temperature slightly and save cost and energy.

 

            We are still projecting that we will need to close the church and relocate the Masses in the gym in July-August 2017.  Our contractors estimate they’ll need 5-6 weeks to finalize interior repairs, repainting, tiling, pew replacements, and installing of the new altar and crucifix.  Scaffoldings will need to be installed in church to do the work.  We got a great deal with the windows costing us only about $15k including labor.  Right now we’re working on a good price for the repair on our 24-year old roof.  The early estimate right now is a little over $100k!  Thank you for all the prayers and financial help you’ve given to the church maintenance fund and please continue your support as we head towards the major part of our renovation as we close in on the 50th celebration of our parish in 2017.

 

Choir Camp success

 

            I almost forgot to mention that we have one more summer kids’ camp that took place:  our Choir Camp!  Congratulations to our music director, Michael Galdo, for having another good turnout for the weeklong choir camp (July 18-22).  The kids finished their camp by singing at the Friday, Noon Mass on the Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene.  What a blessing that was!  A couple renewing their 50th wedding anniversary at that Mass received an unexpected bonus blessing that day when the 41-strong kids choir sang the hymns and parts of the Mass.  They added an angelic aura to the Mass and everyone loved it!

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

August 7, 2016

 

Save these 2 parish dates:

 

September 18, Sunday – Parish Picnic (Everyone)

October 8, Saturday -- Bella Notte Gala 2 (Adults)

 

            We have two fun-filled parish events coming right up so make sure to reserve these in your calendars.  The annual parish picnic is so much fun for the whole family and the Knights of Columbus does a great job organizing the free food, games, and other activities.  I also do my annual kids’ magic show at this event.  This is a great fellowship gathering for the parish and fun for all ages.  The Parish Picnic is scheduled for Sunday, September 18 from Noon-4 PM.

 

            The 2nd annual Bella Notte Gala will be held on Saturday, October 8.  Last year was a tremendous success and well over $30k in one night to help pay for our new parish center!  Paul Kerstanski and his amazing crew are anxious to host the 2nd Bella Notte Gala so make sure to reserve this evening on your calendar.  Tickets will soon go on sale so keep an eye on them in the bulletin. 

 

Save another fun date:

Special RCIA Alumni gathering on August 30

 

            If you were part of the RCIA program especially in the past 7 years (that would be Easter Class of 2009-2016) you are invited to a special alumni gathering at our own Catholic Educational Center.  We’d love to see you on Wednesday, August 30 at 7 PM and tell us how you’re doing and how your Catholic faith journey has been.  Even if you were in RCIA from a different parish you are still invited.  This is a new program that James Blankenship and I are doing to enhance the faith of our converts and Catholics who took the refresher course.  Surveys show that many RCIA alums in the country became inactive Catholics shortly after joining the Church (within 7 years) because they were somewhat “forgotten” and did not receive a follow up spiritual care and guidance.  We certainly would like our “new” Catholics to continue to have a vibrant spiritual life by inviting them to become active in the parish community and to hear their insights about keeping the faith.  Please contact James (j.blankenship@saintfrancisparish.org) or me (countryparishpriest@gmail.com) if you can make the evening gathering.  It should be a fun night for an RCIA reunion.  I very much look forward to seeing you there!

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

 

August 14, 2016

 

2nd St. Francis de Sales altar boy going to the seminary:

David Kieran

 

            One of our longtime parishioners and former altar boy, David Kieran, was recently accepted to study for the diocesan priesthood.  His family moved a couple of years ago to Louisiana and David discerned to study for the priesthood in his new hometown in the Diocese of Alexandria, Louisiana to be closer to his family and relatives.  David has served Masses for several years with us since his youth including many 6:30 AM weekday Masses.  He was a good meticulous server and we’ll certainly miss him.  He continued serving during college breaks so he’s served at my Masses for the last 7-1/2 years.  It was very nice to see him this past week before leaving for Louisiana.  He is also an excellent pilot and worked most recently giving flying lessons at Leesburg airport.  One of my fondest memories with David was when we flew in his plane over our parish and I got to take aerial pictures of the new parish center while it was under construction.  It has been many years since I had a couple of flying lessons but he was kind (and brave!) enough to let me take the wheel while we hovered over Purcellville, Round Hill and Berryville.  I’ve always admired David’s deep love for Our Lord Jesus and the Holy Mass so I’m not surprised that he’s been called to be a seminarian.  He is scheduled to study in the Fall at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, LA.  Lucky for him he will get to enjoy a lot of authentic Cajun food during his seminary days!  [David is the 2nd altar boy from our parish to enter the seminary after Deacon Jordan Willard who is scheduled to be ordained a priest in about 10 months.]

 

Interested in the Catholic faith?

 

            If you know of anyone who might be interested in the Catholic Church, our RCIA class (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) begins on Tuesday, September 20 at 7:30 PM in the parish center.  Adult Catholics who have not received Confirmation and/or other sacraments can also fulfill this obligation through this program.  All adult Catholics who want to take a refresher course in the Catholic faith are also welcome and encouraged to participate.  There is also a program for young children called RCIT (for teens) & RCIC (young children).  Call the Religious Education office or contact me directly to register/sign up or just show up for RCIA at Room 107 (Saint Agnes).

 

MAC-PAC this Sunday Night!

 

            Middle school kids (including rising 6th graders) are invited to the MAC-PAC (Middleschoolers Acting In Christ- Prayer-Action-Charity) Kickoff after the 5 PM Sunday Night Mass (August 14).  Our new MAC PAC leaders, Danielle & Pat Orender, are looking forward to seeing you at the picnic to start a new season of MAC PAC activities.

NOTE:  Assumption, August 15 – Not a Holy Day of Obligation this year

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

August 21, 2016

 

RCIA REUNION DATE CLARIFICATION:

TUESDAY, AUGUST 30 @7 PM

 

            There was an error on the date for the RCIA Reunion gathering.  The correct date is posted above and it is for Tuesday, August 30 at 7 PM in Saint Agnes Classroom #107 in the new parish center.

 

If you were part of the RCIA program especially in the past 7 years (that would be Easter Class of 2009-2016) you are invited to a special alumni gathering at our own Catholic Educational Center.  We’d love to see you on Tuesday, August 30 at 7 PM and tell us how you’re doing and how your Catholic faith journey has been.  Even if you were in RCIA from a different parish you are still invited.  This is a new program that James Blankenship and I are doing to enhance the faith of our converts and Catholics who took the refresher course.

 

Many RCIA alums in the country became inactive Catholics shortly after joining the Church (within 7 years) because they were somewhat “forgotten” and did not receive a follow up spiritual care and guidance.  We certainly would like our “new” Catholics to continue to have a vibrant spiritual life by inviting them to become active in the parish community and to hear their insights about keeping the faith.  Please contact James (j.blankenship@saintfrancisparish.org) or me (countryparishpriest@gmail.com) if you can make the evening gathering.  It should be a fun RCIA reunion.  We are very much looking forward seeing you there!

 

Interested in the Catholic faith?

It’s recruiting time again!

 

            If you know of anyone who might be interested in the Catholic Church, our RCIA class (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) begins on Tuesday, September 20 at 7:30 PM in the parish center.  Adult Catholics who have not received Confirmation and/or other sacraments can also fulfill this obligation through this program.  All adult Catholics who want to take a refresher course in the Catholic faith are also welcome and encouraged to participate.  There is also a program for young children called RCIT (for teens) & RCIC (young children).  Call the Religious Education office or contact me directly to register/sign up.  Or you can just show up for the RCIA class at Room 107 (Saint Agnes).

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

 

August 28, 2016

We have a new Youth Ministry Director:

Emily Glass

 

            After a 3+-month search, we hired Emily Glass as our new director of Youth Ministry on August 24th.  Back in May our outgoing youth director for nearly 15 years, Jane Treado, decided to step down from her leadership role so that she and her husband Chris can spend more time with their family.  However, Jane and Chris have graciously offered to remain active with our youth ministry as volunteers.  We’re all relieved that the Treados will continue to be with us in the parish.  They have played a big positive role in the lives of many of our youth and we’re not big fans of saying good-bye!

            I would like to thank our 6-member search committee composed of 3 Pastoral Council members (Lindsay Glass [no relation to Emily!], Beth Ann McRoberts & Suzanne Stanmeyer) and 3 staff members (James Blankenship, Diane Morano & Jane Treado) for the time they spent sorting out, “ranking”, and giving their inputs to the resumes received.  Their commentaries were very helpful in narrowing down our list of candidates. Emily’s 2nd interview went so well that our panel decided to hire her that day.

            Emily Glass’ family is from Olney, MD and she graduated in 2016 from my alma mater, Mount Saint Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, MD, with a degree in theology and a minor in psychology.  Her extensive work with middle and high school students include logging in about 3,000 hours as camp counselor at Camp Wojtyla in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains fostering Catholic faith formation and leadership skills thru wilderness and outdoor adventures.  She has also led prayers, retreats, Bible studies, and faith formation activities throughout her high school and college days.  Emily is a big fan of St. John Paul II and his Theology of the Body series.  She has also worked alongside FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) at The Mount (nickname for Mount Saint Mary’s).  Her psychology background should help with the challenges our youth is facing today.  In high school she was trained in the recognition & prevention of bullying.

Let me not forget to mention Emily’s academic gifts having received the Presidential Scholarship award and member of the Honor Society at The Mount.  She is also very athletic having played field hockey in high school and college.  Her love for outdoor adventures, hiking and sports should be a big hit with the kids.  I once saw a picture of Emily suspended upside down from a cable with the mountains in the background and another picture undersea scuba diving.  They looked like picture perfect images of an ad to draw kids to youth ministry.

I always pray to my dear friend and saint, Saint Agnes of Rome, whenever I need to make big important decisions.  Each time I need to hire a new parish staff member I especially turn to my dear Agnes for help because it is very important to put a good team for Jesus’ mission.  During a tour of our new education center Emily was thrilled to see that one of the classrooms (Room 107) was dedicated to Saint Agnes.  It just happens that Emily was born on the feast of Saint Agnes (January 21) and it is her favorite as well and chose her for her confirmation saint.   Coincidence or prayer answered?  You can pretty much guess how I feel about that!

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

September 4, 2016

 

Special Collection for Louisiana Flood victims

 

            Bishop Loverde designated this weekend for parishes to take up a special collection to help the victims of the flooding in Louisiana.  Around 60,000 homes have been damaged and 20,000 people were rescued from the floodwaters last month that affected the 20 parishes (counties) in the state.  Our diocese is taking part in the relief effort called for by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to fund the Catholic Charities USA who will provide in the humanitarian, pastoral and rebuilding of the heavily damaged region.  But most of all, please keep the people of Louisiana in your prayers and also, most recently, the victims of the earthquake in Italy and the relief efforts there.  As of this writing, more than 240 have perished from the earthquake.

 

As the election nears…

 

            We are not far away from another major election and many are looking for guidance on properly forming one’s conscience before voting.  So where do we look for to get some initial reflection?  How about from our own bishop?  Bishop Loverde is offering a 6-part series titled, “Election 2016:  Forming Our Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.”  It started with last week’s issue of our diocesan newspaper, The Arlington Herald.  If you are not receiving this subscription you can always get this online. Here’s a link to the series: http://catholicherald.com/category/bishopscolumns/browse.html

 

We had 2 religious orders of nuns (sisters) visit us

 

            In our recent desire to have more religious presence in our parish, we were blessed to have 2 religious orders visit us last weekend.  The Sisters of Our Lady of LaSalette gave us a brief talk on their mission in 11 countries.  And I thank you for your amazing generosity in supporting them as they received over $3,800 from the 2nd collection!  Sister Clare Hunter from the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist gave a vibrant talk on Sunday afternoon to the women in the parish at a luncheon sponsored by the Women’s Council of Saint Francis de Sales. Sr. Clare’s talk was, “Be Mary:  Growing in Faith with a Sense of Humor.”  The crowd was treated for a fun afternoon of Sister’s cheerful reflection.  Over 60 women attended the luncheon and packed our old little parish hall.  (Since I did the opening prayer for the ladies’ luncheon, they permitted me stay for a free lunch!)

 

Have a nice Labor Day weekend!

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

 

September 11, 2016

We have a new saint!

Saint Teresa of Kolkota (Calcutta)

 

            On September 4, 2016 Pope Francis declared the newest saint in the Catholic Church, Saint Teresa of Kolkota.  She was famously known as Mother Teresa but many already knew she was a saint long before she was officially numbered among the long list of saints declared by the Catholic Church.

            What does it mean to be a saint?  A saint by definition is anyone who is living a holy life and in the state of sanctifying grace (with no unconfessed mortal sins).  However, a saint officially declared by the pope is someone we have certainty who is already in heaven.  There is usually a long process of investigation that sometimes take centuries in the life of a person before being declared a saint.  Two thoroughly proven miracles (usually of medical nature) are needed to complete the canonization process.  Another recently declared saint, Saint John Paul II, expedited the process of investigation in the life of Mother Teresa and that’s why her canonization did not take as long.  Saint Teresa died in 1997.  Pope Benedict expedited the canonization process of Saint John Paul II who died in 2005 (declared saint in 2014 also by Pope Francis).  The official declaration of a saint by the Holy Father is one of the few instances when the pope makes an infallible declaration for the Catholic Church.  He also assigns a feast day for the saint that allows him or her to be celebrated in the sacred liturgy.  Saint Teresa’s feast day was set for September 5 (anniversary of her death and entrance into eternal life).

            Some have remarked how fitting that Saint Teresa’s canonization took place during the Year of Mercy.   Mother Teresa was a model of someone whose mission was to serve the poorest of the poor.  She showed mercy to the most forgotten and uncared for people dying of sickness and starvation on the streets of India.  Since St. Teresa established her order in 1948, her mission extended to at least 133 countries currently served by about 4,500 of her Sisters, the Missionaries of Charity.

            During my seminary university studies in Rome I volunteered to work at one of her homeless shelters.  One day my crew was “tipped off” by the sisters that Mother Teresa may be coming to Mass the next day to their shelter.  I went to the early Mass and didn’t realize that Mother Teresa was sitting on the floor (they don’t use seats in their chapels) directly behind me the whole time and I didn’t find that out until I turned around for the sign of peace!  My heart stopped and I felt numb all over when I stared into the eyes this little 5-foot saint who carries a gigantic heart and shines a bright aura of holiness in her countenance.  After Mass St. Teresa held our hands individually and spoke to us as if she had known us for years.  I still wear daily the Miraculous Medal she gave me that day in 1991.  The rosary and prayer card that St. Teresa personally signed are safely kept in the rectory but I’m still frantically searching for our picture together taken that day.  When I find it I’ll include it in the bulletin.  My dear friend Saint Agnes took very good care of me when I was living in her home city of Rome.  During my time there Agnes managed to get me to physically hold the hands of 2 officially declared saints who are now in heaven: Saint John Paul II and Saint Teresa of Kolkota!

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

September 18, 2016

 

We’re off to a fast start with Youth Ministry!

 

            Last Sunday night’s Youth Ministry kickoff yielded 52 high school students.  It was so nice to see many new faces who joined the “veterans” for an evening of fun and spiritual reflection.  We had such a good turn out that we’ll need to raise more pizza funds to provide hunger relief for these active youngsters!  Emily Glass and Jane Treado teamed up to prepare for opening night and it sure paid big dividends.

            Not to be outdone, the middle school youth ministry (MAC-PAC) on the same night held their monthly gathering and had 50 kids attend a jam-packed night of fun and spiritual games.  Danielle and Pat Orender entertained the extra younger crowd with non-stop events that culminated with a s’mores-making evening outdoors on the patio.  Their group also had several newcomers who were glad they came and lamented their night finally ended and felt it’s too long of a wait till 2nd Sunday next month for a repeat adventure with their new buddies.

 

Did you see our parish coat of arms symbol?

 

            Our Knights of Columbus Council donated the bricks for our parish’s coat of arms and was installed in front of the new parish center with the help of parishioner, Ben Cates.  It was custom cut and fitted last Monday afternoon and now we’re ready for you to start donating for the brick dedication/memorial.  Will you help us raise funds to pay for our new center by donating a commemorative brick?  Please go to our website for more info or call the office:  http://www.saintfrancisparish.org/brick-campaign/

 

$5,000 Cash Prize for Bella Notte

 

            Don’t miss the opportunity to win the $5k grand prize plus other cash prizes so get a Bella Notte ticket now!  Raffle tickets are on sale and we still have plenty of tickets left for the best parish party of the year!!!  Hands down, our 1st Bella Notte Gala was the most fun I’ve seen our adult parishioners take part in and you really don’t want to miss this one.  Come join us and contact the parish for more details.  You can also go to our website:  http://www.saintfrancisparish.org/bella-notte-ii/

 

Welcome back to CCD & see you at the Parish Picnic!

 

            We welcome back our CCD teachers, students and volunteers this weekend.  And I hope you also made time to be at this Sunday’s parish picnic as well.  We’ll have lots of food, fun, games and magic show.

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

September 25, 2016

 

Parish Picnic Success!

 

            Once again we packed the house last Sunday afternoon with a very large turnout for the parish picnic.  We had beautiful weather and the threatening rain held off its outburst until very late in the evening.  As a result, the kids got to play indoors and out including the little ones in the moon bounce.  The Knights of Columbus and their counterpart, the Ladies’ Auxiliary, did a marvelous job organizing the picnic and the volunteers.  The food was amazing and the grilled chicken was specially singled out as uniquely astounding to the palate!  The Knights used one of their members’ “secret recipe” to create a nice spicy blend to the meat.  I got to savor the taste of that chicken and I have to agree that it was unlike any other spicy chicken that’s out there.  We may have to wait for next year to taste it again.

The kids also got treated to my annual magic show.  Since our parish has gotten super busy with lots of things going I don’t have much time to do more magic shows so this is pretty much the only I’m still able to squeeze in.  When I was a parochial vicar I used to get invited to do a number of shows for schools, youth groups, nursing homes, birthday parties, etc.  But our kids really look forward to this magic show so I’ll continue to do it for them.  Perhaps one of these days I’ll see if there’s any interest for serious young magicians to learn the trade from me and they can do the shows or even take them over.  I was worn out afterwards but it was one of the most fun shows I’ve ever done.

But the best part of the picnic was giving glory to God through the fellowship we shared that day.  It is really good to see that our new center is also used for experiencing a “glimpse” of the fun we will someday have in God’s heavenly kingdom.  It was truly a joyful day.  Thank you, Lord Jesus!

 

We need to sell more “Bella Notte 2” tickets!

 

            The most exciting “adult” parish event is only a few days away on October 8 with the Bella Notte 2 fundraising gala.  As of last Sunday we are still 60 tickets away from being able to hold the big Drawdown that will yield the top single prize of $5,000 to the lucky winner.  Only 500 tickets will be sold.  330 tickets will be sold at $100 each.  But $150 will give you 1 drawdown ticket plus 2 entrance passes to the dinner gala/dance.  Only 150 dinner/gala tickets are available for sale.  Last year’s gala was the most I’ve seen our adult parishioners enjoy themselves for any event and we expect to equal or surpass that this year.  We also raised $32,000+ that night for our parish center.  Will you help support our major fundraiser?  Please go to our website and click on Bella Notte II button (http://www.saintfrancisparish.org/bella-notte-ii/bella-notte-information-rules/) and buy some tickets.  All the proceeds go right back to the parish to help pay off the debt of the new parish center.

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

 

 

October 2, 2016

 

Feast of the Guardian Angels (October 2)

 

            Don’t forget to pray to your Guardian Angel today and thank him for watching over you.  October 2 is the Feast of the Guardian Angels.  Since the feast fell on a Sunday this year the 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time takes precedence.  But that doesn’t stop us from praying and honoring our own Guardian Angel whom God has sent and will stay with us until the day we die.

 

Respect Life Sunday

 

            The first Sunday in October is also Respect Life Sunday.  We especially call attention to the defense of the life of the unborn children.  In several locations nationwide various pro-life groups holding signs to encourage those who contemplate or support abortion to choose life instead by forming a life chain.  This silent prayerful gathering from 2-3 PM has effectively raised awareness to the importance of choosing life over abortion and has saved countless children from death.  With a major election looming over us the timing couldn’t have been more appropriate.  Most of us will not be able to physically participate in Life Chain but we can all offer our prayers for the safety of the unborn.  Respect Life is not restricted to just the protection of unborn children but also everything that endangers the respect and dignity of human life.

 

Final week to win $5,000

 

            Bella Notte II is this coming Saturday, October 8 starting at 6 PM.  Will you help your parish pay down the $3M debt of our new parish center by purchasing a raffle ticket?  If you have a child going thru CCD, or you are an adult attending a faith study, or perhaps you’re using the center for any other reason, please do consider at least buying a $100 raffle ticket.  Only 500 tickets are going to be sold and the top cash prize is $5k.  This is the final week for the drawdown ticket sale and we still have seats for the $150 Bella Notte II raffle ticket/dinner for 2 on October 8.  It was so much fun last year and I’m excited to be there again for our only major parish gala/fundraiser.  I encourage you to buy at least a raffle ticket if you cannot party with us!

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

 

 

October 9, 2016

 

We have a new bishop:

Bishop Michael Francis Burbidge!

 

            On October 4th, the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, it was officially announced that the new and 4th bishop of the Arlington Diocese will be Bishop Michael Francis Burbidge!  He is currently the Bishop of Raleigh, NC and his installation as our new bishop is scheduled for Tuesday, December 6—Feast of Saint Nicholas (the original Santa Claus—what a great gift we received in time for Christmas!).  He was born in Philadelphia, PA in 1957 (59 years old) and later served in that archdiocese as a priest, seminary rector, and auxiliary bishop before being named the 5th bishop of Raleigh in 2006 by Pope Benedict XVI.  Bishop Loverde will remain as the apostolic administrator of our diocese until the official installation.  We are most grateful to Bishop Loverde for being our wonderful bishop for the past 17 years.  Bishop’s health has been a heavy cross for him the past couple of years so now he’ll finally get his well-deserved rest.  He will step down having ordained more than 70 priests and established 12 new churches under his watch.  [Personally, I will always be grateful to Bishop Loverde for appointing me here at Saint Francis de Sales!]

 

Last week’s annual animal blessing

 

            Heavy rain last Saturday (October 1) kept a number of people from bringing their pets but we still had several who had their animals blessed in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi (October 4).  If you were unable to make it but still would like your pet blessed, feel free to contact me so that you can bring your pet in for a blessing.

 

Sr. Clare Hunter’s visit to the youth group

 

            We were blessed to have another visit from Sr. Clare Hunter from the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist.  This time Sr. Clare spoke to our youth group that was attended by nearly 50 high students.  Her topic was “Living Life to the Fullest.”  As in the past, Sr. Clare brought her vibrant personality in encouraging our youth to live their lives towards God as the only way to realistically live one’s life to the fullest.

 

Bella Notte weekend

 

            This is the big weekend for our only major fundraiser event to raise money to pay off the new parish center’s debt.  More news next week how the Bella Notte II Gala fared but I do want to thank everyone who helped make the gala possible.  We are most grateful to Paul Kerstanski and his dedicated volunteers who have been working super hard in preparation.  We also want to thank all our donors and ticket buyers for all the help you’ve done to support our fundraiser.

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

 

October 16, 2016

 

Another lovely Bella Notte II!

 

            Our 2nd annual fundraising gala, Bella Notte II was a great success!  We had a lot of fun that night at Our Lady of Victory Hall and everyone certainly enjoyed each other’s company while raising much needed funds to help pay down the $3M+ debt to our new parish education center.  Aside from the delicious meal catered by Maggiano’s we also had dancing, singing, and other entertainment.  Dale Weaver was an excellent emcee that kept the flow of the events moving.  Emotions were raised at a high level all night thru Shaun Maher’s award-winning DJ arrangements.  We saved $2k by opting not to hire a professional auctioneer when I took on the task myself.  It was a lot of fun!  YouTube is a great teacher for a lot of things and it taught me how to be an auctioneer.  We also did a silent auction for several of the donated items.  We should have a tally next week on how much money we raised and I’ll post that info next week.

 

            Congratulations to parishioners Mauricio & Mercy Cifuentes for winning the $5,000 drawdown grand prize!  They were present at the gala to receive the big prize.  Last year’s winners, Brian & Liz McDonald, were also present and they must have Lady Luck at their side because they won this year’s 2nd biggest drawdown cash prize of $850! The drawing was done using a patented computerized drawing so everyone could see on the big screen who’s name was being randomly drawn.

 

            A super big THANKS to Paul Kersanski for once again successfully organizing this massive event.  We packed the house despite competing with Woodgrove HS homecoming, Purcellville’s Wine Barrel Auction, and Columbus Day Weekend vacationers.  Thank you all for your support and I especially would like to thank Paul’s amazing & dedicated volunteers that made it work.  They spent countless hours preparing and executing that night and also cleaning up after.  The high school youth were also a big help that evening.  Next year if you’d like to join our superb group of volunteers please contact Paul Kerstanski or me.  We sure could use your help.  I guarantee you that you will have the time of your life to be a part of the Bella Notte crew!

 

Finance Council to speak at all Masses this weekend

 

            One of the annual things the bishop wants us to do is to give an accounting of how we spent the generous donations you have given to the parish.  So we set aside this Sunday when members of our parish Finance Council will give a quick summary of our stewardship.  Next week I will preach at all the Masses on the spiritual meaning of dual stewardship both by the parish and the parishioners. 

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

October 23, 2016

 

One year away from Fatima’s 100th Anniversary!

 

            On October 13 this month we were one year away from the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima’s final appearance to the 3 children in Portugal:  Lucia, Francisco & Jacinta.  That sacred event included the famous miracle of the sun where many were cured of their illnesses and non-believers received their gift of faith.  Ever since then the devotion of praying the holy rosary and wearing the brown scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel took off in high gear.  The most important theme from the messages of Our Lady of Fatima was to pray and make atonement for our sins and the sins of the world.  If the warning is not heeded Our Blessed Mother foretold that the world will experience tremendous suffering.  Many will also lose their souls forever unless others pray for them.  So I encourage you to pray the rosary regularly (daily if possible) for world peace and for the conversion of sinners.  Many are worried about the state of the world, their neighborhood, and even their homes.  For personal prayer the rosary has been the most effective spiritual weapon in combatting spiritual evil for over 800 years.  It has also brought holiness to countless people.  Let’s make a final run to reach our goal of 100,000 rosaries prayed on the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima!  Right now we’re still stuck around 30,000 rosaries reportedly prayed since we started last year so we need to crank it up!

 

$5k Bella Notte II donates their prize back!

 

            We are most thankful to this year’s Bella Notte II 5k Grand Prize winners, Mauricio & Mercy Cifuentes for donating all their winnings back for a good cause.  Half ($2,500) was donated back to us to help pay down the debt to our parish center and the other half was given to an orphanage in their home country, Ecuador.  God most certainly blesses his generous stewards for their kindness and we appreciate your continual support of our parish.

            And thank you once again to all the Bella Notte II volunteers for your superb work in organizing this fun fundraiser.  You were all amazing!!!  Bella Notte II raised $25,211 of profits that evening.

 

Increased Offertory Message

 

            Our parish underwent a mandatory biannual financial audit a couple of weeks ago and we “breezed” through with a sterling record!  I thank our business manager, Diane Morano, for thoroughly handling and preparing our financial records.  Due to the prep time needed to work on this we’re a week behind schedule for our annual financial report to the parish and my stewardship/increased offertory talk to the parish.

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

 

October 30, 2016

 

Don’t forget to go Mass on All Saints’ Day (Nov. 1)

 

            On Tuesday we’re celebrating All Saints’ Day and it is a Holy Day of Obligation.  We have four Masses available:  6:30 AM, 9 AM (with children’s choir), 5 PM and 7 PM (with adult choir).  The saints are very much a part of our family because they are so close to God their prayers are very powerful.  They did a lot of good helping so many people here on earth and they are still helping us in heaven especially when we call upon them in prayer.  Many are blessed that two of those recent and very popular saints lived in our lifetime:  Saint John Paul II and Saint (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta.  I found my 1991 picture with Saint John Paul II and my mom found her copy of my picture with Saint Teresa of Calcutta.  I’m enclosing both in this bulletin.  It is very hard to describe the uplifting feeling whenever I ponder on the thought that God graced me with the gift of meeting and holding the hands of two of his greatest saints of our time who are now enjoying the glories of heaven!  And I’m sure my own beloved patroness, Saint Agnes of Rome, had her hand of making sure that her biggest fan in the world got to rub shoulders with the holiest people on earth (probably hoping to knock some sanctity into my senses and purge my imperfections in preparation for the priesthood!).  

            Remember to pray for the souls in purgatory on November 2nd as well.  Offering Masses and prayers are the best acts of charity we can do for the suffering souls who are in need of our prayers.  Memorial candles for your deceased loved ones are available in the narthex after Mass and during business hours in the office.

 

Special collection to aid hurricane victims

 

            This weekend we’re taking a special collection for the victims of hurricane Matthew.  One-third will go to Catholic Relief Services to aid the victims in Haiti, one-third to Catholic Charities USA to aid victims in the southeastern states, and one-third will go to the Diocese of Raleigh (home of our future Ordinary, Bishop Burbidge) that experience severe flooding in eastern North Carolina.  And we want to thank you for the generous material donations to aid Fr. Rick Frechette’s mission in Haiti.

 

Preaching on dual stewardship

 

            I will be preaching at all the Masses this weekend regarding the importance of dual stewardship:  prayer and resources.  A good portion of the homily will be focused on taking ample stewardship of time allotted for prayer to enhance our personal sanctity and bring conversion of heart to many souls.  Once again, I cannot stress enough recommending praying the Holy Rosary as one of the fastest ways to achieve this goal.  After visiting the St. John Paul II Shrine this past week I was moved to see how the pope overcame his heavy trials since childhood by turning to the Blessed Mother’s rosary for guidance.  It made him a great saint and changed the lives for the better of so many people in the whole world.  The other section of the homily is on recognizing that God expects us to be responsible stewards of his resources to help his Church on earth.  Helping to expand the church mission brings more goodness to the souls of more people and thus aids their journey to a better life and salvation.  I ask that you give a prayerful reflection on how you may support your parish in our mission.

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

 

November 6, 2016

 

Are you sure you’re ready for the election?

 

            God is hosting an “election night party” and you are invited on Monday, November 7 at 7:30 PM.  It will start with the celebration of Mass followed by Eucharistic Adoration and the recitation of the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet.  If you have a lot of concerns about the election and its aftermath results, this is the place where you need to be regardless of your political beliefs and how you intend to vote.  As Christians we are taught to remain strong in our faith and unshaken by the secular powers.  We don’t have a lot of control of many things but we control of our faith.

 

A day of fasting

 

            I’m also requesting a day of fasting for those who can.  How about just having 1 full meal on this Monday as we offer up our prayers for the good of our nation?  [onemillionmoms.com is also doing this.]  The Catholic fasting minimal norm is equal to 1 full meal and 2 small meals (just enough to sustain strength).  Some can probably do less than what is required but that’s left to your discretion.  Prayer combined with fasting is very powerful and this is one of those days when we need prayers at their optimum:  “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).

While many will be politically bickering the night of the election, often with a lot of uncharitable words, we can be fruitfully spending time with God, Our Blessed Mother, the angels, and the saints in humble prayer.  As I mentioned in my homily a little over a week ago, the Catholic Church has been around for over 2,000 years and has withstood all types of government oppression regardless of who was in power.  Our faith has remained the same and the Church will continue to work with whoever gets elected. And if necessary, the Church will fight for her right to exist and freely exercise the right to preach the truth of Jesus Christ’s teachings if it comes down to that.  The Church has flourished tremendously in the midst of persecution so we should never feel intimated by any ruling political party.  Great saints have come out of the most   St. Paul says, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

Let us use Sacred Scripture as our guide in dealing with whatever difficult challenges we are facing by heeding St. Paul’s exhortation:  “Brothers and sisters:  Draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power.  Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil.  For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.  Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground.  So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the Gospel of peace.  In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:10-20).

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

November 13, 2016

 

BIG “Thank You” to Green Sun Landscaping & Patios

 

            Parishioner and owner of Green Sun Landscaping & Patio, James Crabtree, donated his time and company to repair and replace the retaining wall next to the church. Many of you may recall how the rotting wood has become very dangerous especially to a lot of children like to walk on top of it.  Last year James attended the Tuesday night RCIA classes and I had the honor of baptizing him last Easter Vigil.  He has since been very active in the parish especially in the TMIY (That Man Is You) program.  A couple of months ago he asked me if he could work on fixing the church’s retaining wall and I immediately took him up on his generous offer.  Now you can see the amazing work he did.  James contacted the supplier for our brick patio next to Our Lady of Victory Hall and matched up the bricks that now make up the retaining wall.  With the help of his little son, Isaac, and some of the TMIY/Knights of Columbus crew, they were able to finish the wall on Saturday, November 5th.  They did an amazing job in just a matter of days and we’re most thankful to James and his crew for their great contribution to our parish.  And please keep James Crabtree’s family and his landscaping business, Green Sun, Inc., Landscaping & Patios (703.327.7018), in your prayers in thanksgiving for their generosity.  Don’t’ forget to stop by and visit the new retaining wall.  [You might like it so much that you may even consider hiring him to put one in yours!]

 

More “Thank You’s!”

 

            Speaking of giving thanks, I would like to thank everyone who participated in the stewardship offertory giving that I requested a couple of weeks ago.  We’re well aware and very grateful that it is through your generosity of giving back to God from your bounty that allows us to offer more spiritual and charitable services to our parishioners and beyond.  As you can see, we have gone leaps and bounds serving our parishioners in bringing you and your loved ones to the love and service of Our Lord Jesus Christ!  And please continue to keep me and my staff in your prayers that we will continue to be good stewards of the Lord’s goods and that He may inspire us even more in bringing forth God’s saving mission to as many souls we can reach.

 

Your prayerful support is greatly appreciated

 

            This bulletin had to be submitted by Monday afternoon this past week and the day before the general election.  However, I did schedule on Monday night of the election Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet, and a day of fasting for the intention of electing good candidates for our nation.  Our prayers and personal sacrifices were also offered for the good of our country beyond the election.  I wholeheartedly thank everyone who participated in this important spiritual evening honoring God and asking for his assistance.  And please pray the rosary at least once a week for world peace.

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

November 20, 2016

 

Have a Happy Christ the King & Thanksgiving!

 

            This last Sunday of Ordinary Time we are celebrating the Solemnity of Christ the King and the ending of the Year of Mercy.  It’s also that time of the year to celebrate Thanksgiving Day.  How about starting the day by joining us for 9 AM Mass this Thursday?  It’s a perfect way to give thanks to God for all the blessings we have received since thanksgiving in Greek means Eucharist.  May you all have a great celebration with your loved ones.

 

“Amazing” Youth Retreat

 

            45 high school kids took part in the annual Fall Youth Retreat at Keezletown, VA.  This was our new youth director’s (Emily Glass) first retreat with the group and if you ask her how it was she’ll reply with great enthusiasm:  “It was a-m-a-z-i-n-g!!!”  Emily said that the kids’ favorite part was getting so close to Jesus during Eucharistic Adoration.  I thought it was a good idea last year to buy a travel monstrance to use for retreat adoration and it turned out to be a great spiritual investment—especially at this year’s retreat.  The youth felt such an incredible closeness with God during adoration that many of them received new inspirations on how they can continue to grow in their faith thru faith study and prayer.  The theme of the retreat was “What does it really mean to believe?”  I celebrated the 5 PM Saturday vigil Mass for them but I got plenty of help from Father Jeremy Lambert, L.C. who concelebrated the Mass, heard over 2 hours of confession, and led the Eucharistic Adoration in the wee hours of the night.  It would be an injustice if I fail to mention that the “original” adult retreat crew of Jane & Chris Treado and Mark Darnell provided invaluable help for the successful weekend.  We are looking forward to the many ideas the youth will implement in their upcoming events to help them grow in their love for Jesus and his Church.

 

New JAS uniforms

 

            The Junior Altar Women Society (JAS) members are getting a major facelift in their uniform.  These dedicated young ladies in the parish work very hard setting up the sanctuary for Mass.  Look for them this Sunday as they wear their new white scapular uniform with the Saint Francis de Sales logo.  Since they will be highly recognizable make sure to thank them for their great service!

 

Pre-election Mass, Adoration, Rosary & Divine Mercy

 

            It was too late to include in last week’s bulletin but I do want to thank everyone who participated in praying for our nation on the eve of a very important general election.  What was most pleasing about that evening of Mass and prayers was that our parish faithfully gathered in a spiritual and non-partisan manner to pray for the good of the country and to ask God to grant wisdom to the voters to pick the best candidates.  We packed the church!  Some also participated in the day of fasting.  If you were there you’d understand why after that inspirational night the people wondered if we could do this on a monthly basis.  I’m in favor of that and right after the 40 Hours Eucharistic Devotion (January 27-29) we’re planning a 7 PM Mass + Adoration + Rosary + Divine Mercy Chaplet every First Friday of the month (in place of the 6:30 AM Mass.  We’ll keep the 6:30 AM Mass on the other Fridays).  It is my hope that this Friday Mass (projected to start on February 3, 2017) will be well attended but I believe it will be at least a larger crowd than the current 6:30 AM.  It’s a spiritual win-win for our parish…and the world!

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

November 27, 2016

 

Visit the new Rosary Walking Path

 

            Did you know that we now have a new Rosary Walking Path in the rectory garden?  Bricks shaped in a form of a rosary now outline the rectory garden.  Did you know that we even have a rectory garden that anyone can visit?  There’s even a fishpond there but unfortunately all the fish died about 5 years ago.  Well, take a walk around the church property in between the rectory and Crux Gloria and you’ll find this nice little garden.  When you stumble upon it you’ll get an appreciation for this beautiful peaceful place and now decorated in honor of Our Blessed Mother.  There is also a statue of Our Lady of Grace in the midst of the garden.

            But who’s the brilliant architect of this walking path?  Collin Warner!  You’ll see him pictured in the front page shoveling part of the path.  This was Collin’s Eagle Scout project and he did a marvelous job!  We thank his helpers too who gave Collin a helping hand.  It took Collin and small band of helpers only 2 weekends to finish their work on October 29th and still during the Month of the Holy Rosary (October).  He’s also been an active altar server for several years and a participant in MAC PAC and high school youth group.  I still remember Collin during his early middle school MAC PAC days doing a scavenger hunt that took him to this garden as a little kid not knowing that someday he would leave a permanent mark to beautify Our Lady’s garden.  Great wok, Collin, and thank you very much for your amazing religious contribution to Saint Francis de Sales Church!

 

Speaking of Our Blessed Mother…

 

            Have you stopped inviting our Blessed Mother to your home?  After this week there’s a lot of available dates for you to take home the Pilgrim Virgin statue.  Please consider signing up (click on the Pilgrim Virgin button at website) and say extra prayers especially the rosary in your home when you honor Our Lady of Fatima.  Perhaps what you’ve been praying for may arrive just in time for Christmas.

 

            And I hope everyone’s Thanksgiving celebration went well!

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

 

December 4, 2016

Remember the needy this Advent

 

            Almsgiving is one of the best things we can do during the Advent season.  It goes counter-cultural with the high spending spirit of the secular society.  Underprivileged people benefit from the goodness of the almsgivers.  It’s one of the best Christmas presents we can give to Jesus because whatever we do to the least of our brethren we are doing it to Our Lord himself (see Matthew 25:40).

People have asked me if I have favorite charities that I could recommend to them this Advent other than the local ones (e.g., poor people from other nations).  Yes, I do have certain favorites that I rotate using the little income I can spare.  The first one I arranged to buy 100 chicks (for $125) to provide for poor families thru Food for the Poor (www.FoodForThePoor.org).  The baby chicks when they grow will provide a source of protein from the eggs they produce and the extras they can sell for income.  Chickens are inexpensive to raise and maintain and they can also multiply.  There are other animals you can buy for families such as pigs, goats, donkeys, sheep, cows, etc.  Check out their website and see their Gift Catalog guide for more info.  Next week I’ll let you know my next favorite.

 

Let’s start a new parish Advent tradition:

“Bambinelli Sunday” (Bring your Baby Jesus!)

 

            There is a tradition in Rome celebrated by at least the past 3 popes (St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI & Francis) of blessing the Baby Jesus that the faithful will use for their nativity scenes.  The pope does this after the Sunday Angelus on the 3rd Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday & “Pink Slip Sunday” for us!).  Father Mullaney shared this story with me and we think it’s a great idea to extend this tradition to our parish.  So next Sunday bring your little Baby Jesus to Mass for the blessing!  Here’s more info: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/sarah-reinhard/a-beautiful-advent-tradition-bambinelli-sunday-blessing-the-christ-child

 

Shop Amazon.com thru our parish website

 

            If you’re going to shop thru Amazon.com, make sure to go thru our parish website (www.saintfrancisparish.org) and click on the Amazon logo on the bottom right of the homepage.  Amazon sends us a small percentage of your purchase and you don’t pay any extra for it.  So donate to the parish when you buy from Amazon thru our website.

 

Do you know the quickest way to free a soul from purgatory?

 

Arrange to have “Gregorian Masses” for a deceased loved one & you’ll likely set him or her free from purgatory!  If for some reason your beloved is already in heaven, some other lucky soul will benefit from your generosity.  Gregorian Masses are a series of 30 Masses offered on consecutive days.  The custom of offering a set of Gregorian Masses dates back to Pope St. Gregory the Great (d. 604 AD) who wrote in the DIALOGUES (4:55; PL 77: 416-421) about a monk who obtained release from Purgatory after thirty Masses were offered on his behalf.  The Catholic Church has declared the confidence of the faithful in the efficacy of Gregorian Masses to be pious and reasonable.  Here’s a partial list where to arrange for these Masses:  1) seraphicmass.org/gregorian_masses.asp; 2) http://msf-america.org/holy-family-prayers/gregorian-masses; 3) http://www.cnewa.org/donations.aspx?ID=1378&sitecode=HQ&pageno=1.  If I die before you (yes, you--the reader), I beg you to please arrange this gift offering right away and have the Gregorian Masses offered for me!  Forget the flowers and just get me the cheapest casket from casketsites.com or Costco.com (I’m not kidding!).  [Since this is not a bad plan, you might want to look into doing this for your own funeral prep.  Check out the links above and you’ll be amazed that there is a better way to prepare for eternity.]

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

 

December 11, 2016

New bishop looks forward to visiting us!

 

            Last Monday night after Evening Prayer at the cathedral I met our new chief shepherd, Bishop Michael Burbidge, at his welcoming dinner where clergy, seminarians and his close friends were invited.  A couple of us priests were late getting inside the dining room and ended up in the back corner of the hall where we sat with a lot of unfamiliar people.  That turned out to be a blessing because many of the bishop’s friends from Raleigh and Philadelphia were sitting there.  So we got to spend a little more time chatting with the bishop.  When I mentioned to Bishop Burbidge that our parish is most likely the first one he is going to re-dedicate after we renovate it next summer, his face beamed with delight with our plans!  The bishop even said that there’s always a unique bonding with the first church that he dedicates in a diocese so he’s excited to come to our 50th anniversary renovation/celebration next summer.  Please continue to pray that we’ll finish our renovation project in time and not disappoint the new bishop!

 

It’s “Pink Slip Sunday”

 

            The 3rd Sunday of Advent is Gaudete (“Rejoice) Sunday and the priests wear rose-colored vestments to signify that we’re nearing the Christmas season.  Since Advent is a penitential season Catholics are encouraged to go to confession.  In the bulletin is a somewhat pink-colored paper with the confession guide printed on one side and the examination of conscience on the other.  This “pink slip” will help you when you go to confession.  We have extra confession times during the week leading up to Christmas.  During Advent I’m offering again my “Blue Light Special” incentive (maximum penance for any sin:  7 Our Fathers, 7 Hail Marys).  Heed Pope Francis’ encouragement to go to confession and stop by any church “soap box” to get your soul washed clean from sin.

 

Many thanks to Paul Kerstanski

 

            In the past few years Paul Kerstanski has managed our fundraising efforts at the parish especially in supporting the new parish center.  Of the many things he’s done, Bella Notte gala, stands in the forefront as the biggest of them all having raised well over $50k in the 2 gala evenings that were held a year apart.  We want thank Paul and his wonderful crew for their superb efforts in the work they have done.  It is with great sadness that Paul’s new job relocated him in the state of Washington.  While we’re very happy for Paul for getting his “dream” job we will certainly miss all the great work he did for our parish and his dedicated presence a lot.  We wish Paul and his family the best in their new frontier and may God’s blessings be with them always.

            In the meantime, we are searching for a new volunteer who is willing to step up and continue to run the fundraising event.  The events Paul left behind are well in placed with great volunteers including Bella Notte and the brick campaign.  If you feel God is calling you to this wonderful service to the parish please contact me directly.

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

December 18, 2016

Final week before Christmas

 

            We’re down to the final week of Advent and you are invited to a special Thursday night 7 PM Mass (Dec. 22).  We’re part of the Simbang Gabi tradition that the Arlington diocese started a few years ago.  Its origin is from my native country, the Philippines.  The novena of Masses is celebrated to anticipate the celebration of Christmas.  It is also part of the tradition to enjoy a meal together so swing by Our Lady of Victory Hall (Gym) afterwards for the reception.  There will be plenty of food including a whole roasted pig (with an apple in its mouth).

 

            Our parish Christmas book gift to you will be distributed starting this Sunday thru Christmas.  We’d like for you have a head start on this exciting spiritual book on how to unlock the happiness you didn’t know you have.  Best-selling author Matthew Kelly’s latest book from DynamicCatholic.com could be just the antidote you need to pick up your spirit if you’ve been feeling down.  We purchased 1,000 copies so we should have enough for at least 1 copy per family or household.  So stop trying not to be very happy and read this highly recommended picker-upper book and truly have a very Merry Christmas.  You can also pick up your 2nd gift:  2017 Catholic Church Calendar. We thank George Snyder once again for generously donating the calendars to his fellow parishioners.  Please say prayers of thanksgiving to him and his family.

[Quick follow up on my other favorite charity this Advent:  Heifer International (www.heifer.org/catalog).  I got to sponsor a family to get a water buffalo to help them.

 

New pew sample in the sanctuary

 

            In case you haven’t noticed, you can get a glance of the new pews that will be installed in our church in summer 2017.  It is located to the left of the altar.  Feel free to try it and check out the side decorations.  It is ergonomically designed and far more comfortable to sit or kneel on than our current cushioned pews (and falling apart fast).  We chose European beech because it is the hardest wood the New Holland company offers.  We want these pews to last until the return of Jesus.

 

Plan well for Christmas Mass

 

            We have 7 Christmas Masses and the Christmas Eve ones at 5 PM in church and 5:10 PM at Our Lady of Victory Hall will be very crowded and parking will be very limited.  So if you have issues with crowd, noice and parking please attend at another time.  The last one at 12:30 PM on Christmas Day will also be crowded.  The least attended is the 10:30 AM Christmas day and it usually has plenty of seats available.  If you’re looking for a “Silent Night, Holy Night” Mass experience, come during the day at 10:30 AM Christmas morning.  Those who do have in the past thought they discovered a nice little Christmas present for its peaceful and solemn ambience.

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

December 25, 2016

 

Wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas!

 

            May you, your family and loved ones have the most Blessed and Merriest Christmas this year!

 

We thank Our Savior Jesus Christ for all the blessings we’ve had in the parish this year.  There’s not enough room in this column to describe just how much more exciting our parish is going to be in 2017.  The upcoming year is our 50th anniversary as a parish (September 1,1967-2017) and I have been “secretly” working with a few of your fellow parishioners on some of the exciting things we’ve got lined up to commemorate our golden anniversary.  Take my word for it, our 50th is truly going to be a “golden” year!

So far I’ve only given you just a few hints of what we’re working on to treat our wonderful parishioners with immense gifts that will greatly benefit you spiritually for the next several years.  You’ve heard some of them like the urgently needed new pews, non-slip porcelain floor in place of torn carpets, crucifix and maybe a couple of other things.  But stay tuned.  Keep reading my Shepherd’s Notes column for the next several weeks as I gradually unfold to you the more than 2 dozen spiritually life changing church improvements we’ve been preparing for you.  These blessings will astound you beyond your expectation.  We’re scheduled to complete everything by September 17, 2017.  It’s the same weekend as our next parish picnic.  Now that I have more definitive project deadlines submitted to me, I can finally formally invite Bishop Burbidge, our new bishop, to consecrate our new altar on September 17.  I spoke to him briefly about our renovation plans on the eve of his installment as our bishop (December 5) and he was very excited and asked me to write him a letter of invitation and the date when we’re celebrating.

FYI:  Our long awaited roof repair will begin shortly after January 1 and you’ll also start seeing work on renovating the choir loft area.

 

We need help on our Bell tower

 

            Our 350-lb. church bell is not mounted properly in the church tower and needs to come down and remounted.  Is there anyone in the parish who knows how to get this down?  We have a plan to care for our bell and be able to ring it again.  A closer look and you will see that it is strangely held up there by 4 rods instead of being mounted onto something.  The bell company also advised us to treat the heavily rusted screw/groove that is keeping the bell up there.  The company says that if we could take it down ourselves it would save us a lot of money than have them to do it.  The rental lift alone is $1,000 a day.  Contact me directly if you can help get our bell down.

 

                                    Your shepherd in Christ,

                                    Father Escalante

 

 

 

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37730 St. Francis Court

Purcellville, VA  20132

 

In case of emergency 540-338-6440

 

Parish Office 540-338-6381

secretary@saintfrancisparish.org

FAX 540-338-6431

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(office closed 12noon - 1:15pm daily)

 

Religious Ed. Office 540-338-4497

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