May 15, 2022:  My Dear Parishioners
Today, I want to tell you about a person who was hand-picked by God for an extraordinary amount of suffering, but was able to harness his cross to his great spiritual advantage and for the glory of God.  In fact, it is fitting for me to tell you his story in these cynical times, for this heroic man was priest, after the mode of Jesus Christ the Eternal High Priest.  True to his calling, he carried his burden with great grace and courage, refusing to be embittered, shattered, and crushed by his cross.  All the way from the beginning of his illness right up to the end, he allowed himself to be transformed by God’s grace into a source of great blessing and consolation for so many other suffering souls – even when he was himself dying of a horrible disease.  I want to tell you his story today because the life of this great man sheds great light on the meaning of suffering and helps us find reason to go on in front of the many challenges of these times.  Anyone in the crucible of suffering, of pain, of helplessness, of insecurity, of great anxiety can benefit tremendously from his heroic struggle to do the will of God.  One more reason: I want to tell you his story today because this person’s incredible life is being portrayed right now in a great film that features truly great Hollywood stars: Mark Wahlberg, Mel Gibson, and Jacki Weaver.  The name of the movie is “Father Stu”.  That’s right!  The life of this great man is being dramatized by a movie that features Mark Wahlberg as the protagonist, Mel Gibson as his dad Bill, and Jacki Weaver, another Oscar nominee, his mom.  Please go see the movie!

May 8, 2022:  My Dear Parishioners,
It was into the hands of men like Peter who denied his Master three times that our Lord entrusted His Church – a man who remained timid and weak and unsure of himself even after the Resurrection!  Throughout history, the men who occupied the chair of St. Peter and his collaborators, the bishops, the successors to the apostles, were often not among the best and the brightest.  In fact, they were not even among the holiest.  In fact, among the popes and bishops and priests in whose hands the Church has been entrusted were sometimes found the most hypocritical, criminal, scandalous, worldly, scoundrels!  That is why the mere fact of the Church's endurance through time is, without a doubt, a miracle!  If you would think about it, no regimes, no nations, no institutions, no organizations, no corporation on earth, could have survived that long if they had been governed by such sad and incompetent excuses for leaders!  And yet the Catholic Church has endured for 20-plus centuries!  And if you wonder why, here is the answer: because God is truly the founder of the Church, her Origin, and He continues to raise up countless saints, sung and sung, for her. 
One of such illustrious members was a Jesuit priest born of Polish parents, and who was imprisoned by the Russian Communist for 23 years in Siberia. Born in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania on November 4, 1904, the son of Polish immigrants, he grew to be a wild, tough kid, a bully and gang member.  That’s why his parents were incredulous when he told them he wanted to be a priest.  Entering a minor seminary, he remained tough and stubborn as a true-blue Polish!  Before long, he pulled another stun: one day Ciszek simply presented himself to the Jesuit provincial in the Bronx in 1928 and announced, “I’m going to be a Jesuit!”
In 1929 Pope Pius XI announced to all the Jesuits seminarians that he was looking for volunteers to go to the Soviet Union as missionaries.  Ciszek promptly volunteered.  He was sent to the Russian Center, Russicum, in Rome in 1934 to study the Russian language, history and liturgy. On June 24, 1937 he was ordained.
Assigned to the Albertyn Jesuit mission in Poland, Father Ciszek worked hard among the Poles, the Ukrainians, and the Russians, awaiting his chances to sneak into Russia.  Then the Soviet Union invaded eastern Poland in 1939.  Taking advantage of this calamity and the ensuing chaos at the borders, with the blessing of Metropolitan Andrei Shetytsky, he slipped into the Soviet Union along with two Jesuit friends under the assumed name of Wladymyr Lypynski.  Traveling 1500 miles by rail, he became a logger in the logging town of Chusov in the Urals, while carrying on his undercover missionary activities.
After a year he was arrested in 1941 by the NKVD, the brutal internal secret police of the Soviet Union, and taken to Lubyanka Prison in Moscow, a place where tens of thousands met their ends during these years.  After six months of interrogation and brutal torture which failed to break Father Ciszek, the NKVD drugged him and, under the influence of the drugs, he signed a false confession.  He was bitterly ashamed of this and vowed to always do the will of God for the remainder of his life.  On July 26, 1942 he was sentenced to 15 years hard labor in Siberia.  Surprisingly, Father Ciszek was kept at the Lubyanka for another four years.  Perhaps the Communists were afraid that he would infect the prisoners there with his religion.
In 1946 he was sent to Norilsk, the northern most city in Siberia, to shovel coal as a slave laborer for 12 hours each day.  Here he met another priest and was finally able to say Mass again.  Polish prisoners made wine from raisins. His chalice was a shot glass, and his paten was a cover from a gold watch. Father Ciszek was overjoyed: “But my joy at being able to celebrate Mass again cannot be described . . . .I heard confessions regularly and from time to time was even able to distribute Communion secretly after I’d said Mass.  The experience gave me new strength. I could function as a priest again, and I thanked God daily for the opportunity to work among this hidden flock, consoling and comforting men who had thought themselves beyond His grace.”
On April 22, 1955 he was released, although he was forbidden to leave Norilsk.  He got a job in a chemical factory.  Most of his co-workers were young women who quickly learned that he was a priest.  They liked him and would cover for him when he had to leave work to perform a Mass, a baptism or a funeral, and several of these ladies became converts.  His clandestine Masses on Sunday became so popular that he said three Masses each Sunday and had to rotate the locations to keep the authorities from finding out.  Easter midnight Mass in 1958 was held to an overflowing crowd in an abandoned barracks.  The KGB knew what happened and told him to and never come back. Ten days later they flew him to Krasnoyarsk.
By his second month in Krasnoyarsk, he had established three mission parishes and was offering Masses with over 800 people in attendance.  The KGB, quickly realizing what was happening, told him to get out of Krasnoyarsk and gave him only forty-eight hours to do it.  From 1959-1963 Father Ciszek resided in Abakan, one hundred miles south of Krasnoyarsk.  He got a job as an auto mechanic and continued to carry on his clandestine missionary activities.  He was suddenly released in exchange for a Soviet spy captured in the US.  As he flew out of Moscow, he made the sign of the Cross over the land to which he had dedicated 23 best years of his human life.
One of things that surprised him the most was that, among the staunchest Communists, there were still some who wanted to have their children baptized.  Some even became Christian Godparents.  In the heart of godless Russia where God had been banished for decades and the Church silenced, believers continued to wander the barren godless landscape looking for God.  And God did not abandon them.  For many of those clandestine believers who needed hope to go on living and surviving in order to go home to their families, they needed God, they needed to go to Confession, they needed to hear Mass, they needed to hear the assurances of eternal life, and they had Fr. Walter Ciszek!  For them, Father was the Catholic Church.  He was Peter.  And he was Christ!
(Story taken from various sources on the internet and from books)

May 1, 2022:  My Dear Parishioners,
I have lost track of how many times I have used this space to ask for your help!   I had been certain that the second phase of the roof project (and the resealing of the walls) would be my last appeal to you for help - at least for a few years!  But here I am again with hat in hand asking for your financial support!  But the recent problems with the ceiling which had a certain crack in the supporting truss required immediate attention.  The ensuing repairs cost us around $21,000 from our savings (which would have been used toward the North Wall eventually).  After everything you have done and have given to the parish, I understand if you decide not to contribute to this unexpected, unplanned expense.  In any case, I am glad that we were able to fix it in time before something tragic should happen, and I thank God for it.
Finally, please pray for the parish that we stay faithful to God, regardless of how difficult things might become for all of us!  God bless you!

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