Sunday, May 18, 2014

Homily – 2014 Annual Catholic Appeal

Acts of the Apostles 6:1-7
1 Peter 2:4-9
John 14:1-12

             How perfectly appropriate and timely!
Today’s first reading from Acts of the Apostles details the very start of deacons in our Church.  St. Stephen, who would be the first Christian martyr, is commissioned along with six others to serve community members who are on the margins.
Deacons are ordained ministers of the Church who are to reflect “Christ the servant” in our community.
The word deacon comes from the Greek word diakonia which literally translates to servant.
I am honored to be a servant to this community.  I am so grateful for being able to stand before you to share the Gospel, help with efforts to live our Catholic Social Teaching by works of charity and justice in our community, especially to those on the margins, and to minister to the people of God right here in Everett. 
I talked about the book and movie “Heaven Is For Real” in my last homily a few weeks back.  There was a line spoken by Pastor Todd in the movie that really resonated with me.  He talked about being called by God to serve people in their darkest hours of life so they would know they are not alone.  That really hit home.
Hospice ministry has been, perhaps, the greatest gift of all for me.  It is hallowed ground to walk with people in their final moments of life and remind them of the promise Jesus makes in today’s Gospel:
“In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.  If there were not, would I have told you I am going to prepare a place for you?” 
These words give much peace and comfort to those about to make the journey home.
Being a deacon is a blessing I do not deserve.  But it is one I will humbly labor at for the rest of my life.
But none of this would be possible without the Annual Catholic Appeal.  This yearly Archdiocesan fundraiser pays to form deacons in our Church. 

It paid for nearly five years of formation for our class, picking up the tab for two dozen college professors from top universities in our region to come and teach our classes. 
Just so you know the return on investment, the Archdiocese got its money’s worth because those educators assigned and graded 130 written papers in 58 class topics, 248 total classes and 372 hours of class time. 
In all, we put in well over two-thousand hours of study and work on our assignments to become deacons (In other words, it was a lot of work!).  A far cry from how deacons were formed two thousand years ago.

The Annual Catholic Appeal paid for 46 weekend stays at Palisades, that’s 92 nights and 276 meals. It paid for everything. 
In my class, 35 of us started the journey together -- 22 were ordained and are serving the Archdiocese, from Long Beach on the southern Washington coast, to Arlington, and all spots in between.
Needless to say, we were formed right.  But at a high cost financially to the Archdiocese.
For this marvelous journey, I want to say thank you.  Thank you to each and every one of you who gives and gives generously to the Annual Catholic Appeal.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Homily – AMHS 2014 Grandparents Day Liturgy - Lauryn Wirtala

Acts of the Apostles 5:34-42
John 6:1-15

What signs in our lives can be considered miracles?  Is Jesus someone we trust with our very lives to help feed us and sustain us with his abundant love?
I know a young lady who trusts in Jesus and sees clearly the miracles He’s done in her life.
Her name is Lauryn Wirtala and her dream was to attend Archbishop Murphy High School.  But it was a dream that was not to be due to her poor health.
You see, when Lauryn was 13 and in seventh grade, she was diagnosed with two chronic and incurable diseases.  Her life has been a series of hospital visits, chemo therapy, lost hair, feeding tubes and the stress of knowing that her health challenges had changed her life’s course forever.
 But in all of this Lauryn still sees Christ performing miracles in her life; the miracle of keeping her alive to see another day, the miracle of filling her heart with love for her family and friends who pray for her daily, the miracle of doctors who work to stay steps ahead of diseases with no cures, the miracle of being able to share her story with others so they can find God, can find Jesus, in her daily struggles.
Earlier this year, Lauryn was in the hospital for an extended period, with only a PICC line and a feeding tube keeping her alive, and pain meds helping her to endure it all.
Her family called a priest to sacramentally anoint her and pray with her and her family. 
Three days later, Lauryn was walking again, off her pain meds and soon out of the hospital to finish her senior year of high school.
Just like today’s Gospel, people marvel at the signs Jesus is doing in her life and give thanks for these miracles.
I’d like to introduce you to Lauryn Wirtala and ask her to share more of her powerful story with us all today.  
Lauryn:  I know you had a dream.  We want to make that dream come true. 
It is my great honor to bestow upon you today an Honorary Diploma from Archbishop Thomas J. Murphy High School.
  On behalf of President Matt Schambari, Principal Steve Schmutz and the entire Archbishop Murphy community, we welcome you as an honorary Wildcat.  Congratulations!