Tag Archives: Roman Catholic Community of St. Edward the Confessor

St. Edward’s and the Journey of Faith by Anne Wasielewski

Prison_new_3Parishioner Anne Wasielewski has generously agreed to share some of her faith experiences with us today. If you read yesterday’s post from parishioner Don Wilson, you will note that they have the shared experience of being in the REC prison ministry. This essay, as does Don’s work, certainly reminds me of who gets changed when we serve others. We are grateful to Anne, and to Don – and to all who offer their words on these pages. (Interested, please let us know!)

My journey of faith is a long one. I started to question my faith in the seventh grade. Though my father was a devoted Catholic, and could debate theology, it seemed he was always working, and was never home. The formation of my Catholic Christian faith was left to my teachers at my parochial grade school I attended and my mother. I loved my mother very much. The only problem was that my mother seriously doubted her faith in God. These doubts were conveyed onto me, and reinforced by my circle of friends who, like me, were trying to find their way. This was all occurring during the late 1970’s/early 1980’s, when there was a lot of changes occurring in society at that time.
By the time I entered the 9th grade at a Catholic High School, which my father worked even longer hours in order to afford the tuition, I was not attending Mass. I did not even attend Mass on Christmas or Easter. God and Church never entered my mind or world.

When I was 20, I remember vividly a dream in which Jesus appeared to me and said, “You will be okay.” I awoke the next morning thinking this was very strange. I never thought of Jesus, so why would I dream of Him? I knew, for some reason, I had to share this dream with my father. I remember my father gently saying God works in mysterious ways. My father went on to say that being a Catholic can be very difficult, and that I would have to leave my present lifestyle and embrace a life centered on God and faith. I remember thinking, like St. Augustine, that I was not ready or willing to give my lifestyle.

I happily continued on, never really thinking about God. I graduated from a Catholic college, and much to my mother’s happiness and relief, I married and settled into suburbia. Despite deliberately shutting God out of my life, God blessed me with a wonderful husband and two beautiful children.

I dutifully had my children baptized in the Catholic Church, and made sure that they received all of the required sacraments. I was taking my motherhood ministry very seriously. I thought I was truly content with my life. Yet something was missing. I asked myself, “What could it be? I have a beautiful family, a beautiful home, and a good job. Why then, do I feel that I am not complete?”

I started to attend Mass at St. Edward’s on a more regular basis. Yet, I still felt that something was missing. In the late summer of 2007, after Mass at St. Edward’s, I picked up the bulletin. This time I actually read it. I noticed an informational meeting on Small Faith Groups was going to be held one evening in the chapel at St. Edward’s. The presenter was going to be Sue Karpovich. I thought, just maybe, I will go and hear Sue talk about this faith sharing group. As I really did not know anyone, I mustered up the courage to attend Sue’s presentation. Immediately, I was drawn to Sue’s warmth. I guess Sue sensed that I did not belong to any Faith Sharing Group, and invited me to be part of her group. In addition to meeting Sue, I met two other wonderful women – Karen DiPalma and Fran Rossi Szpyclzyn. In hindsight, God brought these three women from St. Edward’s into my life, as they were the ones who gave me the courage to truly start my faith journey back to God.

My daughter, Lauren, and I also became involved with the Youth Ministry at St. Edward’s as Sister Rose would not take no for an answer. I was beginning to feel a sense of God’s community. Lauren and I also became involved in the Emmaus Project through St. Edward’s and the United Church of Cohoes. Through this last ministry, God blessed me once again by bringing Kathy Masucci into my life. At the time, I had no realization of the importance of Kathy’s role in my faith transformation.

By now, I am attending Mass every weekend, and am thanking God for all of His blessings. Last January, I was reading the bulletin, and there was information about the REC (Residents Encounter Christ) Ministry. The contact person was Kathy Masucci. I knew I would be seeing Kathy the following Saturday at the United Church of Cohoes. That Saturday afternoon, I asked Kathy about the REC Ministry. It was as if Kathy knew I would be asking her at REC. She just happened to have the paperwork for me to complete for this ministry. Everything was done. I was all set. I inquired as to where the REC retreat will be held at? Kathy responded the retreat will be at Coxsackie, which is a maximum security prison for men in Greene County. Really? I thought, okay, I made the commitment to attend. I will only be participating for a few hours, and then I am done.

To be honest, I did not know what to expect. I cautiously told a few close colleagues, and my family. Their responses were unanimous. Everyone thought I was crazy. One attorney I work closely with, and I consider to be liberal, told me that ”I will never change these men.” I replied that I was not going to Coxsackie to change anyone. I prayed to the Holy Spirit to guide me on my next faith journey.

Coxsackie Correctional Facility

Coxsackie Correctional Facility

The day of the retreat arrived. I remember being very calm and at peace that morning. I arrived at Coxsackie. To say Coxsackie is a large, imposing facility, would be an understatement. The facility is surrounded by steel fences with electric barb wire on the top of the steel fence. A correction officer, with a high powered rifle, is standing guard in the tower situated by the electric barb wire fence. Yet, for some unknown reason, I felt drawn to enter a place I have never dreamed of entering. A calm, confidence came over me. Our group entered the facility, and heard a slam of heavy steel gates behind us. Not once, did I have any second thoughts. I knew, “I would be okay.”

After walking through the magnetometers, our group was led down a long, dark hallway. Was I apprehensive? No. I was feeling a sense of joy! Our group was ushered into a large gymnasium, which served as the dining hall for the retreat.

I don’t think I can articulate the transformation that took place as I entered the gymnasium. The room was filled with both the REC Ministry team and inmates. To witness these men praising God through music, song and their personal witness testimonies, was a life changing event. I felt the genuine presence of Christ that day at Coxsackie. To witness these men’s genuine faith (many who are serving life sentences with no parole) is truly a testimony of God’s forgiveness, not only for these men, but for forgiveness for me.

I always said I never could be a disciple and spread the Word of God. My afternoon at Coxsackie changed that. Through my testimony, I have brought two other people into this ministry.

When the attorney I work with asked how the retreat was, I replied, “You were right. I did not change the men. The men, through God’s grace, changed me.

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The king does as the king pleases

sainte03Imagine a king, leader of a land, a people. This is a monarch, in place not because he was duly elected by a democratic majority, but through birthright, place, power, prestige and privilege.

That king can do whatever the heck he wants!

Now try to imagine a king who uses his power entirely for the good. He is devoted to and serves the poor, he lifts odious laws and exhibits mercy in places not always known for mercy, especially to the poor. He also wishes to see a church that is meant to bring God’s people together for the common good, for common union, so he builds churches for his people.

That is some kind of king! And one that seems very Jesus-like in his behavior. As he does not simply what pleases, but does what pleases God, by serving God’s people.

StEdGatheringSpaceStatueIf you are wondering who such a monarch might be, look no further than our own gathering space. You might need to look up, maybe you have seen him so many times, he almost becomes invisible. There he is…together let us learn more about our patron, a saint of compassion, goodness, and generosity.

King Saint Edward – our patron saint. Unlike more popular saints such as St. Francis, St. Anthony, St. Therese, St. Jude, and so many others, St. Edward seems little known. This is less so in England, where he is revered as a saint by both Roman Catholics and Anglicans. He is remembered for his great compassion and generosity, always focused on the Body of Christ. He was always giving and he was interested in building churches.

He was not a priest, as some might imagine due to his title “confessor.” This simply means someone who bore great public witness in faith, and St. Edward certainly did that.  Add to that, he was not martyred, which would be part of his name if he had been.

On this weekend where we note his feast day of October 13, along with parish ministries of service, and the possibility of a new church, St. Edward should be in our prayers. As our patron, he can help us focus our hearts in prayer for the common good, for common union in Christ. For example, how are we called to ministerial pursuits of service?

Perhaps we want to do something traditional, such as be a lector, a eucharistic minister, or be in the choir. Is it REC prison ministry that calls to us? What about working with Mary’s Corner or Birthright? Prayer shawls? Rosary making? Cooking and serving at the soup kitchens? The essential work of being a catechist, teaching the faith? What about helping with this blog? There are so many things we might do. God calls each of us as he called to Saint Edward. May our patron lead us to the insight and courage to follow through.

Make no mistake however – God needs you, God’s people need you, we need you!

St. Edward the Confessor was also a builder of churches. One of the most famous churches in the world stands in all its glory because of him. That would be the iconic Westminster Abbey in London, England.

In the 1040s King Edward (later St Edward the Confessor) established his royal palace by the banks of the river Thames on land known as Thorney Island. Close by was a small Benedictine monastery founded under the patronage of King Edgar and St Dunstan around 960 A.D.  This monastery Edward chose to re-endow and greatly enlarge, building a large stone church in honour of St Peter the Apostle. This church became known as the “west minster” to distinguish it from St Paul’s Cathedral (the east minster) in the City of London.

The present building is of a later design; read more about that here.

A favorite legend about St. Edward the Confessor tells us that one day, on his way to Westminster Abbey, he was approached by a beggar. Having no money to give, King Edward took his sapphire ring and offered it to the stranger.  The story holds that the stranger was none other than St. John the Baptist. I snapped this photo when in London this past summer, it was in an Underground station. I know, due to the glare, it is a little hard to read, but here it is anyway. StEdStoryLondon(You can click on it to make it bigger.)

Our patron holds many gifts for us, and we would be wise to pay more attention to him. Gives of ministry, gifts of service, gifts of a place for God’s people to gather, centered around the Eucharistic table. What we receive at that table, like St. Edward and countless others before us, gives us the nourishment we need to go out and minister in the name of Christ.

The king who was our patron, just as the King who is our Christ, never does as the king pleases in the end. The king does what God calls us all to do. May we find the ongoing inspiration to live more deeply into the mission and ministry of our church, with some help from our patron, today and always.

(If you have an interest in a ministry and if you did not get to stop by the ministry fair this weekend, please contact Mary Ann Sekellick in the parish office for more information. We would also ask you to remember to pray with the prayer cards that we have distributed, so that we may pray as one body in Christ, discerning and committing ourselves to the future of this Roman Catholic Community in Clifton Park. Thank you and God bless you!)

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The vision presses on

Marble AltarThen the LORD answered me and said:
Write down the vision clearly upon the tablets,
so that one can read it readily.
For the vision still has its time,
presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint;
if it delays, wait for it,
it will surely come, it will not be late.
The rash one has no integrity;
but the just one, because of his faith, shall live.
Habakkuk 1:2-3,2:2-4

Yesterday’s readings remain with me today, they are very much present in my heart. Ironically, I accidentally turned to them when I began to pray this morning. In my still-sleepy state I thought “Oh, we have the Habakkuk reading again.” Perhaps I needed to reread them, so I did. As I reread all of yesterday’s readings today, I could not help but think about what we are considering doing here at St. Edward the Confessor.

In full disclosure, I am on the Master Planning committee, and have been since its inception in 2009. So for me, this “vision” of our parish has been on my own heart for a long time, deeply embedded in my prayers. Recently, a church friend from a distant place responded to me talking about where we were in the process, by saying, “What?! You have not mentioned this in about 2 years. When did it start up again?” I told him that it had never stopped. He could not understand the very slow speed with which we moved. How could he? Where he lives, the Catholic church is booming and new churches are springing up everywhere! Why would anyone proceed so slowly?

The vision has its time and it will not disappoint. For me this means, what God has ordained will be what happens – I can’t direct that personally, none of us can. As far as Fr. Butler and Master Planning, we have prayed, listened, worked, talked, listened, planned, communicated, listened – and we listened more, we continue to listen. This cannot be rushed, this has not been rushed, but has been a process of discernment. That process continues, but now we come to the time where decisions must be made.

So what does this have to do with the other readings?

“Stir into flame!” I love those words from the second reading, from 2 Timothy. This makes me think of Fr. Pat’s homily from Sunday, which I wrote about last night. If we “stir into flame the gift of God” we are living more deeply into our faith. And may the stirring of that flame bring our collective gifts, which are far beyond the monetary, into being. Whatever that being may be!

And the Gospel from Luke nugget that burns brightly for me today is the reminder that our faith may be like the smallest seed, yet that faith can grow to dimensions unimaginable.

What vision presses on for our community? What flames are stirred? How will our faith grow not only in us, because we are but members of One Body of Christ, but how will the faith of our members point us? If we are ever in prayer, oriented to God, listening deeply and responding in that faith, the vision that was once a tiny seed, will grow to untold heights.

Please continue to pray with us as we seek God’s will and the will of our people.

PrayerandChurch

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