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Holy Family Cathedral » Rector » Fr. Jovita: August presents New Opportunities to Serve

Fr. Jovita: August presents New Opportunities to Serve

BY VERY REVEREND JOVITA C. OKONKWO

 

SUMMER’S WINDING DOWN
Without really meaning it to be so, we find that the school year affects our lives more than we are willing to admit. Even here at Holy Family, the summer break had us take a break with our monthly newsletter. The school year has influence also on the RE program, RCIA, liturgical ministries, and so on. We are glad to be back after the restful summer. I’ve often wondered how we would have been able to cope with a fully engaged summer given the heat in Oklahoma at this time of the year. With August here, we welcome back our school children whose lively presence we have missed since May and welcome back all those who have taken their vacation and are back prepared to continue our journey of intentional Catholicism.

 

WELCOME HOME, FR. JOHN GRANT!
On that note of welcome, I wish to use this medium to again welcome Fr. John back to us. The last time we had a newsletter, Fr. John was writing exams and final papers at the college in Mundelein, Illinois where he completed his Masters in Sacred Liturgy. Though it doesn’t seem like it, Fr. John has been back for only two months and some weeks. Because he is full of energy and zeal, it seemed as if he never left at all. The nearly three months he’s been back look like three years because he has accomplished so much since his return. He has taken up the added charge to revamp our RE and RCIA programs. Fr. John, we are glad to have you back at Holy Family. I’m particularly blessed with your presence and support.

 

CELEBRATING AUGUST TRIUMPHS
The eight month of the year is a month originally associated with triumphs, conquests, successes because Augustus Caesar thought about how he could permanently remember his conquests and chose his name for this month. So much for Roman chivalry! This month has important implications for our liturgical life. Three important feasts that point to the victory the Lord won for us occur this month. The Transfiguration of the Lord (August 6th) assures us that Jesus is the prophet par excellence, and he is truly God, living for all eternity in blaze of dazzling and unapproachable glory. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (August 15th) is not just a dormition (a falling asleep) but a fulfilment of the glorification of mortal nature when Christ became a member of the human race. Mary’s Assumption keeps us hopeful that the Lord will transform and glorify our lowly bodies into copies of his own glorious body (Philippians 3: 21) as perfectly expressed also in the feast of the Queenship of Mary (August 22nd). The feast of the Beheading of John the Baptist (August 29th) is a tough one. Only John and Jesus have both feasts of their birth and their death in the calendar. John achieved his triumph through a tragic death at the hand of Herod, because of the hatred of Herodias. Yet, Jesus declared him the greatest even in his obsolescence because he knew when to hang the boot and resist the temptation to fight or to defeat his upstart and keep his popularity. Some find it hard to accept that it’s time to bow out. Not St. John the Baptist. He secured his place and popularity with the words: “He must increase, while I must decrease” (Jn 3:30). Other important feasts like the feast of the deacon Lawrence (August 10th), St. Clare (11th), St. Maximilian Kolbe (14th), St. Monica and St Augustine (August 27th and 28th) tell different stories of triumph through the path of conversion and intentional discipleship.

 

SERVING AND LEADING GOD’S PEOPLE
This month, I will reflect in a few words the last of the five-pronged pastoral initiatives we developed for attaining intentionality. We have looked at prayer and liturgical renewal, communicating our faith, catechesis, and stewardship. A few weeks ago, I defended my thesis on the effects of servant leadership on parish life and the spiritual growth of parishioners. Servant leadership is a model of leadership that focuses on the good of those served rather than the self-interests of the leader. The temptation to serve one’s interests often thwarts the goal of service and soon service becomes inward-looking rather than outward-looking – toward the person(s), organization or ideal served. The goal of servant leadership is that both leader and follower would become servants; servants of “a common cause.” In our case the common cause would be discipleship. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 9 spells out in considerable detail how priest servants are to accomplish this. They are to:

  • Cooperate and listen to the laity and recognize their expertise
  • Awaken and deepen lay co-responsibility
  • Invite lay initiative and confidently entrust duties to them
  • Help all explore and discern vocation
  • Form and support secular apostles

 

To even attempt to accomplish these, both priests and lay must let in the Holy Spirit to convert them into disciples with concrete behaviors suited for the apostolate. Some of the behaviors researched and validated include:

  • Voluntary subordination; willingness to abandon oneself completely to service
  • Authentic self; a secure sense of self, unpretentious and revealing even vulnerability
  • Covenantal relationship; treating others with consummate equality with a mutuality of purpose
  • Responsible morality; based on internalized ideals of equity and uprightness
  • Transcendental spirituality; viewing our calling as a way to make a difference in people’s lives
  • Transforming influence; a contagious stimulation of positive change in others (Sendjaya)

 

In the next edition, I will go on to develop these ideas. May Mother Mary teach us the attitude of voluntary subordination to the will of God and the desire to follow Jesus unreservedly!

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