SMALL FAITH GROUPS
Engaged Communities Bringing Energy and Fellowship to the Journey of Faith
Melissa Peterson has found that when her small faith group is regularly meeting, her faith is strong. When her faith group is in between studies, her faith is weak, and she isn’t reading Scripture as often. She has met with the same small faith group for more than 10 years. As expected, the group members have formed quite a friendship amongst themselves — one that Melissa values.
“This is our norm,” she says. “Our world thinks it’s so weird at times to spend our time this way — with like-minded people who share your faith. We are encouraging. We ask hard questions and share life experiences. This keeps me stronger in my faith.”
A member at St. Mary’s, Melissa recently started another small faith-sharing group, which meets at her home. Both groups are a mix of men and women, single and couples. For now, the
group will meet for a short time. Eventually, this could expand to a group that meets long-term. Since the groups will plan to meet for four to six continued on page 5
The Challenge of DISCIPLESHIP
God calls us to give Him everything – our whole heart, our whole soul, and our whole mind. This is the challenge of discipleship – a lifelong process of more fully placing our lives under the lordship of Jesus Christ.
The reason that God can ask such complete service from us is that He made us. Everything we have belongs to Him! This includes our intelligence, our physical ability, our artistic talent, our family, our finances, our government –anything we may typically think of as “ours.”
It takes courage to recognize that we are not the masters of our possessions and ourselves. Furthermore, as Christians, we believe that because everything we have is a gift from God, we are called to give Him thanks. We express our thanks by using our gifts to further His kingdom on earth. This is the basis for our understanding of stewardship.
We refer to “time,” “talent,” and “treasure” in order to differentiate between the various parts of our life that belong to God. “Time” is the duration of life that God has given us. “Talent” includes the special gifts or strengths God has nurtured in us. “Treasure” is what we have earned through our time and talent.
Even though we identify these three aspects of stewardship, they are still part of the same Gospel-based concept. And even when we focus
separately on these parts, it should not signal that one is more important than the other. Instead, focusing on each aspect one at a time helps us to better concentrate on that area in our lives.
Stewardship is, after all, an attitude. If our goal is to become better stewards, we must have a reason in our minds to do so. Here are the basics of a stewardship attitude:
“God made everything!”
A wholehearted trust that God made all things is essential to understanding stewardship. Recognizing God as the Creator is one of the most basic, profound beliefs of Christianity.
“I am truly blessed!”
It takes humility in order to truly acknowledge God’s goodness. Every great triumph and every little pleasure is a blessing from above, and every strong character trait we possess is a gift from God.
“I believe I am to use God’s gifts for His glory!”
What better way to thank God for His goodness than by using our personal gifts to glorify Him? We are not the owners of our time, talent or treasure. But we are caretakers given the responsibility of spreading God’s kingdom on earth.
A Letter From Our Pastor
In the Light of the National Eucharistic Revival, We Bring Our Parishes Together
My Dear Friends in Christ
We continue to move forward with the diocesan initiative to bring our six parishes together as a Haven of Mercy Area Catholic Community. Again, our six parishes include Sacred Heart in Flensburg, St. Stanislaus in Sobieski, Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Mary’s in Little Falls, Holy Family in Belle Prairie Township, and St. James in Randall. We have formed our new Haven of Mercy Area Catholic Community Pastoral Council, which consists of two members from each of these six parishes along with one member of the Latin Mass community. This new Pastoral Council is an advisory council for the pastors (currently Fr. Jimmy Joseph and me) of our six parishes to discern the pastoral vision for our faith community. We met officially for the first time in January. Our council is following an approved constitution and bylaws.
We need to ask, “What is the mission of the Catholic Church? Why does the Church exist?” The answer to this question is what should drive the pastoral vision and resources of our faith community. The mission of the Church and why it exists is to make disciples of Jesus Christ! In all that the Church is and what it does, it seeks to make Jesus Christ present, known, and loved! The United States Catholic Bishops have discerned a spiritual movement called the National Eucharistic Revival to help us accomplish our mission. In the next three years of the National Eucharistic Revival, the focus of our new six-parish Pastoral Council is to advise the pastors on how we can, as a new six-parish family, give people in our area the experience of being “healed, converted, formed and unified.” Respecting the individual identities and traditions of each of our parishes, we have
the calling to come together to be rooted in our discipleship of Jesus and make disciples in the best way possible, which is to be centered in the Eucharist.
The challenge of our new Pastoral Council will be to keep the spiritual focus our primary focus and to let that drive everything. This is what it means to be a missionary church over a maintenance church. The Pastoral Council will be meeting quarterly throughout the year. They will be discussing efforts to engage the National Eucharistic Revival as a six-parish community. We will be looking to plan events together. This year, consistent with year one of the National Eucharistic Revival which calls us to focus on leaders, we have planned monthly events to help our parish leaders to grow in healing, conversion, formation, and unification: the Deacon Poyo mission back in November, the Advent Lessons and Carols in December, a leaders’ training in January, small-group faithsharing groups for February, a leaders’ retreat at Lake Beauty in March, a Called and Gifted seminar in April, and a Eucharistic procession on Corpus Christi in June.
We also continue to work on administrative goals such as increased collaboration among pastors and staff, a shared bulletin, one website and shared social media communication, mutual support for cherished parish festival events, and supporting Mary of Lourdes Catholic School.
Sincerely yours in Christ,Fr. Ben Kociemba, Pastor
The National Eucharistic A Time to Fully Experience Jesus in the Eucharist
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) recognizes that the world is hurting. And as the Pew Research Center found, only 31 percent of Catholics believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The official National Eucharistic Revival website tells us, “Scandal, division, disease, doubt… Today we confront them all, at once. Our response at this moment is pivotal.” The USCCB’s National Eucharistic Revival will span three years and is an effort to “restore understanding and devotion to this great mystery here in the United States by helping us renew our worship of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.”
Here in the Haven of Mercy Area Catholic Community, we will also work to strengthen our relationships with Jesus. Fr. Ben Kociemba looks forward to seeing this transpire over these next three years.
“The church exists to make disciples,” he says. “We want to return to our apostolic faith that is handed down.”
Fr. Ben wants all of us to experience healing, conversion, formation, and unification. We will experience this through adoration, Mass, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and small-group sharing.
“These are the hallmarks of how we have the ability to receive the invitation from the Holy Spirit and Jesus to grow,” Fr. Ben says. “It’s not another program — it’s personal conversion.”
Looking back on this childhood, Fr. Ben realizes he was always trying to achieve things because he didn’t think he was enough for God. Although he grew up in a close and loving family, he realizes that, at times, he was
motivated by fear and would work harder to try to earn the love of God.
Fr. Ben knows now that this was incorrect and has been healed through Scripture reflection, being prayed over, attending retreats, experiencing the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and receiving spiritual direction. Conversion has come through asking Jesus for direction and wisdom and letting Him take control. Fr. Ben has also grown in formation through his priest fraternity group, spiritual direction, the parish leadership team, and Lectio Divina. He has found unification through a transformation in the Lord and now feels a closeness with staff, the parish, parish leadership, his family, and his priest friends.
“I have greater peace,” Fr. Ben says. “There is a deep sense of peace and joy and a closeness to those around me. These are all fruits of healing, conversion, formation, and unification. I want this for our parishioners too.”
The first year of the Eucharistic Revival here at Haven of Mercy, ending this June, involves training parish ministry leaders and council members. It begins with helping them experience healing, conversion, formation, and unification.
“We want to provide opportunities to come together with our leaders and give them the tools and the encounter with Jesus,” Fr. Ben says.
The November parish mission with Deacon Ralph Poyo helped to kick off the National Eucharistic Revival in our community. Leaders have the opportunity to come together monthly and join small faith groups. There are also opportunities for Eucharistic Adoration and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In March, leaders
Eucharist and Return to Our Apostolic Faith
will go on a weekend retreat at Lake Beauty.
On April 29, the entire parish is invited to the Called and Gifted Workshop. The activity for June will be a procession for the Feast of Corpus Christi. And this fall, we will once again host the annual Stewardship Renewal, as parishioners are encouraged and invited to renew their commitment to stewardship.
June 11, 2023, to July 17, 2024, will be the Year of the Parish Revival, both nationally and here in the Haven of Mercy Area Catholic Community. Fr. Ben hopes to bring several buses to the National Eucharistic Congress from July 17-21, 2024. There will be more than
100,000 Catholics attending this event, held in Indianapolis.
Hopefully, from summer 2024 to Pentecost 2025, we will all be equipped to go out into neighborhoods and bring our beautiful message to those not attending our Catholic Churches.
“This allows us to be more present in our world,” Fr. Ben says.
Fr. Ben hopes that the first year of the Revival will start to build a culture at Haven of Mercy where all have a personal relationship with Jesus in the Eucharist. Stay tuned for more opportunities to grow and experience healing, conversion, formation, and unification.
SMALL FAITH GROUPS
weeks, this isn’t a huge commitment.
Deacon Ralph Poyo — of New Evangelization Ministries — led a parish mission in late 2022, which served as the impetus to start more small faith groups.
“When you go on retreat, you get a sense of urgency to work on your faith,” Melissa says. “But, when you go back to life, you realize you are busy. It’s hard trying to keep that energy going. These groups will be a way to really grow in faith and as a faith community here in Little Falls.”
Melissa encourages others to step forward to lead a group. It doesn’t require a theology degree or knowing everything about the faith. You do have to be able to lead a group through questions, but you can always ask our priests questions and report back to the group.
“It’s not as intimidating as it seems,” Melissa says. “These groups are important because sometimes we get hung up so much on the head
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knowledge of the faith. A faith group challenges you to grow in your relationship with Christ. You are there to challenge each other.”
Being part of a small faith group will also help you to be accountable to your faith.
The faith group to which Melissa has belonged for more than 10 years is so important to her. She and her fellow group members have spent time socializing and sharing life.
“It’s such a neat group of people that I care about,” Melissa says. “Because we’ve met on and off for more than a decade, we have really gotten to know one another.”
It can be common for Catholics to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation and, in turn, feel they are “done” learning about the faith. But we need to counter that attitude and embrace learning more about the Catholic faith throughout our entire lives. Joining a small faith group is just one way to continue learning on your faith journey!
The Sacrament of Reconciliation: Returning to the Father
Those of us who have children know what it’s like when they come to us apologetically after having done something they know is wrong. As parents, it melts our hearts, and we can’t help but forgive them freely, and take them into our arms – sometimes squeezing them with tears in our eyes! At times, we may even feel closer to them than we did before the event occurred.
This, we can assume, is how God feels, being our most clement Father. In His magnanimous love, He sent His only Son Jesus Christ to redeem the world, freeing it from the haunting grips of sin and death. Christ instituted the Sacrament of Reconciliation through His Church to offer sinners forgiveness for the offenses they committed against God.
As the Angelic Doctor St. Thomas Aquinas writes so beautifully, “[The Sacrament of Confession is a] sacrament of healing and a sacrament of conversion, returning us to the Father after we have sinned. In the life of the body a man is sometimes sick, and unless he takes medicine, he will die. Even so in the spiritual life a man is sick on account of sin. For that reason he needs medicine so that he
may be restored to health; and this grace is bestowed in the Sacrament of Penance.”
As far as the details for the reception of this sacrament are concerned, three conditions are necessary – contrition, which is genuine sorrow for sin, together with a purpose of amendment; confession of sins without any omission; and satisfaction by means of good works. A priest is gravely bound to keeping total confidentiality for all confessions they hear.
Church law requires Catholics to confess mortal sins – the most serious kind of sins – to a priest at least once per year, and to confess them before ever receiving Holy Communion, as well. However, this is by far the minimum; Catholics are encouraged to receive the sacrament freely and frequently since it is so extremely beneficial to the health of the mind, soul and spiritual life in general.
To honor the Sacraments is to honor God and the entire Christian community. To receive the Sacraments is to live in God’s love and to strengthen our love for each other. Christ, our tenderhearted, Paschal Lamb, awaits us, His beloved children, to come to Him with all of our hearts.
Called and Gifted Workshop Presents Opportunities to Discover Spiritual Gifts
Since 1993, more than 200,000 lay people and religious have found their charisms through a Catherine of Siena Institute Called and Gifted Workshop. Catholics will be able to do the same on Saturday, April 29, at Holy Family in Belle Prairie. The daylong event helps participants discover their charisms or spiritual gifts.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “Whether extraordinary or simple and humble, charisms are graces of the Holy Spirit which directly or indirectly benefit the Church, ordered as they are to her building up, to the good of men, and to the needs of the world” (799).
The day begins with participants taking the Catholic Spiritual Gifts Inventory, and the workshop will cover the signs and characteristics of the 24 most common charisms. This workshop was also presented last year, with attendees coming from all over the state. George Gold thought it helped discern his charisms. George knew he was good at working with his hands, having been a tool and die maker until his retirement. So, George’s charism of craftsmanship came as no surprise. He uses that gift to do work around Our Lady of Lourdes.
Another one of George’s charisms is leadership and organization. This one also stands to reason, as George has spent the past four years organizing the Our Lady of Lourdes Bazaar. This gift of leadership aids him in this ministry, as taking on a large role requires delegating and being organized. It’s important to George that the bazaar is prosperous.
“I like organizing the bazaar,” he says. “It’s a big commitment. I like all of the people I get to work with on the bazaar.”
Because he’s quiet and likes to keep to himself, George was surprised to find that another of his charisms is evangelization. He’s still discerning where he can best use this charism since he’s an introvert.
“I try to set an example as a good man, husband, grandfather, and father,” he says.
George has encountered many situations where a stranger will start talking to him, confide in him, and seek advice. He tries to use these opportunities as a way to evangelize.
“I try to offer my experience and my faith with them,” he says.
When he retired, George decided to stop saying “no” and start saying “yes” to opportunities. He loves to serve wherever he can. Serving with the Coffee and Donuts Ministry and as an Extraordinarily Minister of Holy Communion are both opportunities for George to evangelize.
“Sometimes I get frustrated that I don’t have enough to do,” he says. “When that happens, I go help someone else. It doesn’t matter what it is — roofing, insulation, or moving. I try to help.”
The Called and Gifted workshop will take place beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday, April 29, at Holy Family. Arrive up to one hour before for materials. George recommends this event for all parishioners, as it’s a great way to discover your God-given gifts!
For more information about the Called and Gifted Workshop, or to register, call the Our Lady of Lourdes parish office at 320-632-8243.
Parish Office: 208 West Broadway Little Falls, MN 56345 (320) 632-8243
Lent and Easter Schedule
Stations of the Cross on Fridays at 5:30 p.m. The rotation will be:
HF: Feb. 24
SM: March 3
OLOL: March 10
HF: March 17
SM: March 24
OLOL: March 31
Palm Sunday, April 2
OLOL: 8:30 a.m.
SM: 9 a.m.
HF: 10:15 a.m.
OLOL: 10:30 a.m.
Holy Thursday, April 6
OLOL: 5:15 p.m.
SM: 7 p.m.
HF: 8 p.m.
Good Friday, April 7
SM: 12:30 p.m.
OLOL: 1 p.m.
HF: 3 p.m.
Holy Saturday, April 8 All Masses at 8:30 p.m. (All seven readings will be done at Holy Family.)
Easter Sunday, April 9
OLOL: 8:30 a.m.
SM: 9 a.m.
HF: 10 a.m.
OLOL: 10:30 a.m.
HF = Holy Family
SM = St. Mary’s
OLOL = Our Lady of Lourdes
Penance Service will be on April 4 at 7 p.m. at OLOL — individual confessions with several priests.