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the phi lipian




Offers Opportunities to Pray and Prepare Through Music

t’s a feeling we all know — the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. And surprisingly, even in a pandemic, some of the busyness remains the same. Whether you’re perusing Amazon for the perfect gift, baking dozen upon dozen of delicious Christmas cookies, or creating an incredible light display in your front yard, it can be easy to forget the true meaning of this holy season. Advent is a reminder to step back, slow down, and be reminded of what truly matters. And, although our prayer and celebrations may look a little bit different this year, we likely need the nudge to refocus on what is most important, just the same. Here at St. Philip Neri, we hope to invite people to prepare their hearts for the coming of Christ, particularly through the power of song.

“Advent is an important season that is usually overlooked,” says our Music Director, Linda Liberty. “People get so wrapped up in Christmas.” Although much liturgical music is based on Scripture, this is especially true with the music of Advent and Christmas. Linda spends time meditating on the Mass readings as she chooses music that will enhance our liturgies and help people enter more fully into prayer. “I look at the readings of the day and I always do something that reinforces the readings of the day,” she says. “And with Advent, in particular, it’s amazing how much music is written with Scripture’s text. continued on back cover


HOSPITALITY: The Cornerstone of Stewardship


he dictionary defines “hospitality” as “the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.” A Christian worldview can refer to hospitality as “Christian kindness.” We see the effects of hospitality – or the lack thereof – time and time again throughout the Bible. Christ speaks of hospitality in Matthew’s Gospel when He says, “When I was a stranger, you welcomed me” (Matthew 25:35). The Old Testament told of the Israelites, as they wandered the desert for 40 years in search of hospitable environs. Even the Holy Family spent ample time searching for shelter before the birth of Our Lord. It is safe to say that hospitality is, and most likely has always been, of great importance to people everywhere. Modern hotels and hostels often use the image of a pineapple to advertise their special brand of hospitality. There is no doubt that in ancient times, the distant lights of an inn or tavern struck a chord of hope within weary travelers’ hearts. Indeed, hospitality’s meaning has not diminished at all over the years, decades and millennia. Christians view the presence of hospitality as meaning the difference between calling others “guests” and “strangers.” Guests are welcomed with open arms and warm smiles, but strangers aren’t. Guests feel the genuine love present in a hearty

welcome, but strangers don’t. Guests often return for second or third visits, while strangers don’t. As a parish, do we find ourselves surrounded by guests, or burdened by strangers? Hospitality is, in many respects, a mindset. The same person may be treated as guest at the church just down the road, but as a stranger here. Matthew’s Gospel tells of Christ as He reveals a profound truth about hospitality: “When I was a stranger, you welcomed me.” That is, “I used to be a stranger, but you fixed that when you welcomed me.” It’s a classic example of before-and-after. All it took was a change of heart. Stewardship holds hospitality as an immensely important concept. Remember the “three Ts” of stewardship – Time, Talent, and Treasure? Well, there are also “four Ps,” the Four Pillars of Stewardship – Hospitality, Prayer, Formation, and Service. Hospitality is mentioned first. Why? If not for hospitality, none of the other pillars will ever take hold. Hospitality is the cornerstone of stewardship because it opens the door to a person’s heart and allows them to receive joy, grace, and love. Hospitality must become second nature if stewardship is to truly take hold within a parish. So, when a stranger visits our parish, welcome them as a guest. Perhaps one day, they’ll pay us a second visit.

Matthew’s Gospel tells of Christ as He reveals a profound truth about hospitality: “When I was a stranger, you welcomed me.” That is, “I used to be a stranger, but you fixed that when you welcomed me.” It’s a classic example of beforeand-after. All it took was a change of heart.


A Letter From Our Pastor

Unwrapping the Dear Parishioners,


Gift of Stewardship

ost people associate stewardship with giving. Some think it is a desperate plea by the church asking parishioners to give some of your time, talent and treasure to a worthy cause. Some think it is a noble gesture that identifies a faithful steward, a common occurrence this time of year. And for some, it is an understanding that the stewardship way of life brings joy and blessings to the giver by returning a portion of the gifts he or she has received from God. At Christmas, when it is most common to give or receive gifts, should this not also be a time when the stewardship way of life becomes the gift that is unwrapped by our consciousness and treasured by our faith? After all, the first gift of Christmas was the gift of God’s own Son. For those who may still be struggling to truly understand the stewardship way of life, that may be a concept that is difficult to accept, even at this time of year. But by living the stewardship way of life, it makes perfect sense to me. And during this season of faith, the gift of stewardship remains one of the blessings of my life as a Catholic, as a priest and as a pastor. Before fully embracing a life of stewardship, I could justify wasting my time with less-than-worthwhile activities. I could rationalize withholding my talents, because I often thought somebody else would always step up and take care of things instead of me. I restricted or limited sharing my material resources, thinking it wouldn’t make a difference — or worse yet, I thought others could afford to give more than me, because I believed I had already given enough. As each day passes, I remind myself often of how wrong I was in what I did with my time, talent and treasure.

But the days for regretting my misunderstanding of the stewardship way of life are over. Stewardship conversion changes all of that, and the reverse is now true. The more time, talent and treasure that I can give, the more content and joyful I truly am. When is the last time you unwrapped a gift that gave you so much peace of mind and heart? Maybe you have never been aware of receiving such a gift, or maybe God is just waiting for you to unwrap what He has always wanted you to have. Perhaps it is the gift God wants you to have this year for Christmas. The catalyst for stewardship is gratitude. And, as we recognize that all we have is a gift from God, it lights up our gratitude as if it were a large Christmas tree with too many lights on it to be counted. All we can do is look at it with wonder and awe, thankful for what we see, what we have, and the opportunity to give back something in gratitude. It is more than just a spirit of “holiday stewardship” that seems to be so common this time of year. It is the core of the stewardship way of life, and once that gift is unwrapped, our conversion takes hold and our lives are transformed into faithful stewardship intended by our God. I hope and pray that you and your family will be blessed during this season of God’s grace, unwrapping the gift of stewardship in your lives and finding joy and peace — both during this season of grace and all year long. Sincerely yours in Christ,

Fr. Fabio Refosco, C.O.





hurch choirs have always been an important part of Jennifer Miranda’s life. She grew up watching her father sing at Mass each Sunday. As teenagers and young adults, Jennifer and her sisters joined their dad in the choir. Then in 1997, at St. Ann Catholic Church in Charlotte, Jennifer’s participation in the choir led to one of the greatest blessings of her life as she began to get to know a fellow choir member named Earl. When the director recognized a special spark between the two singers, he urged Earl to ask Jennifer out. And the rest, as they say, is history! Jennifer and Earl have been married for 22 years and have three daughters — Shania, 14; Shay, 13; and Leah, 11. They have been parishioners at St. Philip Neri since a move brought them to the Fort Mill area in 2005. From the first Mass they attended here, the Mirandas immediately noticed the friendly and welcoming atmosphere — and, of course, the great music! Since their first years in the parish, Earl has served as a lector while Jennifer has served as a cantor. Jennifer truly enjoys being a part of our Music Ministry. “Music is meant to enhance the liturgy,” she says. “The cantor’s job

Jennifer and Earl Miranda with their daughters, (from left) Leah, Shay and Shania.

is to inspire people to participate. I think that the liturgy is such an important part of who we are as Catholics, and everything that everybody does at Mass, all those moving pieces, make our liturgy what it is. And I’m just happy to be helpful in that.” Thanks to a personal invitation from Roberta Whitaker — the very first person Jennifer and Earl met in our parish! — Jennifer became the Italian

Festival Co-Chair of indoor entertainment and director of the Italian Idol event. When the Mirandas adopted their three daughters, Jennifer decided she wanted to be involved with their activities as well, so she began teaching faith formation and helping with Vacation Bible School. By staying involved in parish life, Jennifer and Earl are both following the examples of an


Many Blessings in Parish Involvement active faith life set for them by their own parents. They hope that the faith foundation they are now putting in place for their daughters will serve them well as they journey through their teenage years and into adulthood. “As a parent, you know how hard it’s going to be when they’re out on their own and how hard it will be to make themselves go to Mass in college,” Jennifer says. “I think children do what their parents do, and if you foster the idea that being involved is the thing to do, that is something that will keep them connected. “The times I have been strongest in my faith is when I’ve been involved in the parish,” she continues. “When you become involved in serving, it gives you a greater reason to be there.”

and it makes my relationship with God stronger.” Thankful for the many blessings she has found in a stewardship way of life, Jennifer hopes all parishioners will continue to find ways to connect more deeply with our faith community here at St. Philip Neri. “I would encourage people to watch the bulletin, check out the Getting Involved section on the church website, and see what speaks to them,” she says. “There are so many things to do, even for ‘behind the scenes’ people. If you’re called to lector or be a Eucharistic Minister or altar server, those are all things you can do once a month, and all those things really do make a difference in our church. It’s just about seeing what is calling you.”

I would encourage people to watch the bulletin, check out the Getting Involved section on the church website, and see what speaks to them. There are so many things to do, even for ‘behind the scenes’ people. If you’re called to lector or be a Eucharistic Minister or altar server, those are all things you can do once a month, and all those things really do make a difference in our church. It’s just about seeing what is calling you.

Jennifer knows from experience how much more the faithful will feel invested in their parish family when they share the gifts of their time and talent to help keep things running. Our priest, deacons and staff can’t do everything on their own — but as Jennifer points out, if everyone takes care of just one small piece of the puzzle, all of those pieces can come together to create a vibrant and welcoming parish! For all who serve our community in various ways, the rewards are truly priceless. “I feel more fulfilled and happier, and I can’t imagine I would feel that way unless it was God nudging me in that direction,” Jennifer says. “For me, feeling part of the community makes me a stronger Catholic,

Jennifer Miranda


FOCUSING OUR HEARTS HEAVENWARD: The Origin and Beauty of the Nativity Scene


ith all the commercialism surrounding Christmastime, it’s far too easy for us to lose sight of the true reason behind the season. Overwhelmed by our endless to-do lists and the hustle and bustle of last-minute shopping, our focus quickly shifts away from the Christ Child’s birth. And yet, hidden amongst the holly wreaths and garlands, the Christmas Nativity remains a tangible reminder of the Incarnation, pulling us back into time for a moment as we reflect upon the incredible gift of Christ’s birth. Interestingly, it was circumstances much like our own today which first led St. Francis of Assisi to recreate the Nativity scene nearly 800 years ago. Frustrated with the growing materialism and greed that seemed to pervade 13th century Italy, St. Francis wanted a way to visually remind people of Christ’s humble beginnings — to show them that Christmas isn’t about pomp and circumstance or material goods, but rather about unselfish love. Describing the idea to his friend Giovanni, St. Francis wrote, “I want to do something that will recall the memory of that child who was born in Bethlehem, to see with bodily eyes the inconveniences of his infancy, how he lay in the manger...” And so St. Francis’ idea took form on Christmas

Eve in 1223. This original Nativity scene was a living one, even including live animals. Villagers were deeply moved by the silent display of humble beauty, and the Nativity tradition soon spread throughout Italy and surrounding Europe. It is a tradition that remains today in nearly every Christian church and in many homes. In fact, it’s hard to imagine Christmas without a Nativity scene somewhere. Coming in various sizes and styles, each Nativity replica continues to focus our hearts on the true meaning of Christmas — to help us remember that Christmas isn’t about the amount of gifts under the tree or the festive decorations, but rather about celebrating Christ’s birth. Many families have a tradition of hiding the Infant Jesus, only placing Him in the crib on Christmas morning. This helps build anticipation during the Advent season as we anxiously await the Divine’s birth. Others go a step further, actually wrapping up the Christ Child to be opened as the very first gift of Christmas. Yet, whatever your family’s particular traditions, we hope that the Christmas Nativity continues to draw your heart heavenward this Christmas season — to center us all on the greatest gift ever given, our Incarnate Lord.

Coming in various sizes and styles, each Nativity replica continues to focus our hearts on the true meaning of Christmas — to help us remember that Christmas isn’t about the amount of gifts under the tree or the festive decorations, but rather about celebrating Christ’s birth.


Are You Ready to Be FORMED? Catholic Streaming Service Free for All Parishioners


eading, studying, listening and watching are all ways each of us can learn about our faith — and these are the learning opportunities offered through the FORMED program. FORMED, a program coordinated by the Augustine Institute, meets Catholics where they are at. Our parish has utilized this subscription-based program for the past three years. FORMED helps those at all ages and levels of knowledge learn more about the Catholic faith, providing access to thousands of studies, films, audio recordings and e-books. This online platform, along with its free mobile apps for iOS and Android, “helps individuals and communities know, love and share their Catholic faith.” From adult faith formation options and Bible studies to Lectio Divina and award-winning movies, FORMED has thousands of options to learn more about the Catholic faith. There are group and individual options and apologetics, which provides information on how to defend Catholic teaching. There is even sacramental preparation information and also parenting topics. “I hope FORMED becomes a means, a platform, in which Catholics can encounter the Good News of Jesus Christ and then have a platform by which they can share that discovery with all their friends, family and coworkers,” says Dr. Tim Gray, President of the Augustine Institute. Mary Harden, Director of Faith Formation and Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), encourages everyone to register for FORMED and take advantage of the many learning opportunities. “I like the Signs of Grace video series,” Mary says. “It’s wonderful for the family. It has lessons on forgiveness and God’s unending love.”

Mary also loves the Symbolon video series, which is used during our RCIA process. It explains the Catholic faith through beautiful photography and it’s easy to understand, says Mary. There’s something for all ages in FORMED. Parents should check into the Lukas Storyteller series or Brother Francis videos. Mary says for those who commute, this is a great option to listen to something positive. She says there are a lot of short presentations which can be used at any time. “You can watch through the FORMED app, which you can add to your Smart TV,” Mary says. “There is a lecture series you can listen to while cooking dinner or cleaning the house.” Mary says during the pandemic, we may not be able to attend Bible studies or other church events as we normally have in the past. FORMED can be a great resource to fill that gap from the comfort of our home. “I am shocked that more people do not take advantage of this free program,” Mary says. “There are so many different ways to learn about the Catholic faith — reading, watching, listening. It should be on every Catholic’s smartphone.”

If you would like to sign up for FORMED, visit formed.org and create an account. Visit our website at www.saintphilipneri.org to view the weekly FORMED recommendation.

St. Philip Neri

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continued from front cover

“I try to choose songs that are Scriptural,” she adds. “Maybe someone has heard something in a reading and it wasn’t understandable, but they’ll remember it in a piece of music. I use music as a tool to evangelize or catechize.” Although COVID-19 has changed the way we incorporate music in the liturgy, we continue to have a small choir, as well as our handbell choir, along with alternative ways for our children to participate, such as a chime choir. “I’ve just had to get more creative,” Linda says. “I’m still offering something for people who want to participate.” In addition to praying with us at Mass, parishioners are invited to enter into the reflective nature of the Advent season through our Advent Lessons and Carols, which will take place on Sunday, Dec. 13, at 2 p.m., in the church,

and will also be Live Streamed on the church website. This event is an opportunity to listen to beautiful Advent music, as well as joining in prayer and song. “It’s what I love about the liturgical Church — we’re given these times of preparation for the big feast days,” Linda says. “If you’re expecting a baby, you’re making preparations. That’s the way the church looks at Advent — it’s a time of prayer and preparation for the feast of Christmas.” Linda hopes that all parishioners will consider joining us for this special event. “It’s open to the whole parish,” she says. “It’s for anyone who likes music, anyone who wants to learn more about the Advent readings. Take 45 minutes and come and listen to music, hear Scripture, and take a little bit of respite from the Christmas craziness.”

If you would like more information, or to become involved with the Music Ministry at St. Philip Neri, contact Music Director Linda Liberty at musicdirector@saintphilipneri.org or 803-548-7282, ext. 249. For our Advent and Christmas Mass schedule, please visit our website at saintphilipneri.org.

Profile for Catholic Stewardship Consultants

The Philipian, A Publication of St. Philip Neri Catholic Church — Dec. 2020