Before the Latin Gate Roman Catholic Church
2 The Great Catholic Educator: St. Thomas Aquinas 3 Forget the Resolutions... Seize the Opportunities!
THE BEST TIME YOU WILL SPEND ON EARTH
or faithful Catholics like Guy Lenora, Eucharistic Adoration is an oasis of serenity, a spiritual fortress, and a guiding light. “I love starting my day face-to-face with 4 Parish Jesus,” Guy says. “I am able to look at Him, Hospitality and He looks upon me. It’s a connection that’s Team hard to replicate any other way. Going to Continues to Adoration in the morning seems to keep the Go Above important things Jesus teaches about love and and Beyond acceptance in front of me all day.” Reaching Out There, in front of the King of Kings and Lord During a Global of Lords, exposed on the altar with divine humility, Health Crisis adorers discover their most loyal companion in life. “When I am in Adoration, I don’t recite many standard prayers — I just 6 St. John try to talk to Jesus as I would a friend,” Guy says. “Again, I see Him, and Catholic He sees me. I spend some of my time in thanksgiving, and some asking Him School: to help me be a better person. Finally, I present my petitions and offer up Investing in my day. Our Children’s When I don’t make it to Adoration, I definitely notice that something is Future Through missing. When I don’t stop and see my friend, I feel like I’ve missed a special Education and chance to be with Him,” Guy says. “Jesus expects me to come by and visit Community Him when I get the chance.” JANUARY 2021 continued on back cover
The Great Catholic Educator:
St. Thomas Aquinas
efore Thomas Aquinas was even born, a holy hermit told his mother he was to be more learned and holy than any other person of his time. As a young boy, he was devoted to prayer and meditation, and his intellectual gifts were quickly recognized. When he was about 11 years old, he was sent to the University of Naples, and about five years later, he became a Dominican friar. Thomas’ parents were Italian nobility and were not enthusiastic about Thomas’ choice of vocation. They went so far as to have his brothers capture him while he was en route to Rome, and they held him prisoner for two years in an effort to destroy his vocation and his virtue. After the family made one particularly heinous attempt at breaking Thomas’ faith and spirit, he begged God to give him integrity of mind and body, and he was miraculously given the girdle and grace of purity for the rest of his life. This gift almost certainly was essential to the remarkable clarity of his intellect. After he regained his freedom, Thomas received the best education that was available during a time in human history that arguably represents the best the world has ever offered to scholars and philosophers. His greatest works arise from his total focus on knowing and understanding God, and revealing as clearly as possible the Truth of God to others. He showed that faith and reason are not in conflict,
but exist in harmony. Thomas’ Summa Theologica uses philosophical principles presented in scientific form to systematically explain Christian theology. It was his last work and was left unfinished. Thomas stopped writing after he experienced an unusually long vision on Dec. 6, 1273. When he was urged to finish his Summa, he stated that he could no longer write, for the secrets he had been shown during his vision made all he had written “seem as straw.” He died three months later. Thomas composed more than 60 works. His powers of synthesis were truly extraordinary. He was able to sift through all that he read, distill the truth, and summarize his conclusions simply, clearly, and briefly. His writing is of such genius that it transcends style and art in the beauty of its truth. His works are as relevant today as they were to the 13th century. His principles offer a remedy to such evils as socialism, communism, nihilism, as well as pantheism, and spiritism. Thomas was canonized in 1323 and was declared a Doctor of the Universal Church in 1567. In 1879, Leo XIII declared Thomas Aquinas “the prince and master of all scholastic doctors,” and in 1880, Thomas was designated as patron of all Catholic universities, colleges, and schools throughout the world. We celebrate St. Thomas Aquinas’ feast day on Jan. 28.
Thomas’ greatest works arise from his total focus on knowing and understanding God, and revealing as clearly as possible the Truth of God to others. He showed that faith and reason are not in conflict, but exist in harmony. 2
A Letter From Our Pastor
Forget the Resolutions... Seize the Opportunities! Dear Parishioners,
ne of the most unforgettable years in our lifetimes is finally over and 2021 is here! With the new year, I recommend we forget the notion of making resolutions. This new year presents us with opportunities to practice faithful stewardship — that is, to view the start of 2021 as a time for opportunities instead of resolutions, and to choose to be the disciples we are called to be. The choice is ours, as it always has been. I know all too well that each New Year’s Day on Jan. 1, we do more than just begin a new calendar year. We make all kinds of promises, articulate expectations, and express hopes, desires and dreams. I don’t know who started that custom, but I do know I have spent years attempting with the best intentions to follow my own resolutions, only to become disappointed that most are forgotten all too soon. Therefore, it occurred to me that this year, I need a new and fresh approach to this. Perhaps we all need a new perspective. After all, isn’t that what faithful stewards are best at? The to-do list for 2021 should be seen as a list of opportunities to practice the discipleship intended by Jesus — not just at the beginning of each year, but each day throughout the year when presented with opportunities to be a Christian disciple. In doing so, we are practicing the stewardship way of life. Maybe this year, each of us will be open to embracing the connection between discipleship and stewardship. Discipleship and stewardship are indeed closely linked, so much so that it clearly defines our Catholic spirituality and touches every aspect of the life of the Church. I hope that the same vision is clearly in your sight — the moment of discovery that stewardship is a way of life, a defining moment present-
ing opportunities to live what we believe, using our time, talents and treasure to reach others around us. Therefore, as we close out one of the most eventful years in modern history, and are at the start of a new year filled with promise and hopefulness, I ask you to join me in celebrating the opportunities that will present themselves during 2021. We need to keep our eyes, ears and hearts open to them. They will be there when we least expect them. Our Lord’s call to be faithful stewards of the gifts we have been given is already echoing in our hearts as we have concluded a season of giving in which God’s gift to us, Jesus Christ, remains the perfect gift that keeps on giving to each of us. If we continue to receive our Lord with grateful hearts, we can respond in our own way of giving time, talent and treasure back as opportunities to become Christ for others. I know that 2021 will be a year of great interest in what will happen in the world around us, and new opportunities will abound. Wait for them. Look for them. Treasure them when they become known. While resolutions always seem to be good ideas, opportunities are often what God has chosen for us to experience so that our lives may be more whole and fulfilling. Can you think of a better way to start a new year than to forget the resolutions, and instead seize the opportunities God has waiting for us? Blessings for this New Year,
Fr. John O’Neill Pastor 3
PARISH HOSPITALITY TEAM CONTI REACHING OUT DURING
ast spring, the global pandemic that began changing the way Americans live — and worship — was an entirely unprecedented event. While St. John Before the Latin Gate, like all Catholic churches across the world, had to adapt to new ways of serving God’s people, one thing remained the same — the strong faith and active discipleship of our parish family. Throughout this time, our parish Hospitality Team has continued to reach out and provide spiritual nourishment to countless parishioners. Following her retirement from the role of parish secretary a few years ago, Justyna Creager began coordinating our Hospitality Team, which includes our ushers and greeters, as well as the Newcomers group and Theology After Hours. With the COVID-19 crisis limiting most of our usual hospitality outreach, the team soon found new ways to serve. “It became obvious that we needed to figure out how to engage and how to reach out to the community,” Justyna says. “It was important for us to be creative with our efforts to be the Body of Christ. We needed to be respectful that people were fearful and wanted to keep their distance, but we wanted to reach out, so we came up with several ideas for doing just that.” As the first people who greet parishioners and visitors to Mass, our ushers and greeters play an essential part in ensuring that all feel welcome here at St. John. This role has certainly changed over the last year. When the church was able to reopen following the spring shutdown, our ushers and greeters quickly got to work roping off certain pews to allow for social distancing, propping open doors for those arriving for Mass, and providing hand sanitizer at entrances and exits. “I think this helped make people feel not only welcome but also safe,” says Justyna of these special measures. “They are helping people find
Justyna Creager, coordinator of our Hospitality Team, has been working to find new ways to keep parishioners connected throughout the pandemic.
a safe space to sit. The ushers and greeters have been serving in this new way, and I’m really grateful for the people that have been helping with it.” Technology has also proven a blessing when it comes to providing the opportunity to “gather” virtually as a faith community. Theology After Hours — typically an evening of music, food, and dynamic speakers — moved to a virtual format in 2020. Justyna looks forward to continuing to find creative ways to bring this wonderful event and fellowship to our parishioners again this year. In addition to the conscientious work of our ushers and greeters and the fun of our online events, the Hospitality Team has also been busy reaching out to parishioners on an individual
INUES TO GO ABOVE AND BEYOND A GLOBAL HEALTH CRISIS basis. When Justyna realized that close to 100 parish photo directories had not yet been picked up from the parish office, she decided to put together a packet that included the latest church bulletin with updated Mass information, a holy card, and a letter from Fr. John. Then she and several Hospitality Team members delivered the packets — making a call and dropping them off at people’s doorsteps if they preferred, or in many cases, taking the opportunity to have a socially distanced chat. “The parishioners were just so happy to see us,” Justyna says of these quick visits from outside the door. “It was really well-received, and as a result of just checking in on people, we were able to deliver some groceries, and I even got a call the next day from someone and was able to give her a ride to the doctor. “They were so happy to see someone from the church family,” she continues. “I think that’s because, being from St. John, we connect on a different level. I can say, ‘I’m here to let you know we’re in this together and we’re here from you.’ They are comfortable and have that spiritual connection with us.” Witnessing the overwhelmingly positive response to the personal deliveries of the parish directory, Justyna soon had an idea for another ministry — the Care Call Ministry, dedicated to “staying together while apart.” The goal is to have every registered household in the parish receive a phone call from a Hospitality Team caller to make sure that St. John is meeting
their spiritual and physical needs. In addition to informing parishioners about the Thursday Mass for the vulnerable and the livestreaming Masses, the callers are also taking prayer requests to be shared in our bulletin and prayer chain. “Right now, everybody is so stressed out and disconnected, and isolation is not helping, so when we call and say, ‘We are here for you and we’re your parish family,’ we mean it,” says Justyna. “I want everybody in the parish to feel connected.” Now more than ever, we are all in need of a strong sense of community and belonging. How blessed we are in our parish to have a Hospitality Team devoted to making everyone feel a valued part of our faith family!
“Right now, everybody is so stressed out and disconnected, and isolation is not helping, so when we call and say, ‘We are here for you and we’re your parish family,’ we mean it. I want everybody in the parish to feel connected.” — JUSTYNA CREAGER
Are you interested in helping with the Hospitality Team’s new Care Call Ministry? This is an easy and rewarding way to serve our faith community from the comfort of your own home! With many registered parishioners here at St. John, we are looking for more callers to help fulfill this need. Please contact Justyna Creager at email@example.com or 210-792-5282.
ST. JOHN CATHOLIC SCHOOL:
Investing in Our Children’s
or a parent in today’s world, it’s easy to feel bombarded by the sheer volume of decisions you have to make for your children. Whether finding the best pediatrician, choosing the role of technology in your household, or assessing the risks of a global pandemic — decision fatigue as a parent is a real thing. But for many of our school parents, the choice to send their child to St. John Catholic School was an easy one, as soon as they stepped through the door. “Initially, I feel like it was a lot of the non-Catholic types of things that drew us to St. John’s,” says Elise Enterkin, parishioner and school parent. “We are Catholic, but it wasn’t necessarily the religious aspects that initially drew us to the school. It was the small class sizes and individualized attention. I really liked the community feel of the school “Being inside the school — being able to see it with my own eyes — the kids all seemed happy and well-adjusted,” she adds, recalling her first visit to the school. Today, Elise serves as the President of the Home and School Association, as well as on the School Advisory Council. Her children are in third grade, first grade, and pre-K. Parishioner Kristen Bierschenk and her husband, David, have a second-grader and kindergartener at St. John’s. Over their four years of having children at the school, Kristen and David have found St. John’s to be an even better fit for their family than they initially expected. “We knew we wanted to send our children to St. John’s because we wanted them to have the experience of a Catholic education,” she says. “But St. John’s has been a great blessing to our family in ways we didn’t necessarily anticipate.” “It’s definitely the people — the teachers, the staff, the families and the students,” David says. “We have made so many great friends through St. John’s.” The sense of “family” found at St. John School is 6
Kristen and David Bierschenk and their children love being part of the community at St. John School.
one of the things that makes it unique. “Every teacher and staff member truly cares about your children and their growth — not just academically, but socially, emotionally, and spiritually,” Kristen says. “When you are there, you feel part of a family — a family that genuinely cares for your children and family, and will go above and beyond to help your child, wherever they are at.” “Every kid is different and every kid has their needs they bring to the table, but the teachers just seem to meet them where they’re at and work with them,” Elise agrees. “I just feel that my children are so loved and accepted for who they are.” Being a part of the community at St. John’s School also means that students are in an environment that strengthens their foundation of faith for years to come. From weekly school Mass to class service projects to praying together and for each other, our beliefs are interwoven into the fabric of everyday life and learning at St. John’s. “I look at it as an investment in their future,” Elise says. “I hope they build that foundation in their elementary and middle school years, because, at some
Future Through Education and Community
Elise Enterkin and her family celebrated her oldest daughter’s First Communion this past year.
point, you are going to encounter people who don’t have the same belief set as you, and they will be strong enough in their faith and morals and ethics that they keep that compass.” And, in many cases, that growth in faith doesn’t remain at school but also enriches family life at home. “The kids bring home what they learn and we’ve had many good family discussions about our faith,” David says. “The kids sometimes ask the most unique questions that inspire thought and reflection.” “It is such a blessing to see how St. John’s has nourished the faith life of our children,” Kristen says. “It always touches my heart when our kids come home telling us something they learned about Jesus or asking to pray for a classmate. This
is really at the heart of why we choose Catholic education.” The Bierschenks encourage other families to consider St. John Catholic School for their children. Amid these uncertain times, the community has been a reminder to remain grounded in faith. “Despite the unprecedented challenges and uncertainty this past year has brought with the pandemic, our kids have experienced a great source of constancy and support from the school,” Kristen says. “St. John’s School always has a way of coming together, even in the hardest times.” “St. John School is a loving and nurturing environment for children,” David adds. “When you drop off your kids at school, you know they will be in a positive, enriching, and loving environment. You know the teachers and staff love the kids and will do anything they can to ensure the kids are a success. You know they will grow academically and in their faith.” The school families also express gratitude to the members of our parish community who have generously and faithfully supported our school and children, especially in challenging times. “The school is the biggest ministry of the church — it is an extension of the church,” Elise says. “We are so blessed by the support that our church community and its parishioners provide to our school — they play a huge role in serving the school with their time, talent and treasure,” Kristen adds. “St. John School would not be where it is today without the support of our church community!”
If you would like more information on St. John Catholic School, please visit www.sjcs-ok.org. If you’re interested in volunteering and finding out what tasks you can complete for our teachers and staff from the comfort of your home, please contact the school office at 918-336-0603. You can also reach out to Home and School Association President Elise Enterkin at 904-654-5904.
715 S. Johnstone Ave. | Bartlesville, OK 74003 Office: (918) 336-4353 | www.stjohn-bartlesville.org
For those who are thinking about making Adoration a regular part of their lives, Guy offers a suggestion. “Each visit with Our Lord doesn’t need to be a long one,” he says. “You can go merely 15 minutes a day, before or after work, or simply when you drive by the church. Doing this will truly change your life.” Eucharistic Adoration is offered at our parish 24 hours a day, seven days per week. Our seminarians from the parish also love to spend time in Adoration when they are home for breaks from the seminary. Deacon Joe Richard, who coordinates Adoration
continued from front cover at our parish, warmly welcomes all to partake of this beautiful gift, which is endowed upon us by the Heart of Jesus. “‘Perpetual’ means you may come and adore our Lord Jesus Christ before the Blessed Sacrament any day or night at any time — the chapel is always available for you to come and pray and spend time with Our Lord!” he says. “We encourage all parishioners to come and adore — both individuals and families. For those with busy work or family schedules, just come and stop by the chapel when you can, you will be glad you did.”
If you would like to start spending your time on earth the best way you can and sign up for Adoration, please contact Deacon Joe Richard at 918-337-2214 to schedule a day and time.
LITURGY SCHEDULE Saturday: 5 p.m. | Sunday: 8 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. (en Español) Tuesday: 7 a.m. | Wednesday: 5:15 p.m. | Thursday: 7 a.m., 11 a.m. (vulnerable population),, 7 p.m. (en Español) Friday: 8:15 a.m. (School only Mass), St. James at 8:30 a.m., Our Lady of Guadalupe in Dewey at noon Reconciliation: Saturday: 4-4:45 p.m. | Sunday: 12:30-1:15 p.m.