Category: Harvest Stories

World Youth Day

Parishioners see Pope Francis in Poland

By Beverly Anderson


For many youth, the highlight of the summer was World Youth Day in Poland. While many dioceses, parishes and schools celebrated at home, some were fortunate enough to travel to Poland to meet with Catholic youth from around the world and to hear and pray with Pope Francis.
A contingent of 16 pilgrims from St. Joseph parish in Alexandria, and one pilgrim from St. Luke in Washington, D.C. started their pilgrimage with Mass at St. Joseph’s on July 25. After receiving a blessing from Bishop Emeritus Macrum Gassie of Sudan and Josephite Father Donald Fest, pastor at St. Joseph, the pilgrims boarded a bus to Dulles airport for a 5:05 p.m. flight to Vienna and bus ride to Krakow, Poland.

The first stop was Auschwitz, the German concentration camp where 1.3 million lives were lost including St. Maxmillian Kolbe. The next stop was the Divine Mercy chapel. There the pilgrims experienced the vision of Saint Faustina. After leaving the Divine Mercy chapel, the pilgrims from St. Joseph parish gathered at the train station and prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries of the rosary as they waited for the train. That night they gathered with thousands of other youth for the welcoming ceremony in Blonia Park.
For the next three days, the group started their day with morning catechesis sessions which were led by Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archdiocese of Boston; Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archdiocese of New York; Cardinal Luis Tagle, Philippines; Bishop Wado of Iran; Bishop Martin Holley of Washington, D.C. and Sister Faustina Marie Pia from the Sisters of Mercy.

The group joined in welcoming the Holy Father to Blonia Park in Krakow. The closing Mass was held at Campus Misericordiae which was a 7 mile walk from the hotel. The overnight vigil included 2.5 million Catholics from around the world.

“I enjoyed being with so many Catholics from around the world. Even though we spoke different languages, we were all Catholics. She had read about the concentration camp in school but to actually be there was awesome,” said Mone Williams, the youngest member of the St. Joseph group.

Alyssa Brooks, a young adult, said, “As Kraków was my second World Youth Day experience, I felt like I was more in the swing of things. I had traveled internationally outside of the church as well, but this time I was responsible for minors, whom I had the joy of getting to know throughout our pilgrimage. The fellowship that occurs and the million plus friends you leave with is amazing, and, frankly, difficult to describe. Regardless of our ability to effectively communicate with our brothers and sisters from around the world, we have Jesus Christ in common. Being part of World Youth Day is different in each country and although some parts were better than others in Kraków I would definitely jump at the opportunity to attend WYD Panama!”

Marie Calloway said, “I found WYD uplifting to see so many Catholics on fire for God. It made me reflect on my walk with Christ as a Catholic and what I need to do to become more involved in my faith.”
Not everything was perfect on the pilgrimage. Marie recalled, “It would have been nice to have cooling points on the walk to the overnight. It was very hot.”

Tracy Kindle said, “My experience at WYD is one that I will remember for the rest of my life! As an adult Catholic, I was impressed with the young adult Catholics’ enthusiasm for Jesus and the pope. WYD is an opportunity for young adults to come together to reinforce their belief in Jesus and to be proud of their Catholic faith. I believe every young Catholic should experience a WYD event during their early years. I would love to participate in the next WYD in Panama as a chaperone.”

Stephani Atkinson and Samantha Robinson are mother and daughter who experienced World Youth Day together. “The WYD pilgrimage gave us the opportunity to share a spiritual journey with not only members of my church but other Catholics worldwide. The week was like a massive revival to learn more about our faith in an environment of peace and love.”

Calvin Jones, age 18, was surprised by the events. “This was an experience I didn’t expect. It was a good experience.”

Added, Cindy Tientcheu, from St. Luke parish, “I was amazed at all the young people on fire for God. This was my first World Youth Day. I plan to go to Panama.”

Josephites move to serve needs of today and tomorrow

Offices relocated in Baltimore and Washington


By Daniel Medinger

When an historic religious community moves, it’s a big undertaking. Files of history, boxes of memories and the promise of new beginnings are part of the moving experience.
For the Josephites, the summer of 2016 was a time of several moves for the historic society of men who minister in the African-American community.

The Generalate offices and residences, which had been located in downtown Baltimore for more than 100 years, were moved to the Josephite Manor in the northern section of the city.

The Mission office, which had been housed in the second story of an old carriage house behind the Generalate on East Biddle Street, was also relocated to the Manor.

The archives, which had been located in several sprawling rooms in the basement of the Generalate, was boxed up and moved to the St. Joseph Seminary in Washington, D.C. The Josephite archives are one of the largest collection of African-American Catholic history.

In addition, the venerable St. Joseph seminary building opened its doors to the Paulist Fathers, an American religious community that until recently had its own offices and residences nearby in Washington.

All of the packing, moving and relocating served one purpose, according to Josephite Father Michael Thompson, superior general. “It’s all about good stewardship,” he told The Harvest.

He said the Josephites had been discussing the moves for several years to take advantage of new facilities, reduce costs and prepare for future opportunities. “All religious communities are looking at their finances and searching for ways to reduce expenses. We need to reorganize for today’s realities,” he said.

The move had been in the works for several years. When Father Thompson was serving as vicar general, he was assigned to chair a committee charged with developing a feasibility study for properties and locations. The plans for the moves began in earnest in 2012.

“It all began as we looked at our needs today. The General Conference ratified the plan in 2015,” the superior general said.

While the discussion and planning took several years, the moves happened quickly. Packing started in the spring and boxes and office furniture and files began moving in June.

Nonetheless, it was a historic move. The Josephite headquarters had been located at 1130 N. Calvert Street since 1929.

Father Thompson said the decision to relocate was forward looking rather than back. “We need to progress with the changing times. Large facilities are not needed and are not feasible.”

He pointed to the collaboration with the Paulists as a wave of the future. “We welcome the Paulists. They went through the same process that we did but they sold their buildings and joined us temporarily.”

He said there is a three-year agreement between the two men’s religious communities. “We have a long history of collaboration he said. “We both have ministries and outreach to the poor and the marginalized.”
He said the Generalate on Calvert Street isn’t on the market yet but it will be soon.

“So far the feedback has been very positive,” Father Thompson said, acknowledging there was some emotional attachment to the old building. “I was serving in New Orleans when Katrina hit and there I learned not to get too attached to any building.”

Our Call to Holiness – Our Call to Mission

Continuing the Mission

Our Call to Holiness – Our Call to Mission

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 4.49.10 PMNot too long ago we celebrated the Feast of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church. That is when the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles and our Blessed Mother, Mary and they were sent forth on their mission. The Holy Spirit gave them the help – the grace – to do that mission. Because they used that grace, the Church was started and continued to grow and grow and grow. We see the results of that effort in all the parishes and churches worldwide.

Do you know that at our baptism we were called to holiness and to a mission? Our call to holiness came when through the cleansing waters of baptism our sins were washed away and we were given our clean, spotless baptismal garment and were told (perhaps through our parents) to bring that garment unstained into the everlasting life of heaven. That was our call to holiness – turning away from sin and faithfully following the teachings of Jesus Christ. As we know that is an awesome task and this call to holiness is our life-long mission.

It is good for us to dwell on this every now and then. We really don’t like to be reminded of this call to holiness. It makes many of us uncomfortable. Priests and nuns and old people are supposed to be holy. How am I supposed to be holy when I have to go to school or work or live in the world?

To be “holy” might make me look weak, or strange, or different from the others – after all we live in a world, a culture which does not exactly follow Christian values. The fact of the matter is Christian culture is dwindling and pagan culture, or maybe you prefer “godless” culture, seems to prevail.

We live in a culture that has eliminated God from the marketplace and His moral standards by which to live and act. It is not hard to comprehend how our young find it difficult to distinguish between good and evil, right and wrong. Jesus calls us to be “perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  This call came to us in baptism – it’s our mission. Baptism brought us into a living relationship with God and it is up to us to keep that relationship alive, healthy, and on mark. Jesus baptized us in the Holy Spirit and so we have all those gifts of the Spirit to help us in our quest for holiness, our most important mission.

When Jesus came into the world He had a mission – to seek and to save that which is lost – so He preached repentance for the forgiveness of sins. His mission is our mission. As on an airplane where you must first put the oxygen mask on yourself to help another – so too we must strive for holiness first and then we are able to bring others to Christ. We do that by taking Jesus to school, to the office, to our homes and families and to the marketplace.

This is our baptismal call, our mission. It’s our everyday “stuff” that renders us holy or not. So, “if today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” Amen.

Father Donald Fest, SSJ, is pastor of St. Joseph church in Alexandria, Virginia.

New Orleans parish celebrates its centennial


In 1916, Josephite Father Samuel Kelly founded Corpus Christi Church and the parish’s accompanying school in New Orleans. Now, 100 years later, the parish has combined with Epiphany, another Josephite parish, and the community-focused spirit of parish is ready for an historic celebration.

In its centennial year, the parishioners and leadership of Corpus Christi-Epiphany parish are taking the opportunity to celebrate the parish’s past, present and future.

“The anniversary’s theme is celebrating 100 years of coming together as the body of Christ,” said Father Henry Davis, SSJ, pastor of the parish. The celebrations, which began last fall, are focused on reflecting on the roots of the parish and inviting the community into the mission.


The anniversary kickoff coincided with the opening of the parish’s community center. A Family and Fun day was held back in September, which, in true New Orleans fashion, featured lots of food and ended with a lively second line. In addition to regular parishioners, members of the community heard the music and gathered to join in the celebrations.

The feasting continued through the spring with a feast of ten tables, which, Father Davis noted, quickly became a feast of twelve tables due to the large turnout. Over 350 members from various groups in the community gathered to taste a diverse array of cuisines and raise funds for the church.

“We wanted to remind people it’s good to eat, but we are a spiritual body as well,” said Father Davis.

Most recently, the church hosted an Anniversary Revival, including 100 hours of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. Families in the parish committed one hour of prayer during a month-long period, amounting to a total of 100 hours.

Having endured Hurricane Katrina in 2005, community life is of high importance for this New Orleans parish.

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Corpus Christi-Epiphany parish has been inclusive of the entire community throughout its history, but especially in this anniversary year. Parish resources are invested in outreach, including Narcotics Anonymous, an outreach to the formerly incarcerated, and a program designed for youth.

“For two hours in the week, they’re in a safe environment here, away from the perils of the community, said Father Davis. “[The anniversary is] a wonderful time of engagement.”

The anniversary will conclude with a banquet luncheon on Saturday, September 24, followed by a closing Mass the next day. This celebration is not just a reflection on the parish’s past, but also a launch pad for its future in the community.

Mission in Motion

Marriage enrichment program growing quickly


Mission in Motion’s Marriage Enrichment Program began in 2013 when the pastor and a parishioner moved beyond the “I want to talk with you about something in the vestibule after Mass.” Pastor and parishioner had a real conversation about living the sacrament of Matrimony as witnesses to the power of the encounter with the living Christ through people who are committed to living as husband and wife.

After investing decades walking with couples through marriage preparation, it was recognized that marriage prep was not enough. A cadre of couples gathered to do something about the commitment to minister and witness regarding marriage in the Catholic Church. That was the beginning of Mission in Motion’s Marriage Enrichment Program.

In February, 2014, some 80 attendees, a mix of married, engaged and adult singles from five parishes traveled through blizzard conditions to St. Augustine and spent four hours listening to three married couples speak of the joys and struggles in living the married life before engaging in small group sharing about the presentations. Participating couples agreed to continue the focused conversations in potluck gatherings in parishes and homes.

A year later, St. Joseph’s parish in Largo, Md., hosted the second Marriage Reunion with nearly 100 attendees. Three couples presented followed by small group sharing. Several newlywed couples attended; one woman brought her child with her significant other to learn what it is really like to be married in the Church. One newlywed couple circulated a list with the intent to host a gathering of newlywed couples to discuss the joy and struggles unique to those beginning to live the sacramental life as husband and wife.

What is the great gift of marriage enrichment? Gene and Freddie Mae Poole, who were part of the team in February 2014 and team organizers in February 2015 said, “Marriage enrichment provides a place for sharing, encouragement, and examples of how to make marriage work.”

2.charles & erin wileyCharles and Erin Wiley, one of the youngest couples on the Archdiocese of Washington’s Catholic Engaged Encounter Team and presenters in February 2015 said, “The true gift was being able to listen to the witnesses and experiences of couples who have been married for a much longer time than us, and to see working marriages that have lasted for so many years, not without their hardships, and yet still shining with the Light of God’s love and blessing on their covenant.”

The Marriage Enrichment Program offers what comes after sacramental marriage preparation, an ongoing conversation about living the sacramental life in the African American community and beyond. It is the witness of couples about inviting God to help them live through struggles and teach others how the grace of the sacrament of Matrimony sustains and gives life.

The most powerful part of the reunion is never the presenters’ talks but always the sharing of the participants that keeps the Mission in Motion.

Mission in Motion is a grassroots effort of several predominately African American parishes in the Archdiocese of Washington and their pastors working in collaboration across deanery lines to strengthen the Catholic identity of our parishioners and to empower and equip them to embrace and carry out the work of the New Evangelization in our local communities.

In addition to marriage enrichment, Mission in Motion is committed to vocations, adult and youth catechesis, and more fully engaging men and youth adult singles in the life of the Church.

Deacon Timothy E. Tilghman was ordained on June 26, 2010. He grew up with the Josephites in Washington, DC and currently serves at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, a Josephite parish in the nation’s capital. He and his wife, Jennifer were married at Our Lady of Perpetual Help on August 8, 1992. He is an MA Theology Candidate at St. Mary’s Seminary & University’s Ecumenical Institute, Baltimore, MD. In addition to his parish ministry, Deacon Tilghman is a volunteer counselor at the Forestville Pregnancy Center in Marlow Heights, MD and a member of Community Renewal Capital Area Intervention Core Team. Since May 2011, he has met with pastors of African American parishes in Washington, D.C., and Prince George’s County to promote a collaborative effort on evangelization, an effort clergy named “Mission in Motion.”



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Parishes Shine in the Year of Mercy

St. Peter Claver and St. Pius V parish’s ministries serve those in need.


Year of MercySt. Peter Claver, the venerable westside parish, was the first parish in the Archdiocese of Baltimore to receive an award from Catholic Charities for its years of service to the needy.

How active is the parish in performing Corporal Works of Mercy? Consider these groups, programs and activities.

Our Ladies of Charity and St. Vincent de Paul, two parish groups who are former recipients of recognition by the Archdiocese of Baltimore, regularly provide food and clothing to those in need around Baltimore city. Since 1971, the parish has contributed to a community dinner on Thanksgiving, ensuring those in need partake in the holiday revolving around community and giving thanks. Harper’s Helpers, Saint-In-Progress Youth Ministry and parishioners also provide their time and services to ensure that Baltimore residents do not go hungry, thirsty or without clothes.

The parish also assists the homeless by helping with housing in the Sandtown-Winchester and Harlem Park neighborhoods. Also, directly across from St. Peter Claver is Nehemiah Housing, which was started by former pastor Father Robert M. Kearns, SSJ and parishioners who aided community leaders in making housing available.

Father Ray Bomberger, SSJ, deacon, parish nurse and staff members regularly visit the sick. Sister Alice Talone, CBS, the parish volunteer Eucharistic and health minister, along with some of the Eucharistic Ministers and Catherine Barkdale, visit the homebound regularly and the parish mails a copy of the bulletin to the homebound every month. The Frolicking Shining Stars regularly receive pressure screenings at parish meetings. The Health and Wellness Ministry also sponsors weekly health and wellness activities, such as yoga, zumba, and walking as well as “Red Heart Sunday.”

The Corporal Work of Mercy to bury the dead is an important part of assisting parishioners. St. Peter Claver and St. Pius V’s bereavement ministers support the family of the deceased and lead the wake service when a parishioner has passed. They also serve during the Mass of Christian burial, volunteer usher service during the Mass and clean up the hall after the repast. During November, the month of All Souls, the names of all deceased throughout the year are posted in the church and a personal invitation card is sent to the family of the deceased inviting them to Mass during the month.

St. Peter Claver and St. Pius V also held a three day revival, “Be Mercy to Each Other: Mercy, a gift from God” in February. The revival featured a different interfaith revivalist each night, music from the parish and guest choirs, and a closing reflection each night by the pastor, Father  Ray Bomberger.

Getting to the Heart

TheHeartGratitude, servitude and attitude

By Gerard-Marie Anthony
Writer for The Catechist Magazine

The Year of Mercy is upon us & many of us are asking the question, “What is it all about?”

To answer that question, we just have to look at the word itself. Mercy in Latin is “misericordia.” In that word, we see “miser” which means poor and “Cor” which means heart. So simply put, mercy is about having a “poor heart.”

But why would God and the Church want us to take a year to get poor hearts? Jesus tells us: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God” (Matt. 5: 3, 8).

The church wants to point us toward the Kingdom of Heaven and see God! In this, she acts as a wise mother who watches out for her children. The book of Wisdom explains: “But not even the fangs of poisonous reptiles overcame your sons, for your mercy brought the antidote to heal them” (Wis. 16:10).

Pope Francis, through proclaiming this extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, brings the antidote to heal our world, families, and ultimately our hearts by encouraging us to embrace mercy. I propose three things that all of us can do to embrace this antidote of mercy: gratitude, servitude, and a sacramental attitude.

First, we will look at gratitude. Gratitude is simply being thankful. How many of us actually say “thank you” to people who help us or for the things we have? If we say “thank you” every day, we will not only see God’s love for us each and every day, but we will develop a “Eucharistic mentality.”

“Eucharist” means thanksgiving, and by giving thanks everyday we will see how our heavenly Father gives us “each day our daily bread.” So one thing we can do during this

Year of Mercy is challenge ourselves to say “thank you” at least seven times each day, then end each day with this prayer attributed to St. Ignatius of Loyola, “Lord you have given me so much, give me one thing more, a grateful heart. Amen.”

This virtue of gratitude helps us to know we are loved by God and this leads to the second action item which is servitude. Service helps our hearts to remember, “FAMILY.”

Father Stan Fortuna reminds us that the meaning of FAMILY is, “Forget About (just) Me I Love You.” By focusing on FAMILY, we encourage the well-being of the entire person because the family always wants what is best in every aspect of life.

So we should challenge ourselves to do the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy throughout the year.

We could try to do all of these works of mercy, especially the spiritual ones, so they can change our core: our hearts.

Finally, we need a sacramental attitude. This primarily involves embracing God’s mercy through the Sacrament of Reconciliation (the Sacrament of Mercy) during this Extraordinary Year, but also taking on a sacramental attitude. Since a sacrament is a visible sign of an invisible reality, having a “sacramental attitude” can help us to change our hearts towards mercy because we can see God in everything.

We can look at ourselves and take heart with the words of St. John Paul II, “We are not simply our sins, our faults and failings, but the beloved of God.” We must challenge ourselves when we appear to have a bad day to look at the trees and birds and see that God takes care of them, so why wouldn’t He take care of us too (Matt. 6: 25-34)? Then we can see that the very things we ran from might be where God was touching our hearts and was giving us the grace to see Him.

The Year of Mercy is about making our hearts poor so they can be enriched with God’s love. If we develop the habits of gratitude, servitude and a sacramental attitude, we can take heart knowing that God’s mercy allows us to be heroes.

You see, being a hero isn’t just someone doing extraordinary things like picking up a car off of an injured person or scoring the game-winning touchdown. A hero is simply doing the ordinary things with our EXTRAORDINARY GOD! It is having our hearts dwell in the heart of God. It is living in Divine Mercy andliving out this Extraordinary Jubilee Year.

So let us rejoice. In God’s mercy, we find our source for joy and the cure for all our heart’s ills. This is something we should celebrate, this year and always.

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Returning Home

St. Peter Claver parish welcomed her back with open arms



Rochelle Parker of Baltimore considers her spiritual journey similar to that of the Prodigal Son. Raised in West Baltimore by Catholic parents, she was baptized at St. Peter Claver Catholic Church, where she also attended school.

“My whole life has been filled with Catholicism,” said Ms. Parker.

As she entered adulthood, she began to see a shift in the focus of her life. Her first job required a lot of travel and afforded her some independence. As she became more immersed in the world of employment, her involvement in the church faded.

Her spiritual life was reignited back in 1993 when Pope John Paul II visited the United States. Ms. Parker was watching the visit on television when she realized how far she had fallen from her religious roots.

“I happened to say the rosary,” she said. “I got on my knees because I was so disconnected.”

Seeking a connection with God again, Ms. Parker found herself in the congregation of an African Methodist Episcopal Church. She began to see ideological differences between the AME teachings and what she had learned as a young Catholic.

Even as she tried to immerse herself in the AME community, she never let go of Catholicism. One day while visiting with her sister, she found herself defending the Catholic Church wholeheartedly. It was then that she realized she had lost her joy while exploring other denominations. She wanted to come home.

Her homecoming at St. Peter Claver church was fulfilling.

“I do understand what it is to be the Prodigal Son,” Ms. Parker noted. “They welcomed me back, and I was able to laugh and enjoy myself the way that I used to.”
She now savors traditions in the church that seemed routine to her as a child.

An important facet of her return to the church was her involvement in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults at St. Peter Claver. RCIA is a religious education program for adults who are interested in joining the Catholic Church, returning to it, or completing the Sacraments of Holy Communion and/or Confirmation. Her participation in RCIA is in pursuit of completing her Sacraments, giving assistance to those who have no familiarity with Catholicism, and having some of her own questions answered.

And as she often does, she brightens the group with her personality. Regarding RCIA, she says, “The questions are serious, but you should also be able to laugh,” she said.

Looking back on her journey, Ms. Parker knows she would still be lost if it weren’t for her Catholic foundation. She encourages other adults who have left the Catholic Church to reexamine their roots. “Give it another shot. Go back. Give it another look.”

Teaching Theology


A lesson in the Works of Mercy at St. Augustine High School

St. Augustine High School, the Josephite high school founded to educate young African-American boys in New Orleans, continues to grow academically and spiritually on behalf of its students.

Father Anthony Okwum, SSJ, teaches 11th grade students theology. During a lesson on the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy, he presented church teaching on the need to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, cloth the naked, give shelter to those in need, visit the sick and, bury the dead and ransom the captives.

“Christ expects all Christians to do the Corporal Works of Mercy,” Father Okwum told the students, “as well as the Spiritual works of instructing the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, comfort the sorrowful, admonish sinners, bear wrongs patiently, forgive the injuries or offences willingly, pray for the living and the dead.”

During the class, students expressed their ability to carry out these works and Father Okwum encouraged them to keep up the good work that is expected of us.

One student asked him about feeding the hungry. “Father, if I am hungry and I go out and buy food and feed myself, could that be seen as feeding the hungry since I am hungry?”

Father Okwum answered that feeding the hungry goes beyond physical feeding. “We can feed those who are spiritually hungry with the word of God and those morally hungry with the virtues and good moral values of life.”

His goal is to draw the students closer to God and help them grow in their faith.

Father Okwum aims to help the students break through the academic, spiritual and moral walls in their lives and build on solid intellectual, spiritual and moral foundations that will lead all his students to greatness and success. He said that he prays for his students always and encourages them to pray for each other.

Father Anthony Okwum, SSJ, serves at St. Augustine High school in New Orleans.