Dear Parish Family,
I hope you had a wonderful summer. What were some of the highlights for you? I kayaked for the first time on Wolf River whitewater. I ran in the Tater Trot, got up waterskiing, and enjoyed a little time with family. I also spent a week camping in the Sylvania Wilderness. Lastly, I went back to my old college for an alumni event. It brought back a lot of memories from more than two decades ago. It also helped me put some things in perspective.
There were things I really stressed over that turned out to not be so very important. I worried a lot about fitting in and being accepted by my peers. I didn’t want to be too honest because I was afraid of what people would think of me. It turns out that I needed to accept and value myself before I could expect others to do the same. The more at peace I am with myself, the better I can connect with others. I worried a lot about grades and passing my classes. What mattered more than grades was the knowledge I gained and the study habits that helped build my character and virtues.
On the other hand, there were things I didn’t value that have turned out to be far more important. Prayer wasn’t very important to me back then — I found it hard and not very fruitful. My future self realizes that a lot of the peace, joy, and answers I couldn’t find elsewhere, I would eventually find in prayer. I also saw the Catholic faith as a series of rules and expectations — it told me what to do. “College me” tried hard to be the “good Catholic” I thought I was supposed to be. Learning my faith was about understanding the rules and expectations and doing them.
Now I see my Catholic faith in a very different light. I have realized that Holy Mother Church is teaching her children who God is, and who we are. The things we do, and the rules we follow, exist because of who God is and who we are in relation to God. They guide us into being all that we were created to be. Our identity comes first, and our actions flow from our identity.
Fr. George tells me that Catholics in Pakistan see their faith as an essential part of their identity. It fills their lives with meaning and purpose. I fear that many American Catholics see Catholicism as “something we do” rather than who we are. As summer turns to fall, I hope that our activities will reflect who we are as beloved children of God, members of the Body of Christ, and Temples of the Holy Spirit.
Your brother in Christ,
Fr. Joel Sember