Together we stand

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David_MOBrien_BWThree neighboring diocesan parishes to sponsor a Lenten spiritual renewal

by Claudia Mathis
SUN staff writer

The parishes of St. Matthew in East Syracuse, St. Francis in Bridgeport and St. Mary in Minoa are sponsoring an event Feb. 9-13 that is intended to inspire a sense of unity for their parishioners. Activities have been planned throughout the week at each of the parishes with the theme “Fostering a Community of Unity and Hope.”

Kristin McDermott, director of youth ministry at St. Mary/St. Francis, said the event offers the parishioners a great opportunity to share an intense spiritual renewal together. “The timely themes of unity and hope have been prayerfully selected by our pastors and parish staff,” said McDermott. “In light of Pope Benedict XVI’s new encyclical, there is a sense of urgency to recount the blessings of God in our own lives and to share an expression of unity and hope for our communities for the future.”

McDermott said that on Saturday evening, Feb. 9, the young people of the parishes will be treated to a dynamic and inspiring presentation by associate director of Religious Education-Lay Development Division for the Archdiocese of Mobile, Ala., David O’Brien. “Mr. O’Brien will offer some very poignant insights into Jesus’ very real and abiding promise to be with us always,” said McDermott. “He will invite the faithful to open up their hearts to commune with God and with one another — ‘to realize the hope that is in us’ — as St. Peter urged in his first epistle. Mr. O’Brien’s 20-plus years of ministry experience, his down-to-earth style and deep love of the church will appeal to the diverse interests of Catholics in our area.”

In his position of associate director, O’Brien provides both theological education and pastoral formation for lay ministers. He is also an adjunct faculty member at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala., where he teaches in the ministry certification program offered through the theology department. O’Brien is also a columnist for Mobile’s diocesan newspaper, The Catholic Week.

O’Brien holds a master’s of divinity from the University of Notre Dame. In addition, he has been a presenter at the 2007 National Association for Lay Ministers’ Conference in St. Louis, Mo. and also for Chicago’s “Theology on Tap”, a summer theological program for young adults.

“The church needs to be sharing a vision of the Kingdom of God,” said Father Joseph Clemente, pastor of St. Matthew’s. “With Lent being a time of spiritual renewal and reflection, and, at this time of change and reconfiguration, what better time to look at the unity of our cluster of parishes?”

Father Clemente said that the three parishes have a great history of working together. He explained how the parishes share in the responsibility of preparing their young people for confirmation. “We had a wonderful celebration of confirmation last year at the Cathedral,” recalled Father Clemente. “We filled the Cathedral.”

Activities planned for the event include Masses on Feb. 9 and 10, which will promote the mission of unity and hope. On Feb. 11, at St. Matthew, a lunch session/retreat including parish staffs will take place and then in the evening, a session will be held featuring a time of adoration and benediction.

On Feb. 12, at St. Francis in Bridgeport at noon, the Catholic Conversations Study Group will meet. That evening, the focus of the session will be prayer and anointing of the sick.

On the evening of Feb. 13, the final presentation and closing Mass will take place at St. Mary in Minoa.

Father Clemente said that each session will express a different prayer theme. “We can’t be unified until we pray together,” said Father Clemente. “Hope always comes out of unity — we know we’re all experiencing the same thing. We’re on a journey together. Our unity makes a big difference in the vitality of our parishes.”

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