July 16, 2015

From the Deacon’s Desk

July 19, 2017

In the past six weeks of rehab and recovery from my knee replacement surgery, you have all been in my thoughts and prayers, especially those in the prayer chain emails and those who have asked me to pray for them. As I write this on July 10, I still have a few more weeks of physical therapy but the wheels are in motion for me to be released to return to work on a full-time basis on July 17 and to return to my ministry in the parish; I plan to start assisting at Mass again next weekend. Thanks again for all of your thoughts, prayers and well wishes.

This week we have Optional Memorials (GIRM 355 – “On weekdays in Ordinary Time, there may be chosen either the Mass of the weekday, or the Mass of an Optional Memorial which happens to occur on that day …) for 3 Saints that I knew little about. Tuesday, St. Camillus de Lellis, Priest, who was a soldier addicted to gambling but his conversion led him to found a society (Camillians [M.I.]) that today numbers 1,120 religious, which established hospitals and cared for the sick with affection and diligence; patron of nurses, of the sick, and of hospitals. Thursday, St. Apollinaris, Bishop, Martyr, who was ordained bishop by St. Peter himself; renowned for his power to heal in the name of Christ, he was frequently exiled, tortured, and imprisoned for the faith, and finally martyred. Friday, St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Priest, was a Capuchin, linguist, military chaplain, diplomat, and minister general; learned exegete, forceful preacher, and conversationalist. And then on Saturday we have the Memorial (GIRM 354 – “If Mass is celebrated with the people, the priest should follow the Calendar of the church [i.e. celebrate the Memorial] …) Feast of a very familiar St., Mary Magdalene, but maybe a less known about her is that it is almost universally agreed today that her being identified as the sinful woman of Luke 7:36-50 is unfounded.

From the Deacon’s Desk

March 17, 2017

Life is a precious gift.

“But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone…”  (Mt 24:36)

We have recently had some stark reminders of this among our parish family and our families.  Even though we are one of the largest parishes in the diocese, when tragedy strikes we see that we are one of the smallest, closest communities around.

At 12:26 on March 8, requests went out to gather at 6:00 and pray the Rosary.  When we gathered in a packed Church just 5 ½ hours later to pray the Rosary for Barb, I was overwhelmed by the number of people who turned out on such short notice, to pray the Rosary for our dear parishioner, to give to someone who has given so much.  We are truly family and we are a people of prayer; don’t ever give that up.

As I am writing this on March 13, the Gospel and the Best Lent Ever message really hit home with the message of giving and living in the moment.  Matthew Kelly reminds us to be aware, to have an awareness, to live in the moment and stop multi-tasking.  To give whatever you are doing right now, or whoever you are talking to right now, 100% of your attention, then move on to the next thing because as Matthew Kelly put it

“God wants you to be fully aware of every breath of air you take, every bite of food, every smile from a baby, every word you read, every song you hear, every kiss on the lips.  God loves ordinary things.”

And from the Gospel

“Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” (Lk 6:38)

In this season of Lent, remember life is precious, pray for all those in need of our prayers, especially those family and parish family members who are ill. Give and you will receive.


From the Deacon’s Desk

January 13, 2017

Last Sunday I had the privilege of assisting at Mass and participating in our gathering, light meal, and faith sharing with our parishioners and the parishioners of St. Augustine of Hippo in East St. Louis. Fr. Carroll Mizicko and his parishioners warmly welcomed us with open arms, and we had a wonderful experience. Watch the bulletin for details on the next gatherings with the parishioners of St. Augustine of Hippo and join us if you can. After last Sunday we returned to Ordinary Time of the liturgical year and today we celebrate the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time. Do what you can to keep this time anything but ordinary by taking some of those habits and practices you developed during the year of mercy and during advent and continue them in these coming weeks of Ordinary Time as we approach Lent.

Here’s another one of the Questions & Answers about our Catholic Traditions from the opening Adult Faith Formation Speaker Series last August.  “I have been told and read that all Fridays of the year are to be considered penitential days.  I am just wondering what the official stance of the Church is.”  In 1966 the USCCB issued a pastoral statement on penance and abstinence; it is easily accessible on the USCCB website. One of the biggest issues usually centers around eating meat on Fridays. Prior to this statement in 1966, abstinence from meat was required on all Fridays; however, with the Bishops’ statement, they terminated the requirement to abstain from meat on all Fridays. We should however remain mindful that Christ died for our salvation on Friday, and all Fridays should therefore, be days of penitential observance.  We are asked to be prayerful, to practice works of mercy, and abstain from meat if we so choose. Friday should be in each week something of what Lent is in the entire year.


From the Deacon’s Desk

September 18, 2016

This week we celebrate the Memorial of Saints Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, Priest, and Paul Chŏng Ha-sang, and Companions, Martyrs.  The Church honors these Korean martyrs who gave their lives for the Kingdom of God. In 1784, Korean Yi Sung-hun was baptized in China and returned to found the first Christian community in Korea. Between 1791 and 1866, waves of persecutions occurred, killing over 10,000 Christians. Saints Andrew Kim and Paul Chong were instrumental in leading the Church through this turbulent time. St. Andrew Kim was the first native priest of Korea, having had Christian parents. He was beheaded in 1846. St. Paul Chong was a lay leader who appealed before the government and because of his pleas, Pope Gregory X sent more priests to Korea. He was martyred in 1839. Today there are upwards of four million Catholics in the Republic of Korea (South), with Christians in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North) still underground. Please pray for these and all the persecuted Christians in our world.


Last month we kicked off our Adult Faith Formation Speaker Series with the always popular Questions & Answers about some of our Catholic Traditions (aka stump the clergy). We are hoping to get short video clips of each question & answer posted on the parish website. One of the questions was one that we get frequently – Why or should we raise our arms during the Our Father at Mass? The position of holding out our arms with our palms open is an ancient prayer posture referred to as the ‘orans’. Early Christian art frequently depicts the saints standing in this posture offering their prayers and surrendering themselves, with hands uplifted to the Lord, in a gesture that echoes Christ’s outstretched arms as he offered himself on the Cross. It is a positon generally used by the minister presiding at a liturgy during prayer. In the case of the Our Father during Mass, the rubrics (i.e. instructions) in the Roman Missal state that the priest should be in the orans position; but the Roman Missal does not give an instruction for the congregation. In our diocese, Bishop Braxton prefers that the orans during the Our Father and the Embolism that follows (i.e. Deliver us from evil…) be reserved for the priest.


From the Deacon’s Desk

July 15, 2016

As I write this, the headlines over the past several days have been dominated by the tragic shootings of the African-American men in Louisiana and Minnesota and the police officers in St. Louis and Dallas. Please continue to pray for all those affected by gun violence and that our politicians find a way to develop laws that will both respect the Second Amendment and prevent individuals who are contemplating attacks on innocent lives from obtaining weapons that kill dozens of people in a matter of minutes.

In the June 30, 2016 issue of the Messenger Liz Quirin wrote “The Second Amendment to the Bill of Rights was adopted December 15, 1791 when U.S. citizens carried Matchlock or flintlock rifles, muskets, and pistols, research shows.

If we were talking about those weapons the conversation would be radically different.” The complete article is here.

This year we have the responsibility to vote and to choose a new president. In a recent interview, Ruth Ginsberg said that she thinks the next president will also make a few appointments to the Supreme Court. This highlights the importance of the responsibility we have to vote for the best presidential candidate. To help with that decision, I recommend reading this document, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, A call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States. Here’s a link.


From the Deacon’s Desk

June 16, 2016

Ah yes, summer time, a time to relax, take vacations, enjoy the pool, family reunions, baseball, the list goes on. Dawn and I were blessed to start off our summer a few weeks ago with some of the Deacons and their wives from our diocese, and from around the world, on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Italy and the Vatican for the Jubilee for Deacons.

It was a once in a lifetime opportunity; if you ever have the opportunity to take a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, I recommend that you do whatever you can to go; put it on your ‘bucket list’. When done well, it is one of those experiences you cannot come back from the same way you went; it can be life changing.

While on pilgrimage in the holy land we walked and experienced the life of Christ from the Annunciation through His passion, death, and resurrection as well as the early lives of the apostles. It was an unbelievable, and almost surreal, experience to be able to read the scripture, and study the history and tradition at the holiest sites in all Christendom, like the wedding at Cana, the Mount of Beatitudes, the Sea of Galilee, the    Jordan River, Capernaum, the Upper Room, Gethsemane, and to walk the Via Dolorosa (The Way of the Cross) and pray the stations all the way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to see Calvary where Jesus was crucified, and the tomb where Jesus was laid. Then to see the tombs and relics of the saints and early Christians who worked to spread the good news after Jesus and lost their lives for it – the relics of St. Peter beneath St. Peter’s Basilica, St. Marks Basilica, Basilica of St. Paul-outside-the-Wall, the Coliseum, the Catacombs of Callixtus, etc.

I paused at all of the basilicas, churches and the holiest sites in all Christendom in the Holy Land and prayed for all of you. For me, the experience of Palm Sunday, Holy Week, the Triduum, the Sacraments, or any of our liturgies, including the Mass, is different now from the way it was the past 58 years.

In the not too distant future, Dawn and I plan to have a presentation to share this experience with anyone who’s interested. In the meantime, it’s good to be back and we look forward to the summer months ahead and a little bit of relaxation and hope you will be able to do the same.


From the Deacon’s Desk

May 16, 2016

DeaconsDeskHelfrichPentecost Sunday, the close of the Easter Season; we return to Ordinary Time on Monday. On Saturday Bishop Braxton ordained our transitional Deacon Rev. Mr. Brett Judkins to the priesthood; hopefully some of you attended. As you have been hearing, we are not expecting to ordain another man to the priesthood in our diocese for at least a few years. At the same time, the number of priests in our diocese will continue to decline due to age, retirement, illness, death, etc. Fewer priests serving more Catholics and more needs in our diocese. Please continue to pray for vocations, especially to the priesthood, and especially in our diocese.

It has been a little over a month now since Pope Francis captured the headlines with the release of his Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love). This is the result of his prayerful reflection on the discussions and outcomes of the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on topics related to the family and evangelization in 2014, and the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in October 2015, on the same topics.

More background information on the Extraordinary and Ordinary Synods can be found here http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/2014-2015-synods-of-bishops-on-the-family.cfm . You may recall that our Pastoral Associate Karen Seaborn and her husband Scott were invited to the Vatican and participated in the Extraordinary Synod. Over the summer, I hope to read, digest and study more thoroughly Amoris Laetitia and the many other related documents released by the Vatican, USCCB, Diocese of Belleville, Bishop Barron, etc. over the past few weeks as the Church has begun to unpack Amoris Laetitia. I also encourage you to start reading Amoris Laetitia, you can find it on the Vatican website here http://w2.vatican.va/content/dam/francesco/pdf/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20160319_amoris-laetitia_en.pdf . Some frequently asked questions (FAQ) and many articles about Amoris Laetitia are available on the USCCB website here http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/amoris-laetitia.cfm . Bishop Robert Barron produced some Q&A as well as his first thoughts here http://www.wordonfire.org/resources/blog/bishop-barron-qa-on-amoris-laetitiathe-joy-of-love/5137/ . We hope to focus some of our adult faith formation activities over the next year on Amoris Laetitia or other documents that Pope Francis and the Vatican have released over the past year or so (e.g. Evangelii Gaudium, Laudato Si’, Lumen Fidei, etc.). Rather than trying to copy all the links I cite above, I would encourage you to go to the online version of this From the Deacons desk accessible on our parish website ssppcc.org where you can just click on the links and be directed to these websites.

If you have any questions or need help finding these documents, please contact me at the parish office (618.939.6426 ext. 26) or thelfrich@ssppcc.org.


From the Deacon’s Desk

April 13, 2016

DeaconsDeskHelfrichHappy Easter! That’s right, we are right in the middle of the Easter Season; Easter Sunday up to Pentecost Sunday on May 15.

Hopefully you have seen and read the recent issue of the Messenger. In it there is a supplement focusing on Deacons and the Diaconate, some great articles in there that might help you understand the Diaconate and the role of Deacons in the Catholic Church.

Want to know what it takes to become a Deacon? It’s in the articles, but here’s a few highlights. It involves first and foremost a willingness to embark on a journey of discovery which doesn’t happen overnight. As a matter of fact, it takes about five years or so. Once every five years, our diocese begins its search for men interested in learning more about the Diaconate. The process starts with two informational meetings – publicized in parish bulletins and in the Messenger. These meetings are to answer questions and explain the process to those interested in learning more. Then there is a fairly comprehensive application process and, if accepted into the Deacon formation program, then the five years of formation/training begins.

Want to know more?

It’s in the articles currently available on line at the Diocese of Belleville website home/landing page http://www.diobelle.org/ or follow the link to the Messenger webpage that currently has all the articles http://bellevillemessenger.org/. There are also some great articles about the Diaconate from the perspective of the wife of the Deacon.  If you have any questions about the role of the Deacon in general, or specifically as it relates to my role at Ss. Peter and Paul Parish, or perhaps might be wondering if you are hearing that call to the Diaconate, please contact me at the parish office (618.939.6426 ext. 26) or thelfrich@ssppcc.org.

You can also follow me on Twitter https://twitter.com/tomhelfrich  or on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/tom.helfrich.7.


From the Deacon’s Desk

March 19, 2016

DeaconsDeskHelfrichHard to believe it is already Palm Sunday. Lent for some reason seems to have flown by.  On this Palm Sunday we recall Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem to accomplish his Paschal Mystery and we hear the Passion read at all the Masses, reminding us of what is to come this week.  Last weekend when you entered church I’m sure you noticed and maybe were surprised that all of the crosses, statues, pictures and even the candles were veiled in purple.  In some Churches all of these are physically removed from the Church.  On Holy Thursday, the Holy Water will be removed from all the fonts before the celebration of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.  We do all of this because all during Lent we have been preparing, and in a way stripping ourselves, to focus on what we are about to experience this week.  It began on Ash Wednesday when we stopped using the Gloria, the Alleluia, and stripped the Sanctuary of some of the more extravagant furnishings.  The stripping or pruning cuts more deeply as we approach the Triduum.  After the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday the Blessed Sacrament is removed from the main altar, which itself is stripped and bells are replaced with wooden noise makers.  On Good Friday there isn’t even a Mass.  At the beginning of the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday we are deprived of light itself!  It is as if the Church herself were completely dead with the Lord in His tomb.  This liturgical death of the Church reveals how Christ emptied Himself of His glory in order to save us from our sins and to teach us who we are.  The Church then gloriously springs to life and awakens at the Easter Vigil as we slowly light the Church, recall our salvation history, and eventually sing the Gloria and ring the bells.  Want to know more?  Here’s the links to the longer versions of the sources excerpted above https://www.ewtn.com/library/Liturgy/zlitur72.htm  and  http://wdtprs.com/blog/2009/03/passiontide-veils/


From the Deacon’s Desk

March 12, 2016


In this final week of Lent and Holy Week next week we finish our Lenten obligations of prayer, sacrifice and giving alms in preparation for the liturgies of the Easter Triduum.  This might be a good opportunity to visit one of the designated pilgrimage sites in the diocese and while you are at it, fulfill the requirements to receive a Plenary Indulgence.  Information regarding this is available in the yellow brochure in the racks on the east and west walls in the back of church or you can get them from the diocese website here http://dps.diobelle.org/documents/worship/jubilee-year-of-mercy/240-brochure-for-pilgrim-sites-in-diocese/file. If you have any questions or if I can help, let me know at  thelfrich@ssppcc.org or call me 618.939.6426 ext. 26.