The Task and Toil of the Fisher-of-Men

“I am reminding you, brothers and sisters, of the gospel I preached to you, which you indeed received and in which you also stand. Through it you are also being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received…”

--St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians 15:1-3,

These words of the Apostle Paul are a deeply personal appeal to the Christian community of Corinth. Words like these flowed freely from the heart of St. Paul a pastor of souls and fisher of men who toiled for one goal: to preach the saving truths of the Gospel to his people. It was a Gospel that had taken hold of him and so he wanted nothing more than to draw others to it (cf. Philippians 3:12). We sometimes think of St. Paul as a distant figure, out of reach and often difficult to understand. The above words clarify that quite simply, his was a priestly heart zealous to build up those whom he served in faith, hope and love. In this task he used all of the ingenuity and craftiness of a fisherman to become all things to all people, striving to save at least some (cf. 1 Cor 9:22). Christ’s call in today’s Gospel to the Galilean fishermen, Peter, James and John is a call renewed in every generation. Their dramatic response to the overwhelming catch of fish is a response that still plays out in hearts today as people consider leaving everything to follow Christ in His call to labor for souls.

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The words of St. Paul quoted above could well have been spoken by Fr. Don Schwalm. No doubt, in all his many years of priesthood these sentiments were not only on his lips, but abiding deeply in his heart. As we celebrate the one-year anniversary of Fr. Don’s passing from this life (this coming Thursday, February 14), we rightly pray and hope for his eternal repose, the recompense of one who labored well for the Gospel. Let us also give thanks for the gift of one who was not only a good shepherd, but also a good fisher of men. He drew many of us to Christ and made the Gospel come alive for us through his firm conviction and simplicity of spirit. Let us pray that his example will call forth a generous response from all of us to share in the toil of the Church’s unending mission to fish for souls in the cultural ‘salt water’ all around us. We can continue to pray that some of our young men would reflect upon the meaning of the Lord’s call to become—like Fr. Don—fishers of men, seeking to draw souls to Christ. We are praying for Fr. Don and honoring him this weekend in a particular way at the 4 pm and 10 am Masses on Saturday and Sunday at St. Hedwig. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord!

A couple of upcoming opportunities of note:

+ CONVERSATIONS OVER COFFEE --- During Sunday hospitality at Holy Cross (after 9:30 am) and St. Clement (after 11 am) on Sunday, February 17, a brief presentation will be offered by Andrew Whaley, a nationally renowned coffee guru, evangelist and founder of an apostolate called Calix – www.calix.org. Don’t miss his brief talk, “If There Was Only a Place…: Mission, Hospitality, and the Awakening of Desire.” The dividing line between Christians and the Unchurched/De-churched has never been more stark and dialogue has grown near impossible in this balkanized context. Earlier methods of evangelization, focusing on apologetics and debate, have mostly stopped working and there is a great need for a new approach. In this talk Andrew turns to a process laid out in Disarming Beauty by Fr. Julian Carron to pinpoint an alternate basis for the process of missional engagement, rooted in desire, that can break down walls and allow very different people to be “in relationship, in community”. If you care about mission and desire to earn the right to be heard, you will deeply appreciate his perspective. Grab a cup of coffee and a donut and hear what he has to say.

+ VISITING OUR PARISH HOMEBOUND --- We are preparing to launch an effort to more systematically visit our homebound parishioners with Holy Communion. On February 26 after the 10 am Mass at St. Hedwig, Fr. Howe invites anyone interested in joining or learning more about the Bread of Life Apostolate to the Homebound to gather for a brief training session and Q&A. We will meet in St. Hedwig church from approximately 10:45-11:45 am. This ministry requires Safe Environment-Essential 3 certification due to interaction with vulnerable adults. Additionally, those who will bring Holy Communion who are not already Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion will need to be commissioned. More information about duties and opportunities to help will be provided at the session.

God bless and keep you,

Fr. Howe