frmark_headshot_150x150Most every night and throughout much of the weekend, our parish gym is being used for our youth basketball program. The kids – boys and girls from 3rd grade through 8th grade – practice weeknights and play games against teams from other area schools on the weekends.

I have stopped by every so often to check out the action, and I am most impressed with the adult parishioners who give considerable time to coaching the kids, helping them to hone their skills, and teaching them sportsmanship. The kids play basketball for fun, but the coaches, I am sure, do this as a service to the kids and to the parish. This is truly a service to the parish. As you know, much of the social life in the parish revolves around with our parish-sponsored athletic programs. The basketball and volleyball programs are the basis for a lot of parishioners mixing and getting to know one another.

I am also grateful to the organizers of the league, especially Jimmy Muller. I have spoken to Jimmy and know that he devotes considerable time to making the rosters, ordering uniforms, and setting the schedule. To him and to the coaches – both male and female – thank you.

In other news…

We have told STM parishioners that, as our work on the STM Identity and Mission Statement concludes, we will take the next step of preparing a Master Facilities Plan. This Plan will involve assessing the condition and remaining useful life of our present parish buildings, systems, and grounds; learning how these are used by parishioners at present; anticipating future ministries; and determining what improvements to our present facilities are needed to accommodate these ministries. The end product of the planning process will be a phased program of improvements to parish physical facilities, beginning with those improvements judged to be most needed.

To this end, the parishioners who are serving on our Parish Facilities Planning Committee recently heard presentations from three architecture and planning firms who were hoping to contract with STM to do this Master Facilities Plan. After weighing the merits of each firm, the Committee selected the Washington, DC, planning and architecture firm, Cox Graae + Spack architects, to do the Plan. One key factor in the Committee’s choice was Cox’s promise to engage deeply all STM parishioners, and especially the leaders of STM’s ministries and programs, in the planning effort. I expect Cox to begin its work early in the new year and to conclude its work sometime during the summer of 2018.

Representatives of the Archdiocesan Catholic Construction Services, Inc., will assist STM in overseeing the project.

Also, in light of recent violence in churches in the US, the Archdiocese has suggested that parishes review their security practices, not because they anticipate problems in our churches, but to be as prepared as we can be for any unpleasantness, however unlikely. Accordingly, I have begun a conversation with our Parish Council about what, if any, steps we should take at STM to be prepared for various emergencies without compromising our open, welcoming face. Of course, I will report to parishioners any actions we decide to take to assure your well-being.

Finally, I encourage parishioners to make the most of this Advent season. Watch for the innumerable ways that Jesus presents himself each day in the love we receive from others and in the need of others for our own care and attention. Pray the Examen prayer, and respond generously whenever and wherever Jesus makes himself known. If you are a member of a family with children, perhaps you can find some service activity in which the whole family can participate, possibly doing a kindness for one of our homebound parishioners. Our office staff can help you make these connections.

I especially encourage parishioners to participate in this Tuesday’s (December 12) Reconciliation service in the main church beginning at 7pm. There will be an opportunity for individual confessions, of course, but we will also acknowledge our sinfulness as a people by a common prayer for forgiveness.

Fr. Mark