Dear St Francis parish family,
The anniversary of the birth of the United States of America on Independence Day ( July 4th) falls on a Sunday this year. Sunday is, and always should remain, The Lord’s Day, and we should give our first thoughts to celebrating the Eucharist – the Sacrament of Salvation that gives us liberty of spirit for eternal life! Nevertheless, this July 4th I am reflecting upon how faith in God, and in particular, religious values, played a central part in our country’s founding. Rather than use my own musings, I’d like to share with you a few simple, yet profound words of the founders of our nation, at the time they risked all – life, family, honor and treasure – to begin the greatest adventure in human liberty and justice ever undertaken in the modern world:
George Washington, in his presidential Farewell Address of 1796 declared, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labour to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens.”
Even Benjamin Franklin, whom historians note was one of the more colorful and irreverent of the founders, made a plea for God’s help during the Constitutional Convention of 1787 when the delegates reached an impasse that threatened a breakup of the union: He said, “…the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth – that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?” Franklin asserted that without God’s help, the founding of our country would succeed “no better than the Builders of Babel.” He urged the delegates to always invoke God’s assistance by praying before every session of the legislature.
Of course, the evil of slavery was still present in the beginning of the United States, a blindness to the violation of human dignity that took another 85 years, and a Civil War, to correct. Not all founders were deaf to this issue, however. Benjamin Rush in 1773 courageously called upon the ministers and preachers of the colonies to denounce slavery at the same time they advocated liberty from tyranny, writing, “The plant of liberty is so tender a nature, that it cannot thrive long in the neighborhood of slavery. . .Ye ministers of the gospel – ye who estimate the worth of your fellow creatures by their immortality and therefore look upon all mankind as equal – let your zeal [for liberty] keep pace with your opportunities to put a stop to slavery.” Rush, a physician and educator from Philadelphia, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and attended the Continental Congress. He also advocated for free public schools, greater educational opportunities for women, and a more just penal system.
As a people of Christian faith, let us pray, as George Washington did in his Circular Address to the States in June 1783, that God may “most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to conduct ourselves with that charity, humility and pacific temper of mind, which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our Blessed Religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation” (adapting Micah 6:8). May God bless America!
In Christ’s love,
(Source: The Spirit of America, by William J. Bennett (NY: Touchstone Books, 1997))
“Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-19).
“Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them...if one contributes, in generosity” (Romans 12:6, 8).
“For God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Wow! I cannot thank you all enough for your support, prayers, and for how special a gift you have given to me by your generosity to Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.). As of writing this blogpost (Our Lady, Help of Christians Memorial on May 24th), you have generously donated over $3,000 so far! I cannot express how moved I am by your kindness and charity. When I first started the campaign, I hoped to raise $2,000. As donations started flowing into the campaign, I asked O.U.R. to bump up the goal to $3,000 while thinking “this would be a great blessing if we get to that new goal.” But, in a blink of an eye, you have outdone even that new goal! Again, I say, WOW.
Your donations do more than give me a great gift, they provide for a non-profit that literally goes into the darkest places of the earth and rescues children in order to bring them a future of hope in restored innocence. This is one of the toughest issues to stomach. When I realized how serious the issue of Human Trafficking is, it broke my heart and I wondered how I could help. I became a contributor to O.U.R. and then slowly started talking about it with some people. Then, St. Germaine Cousin came into my life (her feast day is July 15th) and I sensed she was also interceding for these poor children. I have big dreams to help this cause more and more, and, perhaps, one day, you will get a little note about how you can help with that dream. But, for now, I am over the moon with joy and thanksgiving about your gifts to O.U.R. We can’t all travel to far distance places and kick down doors to bring the perpetrators of this horrendous crime to justice and free those in bondage. BUT, we can support those who do, and help them purchase bigger sledge hammers to tear down even greater strongholds that keep this injustice of human trafficking going.
If you want to watch a documentary about O.U.R.’s origins, look up Operation Toussaint (starring Tim Ballard). WARNING: It is a very, very difficult documentary to watch and isn’t suitable for younger viewers. The content, although not explicit, is very unsettling to watch at times (as it should be). It is a documentary about literally one of the greatest evils currently taking place in our world today and how one man started an international non-profit to fight against it. So, again, WARNING. Have a box of tissues nearby and put the kids to bed before watching it. But, if movies and images tend to impact and unsettle you too much, I suggest just visiting their website to find out more information: ourrescue.org.
THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!
There is still plenty of time to donate to the campaign at: my.ourrescue.org/fundraisers/fr-bearers-goodbye-gift
If online donations make you uncomfortable, please send in a check to St. Francis de Sales with “Operation Underground Railroad” in the MEMO (perhaps add a note to the card as well); if the donation is in cash, please include a note citing Operation Underground Railroad. We will be collecting those donations and making a single donation to O.U.R. from those (so, please know that it might take some time for your check to be cleared in your account).
You are so wonderful and this gift is so much appreciated! I know that I’m repeating myself again. But, I really am so thankful! Your gift is literally freeing captives and healing our world!
Peace & Gratitude,
Fr. Jacob Bearer
I will be offering a three day Easter Parish Mission that begins this upcoming Sunday, April 25 at 7:00PM. There will be awesome praise and worship music offered by Jeff and Kira Andrea and their worship band each evening. Easter is a time of preparation and expectation while waiting upon the presence and power of the Holy Spirit to fill us anew. If you want to deepen your life of faith and discipleship, this Mission is for you. None of these evenings will include Mass, so invite your non-Catholic friends to join you in person or by live-stream, too! Make this a time of renewal and hope for you and those you love. Below are the dates, times and general topics.
April 25 (Sunday) from 7PM until 8:30PM: "Jesus Our Victory"
April 26 (Monday) from 7PM until 8:30PM: "More of the Holy Spirit"
April 27 (Tuesday) from 7PM until finished: Praying for Healing
We will also have missionaries from Catholic Youth Summer Camp who join us from Damascus on Monday and Tuesday evening to give testimonies of God's power and gifts at work in their ministry by the Holy Spirit. They will also be a part of prayer ministry on those evenings for us!
Spread the word! And, pray that each evening of prayer will be filled with the presence, power and mercy of the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ to the glory of God the Father.
Peace & Easter Joy,
Fr. Jacob Bearer
Happy Easter to you all!
The resurrection of Jesus Christ continues to confound the world. If we believe in Jesus’ resurrection, then we must live differently than those who do not. That Jesus Christ rose from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11) means all that he taught, showed, did and is taught by the apostles about him requires our obedience faith. If Jesus is raised from the dead, then, he is Lord and there is no other. He is the Judge who is Merciful. He is the Savior and Healer. He is the one through whom all things were made (John 1:3). And, to believe in him must then mean to follow him and live as he lives (present tense).
Rejoice, then, in Jesus’ resurrection, because it means death is powerless before our God and it means we have been given access into the very heart of God through Jesus by the Spirit. May this Easter season continue to prepare you for a greater filling up of the Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead and gives us new life.
SIDE NOTE: Following this Easter, I will be going on my annual silent retreat on April 6th and return on April 16th (yes, you read that correctly, a silent retreat...for 8 days...I’ll only talk for one hour with someone once a day...is it possible???). Please keep my director who I will meet with daily in your prayer - ask that the Holy Spirit inspires our conversations. And, please keep this ol’ chunk of coal in your prayers, too. Spread the word that I haven’t left early, nor been reassigned before my appointed time, nor have I been exiled; I’m just going on a retreat that the Diocese asks its priests to schedule each year for spiritual renewal. : )
ASIDE TO THE SIDE NOTE: I bet you’re wondering if there’s anything you can get Fr. Bearer as a “going away gift.” Look no further: https://my.ourrescue.org/fundraisers/fr-bearers-goodbye-gift. I am a monthly donor to the above organization named Operation Underground Railroad (OUR). They have an amazing story and they literally set slaves free in our day and age. We need groups like this to fight back against the evils of human trafficking. Please, pray for OUR and pray for an end of this horrific blight on our society through the intercession of St. Germaine Cousin.
God bless you,
Fr. Jacob Bearer
First, THANK YOU so much to those who have given the great “going away” gift of joining this campaign with Operation Underground Railroad: https://my.ourrescue.org/fundraisers/fr-bearers-goodbye-gift. If you’re wondering what you might get me as a “thank you,” search no further! Rejoice! Helping this non-profit organization end human trafficking is exactly the gift I desire from you. Please share the link with others you think might be interested, too.
Jesus’ death and resurrection did more than wash away our guilt to squeeze us through the narrow gate into heaven. Praying with John 16:7 helps widen the horizon of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection because Jesus states, “But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you.” With this, Jesus shows us that he dwelt among us for a specific time and for a specific purpose and that after his ascension the very Holy Spirit of God will come and fill us. Jesus cleanses us to remake us as his Temple in order to then fill us with his Holy Spirit! “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). That “high price” we celebrate during Holy Week! But, the trajectory of Easter - with the Ascension - directs us to receiving the promised Gift of the Father, the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4). To help us enter into the full mystery of our salvation and pray to receive more of that Gift of our heavenly Father, we have a few important opportunities at our parish.
Praying for a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit and for Healing will be at the heart of this Easter mission. I will be offering the talks and leading the prayer of these days. It will be an awesome time of praise and worship. Here’s the dates and times and a sketch of the theme for each evening:
APRIL 25 (Sunday) from 7PM until 8:30PM: Jesus Our Victory
APRIL 26 (Monday) from 7PM until 8:30PM: More of the Holy Spirit
APRIL 27 (Tuesday) from 7PM until finished: Praying for Healing
Please know: these evenings are not Masses and are not Anointing of the Sick prayers, so invite your non-practicing Catholic family/friends and/or non-Catholic family/friends/neighbors to join either in person or together by live-stream!
Entering into the call and gift of manhood and fatherhood through work and prayer: The annual parish Men’s Retreat is happening this year at Loyola Retreat House in Green starting with dinner on May 7 (Friday) and concludes the afternoon of May 8 (Saturday). See the bulletin and/or call the rectory to register (which is FREE, by the way). We will be taking serious time to ask for more of the Holy Spirit in our lives and to then put that gift to work helping Loyola with a few work projects. If you can only come for one of the days, JOIN.
Spread the word about these opportunities!
Fr. Jacob Bearer
Not only did you help me learn what it means to live out the call of priesthood, you also gave me a place to learn more about the gifts God desires to give the Church. I look with a lot of gratitude at how you offered this place to be a canvas where I could learn about Jesus’ desire to heal bodies and souls. Very early on in my time here, we invited a group called Encounter Ministries to offer a conference on healing and a night for healing prayer. The power of God palpably touched so many lives. And, although some very well may remain hesitant about a ministry that so directly seeks God’s healing through Jesus Christ, you all have blessed this adventure in so many ways. Thank you for your support and for giving me time and space to learn more about healing and how to bring others into praying for healing. I’ve learned from you how to pray with others, and your feedback and the healings that have taken place continue to fill me with awe.
What I love most, though, is seeing you all pray with and for one another for healing. At several Masses over the years and, most recently, at the “revival” we held last Fall, I witnessed a church willing to lay hands on one another and pray for healing and strength and blessing. What an awesome sight! When the Body of Christ reaches out and builds up one another in times of pain - whether the pain is emotional, physical or spiritual - it is then that we see the Kingdom of God at hand in a very special way. You have also been healed through the prayers of one another and God has used you mightily. There are so many stories of people experiencing the presence of God at St. Francis de Sales - please, share your stories of God’s presence, healing, blessing and power to bear testimony to the Good News.
One of my main messages through these years emphasized praying and reading with the Bible. Thank you for so many who took that to heart and told me that you have taken up reading the Bible either again or for the first time. It can be intimidating cracking open the Bible for serious reading; sometimes there can be fear or even shame that “I don’t know what it will mean” or “I’m ashamed I haven’t done this sooner.” Let Jesus take that shame and fear, it doesn’t belong to you. As you open the Bible, please pray with the Word of God and incorporate the meditation and reading of the Word of God into your daily life. There are some weeks where I’m better at doing that than others; sometimes, we just get busy with life. But, when the Scriptures become a foundation for us, we end up knowing who Jesus Christ really is and, then, we can follow him better as his disciples. Please, keep reading and praying with your Bibles.
In the Word of God, the Lord often reminds his people to care for the poor and the weak. When praying for those needing healing, those passages take on flesh through our ministry. But, there are some needs that we cannot meet on our own. Through getting to know St. Germaine Cousin I got to know an organization called Operation Underground Railroad (OUR). OUR literally frees captives. OUR sends its workers into the darkest places of the world to free those caught in human sex and labor trafficking. It is a very hard thing to read accounts of what young people and others of all ages face from human trafficking. But, we need people to go to those places to fulfill the call of Christ. I will continue to pray for healing and invite people to do that, but this healing also includes justice that ends evil in society. One of the worst evils in our society is human trafficking. And, so…
I know many of you will want to offer me a note of thanks and perhaps even a gift of money as a way to say “Thank You” to me before I leave in June. I do appreciate your generosity and am always humbled by your care and thoughtfulness. If you really want to show your appreciation, though, I would invite you to please donate whatever you would have given me (or whatever you prayerfully discern to give) to a campaign I began on OUR’s website titled: Fr. Bearer’s Goodbye Gift.
Please click on this link to get access to this fundraiser and please share it on social media to get the word out about this awesome organization: https://my.ourrescue.org/fundraisers/fr-bearers-goodbye-gift
Keep praying for healing for one another. Keep opening up the Bible and sitting with God’s love letter to you. But, please pray also for OUR and an end to this blight on our society called human trafficking. In lieu of a gift to me, please consider joining the campaign above by clicking on the link and donating to help OUR set captives free. It would mean a lot to me and a lot to those who are set free from the trauma of human trafficking through OUR. Please pray for OUR through the intercession of St. Germaine Cousin. And, thank you so, so much for all that you’ve done to support me throughout these four years. Time went by way too fast! I cannot adequately express how much St. Francis de Sales has meant to me. You have all, in one way or another, been a part of changing my life for the better.
With Love and Gratitude,
Fr. Jacob Bearer
St. Francis de Sales’ Parish has taught me about the hunger of the Church, the Body of Christ, for times of prayer and encounter with God. One of the more touching moments during the shutdown of the State during Lent in 2020 came when a family of parishioners prayed night prayer with Fr. Bline and me from a distance, in the dark. They came even while it was raining. We opened a window of the rectory and prayed and sang the Salve Regina. It was a profound moment of longing as a Church. It expressed - even in a small and poetic way - the yearning for more of God that happens in the dark moments. It was, in the rain, at night, a light during troubled times. That memory says so much about this place, its prayerful spontaneity, and your hunger for Jesus.
Eucharistic Adoration and St. Francis de Sales go together like peas and carrots. Whether it’s the early morning group coming in before the morning Mass, or the Compline prayers during Advent, the adoration of Jesus’ Real Presence often bookends the day at St. Francis de Sales. Your faithfulness to the Blessed Sacrament continues to shape my own heart towards the Eucharist and reminds me to continue to adore Him in the Blessed Sacrament.
We always need reminders to keep our eyes on Jesus. Eucharistic Adoration at St. Francis does precisely this in a humble and silent witness of hope. This witness bears testimony to your trust in Jesus and also shows me how strong your desire to intercede for others truly is here. Each parish has some charisms peculiarly its own, and I would say that Eucharistic Adoration with intercessory prayer seems to be one of St. Francis de Sales’ own charisms from God. You build up the entire Church in ways you couldn’t begin to imagine. Your intercession joins with the angels and saints in heaven to build people up in the Spirit. In some ways, we never get to “see” the fruit of this prayer. But, in other ways, the fruit is in the faithfulness to Christ to which you bear witness. Like St. Joseph with the Holy Family, adoring the Savior, you bear humble testimony to the presence of God that we all hunger for and seek.
Do not let that thirst dry up. Do not stop aching for more. Because, with Jesus, there is always more he desires to give to us.
Thank you for your witness of hope and faith!
Fr. Jacob Bearer
In a few short months, I will conclude my assignment here at St. Francis de Sales. It is wild to think that it has been four years since I began at St. Francis. So much has happened over those years from parish anniversaries, tragedies that God carried us through, profound moments of healing in the parish, new building projects to foster faith, an assignment change for our pastor, and the advent of Fr. Jeremy Merzweiler as administrator-pastor. I did not know what to expect when I first arrived. I knew that St. Francis had a positive reputation throughout the Diocese. But, I didn’t know much more than that. Well, I’ve learned about that reputation first hand and it has been a great adventure and a rich blessing in my life! I can’t imagine having spent my first assignment anywhere else.
One of the first “culture” shocks for me was the respect and honor you show your priests at St. Francis de Sales. I say that not because I’ve been at parishes that show disrespect or dishonor towards their parish priests, but because there is a different emphasis or outlook at St. Francis. Whereas some places might view the priest as a parish organizer or CEO-like figure who administrates the parish, I have found St. Francis to be a place that summons her priests to share in the Melchizedek dignity of the priesthood. When you called me “Father Bearer” it took time to get used to, because so many of you are my grandparents’ and parents’ age. But, when you called me “Father Bearer,” it didn’t matter that I was a new priest and didn’t know my left hand from my right yet. All that mattered was that the Church ordained me to bring you the Sacraments, and you called me to bring the Sacraments to you as Jesus’ priest. This gave me permission to grow into the priesthood, worry less, and just do what I was called to do: pray with and for you. These four years have been an honor for me to serve you by bringing you the Sacraments of the Church. Your love for Jesus and your hunger for His Sacramental Presence never ceases to instill a great humility in me. Your faith taught me what it means to be a priest and who all this is about: Jesus Christ. Thank you for helping me grow into this life in service to the Sacraments.
All of this taught me a very valuable lesson that will hopefully remain with me for the rest of my life: To be a priest means to “get out of the way” and bring Jesus Christ to people, especially through the Sacraments. It’s a call like John the Baptist’s: “I must decrease, He [Jesus] must increase.” I hope you realize just how much of an impact you have on the men who serve here as priests. As much as you might think the priest forms and shapes you, you form us priest! You call us to be more than we are, not by demanding that we be superheroes, but by leading us to serve the Sacraments we’ve said “yes” to bringing you. Stay hungry for Jesus Christ. And, please, continue to seek Jesus Christ out through every mystery you pray and every Sacrament you receive. By doing that, you’ll shape future priests, young or experienced, who will serve at this parish. You’ve shaped and formed me. You’ve taught me what it means to be a priest. And, that lesson will never leave me.
With Gratitude and Love,
Fr. Jacob Bearer