Gratefulness for Parish Ministries

In follow up of last Sunday report highlighting the results of the 2018 stewardship annual commitment, this Sunday I wanted to thank all parishioners already engaged in various ministries. This is the commitment of your time in which you serve the parish in its many ministries. It is so wonderful to see the number of parishioners engaged in ministry and we keep growing. Because of this growth, we face the challenge of ongoing formation of ministers so they can deepen their faith and so server in a more meaningful way.

Well-formed lay ministers is always a sign of growing stewardship parish, where ministry becomes a way of life. Ministry does not work, but a service in the parish so that the parish may continue to serve all parishioners. Let me say how thankful I am as your pastor to be surrounded by all of you lay ministers. The pastoral ministry becomes lighter for us the clergy and staff in the parish because of what you do in your ministry, and the parish is able to serve from day to day because of you. Above all, I am thrilled to see some of you taking the daily Mass, the rosary and personal prayer moments in the chapel seriously. This for me is very encouraging because it is an indication of personal growth in your faith. Prayer is a way of life and the key to being a more effective minister.

Formation of our parish ministers is still a challenge because I want you to feel comfortable in understanding the deeper meaning of the ministry in which you serve. As we go forward, we will need to have in our faith formation ministry more opportunities for the formation of parish ministers in their respective ministries or by having sessions in which for example all liturgical ministers have a formation series during the year. One thing we might have a retreat together, say a Saturday morning once a year. During the coming season of Lent (three weeks away), I will be placing a challenge for all parishioners to increase their time of prayer this year. Prayer the first pillar of stewardship deepens our commitment to Jesus Christ as it helps us focus. Thank you, I thank all the parish staff who serve here in the parish daily and often times offer their stewardship of time and talent to keep the parish going.

Monsignor John S. Mbinda

Growing in Stewardship Commitment

Last Sunday, the homily gave an overview of our ministries in the context of stewardship as a way of life here at St. John. It also gave the highlights of our stewardship renewal results.

Stewardship is a life-long commitment in which we choose God as a first priority in everything: family, finances, career, use of time. That is why Jesus exhorts us saying: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” (Mt. 6:33) This is about setting priorities. Such setting of our priorities on God helps us to keep focused on the vision, mission, and purpose of Jesus Christ. It helps us grow in our faith commitment.

We were all thrilled to see the results of the 2018 stewardship renewal commitment results. The amazing thing is that 295 out of 1,100 registered households returned their commitment cards. Those returned cards are only 26.8%, but the commitments in terms of stewardship of giving time to God in prayer was 1,767. Those 295 commitment cards also generated 803 stewardship of talent in terms of ministries. But the amazing miracle was that 237 commitments to give an average of $2,009, generating a total offertory of $476, 193. In 2017, the actual offertory was $351,812. The difference between 2017 and 2018 is $124,381 (35.5%).

If 26.8% of registered parishioners can generate 1,767 commitments for prayer, another 200 commitments would nearly double the number. In 2019, our vision needs to be “getting to the next level of stewardship” in terms of more prayer commitments. The more time we spend with God in prayer, at daily or Sunday Mass, the more we will be energized to serve in ministry. It is a personal and communal prayer that nourishes growth in our stewardship commitment.

Monsignor John S. Mbinda

The Ordinary Time of the Year

Welcome to our visitors, new parishioners and all of you regular parishioners! We have just started the Ordinary time of Year C. What exactly does “ordinary time” mean? First of all, it is the longest liturgical season in the Catholic Church. It consists of 34 weeks each year. It is divided into two periods. The first period runs from the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord until the Tuesday evening before Ash Wednesday. The Second period of Ordinary Time runs from the Monday after Pentecost until the night before Advent begins. This includes Christ the King Sunday, the final Sunday of Ordinary Time.

The vestments are green, the color of hope and growth. During this season, the Church counts the thirty-four Sundays of Ordinary Time, inviting all of us to meditate upon the whole mystery of Christ – his life, miracles, and teachings – in the light of the Incarnation and the Resurrection. During Ordinary Time, we descend, as it were, the peaks of Easter and Christmas in order to mature in the spiritual life and increase in faith.

The term “Ordinary” is derived from the Latin “ordinalis,” meaning “showing order, denoting an order of succession.” Hence, Ordinary Time is the standard, orderly, counted time outside of the other liturgical seasons. Ordinary Time is not “ordinary” but a season during which we reflect on the mystery of Christ encountering us in so many different ways by his life, teaching, and miracles, leading us deeper into his life of grace. May the life of Christ in us be instrumental in proclaiming his Kingdom by our life and example.

God bless you and all your families.

 Monsignor John S. Mbinda

One Community Construction Update

Dear Parishioners,

As you may have noticed, once we received our construction permits, Design Build of Hawaii (DBH), our General Contractor, swung into action immediately. First, we removed and disposed of all hazardous materials. That cleared the way for the trenching phase. You may not know that there is a deep trench right on the lanai fronting the preschool classroom (see picture). In order to dig this trench, the concrete first had to be cut with a saw, broken up by a jackhammer and then excavated, leaving a deep trench for the storm drainage system and utilities.

Those on campus heard the noise caused by the trenching work. Quoting Ms. Julie Quiroz-Zamora whose office is just above the construction area, “I am glad the preschool children were not subjected to such loud noise for such a long time!” We now understand why we had to move the preschool to the Presbyterian campus during the construction. For safety, we had to ask the contractor to put a barricade between the lanai of the classrooms and the construction site to ensure no one wanders and falls into that trench. The trenching phase will be completed this week. Next week, the final grading will begin which will prepare the site for the next phase.

The construction is proceeding according to plan and we can expect to have the OCC dedication on time before Christmas 2019.

Thank you all for putting up with the temporary inconveniences of the noise and parking space shortage. Once again we need to be cautious on our ONE-WAY campus drive as we look for parking spaces and as we exit the lot. Similarly, as you exit to Kuahelani Avenue, be extra cautious as there is a blind spot.

Finally, our General Contractor DBH is working with our office to accommodate us for weddings and funerals. When the OCC is complete, we will have the SAME number of parking stalls as we did prior to the start of construction.

Monsignor John S. Mbinda

The Baptism of the Lord

The Baptism of the Lord

This Sunday, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Baptism of Our Lord. This brings to an end the season of Christmas. The Church recalls Our Lord's second manifestation or epiphany which occurred on the occasion of His baptism in the River Jordan. Jesus descended into the River to sanctify its waters and to give them the power to beget sons of God. The event takes on the importance of a second creation in which the entire Trinity intervenes.

In the Eastern Church, this feast is called Theophany (manifestation) because at the baptism of Christ in the River Jordan God appeared in three persons. The baptism of John was a sort of sacramental preparatory for the Baptism of Christ. It moved men to sentiments of repentance and induced them to confess their sins. Christ did not need the baptism of John. Although Jesus appeared in the "substance of our flesh" and was recognized "outwardly like unto ourselves", He was absolutely sinless and impeccable. He conferred upon the water the power of the true Baptism which would remove all the sins of the world: "Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him Who takes away the sin of the world."

Many of the incidents which accompanied Christ's baptism are symbolic of what happens at our Baptism. At Christ's baptism the Holy Spirit descended upon Him; at our Baptism the Trinity takes its abode in our soul. At His baptism Christ was proclaimed the "Beloved Son" of the Father; at our Baptism, we become adopted sons and daughters of God. At Christ's baptism the heavens were opened; at our Baptism heaven is opened to us. At His baptism Jesus prayed; after our Baptism, we must be people of prayer. May the Baptism of Christ inspire us and renew our own Baptism.

Monsignor John S. Mbinda

The Epiphany of the Lord

This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. The word ‘epiphany’ comes from the Greek language "epiphaneia" which means ‘appearance’, ‘showing forth’ or ‘manifestation’. So, we could say that we celebrate the manifestation of the Lord. The feast of the Epiphany originated in the third century to commemorate the first appearance of Christ (the infant King) to the entire world as Savior, symbolized by the visit of the three wise kings (Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar).

It is interesting to note that in the early Church, Christians, particularly those in the East, celebrated the coming of Christ on Jan. 6 by commemorating the Nativity, the Visitation of the Magi, the Baptism of Christ and the Wedding of Cana all in one feast of the Epiphany. By the fourth century, both Christmas and Epiphany had been set as separate feasts in some dioceses. At the Council of Tours in 567 A.D., the Church set both Christmas day and Epiphany as separate feast days on the December 25 and January 6, respectively, and named the twelve days between the feasts as the Christmas season. The solemnity of the Epiphany marked the twelfth day of Christmas and the end of the Christmas season. Over the centuries, the various celebrations were further separated in the West, and now the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated on the Sunday after January 6, and the wedding at Cana is commemorated (by having the Gospel account on the Wedding of Cana) on the Sunday after the Baptism of the Lord. Both these commemorations are omitted this year.

May God shower abundant blessings upon you throughout the entire year 2019.

Monsignor John S. Mbinda

The Joy of 50 Year of Priesthood

December 27 this year, as we celebrate the feast of St. John Apostle and Evangelist, the patronal saint of our parish, I celebrated with you the joy of my 50 years as a priest. As I look back over these 50 years, I feel that God has been so generous to me. The journey that I started on December 14, 1968, has been extraordinary. I vividly remember that Ordination day at the Basilica of the Holy Family in Nairobi as I lay prostrate to give myself totally to God as the congregation prayed the Litanies of the Saints asking for their intercession for me. I remember being called forward for the prayer of Ordination by Archbishop John J. McCarthy followed by the imposition of hands by the archbishop and all the priests present. I recall the archbishop consecrating my hands with Holy Chrism and binding them with a purificatory. With my hands still bound, I was called to kneel before the archbishop to declare my obedience to him and all his successors. This whole day was deeply moving. My soul glorifies the Lord for that day of my ordination; that day that God set me apart to serve his people.

The highlights of my 50 years of priestly ministry may be divided into three: 1) Faith formation of adults (priests, religious men and women, and lay Catholic) from 1976 to 1982; 2) Official of the Vatican Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity from 1986 to 2006 and 3) Pastor of St. John Apostle & Evangelist from 2011 to present. These three moments for me have been the most enriching in my vocation. I saw growth in the people I served and the people also helped to deepen my priestly vocation. Let me just highlight my experience here at St. John Apostle & Evangelist. Being pastor here at St. John's given me a challenge to first get to know where the parish was and what the needs were and how to realize these needs. Our Parish 5-Year Planning was an important process for the whole parish to identify the priorities and plan together on a strategy of implementing these priorities. This also gave me the opportunity to reform the parish in view of these priorities in order to be the parish that God intends for us to be in the 21st century. These seven years as your pastor have been my best productive years, thanks to your challenge that drove me to be more creative in responding to the emerging needs. St. John’s is a wonderful parish to lead, only if one is humble enough to tap the many resources you all bring into our parish family. The joy of my priesthood is due to you for making me a better priest in these seven years here at St. John’s.

May God bless all who have touched my life in my priestly ministry these 50 years. A blessed Christmas season and Happy New Year 2019.

Monsignor John S. Mbinda

Christmas Message 2018

“Glory to God in highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Lk. 2:14)
With these inspiring words sung by the angels announcing the birth of our Savior on that blessed night, I offer my Christmas message and greetings to every parishioner and those visiting our parish over this Christmas Season. Along with the angels, we sing that hymn of “Glory to God in the highest” in praise and thanksgiving for the birth of our Savior who ushers in a new era of peace on earth. It was first the shepherds who heard this message of peace proclaimed by the angels on that First Christmas.

During the four weeks of Advent, we have all been preparing for an openness of heart and mind to let in God’s favor into our hearts. May we reap the fruits of our waiting in hope for the gift of peace that the Nativity of our Savior brings to us at this Christmas. May we find true peace, joy, and happiness as we celebrate the fulfillment of God’s promise of a Savior who comes to bring each of us the gift of true peace in our hearts, families, parish community and in the world.

In the Gospel of Luke for the midnight Mass, try to focus on one short familiar phrase: “there was no room for them in the inn.” Christmas is about making room in the inn of our hearts. It is about making room for all people in our lives, especially the less fortunate; the ones who find no room in the inn; the homeless and the rejected. As we try to welcome Christ “in the stranger” into our hearts, may Christ bring us true peace, joy, and happiness this Christmas.  

A Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Yew Year 2019!

Monsignor John S. Mbinda

50th Anniversary of Priesthood Pilgrimage to Rome

In this article, I just want to briefly share my own reflections on the pilgrimage to Rome, Assisi, and Siena on the occasion of my 50th Anniversary of my priesthood. All together we were 25 pilgrims from St. John’s and 2 from Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLPH). The pilgrimage was from December 2-12, 2018. Those 10 days were fascinating with certain highlights on each day. Here I just want to share my three top highlights:

My first highlight was Wednesday, December 5 at the Weekly General Audience with Pope Francis. We were all anxious to hear the message of the pope. On this day he started a new series of his catechesis on “The Our Father” sub-titled “Lord, teach us to pray”. In his usual simplicity, Pope Francis underlined Jesus as a person of prayer; in his life, it was a prayer that energized everything; there was a profound mystery about his prayer to the Father, and that was why his disciples asked Him: “Lord teach us to pray.” We too need to ask the Lord to teach us how to pray. The Pope concluded by   asking us during Advent to repeat the prayer of the disciples: “Master, teach us to pray.”

My second highlight was the private Mass with Pope Francis at Santa Marta, on Tuesday, December 11. In his brief homily (5 minutes) commenting on Isaiah 40:1-11, the pope started by “Let us allow ourselves to be consoled by God” The entire homily was a beautiful synthesis of the pastoral ministry of consolation, which should always be practiced by Christians. We console other people by tenderness, just as the Lord does to us. After Mass, the pope greeted all priests one by one as well as the lay faithful present at the Mass.

My third highlight was our celebration of the Holy Mass at the Catacomb of St. Callistus on the Appian way.   The main highlight here was the celebration of the Holy Mass at one of the altars underground, surrounded by thousands of saints of 3rd and 4th centuries buried there.

The pilgrimage was meant to help us deepen our faith through the prism of the many sights we visited, in Rome, Assisi, and Siena. 

Monsignor John S. Mbinda

Liturgical Symbolism of the Advent Wreath

The Advent Wreath comes from an old European tradition. It was mainly a way to involve even very little children in learning about preparation for Christmas spiritually. The main symbolism of the Advent wreath is the coming of Light into the world is clear. The gradual lighting of the four candles, one on each Sunday of the Advent season, combined with the liturgical colors of the candles purple is the penitential color used during Advent and Lent. The desert rose color used only on the third Sunday of Advent Gaudete Sunday – Rejoice Sunday) helps to symbolize not only our expectation and hope in Our Savior's first coming into the world, but also in his Second Coming as Judge at the end of the world.

As a family tradition, the wreath itself is also symbolic. The circle of evergreen in which the candles are placed represents everlasting life. The seedpods, nuts, and cones used to decorate the wreath are symbolic of new life. On the first Sunday of Advent, the wreath may be sprinkled with holy water to bless it before the first purple candle is lit. Then the blessing before meals is said if you use the wreath at mealtime. The second Sunday two purple candles are lit; the third Sunday, two purple and one rose; and all candles are lit on the fourth Sunday.

In the family, children who are old enough can take turns lighting the candles every Sunday at the beginning of the dinner meal. The littlest ones can blow them out at the end of the meal. If you use the wreath at mealtime, it is helpful to place it on a tray or platter so it can be moved, and to protect the table from candle wax.

On Christmas Day, all the greens and decorations may be replaced with fresh ones, and four new white candles, symbolizing Christ. The white candles replace the colored ones and are lit throughout the Christmas season. Since the Advent season is a reminder to pray and watch, the family when together may pray the Angelus at the lunch and dinner family meal.

Monsignor John S. Mbinda