Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church
Hot Springs Village, Arkansas
It is alomost time again for our annual seminarian support dinner.  On Friday, July 14, we will welcome our bishop, priests, seminarians, and hopefully, YOU, to enjoy a delicious meal from Chef Johnna, some homemade ice cream from Your Truly (Arkansas Peach for sure), and some entertainment and witness to tell us about our future priests and what God is already doing to them and through them for others.  PLEASE GET YOUR TICKET(S) STARTING NEXT WEEKEND AND JOIN US.

We've definitely seen the fruits of our prayers and generosity to our seminarians in the large number of priest that we have ordained in recent years and in those six or seven who will receive ordination by this time next year including our adopted seminarian, Deacon Nelson Rubio.  I would ask you to continue your support and prayers for all of our priests, especially those who are in the early years of their priest ministry.  The challenges of priesthood are there for priests of all ages, and when one is new and doing so many ministries as priest for the first time, it can be difficult, and honestly, overwhelming at times.  I ask you to consider saying a "Daily Prayer for Priests" that is found in our Adoration Chapel and in some of our missalettes/hymnals.  You can find this prayer below this pastor's column.  It prays for priests who are doing well and those who are struggling.  It prays for priests of our past who made a positive impact on our lives for one reason or another.  Personally, I and other priests, are truly strengthened and encouraged by the thought of and reality of people praying for them.  When I get a card indicating some one has offered their Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament for me, I know that I am truly blessed by God's grace to do what He called me to do.  On behalf of myself and all priests (especially our young ones) that you pray for, or will start praying for, I say THANK YOU and GOD BLESS YOU!

O Jesus, I pray for Your faithful and fervent priests,
Your unfaithful and tepid priests,
Your priests laboring at home or abroad
In distant mission field,
Your tempted priests, Your dying priests,
The souls of Your priest in Purgatory
Your young and newly-ordained priests.

But above all, I recommend to You
The priests dearest to me:
The priest who baptized me,
The priests who absolved me from my sins,
The priests at whose Masses I assisted
and who gave me Your Body and Blood
In Holy Communion;
All the priest to whom I am indebted in any other
way, especially . . . . . . . 

O Jesus, keep them all close to Your heart, and bless
them abundantly in time and in eternity.  Amen.
As I write this pastor's column, I'm thinking about a dear soul, Alberta Bertrand, who died this morning (June 9) at Good Samaritan Nursing Home at the age of 105!  I have only personally known one other person who lived to that age in Fort Smith (and whose name was Josephine Mueller).  In both cases, I can truly say that  they handled their situation with grace and faith.  Both were eager to receive Holy Communion whenever it was made available to them.

Alberta was blessed to have a family (especially Sons, Ray, Jerry and Jim and their spouses) who visited her regularly and lovingly - and helped keep her spirits up.  It really is hard to grasp the extent of what Alberta witnessed in her long life, especially the developments and changes in society and in the Church.  Thankfully, even with so many changes, she was blessed with a rock-solid faith that helped her greatly to adjust and accept so many changes including changes in her growing family unit.

How wonderful it was for me to walk into her room after she died and find some of her family, and many health care workers at Good Samaritan, surrounding her bed where Alberta lay looking so peaceful at the time that followed her passing.  The workers had just prayed a short service for Alberta and then stayed to join in on the prayers I offered for her.  Alberta had lived at Good Samaritan for about seven years and was truly loved by those who cared for her.  Most of us cannot appreciate what it takes for someone to work in such a setting day after day.  There are, of course, many challenges, but also many blessings.  Please include these people and those they serve in your prayers.  Finally, I know Alberta felt truly blessed to have both a brother (Reverend John Hebert) and a grandson, Reverend Jacob Bertrand as priests of God.  I give thanks to God for having known and ministered to this special lady.  May she now rest forever in the joy and peace of God's heavenly home!
Sometimes it takes awhile for me to decide the subject matter for my weekly pastor's column.  And, sometimes, it comes to me rather quickly.  This week it was clear to me right away that I needed to devote this  space to reflections on Deacon Bernie Bauer and Marilyn, his wife and faithful, loving companion for 70 years.

Firstly, I am thankful for the ministry Deacon Bernie offered so lovingly and faithfully to this parish for most of the 27.5 years that he and Marilyn lived in the Village as parishioners at Sacred Heart Church.  Even as he stepped away from normal deacon ministry a few years ago, he remained a daily Mass attendee who was first to be asked to serve as a minister of the Sacred Blood at Mass.  He almost always stayed after Mass to purify the sacred vessel and set the altar books for Mass the next day.  In doing this, he will truly be missed.  He continued to take Holy Communion to a few of our shut-ins and remained active in our Village Interfaith Council as one of our parish representatives.  He participated in ecumenical events sponsored by this Council, and was a great ambassador for this parish and for Catholicism in general.  Marilyn, his dear wife, though restricted due to health issues, has always been his best support (after, of course, The Lord) in all that Deacon Bernie did.  They were both involved in an ongoing prayer group of parishioners who faithfully met on Sundays.  In a few short words, they will be "SORELY MISSED" by so many of us for so many reasons.

While I and others, and in agreement with the Bauers, recognize that their move to Illinois to live with one of their daughters, is what's best for them at this time in their lives, it is truly hard to say goodbye to them, or really (because we are believers in the Communion of Saints), we thankfully say "Until we meet again."

I am so glad that this parish has the pictures of both priests and deacons of this parish, present and past, on the wall of the narthex.  It assures that current and future parishioners will know who ministered the Good News of Jesus to others, and I dare say, it will be hard (even perhaps, impossible) for anyone to surpass the longevity of their service to this wonderful parish and community.

God bless you, Deacon Bernie and Marilyn, and know that you will alway be in our thoughts and prayers no matter where you are, and I'm confident that we will be in yours.  Keep smiling, and Deacon Bernie, keep that wonderful, spontaneous laugh that you have.  It says to me how happy you always are to be one of God's children and an uplifting spirit to many, including, of course, me!