Renew My Church… An Open Letter to Algis Baniulis, S.J, Mission Chaplain…

There is a lot that I do not agree with relative to Archbishop Cupich…an instance would be his comments on that cold January day in DesPlaines at the Our Lady of Guadalupe shrine when he raised his hands and commented “Do Not Shoot”. He disrespected all law enforcement, including the many families of murdered Chicago and Cook County police officers…that said let us go to an issue that I applaud him for

Renew My Church…

(l to r) Bl. Jurgis Matulaitis, MIC Mission Chapel… Nativity BVM Parish Church

When he came to the Archdiocese he reorganized the curia (pastoral center) and installed a chief financial officer, who happens to be a woman with a track record of financial acumen. This was a good start to place the archdiocese in the right direction. He did not do what  Joseph Cardinal Bernadin and Monsignor George Sarauskas did some years back and closed without discussion @80 parishes; including our beloved Saint George parish in the Bridgeport community. Archbishop Cupich and Bishop Wypych are approaching this in a very logical way together with their staffs; and most importantly with the parishes, shrines and missions. To be brief, the plan Archbishop Cupich has presented is for the ministry sites to gather in small groups. They should review their sacramentals; ministry programs and  outreach in terms of evangelization, including their budgets and  physical structures. During these discussions the strengths and weakness will be identified and addressed; there might be a consolidation effort or a parish expanding to establish a mission.

Now this brings me to my concern; Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary parish, a national shrine to Our Lady of Siluva; an established shrine to Blessed Archbishop Jurgis Matulaitis, MIC.

Working together is very important and this was recognized early by the Archbishop; his curia and our regional Bishop Andrew Wypych. Nativity BVM is the only Lithuanian Catholic parish in the Chicago archdiocese and the Chicagoland area. There are two other parishes which have a Lithuanian language Mass; but their ministry, programs and evegelization extends to other ethnic groups; remembering always to include a Mass in the American language. An English Mass is also celebrated at Nativity BVM in Chicago’s Marquette Park community. As demographics have changed; the Lithuanian community had requested of the archdiocese to rent a small facility in the former Vincentian Fathers seminary; which is now known at the Lemont Lithuanian Center.This facility would not be owned by the archdiocese; a priest would be invited that would celebrate Mass and administer the sacraments. With reluctance this was granted.  The first option was always to attend the local parish.  In Lemont, there are three parishes: Saint Patrick; Saint Alphonsus; and Saints Cyril and Methodius.

Recently, the archdiocese seeing the uniqueness of the only Lithuanian Catholic parish in Chicago; and a mission with it’s intent to evangelize the suburban Lithuanian community; offered the pastor of Nativity BVM and the Chaplain of Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis, MIC Mission an opportunity to group together. This grouping would provide them an opportunity  to  examine their compliance with the Archdiocese’s Renew My Church program. Something we  must always remember is that with a parish like Nativity BVM there are strict financial safeguards. These safeguards would include the process for depositing of monies received for Masses, funerals, weddings and any bequests made to the parish. There is also need for an active parish life during the week with many of the organizations such as the Legion of Mary, Holy Name Society, and the parish council meeting on a regular basis. This year we are graced with an additional source of revenue with the leasing of our school and gymnasium to Amandla College Prep, a state funded charter school bringing together 347 students and 30 teachers. This will allow us to  balance our budget and totally payout the remaining indebtedness.

In these recent years, we have to applaud our pastor, Rev Jaunius Kelpsas for bringing an increase in first communicants and the confirmed. A dramatic increase in couples entering into sacramental marriage; with the assistance in pre cana by Dr Linas and Rima Sidrys. This has led to  an increase in registered parishioners and Mass attendance.

This coming Sunday, September 11th over 1,200 will attending the Solemn Mass and closing of nine days of prayer to Our Lady of Siluva. Joining our parish priests will be the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception. We are hoping that our sisters and brothers at the Lemont Catholic mission will join us for this happy and blessed occasion.

Now, let us get to the crux of the matter, the Archbishop and our regional vicar have offered us at Nativity BVM and Bl. Matulaitis, MIC Mission an opportunity to group together for the Renew My Church program. We should be grateful to both of them and grab this opportunity to evangelized and bring the Catholic Faith to more of our sisters and brothers in Chicago and the greater Cook County area.

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