The news last Wednesday morning was sobering. It was announced the previous evening that St. Gabriel School would close at the end of the current school year due to increasing financial burdens to the parish and declining enrollment. With the St. Gabriel community, we mourn the loss of their school, as we do with the people of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in East Haven who also learned that their parish school would close in June. The loss of any Catholic school is a great loss. It is certainly painful to the parents who send their children there. It is also painful to the parish communities who lose a significant source of life and vitality whenever a school closes. It is also a loss to the wider community in that there are fewer options for parents in making a choice for their children beyond public schools.
Our own St. Mary School remains vibrant, financially stable, and a great blessing to our parish. The news of the closing of St. Gabriel School serves as a sobering reminder to us. We have to be careful as we look to our own future to insure that the school remains not just viable, but sustainable. The parents of our school children do great work in fund raising to supplement the school budget and to keep tuition increases to a minimum. The parish itself happily has resources needed to keep the school stable and sustainable into the future. What all of us can do is to promote the existence and the excellence of our own school and to do whatever we can to encourage parents to make the sacrifices necessary to send their children to St. Mary. We offer not just an excellent education in the basic skills needed for success in life. We also offer a solid formation in the Catholic faith, the faith that will sustain our students for the rest of their lives. Parents desire nothing but the best for their children. Nothing can replace giving our children a solid basis for a strong relationship in faith with the Lord, for that relationship will stand to serve them well as they grow and face the turbulent challenges of life that come to all.
This Wednesday, February 10, is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Masses with the distribution of ashes will be celebrated at 7:00 and 9:00 AM, 12:00 Noon, and again at 6:00 PM. A service of the Word of God with the distribution of ashes will also be celebrated at 3:00 PM. Please remember that Ash Wednesday is a day of universal fast and abstinence in the Church. Please check elsewhere in this bulletin for Church regulations on fast and abstinence.
During Lent, there will be additional opportunities for participation at daily Mass. Again this year, we will celebrate a Mass at 12:05 PM on Mondays through Fridays. Intentions for some of those Masses remain should anyone desire some. We will also be offering additional times for confession, namely each Monday evening from 6:00 to 7:15 PM as well as additional hours as Holy Week approaches.
Another important Lenten discipline is almsgiving, which means sharing from our means to help the poor and unfortunate. We will take a special collection at all Ash Wednesday services and the entire proceeds will be given to benefit the poor and needy. In addition, you are encouraged to participate in Operation Rice Bowl by taking a rice bowl with you and dropping in it your loose change or whatever you wish. Bring the rice bowls back at the end of Lent and all proceeds benefit Catholic Relief Services to help the needy here and abroad. Finally, the Twinning Ministry is sponsoring a Lenten Healing Tree, much like the giving tree which is up in Advent. All proceeds will go to help the people of St. Therese in Marbial, Haiti.
I pray that this Lent will be a time of fruitful prayer, spiritual discipline, and active charity for us all so that we can celebrate Holy Week and Easter as people renewed in mind and heart.
Rev. Aidan N. Donahue
© 2010 Saint Mary Church, Milford, Connecticut