Tag Archives: parish mission

Holy Family Church, Nassau, Bahamas

Today I began a Parish Mission at Holy Family Church in Nassau, Bahamas, on Robinson Road, a few miles in from the tourist area and beaches along Bay Street.

The two lively Masses this morning were filled and the singing was especially lively to my northern ears. It’s a growing area and Archbishop Pinder is planning a large new church here. Fr. Tom Brislin, CP, an American Passionist from my province is in charge of the building.

Holy Family Church



Here are some pictures of Holy Family. I include a beautiful painting given to Fr. Tom from an Argentinian painter who is working in the area.


I recommended this morning to the people at Mass that they  check out this blog because I’m going to preach on the great messengers of Advent: Isaiah, John the Baptist, and Mary of Nazareth.


The Benedictines from Collegeville, MN and the Sisters of Charity from New York were among the Catholic communities who worked in the Bahamas. I’ll put up some pictures of the churches and schools they built. The Catholic school system has been an important factor in the growth of these islands.

Sunday Night at Mission

Tonight, we are going to visit three important events in the life of Jesus, which I notice  are pictured in the windows of the church here in St. Clement’s, Matawan.


They are all found in St. Matthew’s Gospel:


  1. The Supper at Bethany
  2. The Last Supper
  3. The Agony of Jesus in the Garden.


Here are pictures of two of the windows.


Mission: St. Clement’s Parish, Matawan-Aberdeen, NJ

We know from the gospels that Jesus used examples from his time to speak to the people of his day. Today’s readings tell us that.  Since Jesus lived most of his life in Galilee in northern Palestine, and most of the people he preached to were farmers who made their living on the land or fishermen fishing the sea, Jesus talked to people about fishing and their farms and vineyards and planting seeds.

So how would he speak to us now?  Would he Google the place?

I’m here for your parish mission for the next three days. Tonight, tomorrow night and Tuesday night at 7:30 PM.  I googled “Matawan” for information about your town, or borough, to use the right word, and Wikipedia said there are about 9,000 people here in Matawan. in a space of 2.3 square miles. The median age about 36.

In a New York Times article last year entitled 2 Lakes, the Shore and a Train to the City  the writer said that Matawan was a good place to live, to bring up kids,  close to the train, close to the shore, close to the water. The statistics say you’re more prosperous here than other parts of the country, but the 2000 census did say that 5.5 of your population were below the poverty line. I’d guess that might be greater these days.

Now, I don’t think that Jesus, if he came here to talk to you, would go on a lot about statistics. The gospels say he urged people to be grateful to God for what they had.  Don’t forget God who gave you everything; God should be at the center of your life.

Be like your Father in heaven, aim high. Live a grateful life and love the way God loves.

The gospel also says that Jesus was not someone who was always calling people out. He saw the heartbreak, the sorrow, the sickness, the pain that’s present in everyone, no matter where they live. He saw sinners. Sinners are those who get life wrong. He spent a lot of time with them. He’s God’s face for us to see.

For the next few evenings I’ll be using the Gospel of Matthew to follow Jesus Christ through the last days of his life and his appearances as Risen from the dead. These are the most important parts of the gospel.  We’ll  follow him as disciples, which means we’ll learn from him, our teacher and Lord, how to live today from the way he lived yesterday.  I’ll go slowly through the scriptures step by step, so if you come to these evening sessions might be good to bring a bible along.

I hope this mission helps us to appreciate Jesus Christ and give us a greater appreciation for the scriptures that speak of him. In our church today, the scriptures have become our catechism and our prayerbook.

But you know as well as I that many don’t read the scriptures much or understand them too.

An article in a recent issue of the Jesuit magazine, America, (http://www.americamagazine.org/content/current-issue.cfm?issueid=786) discussed the way American Catholics read the scriptures. Actually, they don’t read them much or know much about the writings we call the Word of God, the author, Brian B. Pinter, says. Also, Catholics who do read the scriptures, may read them literally, like fundamentalists. But the Pontifical Bible Commission in 1993, Pinter points out, warned that  “Fundamentalism actually invites people to a kind of intellectual suicide.”

Last summer the pope urged Catholics to take up and read the scriptures. It wasn’t a pious wish, he was dead serious. The scriptures are the Word of God that nourish our faith and help us know God’s will.

A couple of weeks ago was catechetical Sunday, when parishes began their religious education programs for the year. Most of these programs are for our young people.  But you know religious education involves more than young people. All of us are called to grow in our faith and live what we believe.

Unfortunately, adults may think that faith is something you learn as a child in school or in a religious education program and you never have to learn about it again.

The Catholic writer Frank Sheed once said the problem with adult Catholics is that they don’t keep engaged in the faith they learned as children. He used the example of our eyes. We have two eyes. Let’s say one of them is the eye of faith; the other is the eye of experience.

As children, in religious education we may  see the world with two eyes; but as adults we may see the world only with the eye of experience. And so we lose the focus that faith gives, another dimension. We won’t see right. Faith helps us to see.

“You are all learners,” Jesus said. It’s not just children who learn, all of us learn. We are lifelong learners. Lifelong believers, engaged believers, struggling believers, even till the end.

So, I invite you to our mission this week as lifelong learners. Some of you may not be able to make it, but let me make a deal with you. How about doing a little online learning? I have a blog on the web called “Victor’s Place.” I’ll put up some material from our mission every day, starting with this homily. If you can’t get here yourself, or have a neighbor who wont darken the church door, or have a daughter in California who’s not going to church, take a look at “Victor’s Place.”

You saw me bring up a cross at the beginning of Mass and put it next to the pulpit. That was to remind me and to remind you that Someone Else is here speaking during these days of mission. The Lord is with us. He wants to speak to us here in this place where 9,000 people live, a place of  “2 Lakes, near the Shore and a trainride to the City.”

The mission services, a short catechesis, a longer reflection on the scriptures, hymns, prayers and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament will be about 1 hour. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday Nights at 7:30.

I’ll be celebrating the morning Masses on Monday and Tuesday at 8 AM  and preaching a short homily. Afterwards I’ll be available for confessions.

Fr. Victor Hoagland, CP


mission poster 2


Tuesday Night: Matthew’s Passion

Notice in Matthew’s account of the Passion that Jesus gradually becomes silent. As the hours before his death go by, his words become fewer and fewer. He works no wonders, no cures. His power seems to slip away and he becomes more and more helpless.

In the garden, he prays a short troubled prayer, over and over: “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me, yet not my will, but your will be done.”

He looks for the comfort of friends but finds none. They fall asleep and seem to not notice.  “Pray that you don’t enter temptation. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak,” Jesus tells them.

When he’s brought before Caiaphas, the high priest, he doesn’t dispute the false witnesses that bring charges against him. Through his public ministry he’s quick to answer what’s false, but now he’s silent.  Only when Caiaphas directly asks him if he is the Messiah, the Son of God,  does Jesus answer: “ You have said so. I tell you from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Similarly, when Jesus is brought before Pilate, he is mostly silent. “Are you the king of the Jews?” Pilate asks him. “You say so,” Jesus answers. Then, he says no more.

He’s silent when the crowd calls for Barrabas; he’s silent when the soldiers scourge him with whips and crown him with thorns. He’s silent when they mock him and lead him away to be crucified.

The only words he says in Matthew’s gospel, as well as in the gospel of Mark, are the final words from psalm 22, which the evangelists quote in Aramaic, as well as Greek:  “My God, my God why have you forsaken me.?”

It’s not that Jesus is unaware of what’s happening to him, or that he has steeled himself and turned away from it all. He’s not retreated into his divinity. “He humbled himself, accepting death, even death on a cross,” St. Paul, the Apostle says.

His silence is his humble acceptance of death and all it entails.

Yet, his trust in God never fails, even when God seems absent.

What kind of cross do we carry? We know it when words and human solutions fail and we can accomplish nothing on our own. Think of the silence that followed the earthquake in Japan. People could hardly take it in. It’s not just  physical pain, it’s more than that.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

It was more than a question, Jesus was asking. It was a prayer. As he did in the garden, he threw himself into the hands of God, his Father, who knows all and receives us all. There he was safe and his soul found peace.

As he said to his disciples in the garden, he says to us, “Pray when the cross comes, put yourself in God’s presence our safety when the storm comes.”

Parish Mission: New Brunswick, NJ

This afternoon I begin a parish mission at St. Mary of Mount Virgin Church in New Brunswick, NJ, preaching at the Palm Sunday Masses  and conducting mission services till next Wednesday evening.

These days of Holy Week speak with “a well-trained tongue;”  We celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus, remembering the days when Jesus was arrested, judged unjustly, scourged and crowned with thorns, led to a cross and was crucified.

“He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. On the third day he rose again,”

We take into our hands palm branches this Sunday, as those who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem did long ago. We listen to the story of his passion and death; they witnessed what happened to him long ago. They heard his call to faith as we do now. They promised to follow him, but the next days came. How many followed him then?

These are precious days when God’s graces are given and God calls again. The graces are given through Jesus Christ and his life-giving Cross; the call is made through his bruises and wounds and through his empty tomb.

Let us follow him, like those whom he invited into the supper room and received him in bread and wine. Like Simon of Cyrene, let us carry someone’s cross. Like the women who met him on the way, let us have compassion on those who are hurting or are in trouble. Let our hearts be open to the needs of our neighbor and the misery and hopes of our world. Like the thief, who called from his nearby cross, let us ask him for forgiveness. Like Joseph of Arimithea let us tend his body, like Mary his mother, let us hold him in our arms.  Like Mary Magdalen let us see him risen from the death; like Peter and James and John let us be enflamed with new dreams for our world.

From Monday to Wednesday, at 7 PM I will conduct of service of preaching and Benediction, followed by confessions.

The Passionists provide an excellent commentary on the gospel accounts of the Passion of Jesus and the devotions that arise from this mystery at Bread on the Waters. The commentary is by Fr.Donald Senior, CP. and can be found here.

Mission: Plainville,Ct April 3,2011

Sunday evening, April 3rd

Learning from Holy People

“We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day.

Night is coming when no one can work.

While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”  John 9

In the gospel for today, Jesus gives the blind man– blind from birth– sight he never had. Jesus is the light of the world.

But we share in his work. “We” have to help people to see. It’s our mission to  light up the world with our love and our lives. “You are the salt of the earth; you are the light of the world,” Jesus says in the Gospel of Matthew.

The new US Catholic Catechism for Adults offers short biographies of holy people, many of them from our own time and country, to exemplify different aspects of our faith. So, St Elizabeth Ann Seton demonstrates  the search for God that goes on, uniquely, in all of us.  Faith doesn’t exist in the abstract.  The profiles of holy people in the new catechism say that you don’t find faith in a book, or in a list of propositions, you find it in people.

Growing in faith means growing in the knowledge of God, but it also means growing to appreciate people, made in the image of God.

I offer two examples at our mission service tonight  of people who have helped me to see.  One of them is Father Theodore Foley, a Passionist priest from Springfield, Ma, who is a candidate for canonization.

Read about him at http://www.theodorefoley.org/

There’s a video at  http://vimeo.com/20519385

And                          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SrqTClkJidk


How about those who help you to see? Can you name one or two?


Lord Jesus Christ,

I am blind to so much,

help me to see.

Some other web resources you may be interested in:

The Passionists:   www.thepassionists.org

St. Paul of the Cross:   https://vhoagland.wordpress.com/st-paul-of-the-cross/


Victor’s Place: https://vhoagland.wordpress.com/


Tuesday Morning Mass: Andrew, the Apostle

The Call of Peter and Andrew

The Italian artist, Duccio, paints an interesting picture of today’s gospel passage of the call of the disciples, Peter and Andrew.  Jesus stands on the shore calling the two brothers to come from their boat and follow him. The two brothers have their hands firmly on their fishing nets, looking a little warily at the one who’s calling them. After all, they’re got their livelihood to think about, families to support, and probably a thriving business that’s never been better.

According to John’s gospel, Andrew, not Peter, is the first to answer the call and leads his brother to Jesus.  At the Jordan River, Andrew is the first of two Galileans to whom John the Baptist points out Jesus. Afterwards Andrew finds his brother Peter and tells him “We have found the Messiah.” (John 1, 41) Peter, then other disciples from Galilee follow Jesus back to Galilee.

But there’s some doubt about Jesus, John’s gospel indicates.  “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” asks Nathaniel, who we learn later is from Cana in Galilee, a neighboring town.  It takes awhile before some suspicion is overcome.

As the one who introduces Peter to Jesus, Andrew is the first to see beyond popular objections and the first to overcome a natural reluctance to a changed life and vocation. So it took awhile for Peter to leave his nets and whole-heartedly follow Jesus. Andrew led him on the way.

Today we need people like Andrew when there is such questioning of Christianity, such cynicism about the gospel, the church and religion.  We need people who can see truth that’s been darkened by scandals or doubt.

We need people like the apostle Andrew.

Monday Night at the Mission

St. Elizabeth Seton: a Saint of Wall Street

Why talk about Elizabeth Seton on the first night of our mission at St. Margaret’s Church? She’s an American saint who lived in a crucial period in our country’s history; she actually lived on Wall Street for awhile. She faced some of the things we face today in American society.

In her 46 years of life, she experienced many changes. As we face changes today, many similar to hers, we can learn from her to keep searching for God through them all.

Here’s a biography of Mother Seton: http://emmitsburg.net/setonshrine/

1. She tells us to seek God faithfully day by day.

The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults (pages 1-8) offers her as an example of the human quest for God. “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they rest in you.” (Augustine, Confessions)

In her 46 years of life she experienced  loneliness in her youth, prosperity as a happily married woman with a good husband and five children,  suffering brought by financial loss and her husband’s death,

In her religious search, first as an Anglican, then as a Catholic she tried to serve God as well as she could.  She thirsted for God and sought to do his will.

Life changes  us too. We may face an unknown future, not only personally, but as a world and as a church. Elizabeth Seton says: seek God through these experiences.

2. She’s an example of finding God in the world you live in.

Elizabeth Seton was born into a privileged world. Her father, Richard Bayley (1744-1801), was a distinguished physician who taught medicine at Kings College, later Columbia University, and was first Health Officer of the Port of New York.

Dedicated to medicine and medical research, he traveled back and forth to England to learn the latest in his field. He was a health-care crusader, who fought against diseases like yellow fever that regularly infested the city, especially its vulnerable immigrant population.

Her husband William Seton was part of a family that made its fortune in banking and shipping. He was a classic American entepreneur. Elizabeth and her husband belonged to a world that included Alexander Hamilton and other members of the America’s elite. She enjoyed the cultural and social benefits status brought her.

William’s shipping interests gained the family a fortune, but shipping was a risky business and just as easily could collapse and bring financial disaster. In 1802, it did.

From great wealth the Setons were plunged into bankruptcy. Elizabeth supported  her husband, now failing in health, by taking him on a sea voyage to Italy to visit some business friends, the Filicchis, in Livorno.

Her husband died in the quarantine station in Livorno, with Elizabeth and her little daughter at his side; she was left a widow with no financial resources.

3. What spiritual resources did she draw upon?

A childhood loneliness led her to look to God for support. She found God in the beauties of nature, in the scriptures and in devotional books that brought her comfort.

The church that first supported her was Trinity Church in downtown New York City. The Bayleys and Setons were Anglicans, and Trinity Church, with its annex St. Paul’s Church, was the parish church of the city’s elite.

In her time the Anglican Church in America was strongly influenced by the Enlightenment, a movement that put its hopes in human reason and science.

By the later colonial period, writes Anglican historian, David L. Holmes “Following the lead of the left wing of the Enlightenment (of which Benjamin Franklin represents a prime example), large numbers of Anglican gentry came to believe that reason and science provided all-sufficient guides for believing in God and living morally; any special revelation that occurred through Scripture, they decided, was superfluous or in need of radical pruning. They were intent on returning humanity to a primitive natural religion consisting in belief in the existence of God and a simple morality.” (A Brief History of the Episcopal Church , Valley Forge, PA 1993 p 40)

Alexander Pope expressed the opinion famously:

Know thyself,

Presume not God to scan,

The proper study of mankind is man.

Elizabeth’s father and her husband were men of the Enlightenment, absorbed in their careers and their business. Revealed religion, prayer,  were not important to them.

Elizabeth said that the only time she heard her father mention the name of God was on his deathbed.  She complains that her husband Will never shared in her own religious insights, until he came to die in Italy.

The two men most dear to her belonged to the church, regularly attended its services, but saw it mainly as an institution for upholding moral principles rather than as a place of God’s revelation.

However, as a married woman,  in Trinity Church, Elizabeth’s spiritual life grew. A new assistant minister, John Henry Hobart, came to Trinity in 1800 and was part of a reforming movement that gradually influenced the Anglican church.  In the mid 1800’s it’s most prominent expression was the Oxford Movement, one of whose leaders was John Henry Newman.

Reverend Hobart led Elizabeth to a life of daily prayer, the reading of scripture, a devotion to Jesus Christ, and a life of charity, helping widows and orphans from Trinity church.

Today we still experience the effects of the Enlightenment. Commentators say we are living in an age of secularization. (Charles Taylor, An Age of Secularization, Harvard University, 2002) One of our greatest challenges today is to engage those who, like Richard Bayley and William Seton, are deeply involved in the world, but have little interest in any revelation of God or in church.

Elizabeth and Catholicism

After the death of her husband in Livorno the Filicchi family took Elizabeth and her little daughter into their home there and treated her with exquisite kindness. They were devout Catholics who knew their faith well and invited their American guests to church with them. The liturgy of the church was a revelation to Elizabeth, especially the Mass. She wrote home to a friend:

“How happy we would be, if we believed what these dear souls believe–that they possess God in the Sacrament, and that He remains in their churches and is carried to them when they are sick…O God! How happy I would be…if I could find You in the church as they do…”

The Catholic Church, which was only a poor tiny congregation in her native New York, suddenly became for her a place that revealed Jesus Christ.

When she returned to New York City, she decided, against the strong objections of her friends and family, to become a Catholic.

In his history of the Catholic Church in the United States, “A Faithful People” (2008) James O’Toole describes the Catholic Church that Elizabeth Seton entered in 1805 as a “priestless, popeless” congregation, held together by believers who kept the Catholic faith alive in their homes and through occasional visits from the few priests who had come to the New World.

It was a “popeless church” because the popes of the late 18th and early 19th century struggled under the crushing control of Europe’s monarchs and could pay little attention to the faithful at the far ends of the earth.

It is extraordinary that Elizabeth Seton would enter the Catholic Church in America at this time, which had few members, little status and was thought of largely as a suspect religion.

Can we in a declining American church today, as priests become fewer and parishes close, find her faith in the church an example?

After a few hard years as a Catholic in New York City, largely abandoned by family and friends, Elizabeth was invited by Bishop John Carroll to go to Maryland, where there were more Catholics to establish a school and support her family.

Elizabeth’s years in Maryland marked the beginning of a new period in American Catholic history. Not only did she establish a small school, but she began a community of religious women, the Sisters of Charity. Eventually her community, joined by others, would establish networks of schools, hospitals and social endeavors that became the backbone of the church in America.

As millions of Catholic immigrants arrived in America in the mid 1800’s  growing numbers of women religious welcomed them to the Catholic Church and formed the great immigrant church that became the face of Catholicism in America. American women religious were at the heart of a growing church. We owe them an enormous debt.

Elizabeth Seton invites us to look at our own role in the world we live in and in our church. She was a woman of prayer and she invites us to be people of prayer. So many of her decisions came through prayer. Ours must come through prayer too.

She reminds us that our quest for God takes place in the life and the world where God places us. We live in a secularized world; how do we engage it? We live in a changing church; how do we help it fulfill its divine destiny? As children of the church we must draw close to her .

This is our time to seek God.

A Mission at St. Margaret’s: Monday

Monday Mass: November 29

This morning in St. Margaret Church in Madison, Ct,  I celebrated Mass and afterwards gave a short morning catechesis on the Holy Eucharist, our great common prayer.  Here are some simple suggestions I made about praying at Mass.



Tonight at 7 PM our mission continues. Here’s the lineup.

Monday: Searching for God: St. Elizabeth Ann

Opening hymn

Announcements and opening prayer

Catechesis  (10 minutes): Growing in faith:  The US Catholic Catechism for Adults

Praying today: Prayers and prayerbooks

Reflective hymn

Sermon:   (35 minutes)     The Saint of Wall Street: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

Benediction hymns, short prayer, closing hymn) (15 minutes)

The way we’re learning about our faith is changing. One example is the new US Catholic Catechism for Adults. It’s a catechism for adults, instead of a catechism for children. It’s for adult Catholics, and not just for priests or special catechetical teachers. All of us are invited to learn and keeping learning about our faith, and then live what we know and believe.

The new Catholic Catechism for Adults, besides definitions and explanations, uses the lives of saints and holy people, many of them American, as examples and guides of faith. Faith doesn’t exist in a book, it’s lived by people.

St. Elizabeth Seton is the first saint the catechism offers. She a wonderful example of what’s meant when we say we are searching for God. All of us are searching for God. Her life took an extraordinary number of twists and turns, from childhood, to married life, to prosperity and then to adversity,  to her conversion to Catholicism and her life as a dedicated religious involved in the ministry of the church.Through it all she kept searching for God who made her and mysteriously called her.

Another way we use to learn about our faith today is the scriptures. Tuesday night and Wednesday night we’re going to look at Jesus as he is presented in the Gospel of Matthew, which is often called the first Christian catechism.

I’ll give a summary of these presentations afterwards in blogs at Victor’s Place

A Mission in Maryland

From March 20th to the 24th I was in Bowie, Maryland, at Ascension Parish preaching a parish mission. The parish has its roots in colonial Catholicism, a “priestless, popeless, sisterless” church, according to historian James O’Toole, in his book “The Faithful: A History of the American Catholic Church.

Some who attended the mission were descendants of those early Catholics who settled in Maryland, and I expressed my admiration for the fidelity of their ancestors who kept the faith alive in their homes when few priests and hardly any sisters were there to minister to them. Anti-Catholic laws in the colony also penalized Catholics. Through much of that time, the popes were tied by European politics and could pay little attention to the New World.

Those early Catholic Marylanders were faithful to prayer and to the basic truths handed down to them through their catechisms.

I’m interested in that early church because it may be a model of our church in the future, with fewer priests and sisters and a growing secularism that will reduce the number of churchgoers in our country and the western world.

Seems to me, Catholics need to strengthen their prayer lives and learn their catechisms to survive in the future. Nearby Ascension Parish is the old church of the Sacred Heart from 1741 (picture above) and there were catechism classes going on there when I visited on Tuesday afternoon. Keep it up.

I based my mission on the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, which is a nice blend of doctrine and biographies of people of faith who have influenced the growth of the church in America and I spoke about St. Elizabeth Seton, Peter, Mary the Mother of Jesus, and St. Paul of the Cross during the mission. The catechism is a good one and I wish it were used more in our church.

After the mission, I went to Baltimore to visit the beautiful little house on Paca Street where Mother Seton lived and made her first religious vows after her arrival from New York City.

So important to know our ancestors in the faith as we go into the future.