Welcome lay missioner, Steve Dudenhoefer, back to our parish from his labors in Guatemala. For over a quarter century he has been working among the indigenous people in the rain forest areas of eastern Guatemala, guiding and helping many young students to better themselves in their homeland, enabling them to develop their talents and to use their resources, thereby keeping them from becoming part of the caravans that penetrate Mexico‘s borders, hoping to come to this “land of opportunity” that we know as the USA.

Steve is here to report on the progress made at the Father Tom Moran Vocational School, the same place the Knights of Columbus and their sons (and even grandsons) travel nearly every summer to labor and help the local population help themselves. He’s making his annual appeal to those of us who have been more blessed with God’s gifts. The mission is a “labor of love,” funded by the generosity of our parishioners, friends, the Knights of Columbus of Florida and other similar organizations. The demands brought on by an ever-increasing number of students who come to this award-winning school mean that the rising costs of housing and educating them require our continued (and, if possible, increased) support in order that they may graduate and work among their own people in their country, helping to pull them from a life cycle of endless poverty into a life that offers them real human dignity and gives them a real sense of self-worth.

So, next weekend (Palm Sunday), we will take up a 2nd collection to help feed the students for another year (that’s what you did by your generous support from last year). It’s a great way to observe another aspect of Lent, by offering a sacrificial gift to assist the people of Guatemala. Fifteen men – Knights of Columbus and their sons – will be travelling there from our parish with me for nine days in late June to see what additional assistance we can render in our annual practical “hands-on” building project. What a wonderful way to work out our stewardship of the gifts God has bestowed upon us!

This past Friday, Bishop Barbarito came to our parish on the occasion of the 600th anniversary of the passing of our parish patron, St. Vincent Ferrer (on his feastday), and to confirm some 40 high-school aged Catholic boys and girls in their Faith. We congratulate these children and their teachers who try to instill in them the basic fundamentals of living a good Catholic-Christian life. Please pray for these young people, because they are being challenged in so many ways in the practice of their faith – some by the many kinds of temptations offered by the world, some by the religious indifference within their own family setting, and some by peer-pressure to give God a less-than-first place in their current life. I worry for them, especially about the failure of a support system that was promised them at their Baptism, when parents and godparents made a solemn commitment “to raise them in the Faith of the Catholic Church in which they are baptized.” Too often I hear children confess the serious sin of missing Mass on Sunday when the fault doesn’t lie entirely with them (they really can’t get to church without some means of transportation). Who’s really at fault for the failure to “Keep Holy the Lord’s Day” (the Third Commandment)? When Mom and Dad don’t pray daily with them, nor even teach them the most basic of prayers, how will they develop a lively and hope-filled faith? What will they have to hold onto when adversity comes their way? So, please pray for them – often, if not daily!

Next Sunday, Palm Sunday, we will begin the most holy week of the Church’s calendar – most aptly called Holy Week. To prepare ourselves properly for this solemn observance, we will have our annual Lenten Penance Service this coming Thursday, April 11th, at 7:00 p.m. with ample opportunities to confess our sins to any of a number of priests who will come here to help us rid ourselves of the self-imposed burden of our sins. It’s the supreme way of truly preparing ourselves for the celebration of Easter, the observance of the high-point of our Christian Faith.

Many people will be here from across the nation and the world, so, I advise you to come early to Mass next Sunday in order to find a parking place and a seat in church.

Last Saturday, I had the honor and privilege to concelebrate in Texas the Ordination to the permanent Diaconate of Mark Fair, brother of our parishioner, Toni Mastrullo. It was a very touching event celebrated in a parish church of twice the seating capacity of our church (and it was “standing room only”). Two bishops, over a hundred priests along with several dozen permanent deacons, were among the many who participated in the two-and-one-half hour uplifting liturgy (and some complain about spending an hour in church on Sunday). 29 men of various ages, backgrounds and professions were ordained for service to God’s people. This reminds us of the service of our Deacons, parishioners Frank Iovine and Greg Osgood, and Parish Manager, Bob Laquerre, who assist me in reaching out to so many people in our parish in so many ways. May God bless them and inspire more men from among us to answer this call!