Browsing Pastor's Corner

The Impact of Our Lives

Dec 24, 2018

On cold winter nights when the wind is blowing about 30 mph and the rain or even snow is beating against the windows, I get a little reflective. One of the things I think about is whether my life is really making an impact on the world. I hope I don’t sound too morose but maybe I am. Sometimes we all wonder if once we are gone from the scene, we will have had any kind of an impact on the world. St. Oscar Romero is quoted as saying, “We are prophets of a future not our own.” As St. Paul said, he planned the seeds and another evangelizer would water. The fruits of our endeavors are always someone else’s to harvest. So, only time will judge the lasting contribution we make to the world.

Recently, my interest was piqued by an article America Magazine ran about how the 17th century Jesuit missions among the indigenous people of South America are still bearing fruit today. The article said that according to a study done by University of British Columbia economics professor Felipe Valencia Caicedo the missions, called reductions, still have an impact on the levels of education and human capital in the surrounding areas more than 250 years after they were suppressed and the Jesuits expelled from the Spanish empire in 1767. The study found that even today in the areas surrounding these reductions the descendants of the native people who inhabited the missions for over 150 years still have higher levels of education and are more inclined to accept innovation than their neighbors who were not encompassed by the missions. Handicrafts, music and other skills introduced by the missionaries still have a lasting effect centuries later on the descendants of those who inhabited the reductions.

I was particularly interested in the details of the article on the Jesuit missions because on my November vacation to Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil one of our objectives was to visit the ruins of the reductions. We visited several sites where only small vestiges of the great buildings that were part of the reductions lie in ruins. Outside some of the ruin sites the humbler outbuildings of the reduction are still standing and providing housing and commercial space useful to the community even today. It is symbolic of the reality of the impact of our lives on the world. Yes, the main structure might be gone but the really useful contributions we make to our world live on.

The reductions were founded by Jesuit missionaries to try to help protect the native people from being captured and sold into slavery. Many of the Jesuits gave their lives in the efforts to gather the often-primitive tribes into the reductions. St. Roque Gonzalez de Santa Cruz was one of the early Jesuits reduction builders who suffered martyrdom at the hands of the natives. He is the only Paraguayan saint. I bought a small statue of St. Roque as a souvenir of my trip.

The missionaries gathered the natives into the reductions that were mini towns. Some had thousands of inhabitants. The natives were taught to read and write and given other skills. Many of the indigenous developed great talents as musicians, sculptures and in other artistic pursuits.

Yes, as some revisionists historians claim, the European Jesuits imposed some facets of western culture on the indigenous. They were instructed in Christianity. Their labors were “exploited” in various means of production in the reductions but the products they produced were used in communal life and some of was used to pay tribute to the colonial Spanish and Portuguese governments to try to prevent the reductions from being raided by slave traders. The natives enjoyed a six-hour work day that left them time for other artistic pursuits that they enjoyed. The reductions were a beneficial endeavor for the natives that happily seem to have a lasting positive effect even to this day. This winter when I wonder about the benefits of my work. Hopefully, I can believe that decades from now the work I and so many parishioners are doing to try to build up the faith today will bear lasting effects on Chatham.

Children’s Christmas Pageant At 10AM Mass
Our Children’s Christmas Pageant is scheduled for this Sunday, January 6, 2018, before the 10 AM Mass. The pageant will take about fifteen minutes so I’m sure you understand the 10AM Mass might run a little after the 11 o’clock hour. Please plan to come and support our parish youth.

Diocese of Fall River Vocation Office Discernment Retreat Weekend
The Diocese of Fall River Vocation Office is hosting a discernment weekend for Men ages 18-45 at the Betania II Spiritual Life and Marian Center, 154 Summer St. Medway, MA from Friday February 22 to Sunday February 24. If interested, please contact Fr. Jack Schrader at frschrader@fallrivervocations.org or 508-695-6161.

An Epiphany Gift for All
As a child my family had a tradition of receiving small gifts from the Three Wise Men on Epiphany. It was our personal way of celebrating the twelfth day of Christmas. The parish has a small Epiphany gift for everyone today. It is a copy of a book by Matthew Kelly, called, The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity. How’s that for an attention grabber! Matthew Kelly is the founder of Dynamic Catholic. Help yourself to a copy, read it and maybe pass it on to someone else.

Anyone a Graphic Artist?
Our parish has many talented people so I’m convinced there must be someone with talents as a Graphic Artist or with some advertising experience. The parish could use your gifts to put together a parish brochure and advertising campaign for the summer months.

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