One Sunday, Paul Hannagan attended Mass at Saint Elizabeth with his family and when his wife and daughter stepped out of the pew to receive Holy Communion, he had a lightbulb moment. “I asked myself, why am I not joining my family for the most important part of the Mass?” He continues, “That led me to reach out when RCIA classes started and to begin my journey to the Catholic Faith.”

Paul joined the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program (RCIA) in September 2020. He will be received into the full communion of the Catholic Church with the Sacraments of Confirmation and Holy Eucharist at this year’s Easter Vigil Mass.

Paul lived and grew up in the United Kingdom and was baptized in the Church of England. “Growing up in England, all schools had a short church service called ‘Assembly’ to start the day,” Paul explained. “I attended a Church of England school for the equivalent of middle and high school. Since it was a church school, we had more religious education than most and attended full church services each week during Lent.”

Paul met his wife Maggie while attending a wedding in the small village of Belmullet, Ireland. Maggie was visiting the village with her father, tracing their family history. “I tell people I’m a souvenir from Maggie’s trip to Europe!” he said. After Paul and Maggie were married in 1986, he moved to the United States. Their family have been parishioners of Saint Elizabeth Parish since our founding in 2000.  

Paul says, “The best part of the RCIA program is learning about Catholicism from the Catholic perspective. So much of Catholic teaching is misunderstood by non-Catholics. For example, I found learning about the Sacrament of Reconciliation to be very interesting and inspiring. My non-Catholic perspective was that it is a sacrament about punishing the sinful and in reality I’ve come to realize it is a joyful sacrament to bring us closer to God.”

When someone is interested in pursuing the Catholic Faith, the first step is to have an informal meeting with Deacon Kevin Mead, who coordinates the RCIA program for the parish. Kevin explains, “It helps to gain an understanding of someone’s religious background and experiences. Some individuals have been active members of another faith community, and others may have little or no religious identity.”

After the initial inquiry and discussion individuals may decide to attend weekly sessions, currently held on Monday evenings, from September through the Easter Season. Those who have been baptized in another Christian faith community, as Paul was, will receive Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist to complete the Sacraments of Initiation.  Those not previously baptized receive all three Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist) at the Easter Vigil Mass.

We asked Deacon Kevin what happens when someone is interested in the Catholic Faith but are not quite ready to take the next step to receive the Sacraments of Initiation at Easter. He responded, “Everyone is welcome to come learn what it means to be Catholic. The RCIA program includes discussions about what the Catholic Church teaches, what Catholics believe, and what it means to live out our Catholic Faith. It is not a requirement that all participants become Catholic. Everyone is there for a reason and hopefully those who attend will gain a deeper understanding of God’s individual call to them.” He concluded, “When I first met Paul, I quickly sensed his recognition of the existence and importance of God in his life. He lives out the Catholic values of a strong family life and helping others. Our parish should be very proud to welcome him as a member of the Church at this year’s Easter Vigil.”

Anyone interested in learning about the RCIA program can e-mail Deacon Kevin at kmead@stelizabethparish.org, or call the Parish Ministry Center at 610-321-1200.

  • Sara Richardson

Family Life during a Pandemic

It is hard to believe that it was in March 2020 that life as usual began to change for many of our parish families. After a year of living with the Covid-19 restrictions placed on all of us, the Spirit Newsletter staff invited two families to reflect on the last year and their experiences. They have highlight the challenges many Saint Elizabeth parishioners have faced. Through the difficult months, these families found comfort in their faith, in prayer, and in the parish community.

The Hellgoth Family

Last spring, John and Marie Hellgoth were enjoying their first year as “empty nesters,” with their sons both away from home. Nineteen year old Chris was in his sophomore year at Georgia Tech, and Nick, 21, was finishing his senior year at Purdue University. When lockdowns began in March, Nick was studying abroad in Germany and the family had to figure out how to get him home amid changing travel restrictions. Chris moved out of his dorm room at school, leaving everything behind. Once settled at home, the whole family needed to find space to work and study remotely. Nick was fortunate to be able to continue his international studies online, but that meant he was up late at night working on “German time.”

While isolation from neighbors and friends was difficult for Marie and John, they found the unexpected time they had to share with Chris and Nick a positive result of life during a pandemic. Family dinners and long in-depth conversations without the distractions of sports, activities and commutes meant they learned about one another in a way that hadn’t been possible when the family was busy running from one activity to another during the boys’ high school years. Marie reflects that she and John aren’t sure how they maintained that pace for so many years; life seems simpler these days.

The time they would have spent commuting in the morning is spent exercising, meditating and praying. Though Marie says she struggles with the uncertainty around Coronavirus, finding more time to be prayerful has been a source of strength. She and John plan to prepare during Lent for the upcoming Easter season by taking advantage of at least one of the online Lenten programs found on the parish website.

The Howard and Cindrich Family

For the Howard and Cindrich family, the isolation caused by the Coronavirus has challenged them in many ways. Joe and Georgann care for her parents, George and Dorothy, who are in their 90’s. Their daughter, Sarah, 27, also lives at home with them.

When Covid-19 closures began, Hannah, 24, returned home from her practicum at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, delaying her graduation and internships. Sarah’s job with Aramark at Exton Elementary closed in March, leading to the loss of her job and her routine. This was made more difficult by the additional loss of time with Special Olympics friends and Best Buddies activities.

Georgann and Joe faced additional struggles with medical issues throughout the year. When Dorothy needed to be hospitalized multiple times, the family was unable to visit her as she healed. In April, Joe’s mother died while hospitalized, and only his sister was able to be present. Compounding the grief was the inability to hold a funeral service due to the pandemic. Late in the year, the whole family tested positive for Covid-19 with the exception of Sarah. She was able to avoid exposure by quarantining away from the family; fortunately, everyone recovered with no lasting effects.

Georgann said, “Our Saint Elizabeth Parish family has been a source of comfort and support for all of us during this challenging year. Father Mullin was able to visit my mom during her hospital stay and update us while we were physically isolated from her.”  Daily prayer and healthy habits have helped keep Georgann ready to face the challenges of life during Coronavirus.

These stories are only two glimpses of the many ways the families of Saint Elizabeth Parish have confronted the changes Covid-19 has brought into our lives this year. May all of our families continue to find strength in their faith and may we continue to support each other in prayer throughout these pandemic times.

 - Elizabeth Kazanjian

Saint Elizabeth parishioners share how their faith has evolved since the pandemic hit last Lent

 

Lent 2020 seems like a lifetime ago. Since then, the world has experienced the frightening twists of COVID-19, whether from illness, political unrest, depression, financial instability, or loss – loss of a loved one, job, or once-in-a-lifetime experience.

So – where has God been in all of this?

It’s a question as old as time – Jesus, after all, cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” So, don’t feel guilty if you have had moments of doubt.

The spiritual poem, Footprints, which mysteriously has no author, offers a comforting explanation from the Lord, “My precious child, I love you and would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints in the sand, it was then that I carried you.” As we prepare for Easter, remember that He loves us and is there for us always, even in a pandemic.

Four parishioners, each at a different stage in their lives, recently took the time to share their personal journeys of faith during the last year.

 

Monica Dougherty – “I have built a more personal relationship with Jesus.”

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Monica Dougherty and her husband Terry have been parishioners since Saint Elizabeth Church was founded. Their children went through Saint Elizabeth Parish School and they have participated in various ministries over the years. Being isolated during the COVID lockdowns has been a real challenge for this active family.

“Since the start of the pandemic, my faith has remained steady but the way I practice my faith has greatly changed. I have spent much more time this year in personal prayer and reflection which has helped alleviate some of the stress. I have started reading a daily reflection book which has helped guide and inspire my faith; in fact, I feel like my relationship with Jesus has become more personal, ” explained Monica. 

The Dougherty family participates in Mass online but Monica longs for the personal connections. “I really miss being around people who share my heart and my beliefs,” she added. “I look forward to being able to safely return to Mass, when I’ll be, once again, singing with joy.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marie Laboranti – “I found myself clinging to my faith and yearning for God.”

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Marie Laboranti is a mother and grandmother. She moved to the area five years ago after her husband died, to be closer to her family.

“It took me some time to adjust to the reality of COVID,” Marie noted. “I felt torn between listening to my doctor’s advice to stay home and, on the other hand, losing the camaraderie of friends.” 

Fortunately, Marie was lifted by Saint Elizabeth’s various online services, and many friends and parishioners who checked in on her regularly. “Instead of feeling disconnected, my faith has deepened,” said Marie. “I was suddenly looking for FaceBook posts from our parish and able to focus faithfully and more frequently to live streaming Mass – with the option of re-listening to homilies when needed.”

Instead of feeling less faith-filled, Marie felt more. “My faith has always been my strength and joy, and I find myself clinging to it even more. I yearn now more than ever to feel God’s closeness. Without Him, I don’t believe we would be at peace during these difficult times.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Melinda Arcara – “I know God is always with us, inside the church or out.”

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Jeff and Melinda Arcara have been active members of Saint Elizabeth Parish for years. Like most of us, the Arcara family experienced deep sadness from the COVID-19 lockdowns – especially being separated from the parish during Lent last year. “It was the first time in 17 years that we did not spend Easter at my Mother's house,” said Melinda. “Watching Mass on an iPad was not how I wanted to spend that holiest of weeks. We felt an emptiness and missed the feeling of love and community when everyone prays The Lord’s Prayer together.”

On Mother’s Day, while feeling low and missing her 90-year-old mother, Melinda had an epiphany. “We went out for a walk as a family. My son led the way, my daughter followed, then Jeff. I trailed, quietly thanking God for the three blessings walking in front of me, and my heart filled. It reminded me that God is always with us – in church or out – even in the woods behind my house.”

Since those early days of the pandemic, the family has started attending Mass again in person. Melinda said, “I am thankful for the safe environment that has been created. I have never felt that attending Mass put my family at risk. The pews are spaced, and parishioners take caution to social distance. I'm glad to be back; Mass on TV is just not the same.”

“When we returned to the church, I realized how much I missed being around faith-filled people,” Melinda added. “In the midst of COVID and the unrest all over the news, church is a source of comfort, even hope. At Mass we can release feelings of fear and anger and leave them in God's hands.”

 

 

 

 

 

Lindsay Jones – “I learned that when I can’t receive Holy Communion, I can still be connected to God.”

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Bishop Shanahan Freshman Lindsay Jones graduated from Saint Elizabeth Parish School during the height of the pandemic. Lindsay is the youngest of five brothers and sisters and her parents are active parishioners.

Like her other teenage classmates, Lindsay struggled with missing out on many traditional experiences including spring sports season and final goodbye celebrations with friends who were about to set off for high school, to name just a few.

“It was a difficult time, and I felt sad with each event lost, but eventually I realized that I had my health and my family. I started praying for at-risk people like my grandmother and put my trust in God,” said Lindsay. “The pandemic taught me to trust God more completely.”

Young people have been uniquely impacted by the lock-downs that started last Lent – the tangible experience of going to Mass has proven to be particularly important to the spiritual development of adolescents.

Lindsay said, “From a young age, I began to attend Mass with my family. The Eucharist helps me on my faith journey so it was an adjustment when we couldn’t go to church anymore. It took some time to get used to Livestream Mass. However, as the weeks went by I got better at participating in a ‘broadcast’ celebration, it became easier to feel His grace and re-connect with God.”

She continued, “I realized that we can deepen our relationship with Him even when we can’t be physically at Mass, if we listen intently, pray and focus on the Word. Now that I am finally back to in person, I have a greater appreciation of Mass and receiving the Eucharist.”

As we prepare to celebrate Jesus’ sacrifice and love for us at Easter, consider the twists and turns of Monica, Maria, Melinda, and Lindsay’s faith journeys. And, when you have a moment of doubt, remember this: “it was then that I carried you.”

 

 

- Lisa Barbadora

Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Capital Campaign is in full swing!

The last few months have been extraordinary in many ways for our parish, including steady progress in the twenty-fifth anniversary capital campaign. Thanks to the efforts of nearly 40 dedicated and industrious volunteers, there have been some great developments!

First, the significant step of determining a theme and logo that would best express the significance of the campaign was completed:

Moving Forward in Faith – Extending God’s Light

Indeed, in its first twenty years, Saint Elizabeth Church has built a foundation of Catholic stewardship that is grounded in faith with a commitment to live as good stewards, caring for the people entrusted to us. As we look ahead to the milestone of our twenty-fifth anniversary and what the next 25 years hold in store for our parish, we are now asked to move forward. This campaign will allow us to sustain and grow our ministries, responsibly maintain our campus, and secure our finances for the years ahead. Our participation in this campaign, and in the good works of our parish, enable us to extend God’s light in our world. The campaign team is thankful to continue the legacy of dedicated volunteers who founded and grew this faith community to what it is today and have faith in the direction and impact the parish will have in the years to come.

Second, as a part of the campaign kick-off, the team and Father Mullin had hoped to invite parishioners to in-person gatherings. As health conditions changed however, plans creatively shifted and virtual receptions on Zoom were developed. The initial Zoom receptions have been a great experience for all involved and while it has looked a lot different than originally anticipated, it has allowed for intimate conversations and fellowship among parishioners. Father Mullin also shared his thoughts about the campaign and thanked all who participated through a video recording which resonated with many of the attendees. At each reception parishioners have offered their thoughts on the significance of the parish in their lives while asking questions about the campaign. The combination of reflections and inquiries allowed everyone to enjoy a chance to socialize and reconnect during an otherwise isolating time.

There has been tremendous momentum growing early in this campaign, and as of this writing, generous parishioners have already pledged over $2.5 Million!

Throughout the spring, parishioners will continue to have the opportunity to learn about the campaign’s goals and funding priorities, while also being asked to make their own discernment of a pledge.

For more details, continue to watch the parish bulletin or check our website for the latest details.

  • Kathy Caliendo & Lindsey Ranstrom

On behalf of the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary

Capital Campaign Committee  

This July, Saint Elizabeth parish welcomed Father Kevin Okafor as our new parochial vicar. While his accent may reveal that he hails from somewhere outside the U.S., other characteristics are not as obvious. We wanted to get to know more about this music lover and a World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) fan, so we took five minutes to learn more.

What are you reading right now? Things Fall Apart, a 1958 novel by Chinua Achebe that concerns traditional Igbo life during the advent of missionaries and colonial government in my homeland of Nigeria. The main character cannot accept the new order, even though the old has already collapsed.

What is one of your best memories from childhood? The day I was accepted in our diocesan junior high school and began my journey to the priesthood.

           

Name three things on your bucket list: Go to WrestleMania, travel to Africa, and learn to speak Spanish fluently.

What was the first concert you attended? In the sixth grade, I attended a concert organized by the music department at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria. My love for music came much earlier from my mom, who still sings at liturgical events and at cultural events in my hometown.

If you could pick up a new skill in an instant what would it be? Playing the violin.

Who is someone you really admire? John Cena, a wrestler and WWE champion.

How would your friends describe you? Kindhearted, serious, and smart.

What is the last thing you do at night? Listen to music until sleep comes (which does not take long!).

-Amy Giampietro

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