Catholic Schools and the value of spiritual mentors

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January 31 to February 6 is Catholic Schools week. This week is a time to celebrate the great legacy of Catholic Education as well as honor the many sacrifices the people of God offer to make our schools possible. We have a proud legacy of Catholic education in Norfolk that will continue to bless future generations. Thank you for all you do to advance this mission.

I have benefitted greatly from Catholic schools, having attended one from first grade all through seminary, and can personally attest to the power of receiving a total education – spiritual, human, and academic.

However, Catholic education is not magical. It’s primary purpose is to help make disciples of Jesus Christ; people who don’t just know about Him but have come to know Him. Young people will glean this not from studying religion or taking tests about the 10 Commandments. Rather, they will look to adults – parents, teachers, administrator, and pastors – to show them the look and feel of a disciple of Jesus.

At the heart of mature discipleship is the ability to set aside ones needs and seek the good of another. If Christian adults truly desire the best fruit of Catholic education for their children they will always be pointing them to the next step in their relationship with Jesus. It’s simply not enough to go to school in a building with crucifixes in the classrooms and Mass with classmates once a week (and consider this to suffice for Sunday worship). That’s not discipleship.

Young people need adults to help them to listen to the voice of God and discern His will. In lieu of this we run the risk of simply providing mountaintop experiences, exciting in the moment, but lacking a pathway to something real and enduring. So what do adults need to do? They need to develop a habit of personal prayer. “An approach to Christian faith and prayer which seek to manufacture ‘spiritual highs’ at all times rather than developing the daily discipline of prayer is more about feeding addiction than honest Christian spirituality.” (Fr. Michael Cummins)

Why say all this? Because our parish invests a very substantial amount of resources in our Catholic school; about 75% of our total budget. With that kind of outlay we had better be making disciples. But the statistics show that, most of the time, we are not. I know this is hard to hear but it’s true. A 2008 Pew Survey showed that 80% of young people stop attending Mass by their early twenties. This is true regardless of which school they attend. If this doesn’t sound an alarm what will? The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way.

The popular author and speaker Matthew Kelly says that the most important thing people want to know is if they can hear God speak to them. Teach them this and you won’t have enough room in your church, in your school. During this Catholic Schools Week I’m inviting adults to more satisfying way of life. Let us help you hear the voice of Jesus. He has something to say to you. Fr. Niggemeyer and I, along with many others, can help you learn how to encounter Him. Your children want to learn this, from you, their parents. Be not afraid! God will give you everything you need and you’ll be so satisfied by what you find.


“If Christianity, as so often and so rightly has been said, is not primarily a doctrine but a person, Jesus Christ, it follows that the proclamation of this person and of one’s relationship with him is the most important thing, the beginning of all true evangelization and the very condition for making such a thing possible. To reverse this order and put the doctrines and obligations of the Gospel before the discovery of Jesus would be like putting the carriages in front of the railway engine that is supposed to pull them. The person of Jesus opens the highway of the heart for the acceptance of everything else. Anyone who has once known the living Jesus has no further need to be goaded along; we ourselves burn with desire to know his thought, his will, his word. It is not on the authority of the Church that we accept Jesus, but on the authority of Jesus that we accept and love the Church. So the first thing the Church has to do is not present herself to the world, but present Jesus.”

~ Father Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap. (preacher to the papal household). 


Getting Personal

by Sheryl Cahoy,  Sacred Heart Parish Stewardship Coordinator.


Have you ever just sat back and thought of all the people that you know and their personal story?  Do you ever consider that the people with whom you spend time have a deep personal story? How many times have you shared your personal story with someone else, including Christ’s part of the story?

Recently, I had the opportunity to be with someone when they shared their personal story that has brought them to a beautiful time of conversion. It was a humbling experience to  walk with them, knowing how troubling and challenging it was, and to see the transformation taking place in their life. It is so powerful to see them realize that what they are experiencing is a gift from Christ and then be able to give Him glory for it.  

That experience, along with our Alive in Christ discussions, has made me more “aware” of the myriad combinations of our stories and how they affect with whom and how we interact in our community.  But it has also given me a different perspective in each conversation that I have been having lately.  Many times we are completely unaware of how Christ has been working in and through someone that we think we know fairly well.  

One of the greatest benefits of these Family Discussions is the opportunity it gives us to really get to know one another.  But it takes effort on our part and won’t just happen unless we take advantage of the opportunity.  We are each called to be Jesus’ disciple through our Baptism.  What exactly does that mean?  It means that we are called to walk with one another and share ourselves, our stories with them so that they can encounter Christ’s love for them.  The next time you meet someone new in our parish, I encourage you to seize the moment and get to know them.  Ask them to share their “story”, then share yours.  You never know what they need to hear from God, THROUGH YOU.  Who are you walking with today?

Alive in Christ is…ALIVE!

Great things happen when people get together for the right reason. Such is the case with the first ALIVE IN CHRIST parish family discussions. So far we have had an enthusiastic response to the invitation to come be part of conversations that will help shape the focus and fabric of Sacred Heart Parish.


The goal of ALIVE IN CHRIST is to discover new ways to live and grow as a parish. The answers will only come from the people of God. Our first round of discussion centers around what we do well as a church. The word “ALIVE” has been used quite a bit, along with many other powerful adjectives. It’s apparent that people are find a way to know and love Jesus here at Sacred Heart.


Round 1 discussions continue this coming weekend (change from previous schedule).

Click here for the updated schedule and locations. Come to any session you can!



Want to belong to a parish that is equipped to help you grow in relationship with Christ? Sacred Heart wants to be that parish and so we’re launching ALIVE IN CHRIST.

What is Alive in Christ?
Alive in Christ is a series of parish family discussions.
When to these discussion begin?
Discussion 1 sessions – What do we do well? – begin this week on Monday, January 25, Tuesday, January 26. Discussion 1 continues on Sunday, February 7, and Monday, February 8. Here are the times and locations.
What does Sacred Heart Parish desire to gain from these discussions?
Alive in Christ will help our parish family focus on our Spiritual Mission and build a roadmap for how we desire to LIVE and grow in the life of Jesus at Sacred Heart Parish.
What will be the eventual outcome of Alive In Christ?
A better understanding of how we can more effectively meet the spiritual needs of current and future parishioners. Input from the people will identity what we need to be doing for our parish to grow in vibrancy and number.
How’s this going to happen?
From January to April parishioners will be given the opportunity to answer questions and build a vision
  • Discussion 1 – Understanding the Mission Statement – What do we do well?
  • Discussion 2 – Setbacks Stall Us – What are things we are missing or could do better?
  • Discussion 3 – Develop/Set Unified Goals – Encourage and Support One Another
  • Discussion 4 – Develop the Roadmap – Put the Plan into Action
Is this a big deal?
A very big deal. The Parish Pastoral Council and Finance Committee designated Parish Ingite the Faith funds for this purpose. Our robust participation will make this effort to bear fruit. Do you want your parish to grow? If so, we need you to be a part of Alive in Christ.


Our guest post today is from Sheryl Cahoy, our parish Stewardship Coordinator.  If you would like to share your witness in writing or video, please contact Sheryl at the parish office or

PRC!  (keep reading to learn what it stands for)

Ok, I have to admit that I didn’t come up with this phrase, I’m borrowing it from a friend.  So I’m giving credit where credit is due and a thank you to my new friend for his conviction and this inspiration.

I have to start out by telling you that I was raised Catholic by what I would call wonderful parents.  My mom, a very devout Catholic woman, and my Dad, a great Catholic Father.  If you have ever heard me talk before, you know that I was given a very strong background and love for God and my faith and over my lifetime it has been the rock that I have needed.    I love being Catholic, I love God, I have been fairly active in our parish my entire adult life, but I am still growing in my Faith every day.  I can’t imagine anything different.

However, just the other day I was talking to a new friend that has recently joined the Catholic Church.  As he introduced himself to a group we were with, he pumped his fist and said “P-R-C man”!  I was trying to recall what sports team that belonged to.  (Side bar, I do not follow much professional sports!), but thankfully he quickly clarified it for us with “Proud Roman Catholic”!

I was awestruck.  How many times in my 40 some years of being Catholic, have I introduced myself that way?   Almost never…..well unless you count my Twitter profile (that I just updated), Never.   Now granted, all of us in that group were Catholic, but his excitement to be there and to be able to say that gave me great joy,  but also troubled me.  It made me admit that over my lifetime of being Catholic, that I have been a pretty  “timid” Catholic until recently.

Before my work here at the parish I don’t think I had ever been asked to “Evangelize”, nor would I have been ready for it.  Catholics I knew didn’t do that.  That word was reserved in my mind for St. Paul or Billy Graham and Joel Osteen!  But recently, I have been afforded some wonderful graces from God and been able to study and better understand Jesus’ Great Commission to us – Go and make Disciples. To realize that Our Catholic Faith is completely based on, and only exists because of,  Jesus’ chosen Disciples and their willingness to stand up and say that very phrase – PRC!  

Through my work,  I have had the gift of being able to participate in some wonderful opportunities to see how Evangelization is being carried out in our Catholic Faith and a whole new world has opened up to me.  Some of you may have followed my posts on this blog while I was at the FOCUS SLS conference.  One of the graces I took away from the conference was a profound respect for these young people that know Jesus and want to share Him.  

But the greatest grace that I received is knowing that no matter whether I continue to work for our parish or am called to something different,  that I have been forever changed with a fire to share Jesus with others.   It became crystal clear to me that the only way we can truly evangelize,  is when our heart is so full of God’s love that it spills out and we feel a burning need to give it away.   When we want the world to know what we feel inside and are so grateful to the Divine Creator for loving us unconditionally and being patient enough until we can see it, that we can’t keep it to ourselves.

So let me just say I have so much respect, gratitude, and thankfulness for those that are seeking to know Jesus better.  Men and women who as adults are opening their heart to let the Holy Spirit work in them and through them.  To those that have heard God call to them and are now  journeying through our RCIA program!  And so many that are filled up and able to share that phrase – PRC.   Join me in praying for them, and may God’s Blessings and grace be visible to you and fill you up to overflowing.

With Love,  Sheryl Cahoy

PRC – Proud Roman Catholic

Parish Mission 2016 – Monday night


Few people realize what goes into making things look and sound good at a performance or presentation. Usually there are a few people in the back of a room fiddling, it seems, with a bunch of knobs. What they are actually doing is making sure the audience has what it needs to fully receive what is being offered. After all, if we can’t take away a message what’s the point?

Monday night Fr. Stan talked about letting Jesus take control. He quoted St. Padre Pip who has an amazing way of describing the power of letting ourself go in God’s mercy. In the “background” of our life there is some managing going on. God, who see what we need more than we do, is making constant adjustments. He’s sending his life to us incessantly so that we can “see” him and “hear” his voice. All of us are made with the the ability to see and hear the Father’s voice. It’s just a matter of turning his way.

We invite you to join us tonight and tomorrow night so that you can see and hear Jesus. As we close Wednesday night, Fr. Stan is going to help us encounter the Lord in His True Presence in the Eucharist.

See you soon!