Friday, December 30, 2016

Immense Gratitude for . . .

Friday morning greetings.

Did you happen to catch Pope Francis' remarks about the so-called "reform of the reform?"

This, my final day of work here at WLP for 2016, is a day of immense gratitude . . .

. . . for the WLP team members who work tirelessly to fulfill our mission to serve and inspire the singing, praying, initiating church

. . . for the managers here, five extraordinary women whose gifts and talents take my breath away every day

. . . for a work environment that is clean and environmentally friendly

. . . for windows in my office

. . . for the gift of music

. . . for our new team members who joined us in 2016

. . . for those who left our team in 2016 to pursue other life dreams

. . . for a caring family who owns our company

. . . for the opportunity to write this blog . . .

Happy New Year to all!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Chicago: "Keep Hope Alive!"

Thursday greetings on a cold, but sunny, day here in Chicago.

The New York Times printed a story today about Chicago's rise in murders and violence.

That article mentions U.S. House Representative Danny Davis, my own congressman; Mr. Davis represents the district in which I live.

Representative Danny K. Davis, a Democrat whose district includes some of Chicago's most dangerous neighborhoods, said that he believed poverty was fueling the city's bloodshed, and that Chicago needed to make investments 'to revamp whole communities.'

The article goes on. Notice what Mr. Davis says about hope.

"People struggle, and on top of that, in many instances, people have lost hope in their government," Mr. Davis said. "They've lost hope that something is going to change for them. And if we can't keep hope alive, then you don't have to wonder whether things are going to get better or get worse: They'll get worse."

And I didn't realize the following about Mr. Davis and his family.

Last month, Mr. Davis's 15-year-old grandson, Javon Wilson, was shot dead at a home in his grandfather's congressional district. The Chicago police said a fight that preceded the shooting may have been over a pair of shoes, and two teenagers have been charged in Javon's death."

Perhaps the Chicago initiative to end the murder and the violence should be called "Keep Hope Alive."

Feeling frustrated about all of this. Please keep my city in your prayers.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Faith and Action

Wednesday greetings from the quiet "home office" of WLP and J.S. Paluch here in Franklin Park, IL.

Well, I decided I needed to do something concrete yesterday after writing my post here. So, I wrote a letter to Chicago's Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Wanted to share it with you. I hope to receive an answer from His Honor and, if I do, I'll share that here as well. I am learning, even at 58, that in order to be a person of faith, I also need to be a person of action. Here you go:


December 27, 2016
Jerry Galipeau
1038 W Monroe Street
Unit 13D
Chicago, IL 60607
Mayor Rahm Emanuel
121 N LaSalle Street
Chicago City Hall 4th Floor
Chicago, IL 60602

Dear Mayor Emanuel,

I wanted to share a blog post I wrote this morning. I am a Roman Catholic blogger and I write a daily entry on the intersection of faith and life. The blog is

Here is this morning’s entry:

Tuesday greetings to all. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas.

I went to the 8:00 A.M. Mass at my parish, Old Saint Patrick's. There was a small choir, a string quartet and woodwinds. It was lovely. A few very strong male voices around me in the pews added to the wonder of the music.

Fr. Ed Foley preached a moving homily centered on the reality that we cannot celebrate Christmas without knowing the whole story; that, in a sense, we celebrate incarnation in the shadow of the cross.

A few weeks ago, I attended a Christmas party and struck up a conversation with a man I had never met. We got on the topic of politics and eventually started talking about what has been going on here in the city of Chicago this year, specifically the spiraling murder rate. We talked about the fact that when there is a terrorist attack, like the one that occurred in Berlin, where 12 people lost their lives and 48 people were injured, it becomes an international news story that garners the attention of the world. New methods of securing the safety of people are pondered and implemented. But we wondered why the killing here in Chicago has not resulted in any kind of concerted effort by the mayor, city leaders, religious leaders, corporate leaders, the great thinkers in our many colleges and universities to address this spiral of violence and death.

Here is a link to the article in today's on-line version of Time magazine. In short, the article reports that over the Christmas weekend, 53 people were shot in the city of Chicago and of those 53, 11 were killed. Where is the international outrage? Why isn't this the lead story in every on-line news agency, print news publications, international television news stations? I would surmise that one of the reasons is a racial one; most of these killings are occurring in poor neighborhoods on Chicago's south and west sides, where the urban poor, mostly black, reside.

When I was listening to Ed Foley preach on Christmas morning, about the incarnation and the shadow of the cross, I couldn't help but think that I live in a city where the cross casts an enormous shadow, certainly across the lives of my brother and sister Chicagoans who suffer violence and death in their families every single day. But that shadow is cast across City Hall as well and across the hearts of those who just don't care enough to do anything.

As you can tell, I am frustrated. After having spent five weeks on a federal jury, where I listened to former gang members talk about shooting people, I wonder what I need to do to help turn our city around. I'm trying to figure that out. The shadow of the cross impels me to do so.

Sorry for the "downer" post today. I live in hope, but a hope diminished these days here in Chicago.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

I wanted to share this with you to let you know how frustrated I am with the spiraling level of violence and killing in the city I love. And I want to ask you a question: What can an ordinary Chicago citizen do in the face of this violence? Have you thought of forming a task force, perhaps headed by you and Cardinal Cupich? It just seems that these senseless killings just go on and on with no end in sight. I would volunteer to help in whatever way I can.

I know this must be amazingly frustrating for you as our mayor. I would like to join you and others in a proactive way to find solutions that will address the root causes and help bring an end to the violence.

Yours truly,

Jerry Galipeau
Please, followers of this blog, pray for the City of Chicago in a special way.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Fifty-three People Shot; Eleven Fatally

Tuesday greetings to all. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas.

I went to the 8:00 A.M. Mass at my parish, Old Saint Patrick's. There was a small choir, a string quartet and woodwinds. It was lovely. A few very strong male voices around me in the pews added to the wonder of the music.

Fr. Ed Foley preached a moving homily centered on the reality that we cannot celebrate Christmas without knowing the whole story; that, in a sense, we celebrate incarnation in the shadow of the cross.

A few weeks ago, I attended a Christmas party and struck up a conversation with a man I had never met. We got on the topic of politics and eventually started talking about what has been going on here in the city of Chicago this year, specifically the spiraling murder rate. We talked about the fact that when there is a terrorist attack, like the one that occurred in Berlin, where 12 people lost their lives and 48 people were injured, it becomes an international news story that garners the attention of the world. New methods of securing the safety of people are pondered and implemented. But we wondered why the killing here in Chicago has not resulted in any kind of concerted effort by the mayor, city leaders, religious leaders, corporate leaders, the great thinkers in our many colleges and universities to address this spiral of violence and death.

Here is a link to the article in today's on-line version of Time magazine. In short, the article reports that over the Christmas weekend, 53 people were shot in the city of Chicago and of those 53, 11 were killed. Where is the international outrage? Why isn't this the lead story in every on-line news agency, print news publications, international television news stations? I would surmise that one of the reasons is a racial one; most of these killings are occurring in poor neighborhoods on Chicago's south and west sides, where the urban poor, mostly black, reside.

When I was listening to Ed Foley preach on Christmas morning, about the incarnation and the shadow of the cross, I couldn't help but think that I live in a city where the cross casts an enormous shadow, certainly across the lives of my brother and sister Chicagoans who suffer violence and death in their families every single day. But that shadow is cast across City Hall as well and across the hearts of those who just don't care enough to do anything.

As you can tell, I am frustrated. After having spent five weeks on a federal jury, where I listened to former gang members talk about shooting people, I wonder what I need to do to help turn our city around. I'm trying to figure that out. The shadow of the cross impels me to do so.

Sorry for the "downer" post today. I live in hope, but a hope diminished these days here in Chicago.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Christmas Goose

Friday greetings to all.

As has been my custom, my final post before Christmas is the story of the Christmas Goose at Saint Marcelline in Schaumburg, Illinois. I hope you enjoy it (again!).

The Christmas Goose

I served as director of liturgy and music at Saint Marcelline Parish in Schaumburg, Illinois from 1992 to 1999. A few days before Christmas, as I was walking to my car from the church, I heard a strange noise. It sounded like someone was coughing. I looked around and saw nothing but a group of pesky geese on the church grounds. A few hours later, walking back to the church, I heard the sound again. This time there was only one goose and as I drew closer, I could tell that the sound was coming from this goose. The goose was obviously in some kind of struggle. It was trying to flap its wings and it was emitting this kind of coughing sound. I found the maintenance man, Gil, and asked him to come with me to take a look. As we cautiously approached the struggling goose, we looked more carefully and saw that the poor creature had become entangled in fishing line. The line was wrapped around its wings, preventing it from flying. The line was also wrapped tightly around the bird's neck, which was probably the reason why it was emitting this coughing sound. Gil and I decided that we needed to do something for the poor goose. He phoned his daughter-in-law, a veterinarian, who gave us instructions on what we could do to save the poor bird.

We went into the maintenance room and found some wire clippers and a towel. Gil and I very quietly and slowly approached the goose—they are very large that close up!—and we placed the towel over the bird's head and then we began our work. Wearing gloves, we both began to examine the areas where the fishing line was wrapped around the goose's body. We carefully began to snip the line, pulling pieces of the line away from the bird, who remained quite docile the entire time. To be honest, my heart was racing at this point. When we finally clipped the line around the bird's neck, we knew we had removed all of the fishing line. We then removed the towel and walked very quickly away from the bird.

The goose just sat there looking at us. It began to cough again and after a few strange noises, it rediscovered its own honk. It just honked and honked away.

Then it began to test its wings, flapping around a bit on the ground. We stood there transfixed by all of this. Then, without a moment's hesitation, the bird began to flap its large wings and lifted itself in the air. Gil and I watched as the bird soared higher and higher and farther and farther away.

Once the goose was out of sight, Gil and I just looked at each other and I noticed a tear in his eye, blurred by the tears in my own eyes.

Those of you who regularly read this blog know that very few things in my life remain unexamined. I am always looking for some deeper meaning in events that occur. When I thought about this encounter with the goose, a comparison came to me instantly. What Gil and I managed to do with that coughing goose was akin to what God has done for us through the incarnation of Jesus, our Messiah. Caught up in sin, we are freed by the mercy of God, who loves us so much that he sent his only Son to be our redeemer. And what does this freedom from sin offer us? The potential to fly free, to soar as God's redeemed people, to be lifted up for a life of service to God's people.

May you and those you love have a very Merry Christmas.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Incarnation: Scratching Our Itches and Blowing Our Noses

Thanks to all for your kind messages and words of comfort and hope following yesterday's post, both here and on Gotta Sing Gotta Pray's Facebook page.

I know that yesterday I said that, because of my experience with my sister in her final days, the hymn O Come, All Ye Faithful always reaches deeply into my heart. This reminded me that unless we do our best to bring our life experiences into the Church's worship, with all of its symbols, that worship can become flat and lifeless.

It makes so much sense to me to have this sentiment at this time of year. There are two operative pieces of theology that have always been rooted at the core of my own belief and my own approach to our life on this earth. The first is summed up in those words in Genesis, "In the divine image, God created them . . . and God looked at everything that had been made and found it very good." This sense of "original grace" has helped me see hope for a world broken too often by sin and division; hope that restorative justice is something that can be real and tangible in our own lives, in our relationships with loved ones, near and far, and in the very way we see the world around us.

The second is contained in what we celebrate as central during these days: the incarnation. God became one of us. Just think about it. Sometimes, like moments when I have an itch that needs to be scratched, or when I have congested sinuses, I think that Jesus had itches that needed to be scratched and sinuses that were congested. I know that these may seem trivial, but they help me put into context the enormity and mystery of the incarnation of the Lord: "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us."

Lately, my feeble brain has been trying to put all of this in the context of cosmology in general. We are but a tiny speck in the enormity of the universe. Someone asked me recently what we would do if we encountered alien life: "Would you baptize them?" I immediately responded, "Perhaps it might be they who want to baptized us." The enormity and possibility is mind boggling. A friend of one of my younger brothers once asked me if I thought that there were other worlds like ours out there and other creatures that God made. He opined, "The way I look at it, it would be like saying that Rembrandt stopped painting, stopped creating, after his first masterpiece. I don't think God stopped with us, his first masterpiece."

As these days unfold and we celebrate the hodie in a few days, let's remember to bring our life experiences into the carols we sing and into the symbols and actions that unfold before us.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Come, Lord Jesus

Wednesday greetings from the Midwest, where it has warmed up considerably. It is in the low 30's.

"Come, Lord Jesus."

Each Advent, my thoughts turn to the late 1990's and early 2000's. My late sister Joanne, who died in 2001 from complications brought on by multiple sclerosis, was in her declining years and her quality of life had become quite diminished.

For those living with terminal illness and for family members who accompany them along this painful road, Advent can be a difficult time, perhaps even more difficult than Christmas. I remember going to Mass each week and singing my "Maranatha's," and my "O Come, O Come Emmanuel's," and listening to the choir singing Paul Manz's "E'en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come." Watching a loved one struggling with the pain of illness as death approaches makes these Advent lyrics all the more poignant. I remember well the last Advent of Joanne's final year with us. I was singing these texts with a mixture of anger and frustration. I wanted the Lord to come for her. I wanted her pain to cease. I wanted the pain of my family members watching her decline to simply stop.

I remember saying to the Lord, "Enough! Just come now, Emmanuel, Lord, Prince of Peace, some now and bring us all peace."

Of course, I knew somewhere deep inside that the Lord would come for Joanne. I was just frustrated that it wasn't according to my schedule.

I had very little time alone with my sister in her final days. We were all keeping vigil and, with a large family, there were always many of us in her room. But one day, while she was still conscious, I had just a little time with her as we waited for a priest to come and bring her communion. I crawled into the bed next to her and asked if she wanted to sing with me. She really had no voice by then, but her eyes widened and she nodded in agreement. So "we" sang Do You Hear What I Hear?. And then we sang O Come, All Ye Faithful. It was just about then that the priest appeared with our mom and dad to bring Joanne communion.

I told them that Joanne and I had been practicing the music for our little communion service. They looked at us as if we were off our rockers.

So, I laid down next to my sister and as the little service began we started to sing the refrain "O come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord." My voice was soft and Joanne moved her lips "singing" each word. Joanne was unable to eat or drink in those last days, so we all shared in her final communion by consuming the Lord by her side.

I still cannot get through that Christmas carol at Mass to this day.

Please know, especially if you are living with a terminal disease or are accompanying a loved one on the final journey, that there are many, like my family and me, who have walked this road. Let us all pray in these final days of Advent that the Lord will come, in whatever way and at whatever time, to bring grace and peace. "O come, let us adore him."

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Fourth Sunday of Advent: Saint Margaret Mary in Winter Park, Florida

Tuesday greetings.

I was in Orlando over the weekend for a family wedding, which was wonderful.

On Sunday morning, some family members and I went to Saint Margaret Mary Parish in Winter Park for the 9:30 A.M. Mass. Since the last time I was there, they have added a narthex with a large baptism font.

It is difficult to describe the interior style of the large church. The narthex felt warm, whereas the interior of the church itself has always left me with a bit of a cold impression.

The exterior of the church is undergoing some work, so the skylight above the cross in the sanctuary is covered with some kind of bluish-green tarp on the roof. This creates quite an odd cascade of color coming down from the skylight, don't you think? This is yet another central Florida church that has video screens installed in the church. Some parishes I have been to in the area really go overboard with the screens, showing live video of what is actually occurring right in front of one's eyes. Here at Saint Margaret Mary, though, the screens were used to show music and some responses. As a visitor, I felt like my needs were well taken care of, since they made sure that all music, whether projected on the screen or from the hymnal, was made clear to me. Congregational singing was quite good. What I appreciated most was the fact that it was not a cantor- nor choir-centric music program. It was the organ that was the foundation for the congregational singing. There simply was no need for anyone to cue us; great job music ministers at Saint Margaret Mary.

The fourth candle for the Advent wreath was carried in the opening procession and placed in its spot in the wreath behind the altar.

I am spending Christmas here in Chicago; looking forward to some time of peace and quiet.

It has been quite refreshing here at the office. Yesterday, in late afternoon, I talked with a few of my colleagues, noting how quiet and calm the place is. Then it dawned on me that for the past five weeks, my entire days have been filled with listening attentively to witness testimony at the trial. Scores of witnesses; words, words, words. It just felt good to have some peace here at the office.

Gotta sing, Gotta pray.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Back "Home"

Monday greetings on this frigid day here in the Midwest.

Well, well, well. I am back at my desk here at the office. The last time I was here was Election Day.

As you know, I was impaneled on a jury for a federal trial here in Chicago that lasted just shy of five weeks. I am so glad that this experience is behind me. My peers elected me foreman of the jury and I was proud to serve my country in this manner. If you are interested, here is a news story about the trial.

Twelve jurors were chosen from among a pool of about 80. I can't really describe what it was like to essentially have my regular life halted for five weeks. I missed the staff here at WLP so much the entire time. I missed the opportunities to celebrate Advent and prepare for Christmas in the usual ways. And I missed too many hours of sleep, haunted by the characters, some of them serial killers, who took the witness stand during the trial. Before this trial, I knew nothing about gangs; I knew nothing about the way the Chicago Police Department kept their files; I had no clue about the ways that poor people can get sucked into drugs and violence; I knew nothing about what it must be like to sit on death row, waiting to be executed.

I gained a tremendous amount of respect and appreciation for those eleven others whose lives were upended during the trial, especially the mothers of young children.

The last five weeks opened my eyes in many ways and for that I am grateful.

Lots of things to do here at the office. Just wanted to let you know that I am "back in the saddle."

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

From "Juror Jerry"

Second Sunday of Advent greetings from the West Loop of Chicago, where it has been steadily snowing for several hours. It's the first snow of the season and it is just beautiful.

The federal trial on which I am a juror will enter its fourth week tomorrow. It has been an intense and fascinating process thus far, but I miss my regular life!

At Mass at Old Saint Patrick's this morning, one of the intercessions was for "judges and juries." Really felt like I needed that this morning.

I hope your Advent is unfolding with peace and beauty.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Checking in After Two Weeks in Court

Sunday evening greetings from my home here in Chicago's West Loop.

Just thought I would check in. Tomorrow, we enter week three of this federal trial on which I am a juror. Possibly two more full weeks ahead for this trial. I feel like I am living in a parallel world. I check work emails, keep up with what is going on there, weigh in when necessary, and offer my opinions on key issues.

I must say that I do miss those with whom I work very much. For just a few weeks over seventeen years, WLP and J.S. Paluch have been my work "home." I miss my "peeps!"

Obviously, I cannot comment on the trial. Life outside of the trial is about as normal as I can make it. Thanksgiving with friends here in Chicago was a delight. Early morning Advent I Mass this morning at Old Saint Pat's was simple and offered me some time to get re-focused on what really matters.

The greatest positive about the past several weeks is that we have been asked by the judge not to look at any news channels, read any newspapers, nor look at any on-line news outlets. So, in this post-election period, I have neither seen nor read anything from the news. Frankly, that's given me a sense of freedom and detachment.

So, that's what is happening. I am totally focused on the trial every day; I feel proud to be a US citizen called to this kind of responsibility.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Off the Blog for a Bit to Focus

Hello everyone.

The day after the election, I was in El Paso, Texas, and my host from the Diocese drove me along "the wall." I heard stories from pastors about children cowering beneath their desks at school that day, suffering panic attacks in grammar school, wondering if their parents would be deported. Such an "in your face" experience that most Americans will never see or taste so close up.

I returned to Chicago late Friday, and Saturday three of us from WLP reached out to our Afghan refugee family. We took them shopping at a "Super Target." You cannot imagine the looks on their faces when they beheld what you and I see every time we enter a department/grocery store here in the United States. We were insuring that they were outfitted with clothes and outerwear to help them through our harsh Chicago winter.

After the shopping experience, I sat in a Walgreen's parking lot and spoke to some of my family members about what our experience was like. And, to be honest with you, I wept. I wept for this family who, even though they had run out of food stamps with an inability to buy meat in the last twelve days, fed us with a beautiful hospitable lunch with chicken and rice. My heart was aching for them and I ached for a future of what may become a walled country here in too many ways. I choose to focus my life on being Christ for others. Simple.

Life changed for me pretty drastically yesterday, which means I will be out of the blogging world for a while. Summoned to federal jury duty, I was chosen for a jury yesterday. The trial will last at least four weeks. So I have decided to focus my attention on this important civic duty and not post here. I hope you understand.

In the meantime, gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Building for the Future

It's Election Day. I voted early a few weeks ago.

I was very glad to hear one particular announcement at my parish, Old Saint Patrick's here in Chicago, this past weekend.

We were invited to stop by the church any time on Wednesday, post-election day, to spend time in prayer for peace, healing, and unity. Here's the link.

As for me, I will be traveling to El Paso, Texas early tomorrow morning.

I will be presenting an RCIA workshop to the lay ministers in the diocese tomorrow night, and a full morning on the RCIA for the clergy on Thursday. It's a great diocese; I have enjoyed speaking there in the past and am looking forward to my time there over the next few days.

My focus today, tomorrow, and Thursday will be on participating in whatever way I can in the further building of God's kingdom. And it was quite relieving to write that last sentence; helps put things into perspective.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Saints On the Ceiling

Monday greetings from Chicago. It has been unseasonably warm and sunny here. I'll take it!

I read an article in the National Catholic Reporter this morning about "our hungry world needing saints." I was so pleased to see, as part of that article, a photo of the ceiling of the baptistery of the cathedral (duomo) in Padua, Italy.

I have been in this baptistery twice, once about twenty years ago and again about five years ago. My most recent visit was a bit disappointing because the entire glorious ceiling was covered with scaffolding and was being restored. Today's NCR photo showed what looks like the restored ceiling and it is really wonderful:

This is only a small portion of the ceiling. Here is a photo showing it in its entirety.

Here's the exterior.

From the moment I first walked into this baptistery twenty years ago and looked up at this ceiling, I couldn't help but begin singing the litany of the saints. In this holy space, where that litany has been sung over and over again at baptisms for centuries, is depicted those saints hovering over the one to be baptized. It struck me that our Christian pilgrimage begins in the waters of baptism and concludes when, hopefully, our faces appear on that ceiling, as part of the heavenly communion of saints.

As this month of remembrance continues to unfold, I am reminded of all those who have lived lives that have influenced me; those real saints in my own life.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Nostalgic On this Feast Day

Friday greetings. Today is one of those rare and wonderful bright and sunny Autumn days here in the Midwest.

Today is the feast day of Saint Charles Borromeo, the patron of my home parish in Woburn, Massachusetts. Feeling a bit nostalgic today.

It was two years ago today on this feast that I was privileged to be in Rome, traveling with my parents. My friend, Monsignor Larry Spiteri, arranged to celebrate Mass in honor of my parents' 60th wedding anniversary. This was one of those moments that makes for a lasting memory. Here we are at the altar of Saint Thomas in Saint Peter's Basilica, where we celebrated Mass early that morning.

When we arrived at Saint Peter's that morning, my parents had no idea that we would then be taken on a private tour of the basilica and the Vatican Museum. They were in a state of awe inside Saint Peter's; there were very few other people inside at the time. This is one of my favorite photos, taken in front of the main altar; definitely a "deer in the headlights" moment!

I am grateful to have been "schooled" in so many ways by these two characters, "schooled" at Saint Charles in Woburn, and "schooled" by the opportunities that travel has afforded me. 

I hope that your weekend is one that is filled with grace and peace.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

A Case of Mistaken Identity

Thursday greetings on this historic sports day in this historic sports town.

For the past several months, I have been mistaken for Chicago Cubs' (World Series Winners) manager Joe Maddon. In restaurants and bars and on the streets, people have stopped me and thought I was actually Joe Maddon. Just on Friday an elderly lady asked me for my autograph on her hand!

These are the photos that have hung outside of my office here for the past several weeks. I'll let you be the judge.

It's certainly a happy day here in Chicago.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Milwaukee Mission and Someone Named Ralph

Wednesday greetings from Chicago. To say that this is an anxious and excited city would be an understatement, with our Chicago Cubs playing in the seventh game of the World Series tonight.

I spent the last four days with the staff and parishioners of Saint John the Evangelist Cathedral in Milwaukee, leading their parish mission.

It was such an honor and blessing to speak in such a historic and storied space.

The mission sessions were held twice reach day on Monday and Tuesday. 

I was so impressed with the people at the Cathedral parish. These are people who have been formed in the Church's liturgy so well. Their comments at the sessions and in the periods of discussion revealed such deep liturgical spirituality and formation and a sincere willingness to learn and absorb so much more.

Here's a photo I took of those gathered at one of the sessions. The cathedral provided a meal for each session; the folks were fed both physically and (hopefully) spiritually!

One of the more touching moments occurred last night. The cathedral is a downtown parish and the outreach to the hungry and the homeless is so obvious. Being a downtown parish means that the homeless and those with mental challenges often wander in and out. Last night Ralph wandered in and had supper with us. Ralph has had quite a history at the cathedral, replete with outbursts and inappropriate behavior in the past. But last night it was amazing to watch the parishioners as Ralph joined us for dinner and the mission presentation. I was a little alarmed when he arrived because of his sudden and loud outbursts, but when I noticed that the parishioners were not alarmed and treated him as they would treat one another, I immediately calmed down. When I asked questions of the crowd, Ralph raised his hand and answered. His speech was close to non-coherent to me, but I did catch that he was saying that God wants us to be close to him.

One of the final ritual moments of the mission was a ritual of reverence at the altar. I stood at the cantor stand, singing Paul Tate's Take and Eat This Bread, with its lyrics "Come before the table, come with all your heart . . ." as each participant in the mission approached the altar and bowed, or laid their hands on the altar, or revered it with a kiss." Even though it was not the appropriate thing to do, I did raise my phone and took a somewhat blurry photo of that ritual moment.

After everyone had finished showing reverence to the altar, and as I continued to sing, I looked up and noticed that Ralph alone was at the altar, with his hands firmly holding on to its surface. He blessed himself over and over again. When I meet people like Ralph, I often wonder if he would have been one of the people that Christ chose to be counted among the twelve apostles.

I am so grateful for the time spent in Milwaukee. I needed some spiritual time away and spending so much of it in one of the most beautiful churches in North America fed my spirit. The parishioners touched my heart deeply with their generosity of spirit, honesty, and hospitality.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Seeing in a New Way

Friday greetings.

As I prepare to present the parish mission at St. John's Cathedral in Milwaukee this weekend, I have been thinking more and more about baptism and all the things that have happened this week.

Several years ago, while I was still a parishioner at Saint James Parish here in Chicago and part of the RCIA team, I spoke with one of the people that was to be baptized at the Easter Vigil. It was Holy Saturday morning and we had just finished the preparation rites. I looked into the eyes of Brendan, a twenty-something brilliant engineering student, and said, "You know, Brendan, tomorrow morning when you wake up and you open your eyes, the world is going to look a lot different." With a kind of child-like innocence, he looked at me and said, "Really? Why?"

And I responded, "Because tonight, at the moment of your baptism, we are all going to sing an acclamation. The words are 'You have put on Christ, in him you have been baptized.' And from that moment on, because you have put on Christ, you will see the world with the eyes of Christ. And when you do that you will begin noticing and seeing things you have never noticed or seen before. Things will look different to you and will call forth a different kind of response from your mind and heart."

Brendan kind of looked at me quizzically.

A few weeks later, he caught me after Mass and said, "Jerry, remember that thing you told me about a few weeks ago? The thing about seeing the world differently?" "Yes," I said. "Well," Brendan went on, "I think it's slowly starting to happen." We both just smiled.

With all that has gone on this week, from prisons to refugees, I have this sense that it's happening all over again for me, too.

Please pray for the parishioners of the Cathedral in Milwaukee, that this parish mission will help them see in a new way as well.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

We Were Sitting with the Realities of this Harsh World, Staring Us Right in the Face

Thursday greetings.

Last evening, three of us from WLP, Michele, Jennifer and I, went to visit our refugee family, who several weeks ago were settled in an apartment here in Chicago.

When we first met this family of three, they had just arrived in the United States and they radiated such joy and happiness. None of us knew what they had lived through before fleeing Afghanistan, nor what their lives had been like in India the past four years as they awaited their eventual approval to become refugees in the United States.

Last night Michele brought a long woolen cape for the mom, as well as two pairs of gloves and a scarf. Despite the fact that it was in the 40's here and raining, these folks were very lightly clad and wore open-toed shoes and sandals. You would not have believed the look of sheer delight on both the mom's and dad's faces when they saw the coat. Michele helped her put the cape on and it fit perfectly. It was as if we had given her the world.

The dad told us that he had been to the hospital that day and received four vaccinations. Each member of the family will need at least ten shots. Whatever shots he received that day caused him to become extremely cold, so he was wrapped up in a blanket the entire time we were there. And I noticed it was one of the blankets that WLP had provided for the family.

He then began to talk with us about how different the United States is. He told us that where they lived in India shopkeepers, drivers, attendants at the zoo all charged them twice what they charged the Indians. They had lived, for four years, in a small room, with a curtain dividing the room in half. Their current apartment, they told us, is just way too big for them; they are just not used to such large living quarters. He talked about meeting a local pastor, "Pastor Bob," in a store just by chance. Pastor Bob's son was holding an iron that they were about to purchase and our dad asked where he might find one to buy. Pastor Bob asked if he needed an iron and paid for an iron for our dad. They have since become connected and our family is apparently connected to this Christian community now.

Once he had returned from the hospital that afternoon, he told us, he and his wife had gotten into an argument. She was complaining that she had no coat and it was so cold outside. He looked right at us and said that he prayed to God for a coat for his wife and that, because of us, God had answered his prayer. I don't know how else to describe what I saw emanating from these peoples' eyes but to say that it is the light of faith, hope, and love.

He told us that he is deathly afraid of drinking the water from the tap here in the United States. They had been spending precious money to purchase bottled water. We explained where the water came from in Chicago (Lake Michigan) and how it gets cleaned and purified and that we all drink it freely and without any concern. He seemed very relieved.

Folks, all of what we experienced last night was about the most basic stuff of life, like clothing, water, bread, meat, shoes, umbrellas, an iron.

When we asked about their daughter, who had decided not to come out of her room at all, a look I can only describe as a distant sadness came over the Dad's face. He told us he couldn't tell us the whole story, but that something had happened with his daughter and the Taliban and that she is affected at least twice a day. She keeps asking to be brought into the city, to see downtown Chicago.

For me, this was so much of what we hear on the news staring us right in the face. These were real flesh and blood people. Michele told them that we were all brothers and sisters. There was such a part of me that felt so helpless.

So, Michele, Jennifer and I decided that we need to meet this morning to talk about next steps. The dad is already talking about taking courses here (he was a physician in Afghanistan) to be able to be certified to do some simple medical or technical procedures like administering electrocardiograms or ultrasounds. We know that they are being helped by at least two other organizations. There is much that we here at WLP cannot do for them, but I am haunted by the timeliness of what Pope Francis said in Saint Peter's Square just yesterday. "Like so many committed Christians who have gone before us, such as Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, we need to find generous and creative ways of meeting their immediate needs."

That's what we are pledging to do here.

The flowers Michele had given this family on the night of their arrival in the United States still stood in the vase. They are now all brown and withered. I refuse to let our welcome wither and fade. So much to do.

When we left them last night we pledged prayers for one another. I looked at dad and mom and all I could say was "God is good." "Yes, yes, God is good," he replied.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Continuing to Shelter the Homeless

Shelter the Homeless.

Following up on yesterday's post, I wanted to share with you another way that another corporal work of mercy is unfolding here at WLP. Over the past several months we have been working with Exodus World Service to help settle a refugee family here in the United States, You can read about our efforts thus far here and here.

Just today, in Saint Peter's Square, Pope Francis focused his remarks on the works of mercy:

"In our own day, the growing influx of refugees fleeing war, famine and dire poverty is a summons to welcome and care for these brothers and sisters. Like so many committed Christians who have gone before us, such as Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, we need to find generous and creative ways of meeting their immediate needs."

The USCCB's web site has a section on the corporal works of mercy. Beneath the work "Shelter the Homeless" is this description.

"There are millions of children and families who are on the move, fleeing from war, illness, hunger and impossible living conditions, and searching for peace and safety. Engage parish groups of children, youth, young adults, and families in doing some research on the causes and challenges that these families face to survive. Contact Catholic Social Services, or diocesan offices of peace and justice for help with your research. Seek ways to provide shelter for the homeless locally, regionally, nationally or internationally."

Tonight after work, three of us from WLP will be visiting the family we have helped resettle here in the Unites States. This photo was taken moments after the family arrived in Chicago several weeks ago.

They have since been settled into an apartment here in Chicago. Tonight, we'll go to see how they are doing and to assess the needs they may have as the weather turns colder.

I was thinking about resettlement a lot lately, trying to figure out what it must be like. The only personal experience I have come up with pales in comparison to what refugee families like this go through.

When I left the seminary in 1984, there was part of me that just wanted to flee Boston. It was a very very difficult time in my life. No one in my family had ever moved any farther away than a few miles. I packed everything I owned in my tiny Toyota Corolla and fled to Orlando. It tore my heart apart to do so, but I knew I had to forge a new life for myself. I will never forget the many people, including some aunts and uncles who had retired to Florida, who provided a new home for me in a strange land. It lessened the pain and anxiety I felt.

I hope that what we have done in the past few months and what we will do tonight will somehow do for this family what so many people did for me to make this stranger feel welcome in a strange land.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Catholic Publishing: Changing Hearts

Tuesday greetings from the home office here in Franklin Park, Illinois.

I just wanted to share a little bit of what happens on the margins (or perhaps not on the margins) in Catholic publishing today. We receive lots of feedback from our customers and from parishes that use our worship resources and pastoral, spiritual, and art books. Some of those comments are complaints, suggestions for improvement, and gladly, more often than not, words of gratitude for what we do to fulfill our mission "to serve and inspire the singing, praying, initiating church."

A few months ago I received a letter. The envelope was stamped "inmate correspondence." It was a hand-written letter, written in pencil, from an inmate in a jail in New York State. It was obviously from a young man and he was writing simply to thank us for the Seasonal Missalette worship resource that his jail uses for worship with the inmates. The letter came directly to me, since I write the reflection on the inside cover for each issue. It warmed my heart to read his words of thanks and his description of how the missalette has helped him become closer to God. I shared the letter with my managers here. I mused that it might be appropriate to send him some spiritual reading from our catalog. I went on the jail's web site and found that inmates can only receive books directly from the publisher of those books. So we sent him three books.

About a week later I received a much longer letter from this young man, which began, "Dear Jerry Galipeau, I'm twenty-one years old, it's been a year since I've seen the outside world . . ." He went on to unfold his life story. I cannot begin to describe the kind of torment this person has lived through since the beginning of his life. I was so deeply saddened by his stories of loss, abuse, and addiction. I shared some of his story with my folks here, one of whom wondered if his jail was providing the assistance with addiction issues that this young man needs. So I wrote to him again, asking if he was receiving the kind of support he needed, and I assured him of my own prayers.

He wrote back to let me know that the jail was providing this support.

In that letter, he shared some thoughts on the books we had sent him. "I read these books every day, especially the Fifteen-Minute Retreats. I've been loving every moment of these prayers and Scriptures. I've been reading from the Book of John. 'The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.' . . . I want to become a politician and try to make a change in life like you did to me. I feel like I can raise my head a little higher just to believe there is someone out there to help me to help me breathe. I thank you Jerry Galipeau for giving me your heart and love to God. 'A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you.' "

Folks, sometimes I wonder, as we often plod through our systems and projects here at WLP and J.S. Paluch, if we are making a difference. I wonder about how our mission is or is not consonant with the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, which Pope Francis has us all to embrace anew. These days, in a tangible way, I feel like somehow, through our outreach to this young man, we are "visiting the imprisoned."

I think this story illustrates, at least for me, the real mission of Catholic publishing. We change hearts.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, October 24, 2016

A City Oozing Cubby Blue

Monday greetings. It is one of those picture perfect days here in Chicago; sunny, crisp, and clear.

This has been quite a weekend here in Chicago. As you know, the Chicago Cubs are heading to the World Series for the first time since the 1940's. The city is absolutely electric. On Saturday afternoon, I decided to travel downtown for early voting. Here is Daley Plaza, with the iconic Picasso sculpture in the background. "Cubby Blue" is everywhere! The city seems to be oozing it.

At Mass yesterday at Old Saint Patrick's, a young couple with their five year-old son got up after communion to talk about the importance of giving to Old Saint Pat's, so that our ministries can continue to flourish. Once again, there was no pressure, just a personal witness to the importance of the parish in this young family's life.

The music was stirring. It is so good to be in a place where the congregation sings so well. You know, there are very few of the old "Glory and Praise" songs from the 70's that touch my heart any more. But this weekend, one that has always done so was sung, The Cry of the Poor. It always brings back memories of the "folk group" that sang once a week at the Masses at the seminary I attended. The descant (which I sang quietly yesterday) is just haunting and beautiful.

Hoping as this week unfolds that yours is a good one. Go Cubs, go!

Gotta sing. Gotta Pray.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Haunted . . .

Friday greetings on a beautiful, crisp Autumn day here in the Midwest.

Quite a whirlwind week for me. I left Chicago and headed to the Archdiocese of Baltimore on Tuesday to be in time for Wednesday's planning meeting for the 2018 national convention of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians. There was lots of energy in the room as we talked about theme (or no theme), possible plenum speakers, breakouts sessions, and prayer experiences. Here's a photo I snapped during the meeting.

Last night, I gave a presentation on cultivating baptismal spirituality at a parish at which I was liturgy and music director from 1992 to 1999, my last full-time parish position. During my time at Saint Marcelline in Schaumburg, Illinois, I helped spearhead a huge renovation project, which included the installation of a new baptismal font. We used the original font in the design. Here are a few photos of that font.

The group that had gathered for my presentation was the "Women at the Well." This is a a group of women at the parish that has been meeting several times a year now for ten years. Their husbands volunteer to prepare and serve the meal, then provide the clean-up afterwards. We had about 40 women in all present. The evening ended with these "women at the well" gathering around the baptism font for a ritual of baptismal remembrance.

It was such a delight to greet old friends. One big surprise for me was the fact that the women with whom I had ministered in the parish (who have now either retired or moved on to other things) were invited. It was an emotional reunion filled with the sharing of stories, sad and happy. Surely a step back in time, but a sheer delight for me. These were my "peeps," the women who showed me what real hospitality could be back in the 1990's. This was my family when I came to Illinois. My love for them was rekindled last night.

Something happened after we concluded the evening while I was on my way out of the building; it has haunted me all night and into today.

One woman, who was a parish leader at the time when I was there, a really wonderful dedicated lay minister, ran after me and asked if she could speak with me privately.

She said something like this. "Jerry, I just wanted to thank you for something you did for my family when you were here that I have never forgotten. You may remember that I was caring for my aging mother when you were here. When she died, you allowed us, even though it was against the parish rules, to have someone speak after Communion at her funeral. It meant so, so much to my family and me. I will never forget your kindness in allowing us to do that. I have often told people over the years of that kindness you extended." And then she was choked with emotion, as was I. "I just need to say say thank you now." I gave her a big hug and then I left to head back into the city to my home.

Why did this exchange haunt me? Frankly, I wondered how many other families who had lost a loved one did we simply say, "No, I am sorry but our parish prohibits anyone from speaking at funerals; please do that at the funeral home."

Was I one of those unbending parish staff members who "stuck to my guns" in almost every case when a family asked for some time to talk about their loved one at a funeral? I was so glad to have had the encounter last night with a grateful parishioner. But I wonder how many other people I personally may have alienated because of an unbending attitude and demeanor?

This is what has haunted me since last night.

Anyone else haunted by this kind of stuff?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, October 17, 2016

My Parish's Annual Appeal

Monday greetings from Chicago, where today's temperature is expected to reach 83 degrees! The leaves are turning to their beautiful autumn colors, but the temperature is telling us it is still summer!

This past weekend, at my parish, Old Saint Patrick's here in Chicago, we had the annual "appeal" by our pastor. I had received a letter from the parish earlier in the week, outlining the various ways parishioners can give to the parish; weekly giving, electronic giving, wills, trusts, etc. In previous parishes where I have ministered, this weekend always meant the handing out of annual giving pledge cards. One parish asked each of us to consider "taking a step" in our giving by increasing that giving one half of one percent, or one percent.

I was seated in the lower hall this past Sunday, and our pastor was preaching at the Mass upstairs in the main church. After the proclamation of the Gospel in the lower hall, a staff member came forward with a large pole and poked the bottom of the projector suspended above the main aisle, turning it on. There was a screen that had been lowered behind the altar. So, through this technology, we in the hall were able to see and hear our pastor's annual appeal. Here's a photo I took.

Fr. Tom preached a wonderful homily and then told us that, despite what the people in the development office might think of what he would say next, he simply thanked us for our generosity in the past. He never once asked for money; he just invited us to keep everything in our parish moving along as we teach, preach, and invite young people into the lived experience of Catholicism in our parish.

I have heard the age-old complaint from Catholics for years: "All they ever do in that parish is ask for money." Here was an example in stark contrast to that. A simple and genuine word of thanks to the parishioners for their generosity.

I liked it. What does your parish's appeal look and sound like?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, October 14, 2016

This Befuddled Believer

Friday greetings on a beautiful Autumn morning here in Chicago.

I have been thinking a lot lately about "big picture" stuff. On Saturday of this past weekend, while attending an Oktoberfest event in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, my friends and I, after grabbing our plates of German sausage and our beer, searched for a place to sit at the long tables beneath the tent. It was a striped white and red tent; here's a photo is took.

There was a tuba band playing, people were dancing, singing, clapping their hands in rhythm, and just having a grand time. I found some chairs right across a table from an older couple; looked like they were in their early seventies. He had retired from the Air Force and they lived in a rural area in central Wisconsin. Since I love meeting new people, I quickly started a conversation with these two folks and, with a great sense of gratitude and relief, engaged in a conversation that had absolutely nothing to do with the current presidential election campaign. We talked about some of our Catholic experiences. We talked about our families. We talked about travels to Germany. We talked about how great the food was at the festival. We talked about how much we loved the music in the tent. We talked about how beautiful the day was. My new friend even shared some jokes with us. It was just a delight.

As I sat there, I realized what a grace that moment was for me. Lately I have been thinking so much about the vastness of the universe. And I think about the seeming insignificance of this planet of ours within the big-ness of it all. And sometimes doubt enters my mind about how God could have created all of this and how God could have created this human species, and how God could have had anything to do with the fact that I came into existence on this tiny planet. I just can't wrap my brain around the cosmos; I know I have to do more reading to help enlighten my mind.

When all of this thought rages in my mind, I am always, always brought back to one thing. And that one thing is Jesus Christ. My belief that this creator God broke into humanity by sending the divine offspring, Jesus Christ, to save us from death, becomes stronger when I have experiences with other human beings, like the experience I had with those two folks in the tent on Saturday. I just had this overwhelming sense that this God of ours was somehow present right there in that tent because this God had taken on our human flesh; it was like a "His eye is on the sparrow" kind of moment. And I cherished the encounter and I thanked God for it and the insight it brought to this sometimes befuddled believer's mind and heart.

I hope that your weekend finds you discovering God's presence in the simple encounters.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Chanting the Conclusion of the Readings and Gospel at Mass

Thursday greetings from the sunny and cool Midwest on a crisp Autumn morning.

While at the cathedral in Milwaukee this past Sunday, I was reminded of a liturgical practice from The Roman Missal implemented there some years ago.

At the end of the first and second readings, once the lector had concluded the proclamation of the text, the cantor (without the use of a microphone, kind of in an "off stage" fashion) sang "The word of the Lord," using the intervals indicated in The Roman Missal, a perfect fifth after the first reading and a minor third after the second reading. All responded with "Thanks be to God," mimicking the interval. The pastor, who proclaimed the Gospel, also chanted "The Gospel of the Lord," using the interval indicated in The Roman Missal, with all responding "Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ."

I was wondering if the followers of this blog have implemented this practice in your parish. Have you tried it? If so, when do you do it? If so, who sings the conclusion? The lector? The cantor? Someone else? How has it worked/not worked for your parish?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Trip to Milwaukee's Cathedral and the Upcoming Parish Mission

Happy Tuesday all.

I spent part of the weekend in southern Wisconsin, attending the annual Octoberfest in the quaint little town of Cedarburg.

On Sunday morning, I attended the 9:30 Mass at the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist in Milwaukee. I always feel so nourished there by the music, the always stunning proclamation of God's word, the challenging preaching, and the space itself, which lifts my heart.

Certainly one of my favorites baptism fonts. 

I'll be presenting the parish mission at the cathedral the final weekend of October. They've created a dedicated Facebook page for the mission; pretty cool! And they asked me to do a little informational video as well.

So, if you are in the Milwaukee area, please consider stopping by for the parish mission sessions.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Welcome to America: "That Was God's Work!"

Thursday has dawned with warmth and rain here in the Midwest. Nothing in comparison to what friends and family are facing along the southeast coast of the United States. Here's a prayer we sent to all of our J.S. Paluch bulletin parishes yesterday:

Let us pray.
As hurricane Matthew approaches,
may we, our loved ones, our homes, our community, and all those along the East Coast
be protected from the storm and spared from all harm.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Last evening, we welcomed a refugee family from Afghanistan to the United States through WLP's collaboration with Exodus World Service. Three of us arrived at about 5:00 P.M. with three cars filled with the household items we had collected to help this new family set up an apartment. Unfortunately, there was no apartment ready for them, so a motel stay was arranged for them until an apartment is found, typically within a week. We took the time as we awaited their arrival to deliver the items to their motel room.

We had collected everything needed for the kitchen, bathroom, and bedrooms, as well as non-perishable food items, tools, toiletries, cleaning supplies, supplies for laundering clothes, and some other items, like paintings and decorative items, to help them make their apartment into a home.

The level of anxious anticipation in our hearts was overwhelming. All we knew was that our family consisted of a set of parents and their 22 year-old daughter. They had flown yesterday from Delhi, India and they did speak some English.

We waited in the parking lot and when the van transporting them from the airport pulled into the parking lot, my heart swelled with anticipation.

Never in my life will I ever be able to erase the memory of the smiles on the faces of our three new family members. The Dad, a medical doctor, the Mom, a mid-wife, and their daughter all had grins from ear to ear. They had been traveling for over forty-eight hours in order to fulfill a dream that apparently had taken years to materialize. Michele vonEbers, WLP's Rights and Permissions Manager, was the catalyst for the entire project and she inspired all of us here in our efforts to reach out to help this refugee family. She held a vase of flowers and when she gave them to the Mom, the woman's face was filled with sheer delight. The Mom clutched the flowers to her chest and never let them go until we were settled into their motel room, where she gently placed the vase on the window sill. Here we are, Michele, Raquel Hernandez, WLP's Customer Relations Manager, and I, with our new arrivals.

This family's gratitude was a gratitude unlike anything I had ever witnessed. They arrived with several large suitcases and a few backpacks. My heart was so moved as I realized that this is pretty much all they had in the world. I thought of my townhome, filled with so much, and I felt that what we had done for this newly arrived family, was so small compared to what we all treasure as possessions that we take advantage of every day.

When we hoisted all their belongings to their motel room, the folks from Exodus explained that everything they saw in their motel roomall the items we had been collecting over the past few monthswere gifts from the people who worked at our company, a Catholic publishing company. Again, the look of gratitude on their faces just took our breath away. The Dad, whose English-language skills were quite good, but with a heavy Afghan accent, explained to us that when they left Afghanistan four years ago and moved to Delhi, they had converted to Christianity. He had helped translate the Bible into Pashto, which is a member of the southeastern Iranian branch of Indo-Iranian languages spoken in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran. He also told us that he had written and translated four book of original poetry. This Dad was a talker, let me tell you! His enthusiasm and excitement, which had to have so much to do with the fact that they had landed in their new home after so many years, was effusive. I stood there, wondering what their lives must have been like in Afghanistan, what hardships they had endured over the time that they fled their country, the many difficulties and challenges they faced as they applied for refugee status in the United States, and the discrimination they must have experienced through all of this. The Mom just smiled. The daughter looked quite overwhelmed. I will never forget the largeness of her eyes as all of this newness began to settle in.

We were able to point out some of the items we had brought. When we showed them an original painting that WLP's Alan Hommerding's late Mom had painted, their eyes lit up. We told them that we brought this painting for the wall of their apartment, to make it feel more like home. Emotions got the best of me when the Dad smiled and said, "It is just like Afghanistan; it is so beautiful! Thank, you, thank you!" Here's a photo I took.

We then said our farewells and were thanked with hugs and handshakes all around. The staff remained to help orient the family to the motel and to planning the many meetings that will unfold over the next several days, weeks, and months, as they help the family get settled in their new surroundings.

When we walked out of the motel room and began to walk down the corridor, I turned and looked at Michele, Raquel, and our case worker from Exodus, and simply said, with my voice choked with emotion, "Folks, that was God's work." Didn't need to say any more.

It will be a challenging road ahead for our new family who was welcomed to American last night. We will do our best to keep connected with them and to ease their transition in whatever ways we can.

There is a way out of the frustration we all feel about those who are driven from their homes due to war, violence, and unspeakable terror. I felt that last night was one of those ways, and for that I will always be grateful to Michele vonEbers and a group of people I am privileged to work with and lead here at World Library Publications.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Immigrant Crisis: WLP Is Doing Something. Will You?

Wednesday greetings from the Midwest on an unusually warm October morning.

I just read a report, indicating that over 4500 migrants were rescued off the coast of Italy just in the past 24 hours. Apparently the seas have been calm, so the "people smugglers" have been hard at work pushing their boats filled with migrants off the coast of North Africa. Here is a photo of one of the boats.

We at WLP have spent the past couple of months collecting household items to set up an apartment for a refugee family through the group Exodus World Service. Check out the link, especially if you, your family, or your parish are searching for something concrete to do to welcome displaced families here to the United States.

Here is our little WLP "Exodus" bulletin board:

The Exodus World Service folks set up an online tool, specifically for WLP, through which we were able to each check off items that we intended to bring in for our refugee family. Easy and efficient. My heart is brimming with pride for our team members here at WLP who were so generous with their time and treasure.

The results:

Yesterday, we found out that our family will be arriving today from Afghanistan, through New Delhi, India, and into O'Hare. An apartment was not readily available for them, so they will be temporarily settled in a motel on Chicago's north side.

Several of us will deliver the household materials to them early this evening. I pray that all goes well for them as they enter the United States.

Please, please, do something, anything you can, for immigrants, especially those fleeing such violence and horror in their own countries.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Dallas Ministries and Mass of Comfort and Joy by Kevin Keil

Monday greetings to all.

Over the last four days, I spent time at the Dallas Ministries Conference, which was a great gathering of ministers from the area, about four thousand, including volunteers and exhibitors. WLP helped sponsor the conference by sending Mary Birmingham and me to give workshops on baptism, apprenticeship, confirming adults Catholics, and Lent and the RCIA. It was great reconnecting with old friends and meeting new friends and colleagues.

Here I am with Mary Birmingham and Michael Prendergast.

And the symbol of my life "on the road!"

And here is our WLP exhibit booth.

The RCIA's implementation is facing some of the same challenges in Texas: so much focus on teaching doctrine to the detriment of the holistic approach called for by the Church. There were a few bright spots for me. One person, in particular, went out of his way to let me know that after hearing me speak a few years ago, his parish's RCIA process has really developed into an apprenticeship of discipleship!

I attended a workshop given by Kevin Keil. WLP publishes several pieces by Kevin, as well as his brand new Mass setting, Mass of Comfort and Joy, which (obviously) is a Mass for the Christmas Season. Kevin very cleverly uses Christmas carol tunes to craft the acclamations. They are solid and very accessible for the assembly.

This Mass is a gem!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.