Good Shepherd's

Good Shepherd's Catholic Church

Baarerstr. 62

6300 Zug

Correspondence:

P.O. Box 7529

6302 Zug

E-Mail Google Maps

Fr. Urs Steiner

Portrait US

Pastor
Tel. +41 (0)41 728 80 28

E-Mail

Karen Curjel

Portrait KC

Catechist / Secretary
Tel. +41 (0)41 728 80 24

E-Mail

Shannon Poltera

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Administration / Catechist
Tel. +41 (0)41 728 80 25

E-Mail

Are you looking for a Catholic Church in Switzerland?

Are you looking for a Catholic Church in Switzerland?

Good Shepherd's is a vibrant, energetic, International community serving the needs of Catholics in Zug, Lucerne and Zürich. We come together to celebrate Mass in English every Sunday evening at 6:00 p.m. Even though the primary language spoken is English, it is not our only language. Many of our members speak German, French, Italian, Spanish, and Polish.

Please join us! Tell a friend!

Preparation for First Communion

Preparation for First Communion
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Here you will find a rough outline of the First Communion Program we prepared for the 2017/2018 school year. We will offer two classes on Wednesdays, 15:00-16:00 & 16:00-17:00. If there are enough families interested in a Thursday class, we will offer a third class from 16:00-17:00. All classes will take place during the school year with the exception of school vacations. Please refer to the schedule for exact dates.

First Communion is a big step in the life of a Catholic and a memory that many children do not forget. We are pleased to be a part of this Sacrament. Due to the demanding schedule of families, extracurricular programs must be well organized. We feel that we have a very organized, yet intense program to offer the children. Planning is of the essence and we are dependent on the support of the parents. Below you will find some important information and dates.

Schedule for Wednesday classes (under construction)

Schedule for Thursday classes, please (under construction)

Sunday, October 29, 2017 16:00-17:15 Information meeting for all parents. Attendance is mandatory!

Glass Crosses:
As we have done in past years, the children (together with parents if they wish) will design and make glass crosses under the guidance of Lilian Bumbacher from glasKlar in Baar and the Old Town of Zug (*see below) (Date to be announced)

Friday, June 1, 2018 16:00 Rehearsal with all the children in the Church 17:15 Renewal of Baptismal Vows (please bring your child’s baptismal candle) for all children with their families.

Saturday, June 2, 2018 17:00 First Communion children will meet in the Parish Center beginning at 15:30

Registration form: click here

*Glass Crosses: Glass artist Lilian Bumbacher will work with the children to create a glass cross (www.atelierglasklar.ch) which will hang in the Church from Easter Monday the week after First Communion at which time the children may take them home. The date will be announced in October 2017.
The children can design their cross either alone or with a parent. It is also possible for a parent to design the cross as a surprise for their child. However, when I ask the children what their favorite part of the entire First Communion preparation was, they say that second to receiving the Eucharist, it was making their cross.

Baptismal Certificate: Our parish secretary needs to have a copy of your child’s Baptism certificate. It does not need to be a new issue. You can send it electronically, by post or personally give it to one of us. It must be readable. If it is not, it’s helpful if you can attach a note stating where the baptism took place.

Photographs: Taking pictures in the Church during Mass is a distraction. For this reason, we have hired a photographer who is allowed to move freely during the First Communion. He will also take pictures before and following Mass of each child and together with families. The cost of the photo CD is Fr.30.00. Kindly let us know if you will be purchasing the CD. This may be paid shortly before the First Communion.

First Communion Pass: Children who play an instrument or take part in sports know that practice is essential. In order for the children to fully partake in the Eucharist, they must know what the Mass is about and they need to feel comfortable. Our First Communion program is short and intense. The children learn many things during the nine months’ time of preparation. For this reason, regular Mass attendance is important. We ask that you show your commitment by making sure they attend Mass at least 12 times in Good Shepherd’s before they make their First Communion. For this reason, we have created a “First Communion Pass”. This is a helpful tool for families in tracking attendance. One of us sign the Pass after each Mass. This is no way meant to be a control or monitor. We began the “First Communion Pass” two years ago as a trial and the response was very positive plus the children had fun with it. If you have any questions or objections regarding the Pass, let’s talk about it.

Family Ministry: Fr. Urs places great importance on his family ministry. In the weekly Catechism classes, Karen and Shannon get to know the children and parents; however Father only sees the families shortly after Mass or at Fellowship Sunday. For this reason, he likes to visit the families in their home for dinner. Please find a date (Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday evenings) when you can invite him. He is very uncomplicated, a fun guest and he brings a nice gift for the children. Fr. Urs’ evenings are quickly booked, so the earlier you find a date the better.

We look forward to working with you and your children in our First Communion program and look forward to joining them at the Table of The Lord on Saturday, June 2, 2018!

 

 

What Can I Do With My Stuff?

What Can I Do With My Stuff?
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Are you preparing to move or just trying to down size? We often are asked if the Church can use items that are no longer needed. Many people would like to donate clothes and household items to people in need. Do to our size restrictions, Good Shepherd's is not able to recieve and store items. Switzerland is well known for their recylcing practices.

Ökihof is a recycling station in the Gut Hirt neighborhood of Zug. It is located behind the Baarerhof Restaurant/Indigo Fitness Center/House of Wines, all of which are located across from our church.

The opening times for Ökihof are as follows:

Monday–Thursday: 09.00–11.30 / 13.00–16.30
Friday: 09.00–11.30 / 13.00–18.30
Saturday: 08.00–13.00

Ökihof takes everything. Recyclable items are free, all other items will be taken for a small fee. Electronic items can be turned in for free. In Switzerland, when you buy an electronic item, a recycling fee is included in the price. 

Information sheet in English can be found here

Bröcki Zug will take your furniture as long as it is in good condition. If you want them to pick it up they will, however they must first inspect the furniture. Furniture that they cannot resell can be removed for a fee. They will also accept clothing and other small household items and furniture including dishes and kitchenware plus some bedding. All items will be resold. Bröcki is a second-hand shop and there are often many treasures to be found there. Please keep this in mind when you are donating your items. Would you pay money for the items you are donating? If not, then (for a fee) they will take your unusable items.

Bröcki is a well-established institution in Zug. It is operated by the Frauenzentrale Zug with is a social agency designed to help and advice women (and men) who find themselves in difficult situations. Money earned from the sale of items in the Bröcki goes directly to the operation of this agency.

Used Books can be taken to the “Bröcki” section of Ökihof. Desirable books in good condition (also English) will be resold. The others will be recycled.

Fellowship Sunday

Fellowship Sunday

Fellowship Sunday is celebrated on the last Sunday of the month (excluding July and December). We meet following Mass for Fellowhip and nourishment - in words and refreshments! Please join us!

Religious Education

Religious Education
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Registration School Year 2016/2017: We are now accepting registration for the upcoming school year. If you would like to register your child for classes, please contact us.

First Communion Preparation: First Communionn will be on Saturday, June 10, 2017 at 17:00 in Good Shepherd's. Classes will begin held on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons from 16:00-17:00 p.m. in the Parish Center. Children must be at least 7 years old to being and parents must be able to commit to regular Mass attendance in order for their child to make their First Communion.Children.

Reconciliation: Every day we make choices. Most of the choices we make are good, but sometimes the choices we make are not. When we make choices that go against the will of God, we sin. When we sin, we need to ask for forgiveness. We can do this in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, also known as Confession. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we tell our sins to a priest who in turn helps us to find ways to make changes and improve our actions. When we do this, we show God we are sorry for what we have done wrong. Through the power of the Holy Spirit and the words and actions of the priest, God forgives us and helas us. Preparation for First Confession is often done before First Communion. In Switzerland, we believe that children should be a little older to fully realize the importance ot this Sacrament.Preparation for Reconciliation is done the year after First Communion. Classes for the next school year will begin in January 2017.

Confirmation: Confirmation in the Catholic Church takes place when a young person is in their teens. Here in the Swiss Parishes of Zug, the age is higher, 17 or 18 years old. While it might not be a very convenient time in a young adult's life, it is a good age for discernemtn. Young adults are able to take responsibility for their education and appointments. The decision to commit to the Catholic Faith is by their free will and is not influenced by the pressure of their parents. At Good Shepherd's, preparation to recieve the Sacrament of confirmation takes place once every two years. Together with the Catechist, the candidates plan the meeting dates and times. Readiness is determined by their participation and involvement in the group and in the community. Our next preparation course will begin after the Summer of 2017.

 

Your Right to Privacy

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Pictures for Church use: The Catholic Church in Zug is committed to respecting the privacy of our members. Private information, names or pictures are never released to a third party.

From time to time, we take pictures of members of our community. Our photographer, for example, will take pictures before, during and after the First Communion on June 10th, 2017. On occasion we use pictures for our Parish Newsletter or our Homepage. We never publicize the names of people unless it is for a specific reason and with permission. For reasons of privacy, if you do not want any pictures publicized or used for our Parish publications, kindly let me know. Otherwise, we will assume that we may use a picture, with or without your knowledge, for our Homepage or Newsletter.

Celebrating the Sacraments

Celebrating the Sacraments
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Are you planning to get married in the Catholic Church? Interested in baptism into the Catholic Faith? Do you need to see a priest for confession or guidance? Do you know someone who is facing surgery or in the hospital? Finding an English speaking priest in Switzerland is not easy. Our bi-lingual pastor, Fr. Urs Steiner, speaks English, German, French and some Italian. If you are interested in one of our Sacramnts, please contact Good Shepherd's for an appointment or more information.

Mid-Day Break with Jesus

Mid-Day Break with Jesus
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Every third Wednesday
from 12:00-1:00 p.m.

During the day we are often challenged and forced to make many decisions. We can’t always change our life style, but we can change the way we approach it. When we take time out of our busy schedule to spend quiet moments for ourselves, we can find peace and inner strength to meet the demands that face us. One way to do this is by spending quiet time in contemplation and meditation. Why not do this once a month in Eucharist Adoration?

What is Eucharist Adoration?
During the Mass, at the moment of Consecration, the bread and wine are transformed (transubstantiated) into the Body and Blood of Jesus. They keep the appearance of bread and wine, but become the actual Body and Blood of Christ. This is what is meant by “Real Presence” of Jesus in the Eucharist.  Eucharist Adoration is adoring the Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist that is contained in the monstrance at the altar. We sit, kneel or stand in silence and open ourselves up to His Presence and allow His Graces to flow from the Eucharist as the Lord draws us to Him while it gently transforms us. “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Jesus invites us to bring our burdens and troubles as we rest in and with Him.

Karen Curjel

Community Links

Community Links

L.I.V.I.N.G. FAITH

(under construction)

 

Make yourself active!

Make yourself active!
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Are you interested in volunteering? Sharing your talents with others is a rewarding way to express your spirituality. There are many ways you can volunteer and use your gifts.

The Ministry of Music: St. Augustine of Hippo (+430) is often quoted as saying "He who sings, prays twice." The gift of music is a gift from God. As believers in Jesus filled with the Holy Spirit, we are called to share our gifts with others. Good Shepherd's is blessed with having two choirs:

Our Couples For Christ Choir leads us in song twice a month. Under the direction of Boy Villamar, they meet regularly for practice one hour before Mass. The Good Shepherd's Singers meet every Thursday evening in the Parish Center. The Good Shepherd's Singers, under the direction of our Choir Director Verena Zemp, leads us musically twice a month. If you are interested in joining one of both of our Choirs, please contact Good Shepherd's or feel free to join in!

Ministries in the Mass: The Celebration of the Eucharist is an action of Jesus and of the Church. Active participation can deepen ones faith whether it is in the Ministry of the Word, as a Eucharist Minister or Hospitality Minister. Each duty has a special function and are all equally important. Good Shepherd's offers training for those who are interested. This group meets twice a year for planning. For more information, contact Good Shepherd's.

In Touch: This lively group meets on Monday mornings to discuss various topics of Catholicism and examine and reflect on texts in the Bible. Meeting time is 9:30 a.m. at the Guthirthof, next door to the Church. Dates are irregular, contact Good Shepherd's for current topics and dates.

Living F.A.I.T.H.: Faith Alive In The Heart is a group that meets twice a month on Tuesday evening. Living F.A.I.T.H. seeks to reach out to our brothers and sisters in the community. Especially those who are suffering or in need. We currently support the Catholic Social Service Agency "Light House" whose main focus is helping the poor of Zug. Please contact Shannon Poltera at: shannon.poltera@kath-zug.ch

 

Good Shepherd's Connects

Good Shepherd's Connects
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Welcome to the English speaking Catholic Community of Good Shepherd’s in Zug, Switzerland!

We are located in the middle of the City of Zug in the "Guthirt Quartier".

Good Shepherd’s belongs to the Swiss Parish of Gut Hirt. “Gut Hirt” is the German word for “Good Shepherd”.

Toward the end of the 19th century, Zug began to experience rapid growth. Factories of all kinds began producing metal, glass, household items and food on the outskirts of the city. Housing expanded as the needs of working class families increased. At the beginning of 1930, the need for a church was realized.  The people of this community collected money to build a church. Finally, on November 7, 1937, the Gut Hirt Church was born.

Following his conversion, St. Paul ministered to young Christian communities, encouraging them in their faith and guiding them in their growth. To be a part of a growing community and watching others as they grow in their faith is inspiring. At the beginning of 2013, the Bishop of Basel, Dr. Felix Gmür, officially recognized Good Shepherd’s Catholic Community as a foreign mission. Like the early Christians who meet in small gatherings, Good Shepherd’s began in the community of Horw, Lucerne in much the same way: Mass with three families followed by a shared meal. In June 2001, newly ordained Urs Steiner was asked to perform a wedding in English. The Swiss priest, who studied in the USA for several years, quickly agreed. Following a Memorial Service for the victims of 9/11 in 2001, news quickly spread that there was an English Mass. On November 1, 2002, Fr. Urs, as the newly installed Pastor of Gut Hirt, brought his furnishings, a dog and his English speaking Mass to the Gut Hirt Parish in Zug. With the unanimous approval of his Swiss Parish Council, he began replacing the Vigil Mass of the last Saturday of each month with a Mass in English. One year later, Karen Curjel answered the call to assist Fr. Urs and together they formed a dynamic team, working closely to nurture its members, giving them space to grow. In the summer of 2015, Good Shepherd's was able to expand their team. Shannon Poltera works part time assisting in the liturgy, in the class room and in the community.

Good Shepherd’s has been celebrating the Eucharist in English in Zug for over ten years. As Pastor of both the Swiss Parish Gut Hirt and Good Shepherd’s, Fr. Urs has been able to create a bridge between his two parishes where language is not a barrier and the love of the Eucharist is shared. We hope that you are able to find a spiritual home here with us as Good Shepherd’s Connects.

In Touch with The Bible

In Touch with The Bible
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In Touch with The Bible is a group of Christians who meet on Monday mornings to explore the Bible, discuss various texts and share in fellowship. We welcome new members! Please feel free to drop in anytime. We meet on at Guthirthof 5 on Monday mornings at 9:30 for coffee. Discussions are from 10:00 until 12:00 noon.

Our next topic will be: The Creed: Professing the Faith throughout the Ages. We will take an inside look at the words behind the Creed.

For more information please contact: hello@good-shepherds-zug.ch

We Would Only Be Marionettes

Verfasst am Dienstag, 12. September 2017

Paris, November 13, 2015. Berlin, December 19, 2016. Barcelona, August 17, 2017: Terrorist attacks in Europe have spread fear and anxiety. What used to happen in far away, war-torn countries like Iraq and Syria are happening here on our soil and has become a part of our lives. Fright and helplessness has become the norm. In these situations the question often arises: Why does God allow bad things to happen? The answer is simple: God is not responsible for the suffering in the world! God, however, did give mankind a free will. This means that he does not force people to have a relationship with him. Evil can only happen where God is not present. This is something for us to ponder. Of course God could force us to be nice, kind and loving, but what kind of relationship would that be? We would only be his marionettes. God cut the strings which leaves us living in a world with the freedom to choose. It’s the freedom to maintain the kingdom God wants for us or create a kingdom where the individual is the ruler of his or her own world. I believe that this is where the fear and anxiety comes from.
How can God help us in our fear? By having faith in him and his saving hand! When we have an active relationship with God our faith will not falter. It shouldn’t be a one sided relationship where we do all the talking, but one where we seek stillness and contemplation with God in order to hear his voice and listen to his will. I know that through my faith the only place I can fall is into His hands. This faith and God’s saving grace is what gives me the strength and serenity to guide me in my life, especially when the terrors of the world surround me. During the month of September, we are reminded of the attacks in 2001 not only in the U.S. but here in Zug. The church bells throughout the Canton of Zug will ring for 15 minutes on September 27th. Let us take these few minutes to remember the victims of terror, not just from 2001 but from today and the days to come.


Fr. Urs

The Good Shepherd's Blog

Verfasst am Mittwoch, 10. Juni 2015

Pope Francis has called the internet a "gift from God". The advances of technology and the digital media has made it easier to engage people of all religions and beliefs around the world. With our blog, we hope to bring the ideas and thoughts of an English speaking Catholic Community in Switzerland to brothers and sisters around the world. If you have any comments or ideas you would like to share, please E-Mail us.

The Holy Cross

Verfasst am Dienstag, 12. September 2017

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The cross that Jesus was crucified on came from dead wood, cut down from what was once a life-giving tree. In every Mass, we celebrate Jesus, who accepted his death, rose from dead wood and brought us new life. In September 320 A.D. Emperor Constantine The Great’s mother, Empress Helena, reportedly found pieces of the original cross in the tomb where Jesus was buried. On Thursday, September 14th we celebrate this event with a feast called «The Exaltation of the Holy Cross» or simply the «Feast of the Cross».
In the time of Jesus the cross was a sign of shame and murder. After his resurrection it quickly became a symbol of glory, salvation and life.
In the Gospel Reading for the 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time (September 3) Jesus says to his disciples that “whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” Sounds like pain and suffering to me, something that most of us would run from. It’s human nature to run from something that brings pain, suffering and even death. Our challenge as Christians - as followers of Christ - is to accept carrying our cross as a way of gaining new life. It doesn’t make the pain go away or the suffering any easier but it can give our life a new meaning or shine light on a difficult situation bringing a new perspective which can lead to acceptance. No one chooses suffering or death as positive elements in their life, but as Christians, we regularly deny ourselves for the good of others. If we don’t, we end up living in an egotistical world where everyone thinks only of themselves.
Jesus did suffer and he did die on the cross, but he rose to new life – not just for you and me but for the entire world. As we raise the cross up and celebrate the life it gives, let us try to embrace our own struggles and suffering as a way of gaining new life. Reflect on your experiences and encounters and share the new life it brings to others.


Karen Curjel

Swimming to Jesus

Verfasst am Montag, 28. August 2017

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We have all heard the saying “sink or swim”. It means to fail or succeed. Most of us have been in a sink or swim situation in our life at one time or another. In the Gospel for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Matthew 14:22-33) Peter is in such a situation. As the disciples see Jesus walking on water toward them, they become afraid. This particular Gospel is interesting, but you really should read the entire chapter. After being told of John the Baptist’s beheading, Jesus, seeking solitude, is followed by a large crowd. He performs the miracle of the multiplication of bread, much to the amazement of his disciples. After dismissing the crowds, he again seeks solitude for prayer before walking out on the sea to calm his disciples who were frightened by the waves caused by a strong wind. I can imagine that it was a long day for Jesus’ followers and they were overwhelmed by the day’s events. He ends the day with something remarkable.
When we are in the midst of a rough time Jesus comes to us. He calms us and says to “take courage; do not be afraid”. Often times we become overwhelmed and consumed with fear which takes our focus away from Jesus. Like Peter, we begin to sink. How far we sink depends on the amount of our faith and willingness to place our trust in the Lord. Jesus stretches out his hand and catches us. This is maybe where the lesson of “sink or swim” is helpful. It is like watching a child learning to swim. When he or she is paying attention to the instructor and looking toward that person with confidence, the child tends to do fine – first floating, then stroking, and then moving forward in a splashy swim. But just as soon as the child’s fright takes over, he or she automatically reaches out a hand to the instructor. Without the hand of the instructor, the child might sink.
In the rough waters of life we need to keep our eyes on Jesus but it isn’t always easy. In our fear we doubt and look away from our Saviour. But Jesus stretches his arms out for us and like a child learning to swim, we grab ahold.

Karen Curjel

Transfiguring Our Lives

Verfasst am Mittwoch, 2. August 2017

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We interrupt Ordinary Time to celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord on August 6th. Usually this feast day falls on a weekday, but we are lucky this year to celebrate it during the Sunday Mass. The Transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17:1-9) is a unique scene in the gospels. Unlike other events, Jesus did not announce that it would happen, the disciples didn’t expect it and it was an event that was never repeated. At first glance, the story of the transfiguration seems to be out of place. Looking at this scene more carefully we can see, however, that this is not a random event. In Matthew 16 Jesus asked his disciples about how the public and the disciples themselves perceived him. Public opinion was that he was one of the great prophets of Israel. This was an understandable response because much of Jesus’ ministry could be compared to the prophets of the Old Testament. The disciples however had a more intimate knowledge of Jesus and had begun to see him as the promised messiah. In the first part of his ministry, they travelled with Jesus all over Galilee witnessing first hand his power at work and hearing his teaching. The second phase was more about teaching the disciples what it meant to say that Jesus was the Son of God.
God’s voice confirmed to Peter, James and John as a shadow of a cloud fell over them that Jesus was no ordinary man or even a great prophet but that he was indeed the beloved Son of God. I imagine that this was a life changing event for his disciples as it transformed their lives.
Jesus is ready to transform our lives. He is already present and living in our hearts, we only need to recognize his power in the world and in the people around us. Celebrating the Feast of the Transfiguration during the Sunday Mass on August 6th gives us the opportunity to give thanks for this vision of the glorified Jesus. May it transform us as we understand what it means to say that Jesus is the Son of God.

Karen Curjel

Where the Seeds Fall

Verfasst am Dienstag, 18. Juli 2017

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I often speak to groups of people either giving information or a message. It is a very powerful position to be in. Probably the most powerful position is the role of teacher, especially to children. Children are in our lives for such a short amount of time and we rarely see them again. But what they learn from their time with us leaves an impression. Teachers help to shape a part of a child’s growth. For me it is their spiritual growth. When we take on this role, we are given a bag full of seeds. It is up to us to plant them in their young, impressionable lives. Which seeds will grow and which ones will be left for the birds?

In the Gospel for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Matthew 13: 1-9) Jesus tells the parable of the man who went out to sow some seeds. Jesus is the seed and we hold his words in our hands. Where will we spread them and where will they grow? Jesus speaks of the rocky ground where no seed can grow and of the soil that was not deep enough for the seeds to grow roots. He then speaks of the rich soil that produced much fruit. We can use this image in the kingdom of God in so many ways. I see children as the rich soil always ready to receive the seeds of life. As teachers, we are role models for their young hearts. It is in our hands to give them the best seeds we have and it is up to parents and other adults to nourish them.

At the end of this past school year I met up with some former students. I asked them how the past year went and they complained that they did not learn the things they wanted and felt their voices were not heard. This saddened me. It was as if their fertile ground had not been watered and birds had eaten some of the seeds. Jesus gives us his words and actions in the form of seeds. All of us, not just teachers, have the duty as children of God and care givers of this planet to go out and sow these seeds. We need to nourish them in the hearts of children. They are our future and we need them to produce the fruit of God’s kingdom. “Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

Karen Curjel

Saints Peter and Paul

Verfasst am Dienstag, 4. Juli 2017

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Imperial Rome had a long history – sometimes glorious and sometimes brutal. In Mythology Rome was founded by Romulus in 753 AD. Romulus apparently killed his twin brother Remus who criticized the boundaries his brother set for the city. Years of bloodshed would follow. The early people of Rome were from a tribe called the Latins and Rome flourished over the next 6 centuries, profiting from wars which turned Rome from a small power to a great empire until civil unrest and corruption ended their happy times. In 49 BC Julius Caesar brought reform to the city and was confronted with a civil war of his own. Following his death a year later, Octavian became ruler and received the title “Augustus”. Augustus introduced reforms most notably the restoration of ancient morality and ancient religious festivals. This is kind of the political situation that St. Peter encountered when he went to Rome. He became its first bishop, and died there in AD 67 by being hung upside down on a cross. St. Paul was converted around the year AD 34 and spent the better part of his Christian life as a missionary and founded many communities. In AD 60 he became a prisoner in Rome where he wrote many of his letters (Ephesus, Colossae and Philippi) before being released two years later to do more missionary work. St. Paul was once again taken prisoner in Rome where he met his mortal fate in the same year as Peter. It is not clear if they died together but we do know that they were probably buried very close together. The Bibles doesn’t tell us how well the two knew each other but they were both committed to their ministry. Saints Peter and Paul were the rocks upon which Jesus built his church. They knew who Jesus was and remained faithful to the mission he gave them. On Sunday, June 29th we recognize and celebrate the faithfulness and courage of these two saints. We might not proclaim Jesus in our everyday language the way they did, but we proclaim in the rock solid way we live what Jesus taught us.

Karen Curjel

Let the Children Come to Me

Verfasst am Dienstag, 20. Juni 2017

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Throughout the school year, I prepare children for First Holy Communion. They learn the structure of the Mass, prayers, and they learn that the bread takes on a new meaning. Explaining the consecration is not easy and I sometimes wonder if the children really understand it.
Before the children make their First Communion they come forward to the Eucharist minister and receive a blessing. The more often children come to Mass, the more they learn, the greater their desire becomes to make this important Sacrament. Eucharist is one of the Sacraments that we can make over again, like Reconciliation. A few days before First Communion, the children practice the songs and they rehearse. They also practice receiving communion which is done with unconsecrated hosts. Doing this allows them the chance to feel and taste what the wafers are like. It’s very important for them to know that what they receive during the rehearsal is not the same as what they receive on their First Communion and thereafter. The appearance and taste are the same but the substance changes though the prayers of the priest and the power of the Holy Spirit.
The closer we get to the big day the more nervous I become. Have I taught them everything? Do they know all the prayers? Do they really understand what it means to “meet Jesus in the Eucharist”? I am never sure until after that day when I give them communion in church. The once shy and reserved child proudly walks up to me with out-stretched hands, eager to receive the Body of Christ. Jesus said “Let the children come to me” and we shouldn’t hinder them! As parents we would never hinder our children but I think we should do more than that. As adults, we should do everything possible to encourage children to know Jesus. This means giving them every opportunity to attend Mass and to make sure they feel welcome and comfortable in church. It’s important to keep their eagerness alive and their desire to go to Church. After all, “the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mt.19:14).

Karen Curjel

The Breath of Life

Verfasst am Dienstag, 6. Juni 2017

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If a person is having a heart attack, someone needs to administer CPR right away. Oxygen is necessary to keep the brain functioning. Oxygen means life – breathing air is precious! In the Gospel for Pentecost Sunday (John 20: 19-23) Jesus breathed on the disciples and this filled them with new Life. They weren’t having a heart attack, however perhaps they felt their heart jump when Jesus came to stand in their midst on the “evening of that first day of the week.” They were afraid of the Jews and had been hiding behind locked doors when Jesus appeared. His first words to them were “Peace be with you.” This peace is the first brick in the foundation of our Church.
God sent Jesus into the world on a mission, Jesus in turn sent the disciples and it is up to us to continue their mission. How do we do this? Don’t we need some schooling or at least a sheet of instructions before we go out into the world? We need the Holy Spirit in order to continue this mission! The Holy Spirit is the breath of Life that fills us with new energy, renewed faith and the power to reflect and act with forgiveness. This is where we need to be reminded of the first brick that was laid. We cannot go out into the world and spread Jesus’ message without first having peace. There can be no peace unless there is forgiveness. Forgiveness is the church’s CPR.
Forgiving is probably one of the most difficult things to do. To forgive, to even seek forgiveness, requires us to open up locked doors and overcome our fear. These are all the things the disciples faced on that first day. It is what we face today! The power to forgive can heal hearts, heal a broken community and open doors to becoming peacemakers. As we turn our eyes toward the feast of Pentecost, can’t we try to open our hearts to the breath of Life, the power of forgiveness, the Holy Spirit?

Karen Curjel

The Spirit of Truth

Verfasst am Dienstag, 23. Mai 2017

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The time after Jesus’ death and resurrection was filled with much uncertainty. In the Gospel for the 6th Sunday of Easter (John 14:15-21), we hear how Jesus told his disciples that if they loved him they would keep his commandments. He told them that he would ask the Father to send them “the Spirit of truth”. I could imagine that they had no idea what he was talking about. Sure enough, the Spirit did come and didn’t leave them orphans. Jesus told them that the world would no longer see him but that they would see him. How? By loving him.
In loving Jesus we want to believe like him and live like him. Loving Jesus isn’t just about praying all the time or sharing our money and things. Loving Jesus is about living the truth. Living the truth requires us to be honest not only with each other but with ourselves. It’s the Spirit of God that leads us to live the Gospel. Living the Gospel is no simple task. It demands that we think of others and their needs and not always functioning with a “me first” attitude. Living the Gospel means doing the inner work of self-reflection and admitting where our faults are and finding ways to resolve them. Living the Gospel means letting Jesus shine a light on the dark side of our life and allowing his love to manifest in our daily lives. We can’t do this alone, we need the help of God and this is where the Spirit of truth plays an important role. We must find the truth that lies in us and this is where the work begins. No one likes to have a mirror held up to them, but mirrors reflect our behavior and attitude. What happens to us throughout our life – our experiences – mold us into who we are and determines how we will react to certain situations or people. If we keep having the same conflict or same bad experience then we must accept that perhaps the problem lies with our self. Looking in the mirror or listening to those who remind us of our faults is one way to uncover the truth. It’s uncomfortable work but like any difficult job it gets easier with time. Jesus doesn’t leave us orphans.

Karen Curjel

Opening the Gates

Verfasst am Dienstag, 9. Mai 2017

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On May 7th we celebrate Good Shepherd’s Sunday. In the Gospel (John 10:1-10) Jesus calls himself “the gate for the sheep”. A gate of course is the throughway for a fence. We usually put up fences to provide security, keeping people out or locked in. An unlocked gate is inviting and welcomes people to pass through. In this image we see Jesus as the Good Shepherd who opens the gate and invites all to enter. He offers us security and protection. Jesus is our model for life, showing us by his example how we should be a gate and shepherd for others. But how do we do this? Opening our gate to let someone in, especially someone we don’t really know, can be very difficult for some of us. Peter writes (1 Peter 2:20-25) that in our own hardships we should show patience when we are doing good things for others. But how easy is that? When Jesus was insulted, he did not insult back. When he suffered he did not threaten back. Can we do the same? When someone hurts or threatens us don’t we sometimes strike back and then close the gate? Let’s take this image of a gate and apply it to ourselves. Our gates should be open and remain open for each other. How can we open the door for others if we have vines growing over our gates? Vines grow out of control and choke out the light and any new growth. In order to let the door open freely, we have to remove them. I used to live in an old house that had a metal fence and gate. There was ivy growing all over and it had encroached onto the gate, making is difficult to open. The ivy had even begun to take over the garden. It was nice to look at, but it was out of control. Removing the ivy was hard work but well worth it. The result was a bright new space with room for new growth. Let this Season of Easter be a time of new growth as we open our gates to new life and each other.

Karen Curjel

Unlock the Doors

Verfasst am Dienstag, 25. April 2017

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The Gospel for the Second Sunday of Easter is the famous story of Thomas. The Doubting Thomas as he is often times called. The story begins as the disciples are hiding behind closed doors, in fear of being discovered by the authorities. They encountered the Risen Jesus and he breathed his spirit on them and they believed. Thomas was not among them on this first evening. He was still out, searching and hiding. When they all finally met up, the other disciples told Thomas that they had seen the Lord (John 20:19-31). He didn’t believe them; he needed to see Jesus for himself. This image of the disciples gathered together in a room hiding from the Jews and Roman soldiers only to have the Risen Christ appear in their midst is incredibly moving. The doors were locked but Jesus came through anyway. How many of us live our lives behind a locked door? A locked door keeps people out and I think as individuals we have a tendency to do that, strictly guarding ourselves and our privacy. Privacy is of course important, but it is also a privilege. The average first century Jew didn’t have the luxury of space and had to share rooms. They needed each other and couldn’t afford to close themselves off from one another. How is it today? Why do some people feel the need to remove themselves from certain parts of society and hide behind a locked door? Jesus enters our life even when we are trying to keep others out. He breathes his spirit on us and we must go out and spread his message of love.
The Second Sunday of Easter is also known as Sunday of Divine Mercy. This reminds us that we experience the grace and unconditional forgiveness of God. It is up to us to share this unconditional forgiveness with others. We can’t do this if we are hiding behind locked doors. We need each other. As we celebrate the Risen Christ, let’s open doors and forgive each other.

Karen Curjel

Death to New Life

Verfasst am Dienstag, 11. April 2017

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On Holy Thursday, the season of Lent comes to an end. New life begins with Easter as we bid farewell to the past. Holy Week is a good time to really walk with Jesus. We can do this through reflection and when we take part in the liturgy. The readings during the Easter Triduum are a wonderful explaination of what it means to follow Jesus. The readings for Holy Thursday take an interesting approach. The institution of the Eucharist comes to us only in the second reading from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, which leaves the Gospel to present us with Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. This service of foot washing is usually done by a simple servant. What Jesus does in this gesture of love is to show how we should serve each other, regardless of race, religion or social standing.
Dear friends, the Mass on Holy Thursday is, for us, one of the most important Eucharist Celebrations of the year. This year we will celebrate with the members of our Gut Hirt Parish with a bi-lingual Mass. During the Mass the Gloria will be sung for the last time after which the church bells will remain mute and the tabernacle will be cleared. This time of silence and emptiness is very impressive as it helps us to fully rejoice in the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday.

Fr. Urs and Karen Curjel

And Now I See

Verfasst am Mittwoch, 29. März 2017

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Our Lenten journey ends with Holy Week. Jesus revealed himself to us through the Readings for the past three weeks. On the 4th Sunday in Lent, he reveals something very important: Jesus is the light of the world. In the First Reading from Samuel, the Lord says that man does not see as God does, “the Lord looks into the heart.” We as humans are often limited to seeing only the surface, but God sees straight to our hearts. God invites us to see with him as he shows us the things that are beyond the surface. Lent can be a good exercise in seeing beyond ourselves. It’s a reminder that the Lord leads us out of our difficult moments. How often do we forget this when we get lost or confused during our personal struggles in darkness? St. Paul wandered around in darkness until he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. This encounter knocked Paul on the ground and it blinded him for a short while, but as he was able to see again it changed his life. Paul tells us to live as children of the light because light produces every kind of goodness. Jesus is that light. We can only imagine how life must have changed for the beggar in the Gospel (John 9:1-41) who was blind since birth. He recognized Jesus, believed and followed him. Unfortunately, the Pharisees didn’t see it that way. They turned a blind eye to what was good and criticized what they saw as wrong. They could not see the true light of Jesus. Or worse, they saw but refused to believe. During Lent, we are challenged to recognize Jesus in our work, where we live, in our struggles and in the lives of others. But I think that sometimes we get caught up in our own struggles, maybe even consumed, that we fail to see what is at the heart of the matter. Of course our challenges are important, but we must try to see that God is in the middle of everything we do and recognize the face of Jesus as the light of the world. As we journey together in these last two weeks of Lent, let’s find this light and let it knock us to the ground. When we get up, we will walk to a new place of sight and eternal life.

Karen Curjel

Earth: A Place of Reconciliation

Verfasst am Dienstag, 14. März 2017

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When a large private, or public, company purchases land for long term agricultural commodity investment this is often called “land grabbing”. It’s a term that came into use in 2008. These investors don’t always work transparently. Land grabbing accurately describes what happens in many places in the Southern Hemisphere: larger plantations take away the rights of smaller farmers and impose their business practices much to the disadvantage of the farmers and their families, to the land and the environment. Many times they acquire land rights in order to produce food for export which jeopardizes the food supply of small farming. The campaign for the Swiss Catholic Lenten Fund in 2017 is to denounce the negative impact of land grabbing. Under the motto “The Earth as a Source of Life, Not of Profit” they are dedicated to working for a fairer world, without hunger and poverty.
The story in Genesis tells of God’s creation as his gift to man. It is man’s responsibility to take care of the planet. But what happens when greed sets in? Countries like Madagascar, one of the poorest countries on earth, are losing their natural wealth and resources and their spiritual connection to the land grabbers. As ancestral land becomes disrupted, so does the connection from their ancestors to future generations. I have never been to Madagascar, but I have been to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North and South Dakota in the US. It is here that my grandfather was born. Torn by poverty, sacred Indian land is being grabbed by big business in their greed for oil. The Dakota Pipeline poses a dangerous environmental threat to the precious water supply of the Native Americans who already suffer. Their protests and loud voice has been ignored by the current government. We, as a part of God’s Creation, must seek social justice and exercise brotherly love not just with all of mankind but with the Earth in which we live.

Karen Curjel

Our Private Penance

Verfasst am Dienstag, 28. Februar 2017

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We tend to worry most when we are uncertain of an outcome or not in control of a situation. Maybe it is uncertainty about our career, a financial problem or the future of our children. We are experiencing widespread uncertainty not just here in Europe, but worldwide. We have valid concerns, but what about children? What do they worry about? Children worry when a loved one is sick or what their grades might be. They worry when adults argue. Children turn to their parents for guidance and comfort. We tell them that everything will be okay – they trust and believe us. Where do we turn when we are worried? Who do we trust and believe? In the Gospel for the 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus tells his disciples not to worry. “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.” We want to be able to reassure our children when they worry. Parents know what their children need. It’s the same with God. He gives us exactly what we need. When we seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness, he will take care of the rest. Don’t worry.

The Light of the World

Verfasst am Dienstag, 14. Februar 2017

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A metaphor is a situation in which the unfamiliar is expressed in terms of the familiar. In the Gospel for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Matthew 5: 13-16) Jesus uses the metaphor of salt and light to help us understand who we are as Disciples of Christ.
Salt has received a bad reputation over the years. People cut down or cut it out of their diet altogether. The body requires a certain amount of trace elements in order to perform a variety of essential functions. We all know the need for light in our lives because it produces vitamin D which helps to absorb calcium. Not enough of it can lead to seasonal depression. With salt and light in mind, let’s consider what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. We are all called to follow him and in following Jesus we light a way for others as they look to us to be a lamp for them in their darkness. As the salt of the earth, we can help nourish others with that “trace element” they might not get from their everyday routine. My 97 year-old father lives in a small apartment in a retirement center. He eats dinner in the dining hall with the other residents. For the rest of the time he reads, watches television and plays games on his computer. He often complains about being bored and I tell him he needs to go out more, be with the other residents. He says he doesn’t like being around “a bunch of old people”. He is a little shy and anti-social. I was thinking about how Jesus calls us to be the salt of the earth and I quoted this verse to my father. He is usually happy, rarely complains and is very nice to others. I told him that many people appreciate this quality in him. I told him that he is like a bit of sunshine in the lives of others when he shares his smile with them. He thought about it for a while and then smiled. His smile comes from the heart and thinking about it makes me smile. A smile can be contagious. You are the salt of the earth. Go out today and sprinkle it on others.

Karen Curjel

From That Time On

Verfasst am Dienstag, 31. Januar 2017

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The Gospel Reading for the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Matthew 4:12-23) has Jesus withdrawing to Galilee after hearing the news of John the Baptist’s arrest. It must have been a turning point in his life. “From that time on” Jesus’ message was one of repentance. It is what The Baptist preached. Repentance doesn’t just mean going to confession, it means examining our actions and taking steps to make a change. Of course this is not easy. It’s never a comfortable situation when we admit our shortcomings. Our ego always seems to get in the way. Our ego wants us to always be right, never in the wrong, never making mistakes and always having an answer. Admitting otherwise makes us uncomfortable because this shows our vulnerability. When we are vulnerable, we open up the most precious thing we have, our heart. This makes us feel weak.
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
The arrest and consequent brutal death of John was certainly a dark time in Jesus’ life. “From that time on.” It seems to me that we measure our life in terms of turning points. Events that are viewed as life changing, whether they are highlights or dark moments, change something in us. After this point in his life, Jesus went on to call his first disciples and he began his public ministry. Jesus calls us and “from that time on” our life is changed as we accept the invitation to follow Him.
“The kingdom of heaven is at hand” and within our reach, we only need to realize how close it is. It is a matter of turning from the darkness of this world and entering in a world filled with light as Jesus becomes our guide. “From that time on” we become a light for others as we carry on the ministry of Jesus. It is not only a turning point in our life, but for others.

Karen Curjel

A Year with St. Matthew

Verfasst am Dienstag, 31. Januar 2017

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When we study scripture the important question is most often, “What does this mean for us today?” There are so many messages to be found throughout the Bible, but deciphering how we can bring them into our lives today can be a real challenge. The first place to start is to turn the story around and ask what it meant for the people living in that time.
A Jewish scribe probably wrote the Gospel of Matthew. He was obviously someone who was familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures and writing for Jewish followers of Jesus. In the first century, the Jewish followers were still practicing their faith with the added belief in Christ as the Messiah. This was not really a problem until around 70 A.D. when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans and the Pharisees took over as the ruling leaders. Jewish Christians were no longer allowed to worship in the synagogue and were treated like enemies of the Jewish God. The early Christians were persecuted for their beliefs. They couldn’t understand why God would allow their city and temple to be completely destroyed plus had these leaders breathing down their neck. They were told that Jesus of Nazareth was not the Son of God and the Pharisees insisted that he was a sinner who violated Jewish practices. With this in mind, Matthew presents Jesus as the new Moses. He has Jesus doing “Moses-like” things. Like Moses, he comes to Israel from Egypt (Mt. 2:19) to free people from a life of bondage. Like Moses, Jesus goes up a mountain and gives people a new set of rule in his Sermon on the Mount (4:17-7:29). Jesus is the Son of God, who like Moses, had miraculous powers. Jesus, like Moses, gave the people hope. What is especially interesting is that Matthew backs up what he writes about Jesus by referencing back to the Old Testament quoting passages about what would happen to the Messiah. The Gospel of Matthew has more chapters than the others (Luke’s is the longest if you count the verses and words) but we have until the First Sunday of Advent 2017 to study it.

Karen Curjel

Get Ready, Get Set...Wait!

Verfasst am Dienstag, 20. Dezember 2016

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Advent is a time of preparation but what are we getting ready for? It seems to me that the holidays we celebrate have become extremely consumer oriented filled with advertisements encouraging us to spend money and eat more. The Advent we celebrate in the Church is completely different. We wait for the coming of the Lord. The way we vision Advent determines our approach to Christmas. Is it the trip to the Christmas Market, the winter cruise you are planning or the journey to Bethlehem? Are you even ready for Christmas? Maybe you say “Christmas can’t come yet, I don’t have all my shopping done!” No matter how you view Advent, Christmas will come whether we are ready or not. Jesus will come whether we’re ready or not. Advent invites us to examine our present life, look toward the future and the coming of Christ. Maybe it isn’t something you want to hear as you plan your holidays and do your shopping, but Advent is about waiting, planning, and preparing – anticipating – the coming of our Savior! Christmas is about celebrating – celebrating the Incarnation – God – who came to dwell in the flesh of a human, to live, walk, laugh and to cry, to suffer – with us – all of mankind.
One of my very favorite Christmas songs is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” It is a wonderful song for Advent and an important Christmas word for us during this time. Emmanuel means “God with us.”
Maybe your outlook on life at the moment is not very bright. Instead of hopeful anticipation you have fear and anxiety. No matter how you feel, Christmas will come, whether you are ready or not. And that’s what’s so amazing. God comes into our lives when we least expect it. We can’t predict it but we can prepare for it. We can anticipate it. I invite you to spend this time on a journey to Bethlehem. God sends the Messiah to come to life in our lives. Emmanuel doesn’t mean God HAS BEEN with us. It isn’t God WILL BE with us. It means God WITH US. Right here, right now. Are you ready?

Fr. Urs

Embracing Jesus

Verfasst am Mittwoch, 4. Januar 2017

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If you followed the Advent liturgies closely, you heard about waiting and preparing: waiting for Christ and preparing for his return. It is something the Israelites did for several hundred years. The early Christians recognized Jesus as the promised Messiah and waited for his return. But we don’t need to wait for Christmas for Jesus to be born. He is right here, among us - we hear him in the words he proclaimed, we see him in the faces of each other and we meet him in the Eucharist. If we have found Jesus then what is there to wait for? Of course we are waiting for him to come again, that is what we proclaim in our Memorial Acclamation, the Mystery of Faith: “until you come again”. I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t celebrate the birth of our Savior, but we should be celebrating that he is alive and we must prepare ourselves for his return!
For Christmas, I would like to give you an image to work with: the Messiah came to us as an innocent baby, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. Mary carried our Savior and felt him grow. Jesus moved inside her and she embraced him. Mary nurtured Christ and watched him grow. And us? If you are not carrying Jesus inside you, feeling him move, if you are not embracing our Savior and helping him grow, then you need to activate and energize him. What did Mary do after the Angel Gabriel left her? She didn’t sit in the chapel praying, she went, with haste, into the hill country to the home of Elizabeth. Why? Because she needed her! Elizabeth was six months pregnant with John the Baptist. John leaped inside of her at the presence of the unborn Savior. Friends, mirror this image of Mary, carry the Christ child that lives inside you and bring him to someone who needs your help. Touch a broken brother or sister, more importantly, let them be moved by the Christ that grows inside you. Let the Christ in you come out and be born to the world around you. May God Bless you at Christmas and in the New Year!

Fr. Urs

Make Us Great Again

Verfasst am Dienstag, 6. Dezember 2016

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The 2016 U.S. election is history. I was not able to vote but I followed the campaign closely, watched replays of the Conventions and the debates plus I followed Tweets from both sides. As the entire campaign scene unfolded, which sometimes played out like a bad movie, I couldn’t help but have one question: when did people become so mean? I know how people can be, especially when it comes to politics and public life. I am also aware of how low someone can go to hurt and bring another person down in order to win. However some of the things that were said on television, in interviews and in Tweets, were often times unfair and downright hateful. While it is not okay for people to hit where it hurts (First Lady Michelle Obama’s quote “when they go low, we go high” will go down in history) it is certainly never a good idea to be mean, even when you think a person deserves it. Read what Jesus said about judging others. He is quite clear in his instructions in Matthew 7:1-5, “stop judging that you may not be judged.”
Trump’s success was based largely on the desire for change. His election brings the United States and consequently the rest of the world into uncertain territory. What does that mean for us? We cannot change the outcome of the election and we have very little influence over the future it brings. However we have the power to change ourselves, our immediate surroundings and have a hand in the future. I have watched so much CNN that I have decided to get my news from my local Swiss newspaper, which is much less sensationalized and features good news. Mr. Trump’s ideas about the climate leave me with the question: What can I do to help leave our world livable for the generations to come? But mostly I have a wish: I would like to see people be nicer to each other, showing kindness and support. Can’t we encourage one another and offer praise instead of criticizing? While Mr. Trump tries to make America great again, let’s work on trying to make us great again. True change comes from within.

Karen Curjel

Saving yourself

Verfasst am Dienstag, 22. November 2016

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The liturgical year comes to an end on the 34th Sunday in Ordinary Time when we celebrate “Our Lord Jesus Christ the King” on Sunday, November 20th. After that we turn our eyes toward the Season of Advent and the coming of our Savior. The Gospel Reading (Luke 23:35-43) pictures Jesus not as a king sitting on a throne but hanging on a cross. It begins with sneering and jeering by the rulers and soldiers. They insult him as he hangs for everyone to see. Jesus was provoked throughout his ministry and it continued up to his death. Even one of the criminals attacked Jesus verbally, telling him to save himself and them as well. Was he insisting that Jesus come down from the cross so that he could avoid more suffering and even death? Did the criminal expect Jesus to save them?
Jesus saves and through him we will live in paradise. But this does not mean we won’t suffer. There will always be people who criticize us, look down upon us or say bad things about us - to our face and behind our backs. Often our reaction is to take defense or respond back in the same way. On the cross, Jesus did not respond like that. In Jesus’ suffering we see a different, better way to respond. In his dying, Jesus does not reach out to save him self, he reached out to save others. At the end of the calendar year, we often reflect on the passing year and think of things we can change about ourselves and our life by making a resolution for the New Year. With the end of the liturgical year, why don’t we try the same exercise for our spiritual life?
Jesus is our King because he gave himself for others. His purpose was to show us what it means to live in his kingdom. His kingdom is not one of large territories or an empire, it is a kingdom that lives inside of us and we must give it to those around us. We need to embrace this kingdom and share it. Our King did not come down from the cross to save himself and we can not escape the crosses we bare in our daily lives. Jesus emptied himself out for others, are we willing to do the same?

Karen Curjel

A Church for the People

Verfasst am Dienstag, 8. November 2016

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People who call Good Shepherd’s Church their home come from all over the world and situations. Many of them have left the security and comfort of their surroundings to move to Switzerland. During the relocation process, many people experience a certain amount of anxiety and fear but what follows is a deepening of perspective and freedom of constraints that exceeds boundaries. Boundaries however are not something we ever seem to be free of. As people, we are accustomed to creating boundaries and putting up borders. We build fences around our homes, put up walls around neighborhoods, cities, and around countries. Often we put up boundaries toward each other. The Church however is a place without borders or boundaries. The Church is like a mother who spreads her arms and receives all.
On Sunday, November 6, 2016 we will celebrate the 80th Anniversary of our Church. Eighty years ago, the people living in our community wanted a church home of their own. The distance to St. Michael’s, the only Catholic parish at that time, was far. The people who lived in the neighborhood consisted of mostly migrant workers who worked for the local factories. Perhaps they felt uncomfortable with the more traditional, noble church parish of St. Michael’s. For whatever reason, the people petitioned for a church home of their own. They were denied the funds to build a new church in Zug. Taking matters into their own hands, the people of this community raised the money to build a church. The church we celebrate in today is truly a church for the people by the people. Good Shepherd’s is home to the Swiss community as well as the Croatian Mission and the Syrian Orthodox Community. Join us on Sunday, November 6th at 10:00 as we celebrate our home, living with each other without the boundaries and borders that constrain us, accepting one another, brothers and sisters and strangers alike, as a mother does her children: with open arms and unconditionally.

Karen Curjel

Humbling ourselves

Verfasst am Dienstag, 25. Oktober 2016

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In the Gospel for the 30th Sunday in OT (Luke 18:9-14), Jesus targets the self-righteous. He tells the parable of the sinful tax collector and the devout Pharisee. The Urban Dictionary describes a self-righteous person as one who “acts superior to his peers because he believes his moral standards are perfect.” Their attitude is of someone looking from above down on to others. This would be a good description of the Pharisees of Jesus’ time. The Pharisee was good in his religious practice but his practices didn’t carry over into his relationship with God and others. To understand the sinful nature of the tax collector you have to understand their role in first century Galilee.
The tax collectors were Jews who collected taxes from fellow Jews for the Roman Empire. Jews hated Roman rule, so in their eyes, the tax collectors were traitors. To make it worse, most of the tax collectors charged more than what was expected. Some of them made quite a nice living and became very wealthy. However since they were not accepted by their fellow Jews or by the Romans they were considered outsiders and often lived a lonely life. The Pharisees could easily admit that everyone is a sinner and in need of God’s forgiveness, but because the tax collectors continued to cheat others out of money this put them in a special class, one much lower than the Pharisees. When you study the prayer of these two very different individuals, you can see where the danger is. The Pharisee places great importance on his outward behavior and boasts about his greatness. His interior behavior is not an attitude of humility before God. The tax collector however displayed the outward behavior of a cheater and thief, yet in his prayer, he is humble before God. True humility is honesty about who we are before both God and others. True prayer leads to God lifting us up because we have lowered ourselves before him and this in turn strengthens our relationship with others. When we recognize our sinfulness, admit our wrong doings we will be exalted.

Karen Curjel

Our Saving Faith

Verfasst am Dienstag, 11. Oktober 2016

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The Gospel Reading for the 28th Sunday in OT begins with Jesus continuing his journey to Jerusalem (Luke 17:11-19). His travels toke him through Galilee and Samaria along the Jordan River. As he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers asking him to take pity on them. Jesus instructed them to go show themselves to the priest. While they were leaving, they were healed.
Lepers at that time were outcasts from society and their families. Out of those ten lepers, one returned to give praise to God. There is no mention of what happened to the other lepers and perhaps it’s not important. Their healing reunited them with the community. In their joy maybe they forgot. The only one to give thanks was a foreigner, a Samaritan. The Samaritans were a racially mixed society with Jewish and pagan ancestry. Like the Jews, they worshiped Yahweh but they didn’t follow Judaism. Jews looked down on Samaritans, even despised them. In Luke 9:51-55 Jesus was not welcomed in a Samaritan village and then a chapter later (10:29-37) is the famous parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus’ answer to the rejection is to mirror the Samaritans as being compassionate and thankful. Jews went to great lengths to avoid the Samaritans. When traveling from Galilee to Judea, they would make a big detour to bypass Samaria. How often do we go out of our way to escape an uncomfortable situation? Haven’t we all, at one time or another, made a detour to avoid people we don’t like or even despise? Jesus shows us repeatedly that love and compassion is the answer and not anger and rejection. Jesus did of course get angry but he did not let it consume him. He confronted his accusers. Anger can be consuming, it blocks us and can make us sick. Jesus healed the ten lepers but the Samaritan was saved by his faith. He crossed over the line of racism and prejudice and threw himself at the feet of the Savior. He thanked him and praised our Father in Heaven who loves us unconditionally. Jesus shows us the road to salvation: it is the journey with him to Jerusalem.

Karen Curjel

At His Gate a Poor Man

Verfasst am Dienstag, 27. September 2016

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For those of you who are used to wearing designer labels and dining in restaurants with Michelin stars and Gault Millau points, the Gospel for the 26th Sunday OT might make you feel uncomfortable. Jesus tells the Pharisees a story of a rich man who wears nice clothes and dines lavishly while a man named Lazarus lies at the door. Lazarus is hungry and begs for table scraps. The rich man turns a blind eye. This story does not attack the rich man’s wealth, he was attacked because he did not care. What’s important to Jesus is whether a person cares or not. The rich man had become complacent. Complacency usually begins by having too much or just enough of everything. When we are complacent, we become blind to the injustices around us.
Three years ago I went on a tour to Southeast Anatolia. I spoke to our community about my experience and it brought tears to my eyes. That region is known as the cradle of Christianity, rich with Biblical history. The news of what continues to happen in that part of the world is heartbreaking. Christians, or anyone for that matter, all over the world who are murdered for their beliefs, makes no sense at all. And what do we do? We, as Christians, can exercise our faith without fear of being persecuted. We can live in freedom. The people who live in the birthplace of Christianity are firmly convinced that their faith will die. Bishop Thimoteos of the Mor Gabriel Monastery in Anatolia, one of the oldest monasteries of Christianity, told me that sooner or later we will face the same challenges they do and we will have no way to fight against it. I will never forget the look in his eyes when he said: “You western Christians are complacent and your faith is dull.”
Dear friends, at our doorsteps lay many beggars. They may not look like Lazarus, but like him they are in need: in some way they are suffering. They don’t ask for money or a donation. They ask for something much more precious - they ask for our time, our compassion - for understanding. They ask for our love. Will we turn a blind eye?

Fr. Urs

My Safe Place

Verfasst am Dienstag, 13. September 2016

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Before I left for my summer holiday, I took part in a philosophical discussion (“Spirit & Wine” see: www.guthirt-zug.ch). The topic was “Where is your safe place?” A “safe place” was described as a place where we find peace when the hectic pace of our daily schedule and life’s challenging situations confront us. It can be a place that you physically go to regularly or the memory of a place you have visited and your thoughts return there when you seek an escape. When I was a child, my “safe place” was the serenity of the woods, among the trees. As I grew older, that place became the sea or the ocean. The salt air and the noise of the waves brought me certain calm, even when a storm caused the waves to pound against the shore. During these past summer weeks, I spent my holiday visiting my safe place on the sea. Several terror attacks left my safe place unstable. The presence of machine gun carrying soldiers made me feel uncomfortable. Neatly hung signs with instructions of what to do during a terrorist attack brought the reality of what is happening in Syria much closer to home. What happens when our “safe place” no longer feels safe? Religion has always had a history of conflict and there have always been wars. What’s going on in today’s world is nothing new. Our electronic age brings the information to us in seconds, complete with all the visuals. We ask ourselves what we can do or where can we go. Are we safe anywhere? When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he gave them the Lord’s Prayer. Before doing so, he instructed them to “go to your inner room” (Matthew 6:6). Our inner room is that place deep inside us that is secret and ours alone. In that room, we can personalize it and arrange our space the way we want too. We can go there when the demands of our everyday routine become too much; when we don’t understand the world around us; when we are feeling lonely or sad. But is it a “safe place”? Jesus instructed his disciples to close the door and pray to our Father in secret. It is here, in the serenity of God that we truly find safety.

Karen Curjel

Celebrating the Saints

Verfasst am Dienstag, 30. August 2016

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In August, on Saturday the 27th, we celebrate Saint Monica’s day. For girls who have the name Monica, this is a celebration of their name. On “Name Day” it is customary for people who share the name of a saint to celebrate a special meal with their families, or receive special treats on this day. Here is the story of Saint Monica: she was born in 331 A.D. in (Tagaste) present day Algeria. When she was very young, she was married off to the Roman pagan Patricius. He and his mother, who lived with the couple, shared a violent temper. This created a con-stant struggle for Monica as they refused to let her baptize their three children Augustine, Navigius, and Perpetua. Through Monica’s constant prayers for her husband and mother in law she was able to convert them one year before the death of her spouse. The two younger children entered into religious life, but the 17 year old Augustine was uninterested, so
St. Monica sent him to Carthage for schooling. It was there that he became a Manichaean, a belief which saw the world as light and darkness, and when one died, they were removed from the world of matter and returned to the world of light, which is where life comes from. Upon his return from school and hearing of his beliefs, his mother threw him from their home. She later had a vision to reconcile with him. She went to the bishop who told her, “the child of those tears shall never perish”. With the help of the Bishop (later known as St. Ambrose) Augustine of Hippo converted to Christianity. He is known to us as St. Augustine of Hippo. In 1430, the pope ordered that her relics be brought to Rome for her final resting place. During the journey it was reported that many miracles happened. St. Monica is the patron saint of wives and victims of abuse. Let us pray that she intercedes for women who are suffering around the world.

Shannon Poltera

Praying the Lord’s Prayer

Verfasst am Dienstag, 2. August 2016

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August will mark the one year anniversary since I started working for Good Shepherd’s. In this past year while team teaching the First Communion classes with Karen, I have learned many things. Probably the most meaningful was relearning the Lord’s Prayer. Of course I already knew the “Our Father”, and how to recite it. But that’s it – I could recite it, but I guess I didn’t really “know” it.
In the Gospel for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Luke 11:1-13) Jesus teaches the disciples how to pray. The prayer Jesus gave us, is the most perfect prayer we learn through our faith.
While teaching 24 children this past year I learned how to pray the “Our Father” not only by using my voice but by using my body. By reciting each part of the prayer we learned a gesture that goes along with it. Karen and I taught each verse, helping the children understand what it means. We discussed what we liked about it and what it means to us. It was a blessing to be a part these steps and watch the children understand this prayer and say it proudly and perfectly on their First Holy Communion. I knew by watching them on this day, standing with them around the altar, reciting and moving their bodies through this wonderful prayer that they felt and got the meaning of it. It certainly gave a new meaning to me. Since this celebration, I have learned to pray the “Our Father” when faced with a challenging situation. I have a choice to be a disciple of Jesus or to be a partner with evil. We as Christians know the right choice, but our challenge is to make that choice. To do as God would want us to do, as Jesus has taught us. Try to do this when you are angry or frustrated or lost. See if it lightens your heart and helps lead you in the right direction. It does this for me.

Shannon Poltera

Martha & Mary

Verfasst am Dienstag, 2. August 2016

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There are 25 verses in the Bible about hospitality. Next to the hospitality of Abraham, the story of Martha and Mary is probably the most popular. The Gospel for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Luke 10: 38-42) tells the story of these sisters. When Jesus comes to Bethany, Martha demonstrates hospitality by welcoming Jesus into the home she shares with Mary. She occupies herself with the job of serving their guest. In Greek, this is called diakonia. The Gospel doesn’t tell us what she was doing, but she was very busy almost to the point of becoming overwhelmed. She was doing all the work while her sister was sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to his words. Instead of doing the job that woman of her culture were expected to, Mary takes on the role of a student learning, a role traditionally reserved for men. Since Mary is more concerned about the words of the Lord than the job of her sister, Martha asks Jesus to tell her sister to help. Jesus’ answer must have come as a shock. Many people can understand Martha’s frustration and resentment. She was left with all the work of serving while her sister was sitting with the guest. Diakonia is important and certainly Jesus preached about it, but Martha’s worry breaks the rules of true hospitality by trying to embarrass her sister in front of an important guest.
The two women are a good example of two types of spiritual life. Martha represents the active side by busily honoring and serving Christ. Mary on the other hand, displays the contemplative life of listening and learning which appears to be less active. Both of these are important to true Christian living, but the less active contemplative life is necessary to have a truly balanced spiritual life. I think that the contemplative life is harder to maintain than the busy life of service. It seems that we all have to be busy doing this or going there that we don’t find enough time to just be and exist. Perhaps we need to remind ourselves that in heaven the active life ends and the contemplative life becomes perfect. Maybe we need to begin practicing.

Karen Curjel

Searching For What Matters

Verfasst am Dienstag, 16. August 2016

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For many people, religion and spirituality offer an important way to find meaning, hope and joy during times of struggle. In difficult situations, the question of why people suffer often comes up. We suffer, or find difficulty watching others suffer. This stirs up a wide range of feelings, from being vulnerable, to anger or even betrayal. What we once believed to be true, our core beliefs and spiritual foundation, seems shaken. When questions of faith come up we rush to find an answer. The danger of losing faith is when the answer doesn’t come. Since the beginning of time, man has been searching for answers. The circumstances and situations may have changed, but the questions are usually the same.
A person’s spirituality can change and develop throughout life’s journey. Even if spirituality is not a part of your daily life, it is never too late to discover and open up that part of you. When you have some quiet moments, take time to reflect on your life and the path you have taken. Revisit former places and times in your life and compare them to where you are today. Looking at old pictures or reading the old pages of a journal or letters helps. Maybe you can ask yourself what your spiritual life was like during the various times in your life. It is interesting to make a chart, using one line to show the highs and lows of your life and another line to chart your spiritual life. During difficult times, did you find yourself especially close to God and your faith or are the lines far apart? Allow yourself to ask the questions about the meaning of your life and why you are in the situation you find yourself to be. Discover the beauty in your life and the world that surrounds you. Beauty can be found in the simple things we do or see and experience in our everyday life. Sometimes the most beautiful thing in life is the relationships we have with others. Take the time to reach out to those who are important to you and remember that you are not alone. God speaks to us in the events we experience in our lives. It just takes time to realize what the message is.

Karen Curjel

Celebrating A Dynamic Relationship

Verfasst am Dienstag, 12. Juli 2016

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When Jesus asked Peter (Matthew 16: 13-19) who people said he was, he responded, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus built his church on Peter, the rock. After his conversion, Paul proclaimed Jesus’ identity. Jesus built the Gentile church on Paul through his incredible ministry. On June 29th we honor these two great saints because they were faithful to preaching the Gospel and building up the church that now belongs to us.
Peter and Paul had a complicated, yet dynamic relationship. Peter had been raised as a devout Jew. However he preached one thing to the Gentiles and lived differently than the way he preached. He was acting hypocritically and Paul criticized him in front of people (Galatians 2). This probably wasn’t good advertisement for the early Church but Peter showed true saintly behavior by taking Paul’s criticism to heart. Peter began to practice what he preached.
It wouldn’t hurt us to follow this example of saintly behavior. We don’t always agree with our colleagues or friends but it wouldn’t hurt us to look in the mirror that is held up to us. Most of us live our lives in a way that is pleasing to ourselves, without much thought as to how our actions (no matter how big or small) might affect others. We are quick to point a finger, but when the finger is pointed at us we make excuses and defend ourselves.
Peter led the Church through persecution, working hard to ensure that the disciples kept the true faith. Paul preached tirelessly to the Gentiles of the Mediterranean. Both had different backgrounds and ministries but they were devoted to keeping the message of Jesus alive. Their differences made it possible to reach a larger audience, bringing together two completely different worlds. We shouldn’t be afraid of our differences – we should embrace them and move forward to create something big. Through the ministries of this dynamic duo, the vision of Jesus was brought to life. It is up to us to keep this vision going.

Karen Curjel

The Center of Our Life

Verfasst am Dienstag, 21. Juni 2016

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At the Last Supper, Jesus took break, broke it and gave it to his disciples saying, “This is my body”. He did NOT say, “This is a symbol of my body” or “This represents my body”. He said, “This IS my body.” Transubstantiation is the name we give to the bread and wine that’s changed into the body and blood of Jesus while maintaining the appearance of bread and wine. The substance is transformed while maintaining its external appearance. Here’s a wonderful comparison: Just as the wheat is beaten and crushed to become flour for bread, Jesus’ body was scourged and crucified. Just as the juice flows from the grape to make wine, Jesus’ blood flowed. The bread and wine which we offer in sacrifice during every Mass remind us of the passion and death of Jesus. Every time we celebrate the Eucharist we are reminded of how much Jesus love us – so much so that he gave his life for us.
Time is divided into B.C. and A.D.; B.C. means before Christ and A.D. is the Medieval Latin term Anno Domini. Translated it means: in the year of Our Lord. A.D. counts the years since the birth of Christ. In this way, we are showing that Jesus is the center and most important event in the history of time. Just as we divide time, the Sacred Scriptures do the same: In the Old Testament we get glimpses and hints of the Savior who is to come, either by events or people who are pointing the way to Jesus. The New Testament is about Jesus, his life and his message. Compared to Jesus everything else in history diminishes into insignificance. Jesus should be the center of our lives. Jesus is or should be the center of our week, the center of each and every day. In our busy, often overbooked and over-scheduled lives do I dare ask the question: Is he? Just as Jesus is the center of time, our celebration of the Eucharist should keep Jesus at the center of our lives. He should not be a stranger that we meet for just one hour every Sunday. He longs for us to be in a relationship with him, he wants to be our friend. As our friend, it is up to us to introduce him to others.

Karen Curjel

Food For Thought

Verfasst am Dienstag, 14. Juni 2016

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On Sunday, May 29th we celebrate the Solemnity of The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi in Latin). This feast, which began around the 13th century in France, celebrates the Body of Christ as the Eucharist which is the real presence of Jesus. This feast also celebrates Jesus as the Body of Christ as it is present in the Church. Together as believers in Jesus, we form the Body of Christ as St. Paul so beautifully describes in his letter to the community in Corinth (1 Corinthians 12: 27). What is so wonderful about celebrating this feast is that very often following the Mass, the faithful gather together in public procession behind the Blessed Sacrament through towns and villages. The Church brings the Body of Christ out to the people. But I ask myself, why should this be limited to just this feast day? The Gospel Reading for this Sunday is the famous miracle of Jesus, the “Feeding of Five Thousand”. When the disciples suggest to Jesus that he should dismiss the he should dismiss the crowd because they needed lodging and provisions, he tells them to “give them some food yourselves.”
The Eucharist is God’s gift to us: Jesus who nourishes us in his words and deeds gives us his body. We have the wonderful opportunity to receive this food in every Mass and with this food we can be transformed into more perfect members of the Body of Christ, the Church. Think about it: we are nourished and strengthened by the words and teachings of Jesus which we hear in every Mass, followed by the transformation of bread and wine into his Body and Blood just he did at the Last Supper. When we meditate on this incredible mystery, we can’t help but leave the Church feeling renewed and filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, who leads us out into the streets and workplace. It needs no words or evangelizing to others. We simply make a promise of wholehearted love to God our Father and offer ourselves to the service of others. As we celebrate this feast, let the Body and Blood of Christ rest in you and give food to others.

Karen Curjel

Becoming a Saint

Verfasst am Dienstag, 24. Mai 2016

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Since I began researching and writing about Saints, I thought it might be interesting to understand how the Church decides how one becomes a Saint. Canonization is the process the Church uses to name a saint. This word has been used since the tenth century. For hundreds of years, beginning with the first martyrs, saints were chosen by public popularity. This was a democratic way to recognize saints and their stories. Unfortunately some of the stories were stretched or even untrue. Gradually the bishops and finally the Vatican took over the process of choosing saints. In 1983, Pope John Paul II made radical changes. The process begins after the death of a Catholic whom people regard as holy. The candidate’s life and writings are investigated by the local bishop. A panel of theologians at the Vatican makes an evaluation. After approval, the pope proclaims the candidate “venerable”. To be venerable means to holy someone in great respect and admiration.
The next step is “beautification”. This requires evidence of miracles, except in the case of martyrs. Miracles are considered proof that the person is in heaven and can intercede for us. The miracle must take place after the candidate’s death and as a result of a specific petition to candidate. When the pope proclaims the candidate beautified or blessed the person can be venerated by a particular group of people with whom the person holds special importance. The pope will canonize the saint after one more miracle. The title of saint tells us that the person lived a holy life, is in heaven, and is to be honored by the universal Church. Canonization does not “make” a person a saint; it recognizes what God has already done. Every person who is canon-ized is a saint, not every holy person has been canonized. You have probably known many “saints” in your life, and you are called by God to be one yourself.

Shannon Poltera

Saying Good-Bye

Verfasst am Dienstag, 10. Mai 2016

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On Thursday, May 5th we celebrate The Ascension of The Lord. In the Gospel for that day (Luke 24: 46-53), Jesus blessed his disciples before he was taken up to heaven. Luke writes a more detailed version in the First Reading found in The Acts of the Apostles (1:1-11). This first chapter is an introduction to the entire book which connects to Luke’s Gospel. Luke dedicated his Gospel and Acts to Theophilus, who is thought to be a distinguished figure or a high ranking Roman officer. Luke is very careful to make a historic account of everything that had happened. It is important for him to show that the ministry of Jesus continues through his disciples, who are guided by the Holy Spirit. On Ascension, the disciples said good bye to Jesus. He had been their friend and teacher for over three years and was with them for 40 days after the Resurrection. For Luke, the ascension of Jesus is the end of his appearances. It marks the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church. I could imagine that Jesus’ friends were sad and somewhat scared. Before he left, he gave them a mission and they were not sure how that would work. It would be days before Jesus would send the promised helper of the Holy Spirit. In the mean time they would have to wait.
Saying good-bye is never easy. We bid farewell to friends and family all the time. We also say a kind of good-bye with each life changing event. With every good-bye it seems like a small part of us dies and emptiness remains. Jesus promised the disciples that he would not leave them alone but in their waiting I am sure they felt frustrated and abandoned. This is a place where none of us like to be, but we do find ourselves in that place during certain times of our life. I believe that in this part of dying, Jesus calls out to us. Those are times when it is important to go out and find your mission. As we look toward the sky, like the disciples, the Holy Spirit will give us power.

Karen Curjel

The Good Shepherd

Verfasst am Dienstag, 26. April 2016

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At the time of Jesus’ ministry, there were many sheep in the Galilee area. Sheep are beautiful, sweet animals, but they cannot take very good care of themselves. They don’t pay attention to what they are doing and they have a tendency to be a little absent minded. Sheep, at little like us, become so involved with other things that we can easily wander off and become lost. The job of a shepherd is to make sure no sheep wanders off and becomes lost. The shepherd keeps his sheep safe from danger. His staff is a great instrument that hooks around the neck of the sheep. The shepherd gently guides the wandering animal back to the place from where he wandered from. Sheep need leadership and so do we. We wander when we get so busy with sports, our friends, and work that we forget to pray or don’t find time for Church. We wander when we are unkind to others and when we become selfish and think only of our selves.
In the Gospel for the 4th Sunday of Easter (John 10: 27-30), Jesus tells us that he is the Good Shepherd. When we begin to wander, he has a way of entering into our activities. He reaches out his staff and gently guides us back to safety. We can follow by answering his call.
On Sunday, April 17th, we celebrate Jesus, the Good Shepherd. As in years past, we celebrate this special Sunday with our brothers and sisters of our mother parish, Gut Hirt. Gut Hirt is the German word for Good Shepherd. This morning Mass at 9:30 is completely bi-lingual, English and German. Fr. Urs celebrates the Mass, switching between both languages throughout the entire celebration. Music will be provided by the Gut Hirt Choir, under the direction of Verena Zemp. If you are unable to join us, Mass will be celebrated in the usually manner, in English, at 6:00 p.m.

Karen Curjel

The Power of Powerlessness

Verfasst am Dienstag, 12. April 2016

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During Jesus’ short ministry he taught about the power of powerlessness. He showed us how giving in and being submissive gives us power. Evil and suffering did not destroy him, it strengthened him. His resurrection invites us into the process of God showing us a new way of life and a different approach to the world around us. Those who accept this invitation will become holy. Holiness is not necessarily a life without sin or without mistakes. Holiness is a state of mind and heart. It is about purity of intention, a purity of heart and of truth. Jesus invites us to embrace this purity and then he asks us to trust - to radically trust - in every single thing that God leads us to do. This is a pretty big invitation and one worth taking. This trust leads us to a state of powerlessness when we let go of our fears. Life is right in front of us and it is usually pretty clear. Most of the time we don’t like the way it looks and we want to change it. We judge it, and then spend a lot of time and energy taking control of it, or of whom we are and where we are going. We then create an illusion of what our life should be and who we want to be. When it isn’t going as planned, fear and anxiety set in. That’s when we become vulnerable and we lose control.
As Christians, we are called to recognize these illusions as being half-truths, outright lies or a bunch of B.S. If we don’t, we get caught up in a make-believe world that can lead us down a path of self-destruction. These realizations can set us free as God gives us the wisdom to seek out the truth and make our choices. Jesus saved the world by giving himself over to the truth. He knew that death was not the end. He saw through the illusions that surrounded him and put his trust in His Father. Brothers and sisters seek out the truth, demand it! Do the inner work, find out what is real and submit yourselves to it. Maybe then you will be able to feel the power of being powerless.

Fr. Urs

Living Holy Week

Verfasst am Dienstag, 29. März 2016

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Most of us probably don’t think about whether we love our life or not. Often times we just take it for granted. But it’s obvious that we do. Every day we make choices to make sure our life is filled with prosperity and good health. Loving life keeps us energized and it keeps us moving forward.
Luke’s account of the Passion of Christ gives us the beautiful image of how much Jesus loved life. The Narrative starts with chapter 22, but the story begins much earlier. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus predicts his passion in three places. His final prediction comes just before his entry into Jerusalem. Jesus knew what faced him there and he went head-on into the arms of his accusers. The Passion is read in the Mass on Palm Sunday. Our liturgy suggests a short and a long version of the Gospel. Due to its length, the shorter version is often selected. The shorter version bypasses the Last Supper and Jesus’ agony in the garden and subsequent arrest. In order to prepare ourselves for the Mass, I suggest reading the entire story, beginning with Jesus’ teaching ministry in Jerusalem (Luke 19:28-21:38). The Messiah who should have brought peace to Jerusalem was not able to do it. The Jews were expecting a savior who would deliver them from the bonds and restrictions of Roman authority. Jesus is much bigger than that – he frees us from our own chains of poverty, sickness and sin. So many times we hold on to anger, resentment and hatred that it becomes like a disease, keeping us from the living the life we are meant to live. And the point is to live life! Jesus lived his life and loved it. He didn’t want to give it up and he struggled to say yes to his Father’s will. As we journey with Jesus through the story of his passion, let us let go of the bonds that keep us from saying yes to the will of God so that we can rejoice in new life.

Karen Curjel

Celebrating St. Joseph

Verfasst am Dienstag, 15. März 2016

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The admirable story of Joseph. Finding out that your wife-to-be is pregnant and knowing it is not yours, put Joseph in a situation where he had to decide what to do. He was planning to quietly move Mary out of town in order to protect her from the stoned death given to people who commit adultery. Before he did this, he heard in a dream an angel saying: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her, is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins”. Joseph did just as the angel told him. After the birth he took Mary his wife to be purified and the baby Jesus to be circumcised to the Temple. Being a carpenter and hand worker, he could only offer a small sacrifice. Joseph loved Jesus and his one concern was in the safety of this child entrusted to him. He was not at the death, nor the resurrection of Jesus, making us believe he died before Jesus set out to public ministry. We don’t know much about what he thought or what he did in his days, but through the scriptures, most importantly, we remember him as who he was: a righteous man. We celebrate St. Joseph on March 19th. He is the Patron Saint of the Universal Church, unborn children, fathers, workers, travelers, immigrants, and a happy death. On this day, Catholics around the world set tables or altars of simple meatless meals, as the feast day usually falls during Lent, to share with others as well as their families. In Italy, according to legend, they prayed to St. Joseph to bring them rain in a time of drought. They promised if he answered their prayers, they would prepare a large feast to honor him. As you can guess, the rain came, and people adorned the tables with bread, wine, flowers, candles, and special dishes. All over the world churches and hospitals have been named after St. Joseph. This man, like Mary, said yes to the will of God. His devotion to Mary and dedication to his family makes him a role model not only to fathers but mothers today.

Shannon Poltera

The Window to our Soul

Verfasst am Dienstag, 1. März 2016

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I only need to look out the window to know that spring is in the air. The warmer temperatures and the buds on the trees and flowers are one of the first signs. The other is the condition of my windows! With spring comes the big spring cleaning. Some texts trace the ritual of spring cleaning to the ancient Jewish practice of thoroughly cleaning to remove any traces of leaven foodstuffs. Early Christians continued this practice in anticipation of Easter. The idea of cleaning our homes should not only be restricted to within the four walls where we live. We have all heard the saying, “Eyes are the window to the soul”. Scientists have recently found truth to this. The patterns of lines and dots within the iris are as unique as fingerprints. They can reveal a lot about a person’s traits and character. If we take this image of spring cleaning our homes, then cleaning the windows isn’t enough. We can clean them and have a clearer view to the outside, but the inside is still a mess. It is on the inside where the real cleaning begins: from the top to bottom, the inside to the outside. The same is true with our self. We can do the outer work of fasting and performing good deeds, but that is just the surface. Real cleaning begins much deeper. We need to open up our closets and get rid of the things that we really don’t need. This would include everything that is broken and no longer productive. Read the Gospel for the Third Sunday of Lent (Luke 13: 1-9). Jesus is urgent in his instructions to repent in order to bear the fruit of right living. He tells the parable of the fig tree and the master who threatens to have it destroyed because it doesn’t produce fruit. The gardener begs for more time. Let us use the remaining weeks of Lent to start cleaning our inside. The windows will take care of themselves.

Karen Curjel

Taking Responsibility: See and Act

Verfasst am Dienstag, 16. Februar 2016

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Every year at this time, the Catholic NGO in Switzerland, “Fastenopfer”, presents their Lenten campaign. Their articles, statements and pictures provoke and give us something to think about. This year’s picture is of a woman wearing an elegant black dress and a large gold necklace. A magnifying glass is held up to the necklace revealing what is behind the creation of such jewelry. The devastation caused by mining and its impact on the environment not only pollutes, but it weakens the earth.
This year’s campaign supports the initiative “For Responsible Multinationals”. This initiative demands stricter regulations to make sure companies respect human rights and put an end to their damage to the Environment. The point of this campaign is not to provoke these multinational corporations. Of course they must be accountable for their practices, but it is just as much our responsibility to look after the environment. Dr. Michelle Becka, professor at the Gutenberg University in Mainz, is quoted in Fastenopfer’s “See and act Ecumenical Campaign” as saying, “The theology of the Creation therefore sees man as a creature like other creatures, which prohibits human arrogance and imposes a triple accountability: individual accountability for the Creation, accountability to God, the creative force who has entrusted the Earth to us, and finally individual accountability to others, since nature is the basis of substance for us all.” Often times it’s easy to point a finger at others and criticize, but we must not forget that we are all responsible for Creation. The environment is in serious trouble and real change starts with us as individuals. It is up to us to do the research, read the reports and inform ourselves. Material for the “See and act Ecumenical Campaign” is available in English (in our Church or under www.fastenopfer.org) We must then come to our own conclusions and make our own decisions. It is about moving out of our comfort zone and making drastic changes.

Karen Curjel

Fasting for Our Planet

Verfasst am Dienstag, 2. Februar 2016

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The Season of Christmas ended when we celebrated Jesus’s Baptism and now we turn toward Lent. Ash Wednesday, like Easter, is a movable feast, moving around each year. Easter is set according to a lunar calendar, occurring on the first Sunday after the full moon that follows the vernal equinox. According to the moon, this year Easter will be on Sunday, March 27th and Lent begins 46 days earlier.
In my family we already began discussing our Lenten promises. It might seem silly to some people to “give up” something for forty days (the six Sundays in Lent are Feast Days and not Fast Days!) But if we really think about what we are doing and why I believe that we can learn something about ourselves and even makes some changes. Last year I chose to follow the rules for fasting and abstinence as observed prior to Vatican 2. This meant a vegan diet: no animal prod-ucts allowed. I would measure my success as an 8 out of 10 points. Even though I was not 100% successful, I did learn something and was able to make changes in my life. After researching the impact of animal agriculture (it’s an eye-opener) on our environment I began to take a serious look at what we eat. The restructuring at our recycling station and their refusal to accept certain types of plastic has me rethinking my purchases.
Our Gospel for Ash Wednesday (Matthew 6:1-6) is great. Jesus tells his disciples to take care when they perform good deeds and not make a big show for other people. For us, this means keeping our Lenten practices quiet and letting it manifest deep inside where real change takes place. Change is needed if we want to leave a better world for our children’s children. “Your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

Karen Curjel

Baptizing Our Lord

Verfasst am Dienstag, 19. Januar 2016

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Throughout time, pictures were drawn or painted on walls in order to tell a story. This is how people communicated with others especially to those who could not read. Tapestry is a form of textile art. Threads are woven on a loom and the end product is hung on a wall. Tapestries are not only decorative, they are also functional. In old castles they help insulate and in churches they add to the acoustics. In the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles hang several series of tapestries. They were created by John Nava for the cathedral and they are the largest collection of hanging tapestries in the United States. Behind the Baptismal Font is a set of five tapestries. Each tapestry is approximately fourteen and a half meters long and seven meters wide. The middle and most prominent of these tapestries is the one depicting Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist in the River Jordan. Jesus is on his knees, sitting in front of John as John pours water from a simple bowl over Jesus’ head. From a distance, it is difficult to imagine that this is a woven picture. The details of the Baptist’s hair and the baptismal water flowing from the bowl all the way down to Jesus’ feet appear so realistic. It is a tender moment as our Lord humbles himself before John. In the Gospel Reading for Sunday, January 10th, we hear the story of Jesus’ baptism by John (Luke 3: 15-16, 21-22). People at the time thought that perhaps John was the savior they had been waiting for. He was clear with his answer, “one mightier is coming.” He tells them that he is “not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.” They found in John a humble servant when they were expecting more. After Jesus’ baptism, John’s mission of paving the way for the long-awaited Messiah was complete. Our mission, however, is far from complete. We need to loosen the thongs of our sandals and get to the business of serving others.

Karen Curjel

Follow the Star to Jesus

Verfasst am Dienstag, 5. Januar 2016

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In the Gospel for The Epiphany of the Lord (Matt 2:1-12) we hear the story of the magi from the east who were following the star that would lead them to the newborn king of the Jews. They went and found Mary and seeing her with the Son of God, they bowed, knelt, and worshipped His coming because their belief had been answered. We Christians, through baptism (and our choice to baptize our children) become “copartners” in Christ, as St. Paul writes in his Letter to the Ephesians (Eph 3:2-3a,5-6). We receive Christ’s light, let it burn in our daily lives and try to give it to others. In the dark days of winter we use candles to add light to our rooms, but what about the dark days of our lives? Is your flame big enough to pass on to others? As we get caught up in our hectic, daily lives we often forget about our own light until sometimes it is too late. How do we keep this flame glowing? The magi humbled themselves before the newborn King and they opened their treasures. They presented their gifts to him. What treasures do we have to open and what gifts can we give? Showing respect, humble homage to the newborn Christ, was the biggest gift of all. In (Matt 25:31-46) we read about how we will be accepted into His Kingdom by feeding Him, clothing Him, visiting Him; “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me”. We teach the children who are preparing for First Holy Communion how they can shine their light by keeping Jesus in their thoughts, their words, and in their hearts. The face of Jesus isn’t like finding the star from Heaven thousands of years ago, but when you take a moment and look around His face is just as easy to spot as that star. It is found in helping the new student in school who is searching to be accepted; an elder trying to reach an item in the grocery store; a work associate struggling in the office. The face of Jesus is there. Take these opportunities brothers and sisters. Now is the time to let your light shine!

Shannon Poltera

My Christmas Wish

Verfasst am Donnerstag, 17. Dezember 2015

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Christmas is usually reserved for spending time with family and friends. Children are filled with anticipation and adults try to meet their last minute deadlines as they make plans for the holidays. We look forward to some restful time off. I arrived in Switzerland twenty-six years ago on Christmas Day. I was far away from my family, in a country where I didn’t know anyone and I did not speak the language. Switzerland greeted me with sun and snow. The lifestyle that I was used to became a thing of the past. I soon realized that I would have to let go of many of my traditions and way of life. I left what was familiar and moved into the unfamiliar. There would be many new things to learn and my life would change forever. Mary and Joseph left what was familiar to them. They journeyed from Nazareth to Bethlehem where the world changed as the Word became flesh; love became flesh as the Son of God came to life. The young couple certainly embraced the new life that was born. The angels sang a song of praise (Luke 2: 13-14) as the Messiah everyone was waiting for came into the world. He quietly entered our world and Christmas is a reminder of that. God quietly lives with us, so quietly, that I wonder if maybe we forget that he is among us. As I let go of what I knew and began a new life in Switzerland, I discovered many things about myself. This is what is meant by dying to oneself: leaving a part of our self behind to discover something new. In our searching, we find. In our dying, we make room for new life. My Christmas wish is that you will be able to let go of a part of yourself to make room for something new. God lives and walks among us every day, not just on Christmas. Discover this mystery and embrace it like the young couple in Bethlehem did many years ago.

Karen Curjel

Being Vigilant for Jesus

Verfasst am Mittwoch, 9. Dezember 2015

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The recent terror attacks have left many of us feeling quite uncertain. The on-going threats are intimidating and cause great anxiety. What are we to do and how are we supposed to act? I don’t know much but I do know that there is no nation better than the other, no religion is perfect and there are extremities found in people all over the world. We might believe that with all the advances in technology we would be more civilized than we are. I wonder if mankind is really any better now than two thousand years ago. The Readings for the First Sunday of Advent are interesting. Jeremiah (Jer 33:14-16) offers a promise of future healing and in Paul’s Letter (1 Thess 3:12-4:2) he advises the community in Thessalonia to “increase and abound in love”. The Readings are about the coming of the Lord and how we must prepare for his return. The Gospel passage from Luke (Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36) is apocalyptic in its vision: there will be signs and we will see the Son of Man coming in great glory. As we begin the season of Advent, we think of the first coming of Christ - as an innocent child. His first coming fulfilled prophesies of the Old Testament. Jesus’ earthly ministry showed us how God will rule over his kingdom and what we must do. As we find ourselves in the middle of a world filled with uncertainty and fear, many people ask the question “how we can continue?” We can find answers in scripture and in observing children who wait for Christmas. Children are vigilant and show their best behavior. This means we shouldn’t focus on our own needs and wants, but on what God wants. In our uncertainty and fear, He is always there to comfort and guide, but we must have faith, search the Bible for answers, and find encouragement in the experiences of the prophets and the words of mystics. Julian of Norwich wrote: God did not say: “You will not be tempted; You will not labor hard; You will not be troubled.” But God did say: “You will not be overcome.” Stand tall for Jesus and be vigilant. “To you, O Lord, I lift my soul” (Ps 25).

Karen Curjel

Our Year-End Evaluation

Verfasst am Dienstag, 24. November 2015

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Our Liturgical Year comes to an end with the feast of “Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe”. We have spent the past twelve months studying Mark’s Gospel. His Gospel is short, direct and easy to remember. In the first half, Mark tries to answer the question “who is Jesus?” Jesus goes up and down Galilee healing and forgiving, eating with sinners and nourishing people with his words and actions. People are fascinated with him and he calls them to follow him. They follow Jesus, not because of their fascination but because he has changed their life and they are willing to live in a way that spreads his message of love and compassion. Mark is written in an “earthy” kind of way where Jesus shows some very human reactions like frustration and disappointment - more so than he does in the other gospels. The high-light of this gospels is not the disciples acknowledging Jesus as the suffering Messiah. It is the confession of the centurion (15: 39) who gazes up to the crucified Christ and says, “Truly this man was the Son of God.” As we end the liturgical year, we celebrate the Son of God as our King, whose kingdom “does not belong to this world.” In the Gospel for this Sunday, November 22nd (John 18: 33-37), Jesus is on trial before Pilate. They seem to have a small quarrel over words and worlds and Jesus’ identity. Jesus doesn’t deny his royal mission, but he distances himself from Pilate’s politics. Jesus is concerned about the kingdom of God. His reign extends beyond the Empire of Rome to the ends of the earth and beyond. His kingdom is not a structural one. It is a place of being that it shaped by our relationship with Jesus. It is a place where wealth is measured not by the riches we accumulate but by what we give away. It is a kingdom where the importance is not on who serves us but on whom we serve. As we begin to focus on the upcoming Season of Advent, let’s try to move out of Pilate’s world of ruling control and more into the self-giving world of Jesus, our Christ, our King of the Universe.

Karen Curjel

Spiritual Check-Up

Verfasst am Dienstag, 10. November 2015

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We all know the importance of staying in shape, making healthy food choices and visiting the doctor once a year. A yearly check-up helps detect health problems before they arise. The older we get, the more important it is to stay physically fit. After a certain age we should do strength training exercises at least twice a week and cardio on the other days. This takes quite a lot of time out of our day, leaving little time for spiritual exercise. We can measure our physical fitness but can we measure our spirituality? The Liturgical Year B and our study of Mark’s gospel end on November 22nd. Mark tells of a scribe who interrupted a disagreement between Jesus and some Sadducees. He asked which is the greatest commandment (Mark 12:28-34). For the devout Jew, all commandments were to be kept equally. Jesus answers him with the double commandment which comes from all the laws and the prophets. Jesus tells us that we shall love the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind. He then tells us that we shall love our neighbor as we love our self. We can check our spiritual health by asking ourselves a few questions based on this commandment: Do I listen to God as he tells me who I am and shows me what I am called to do? Am I controlled by earthly possessions and the material world or by the treasures I am storing in heaven? As I mature and gain wisdom, am I becoming more compassionate, kind, patient and humble? Is my relationship focused on Jesus helping me to find solutions instead of problems, on forgiveness instead of revenge? Am I willing to be seen as weak and humble so that God can show His strength? Do I rely on God for my strength or do I insist on getting through it alone? St. Paul outlines the “Ideal Christian Life in the World” in his Letter to the Colossians (Col. 3:1-17). He instructs us to let the Word of Christ dwell in us and whatever we do, do it in the name of Jesus and give thanks to God. To be spiritually fit, feed on God’s Word and exercise your faith.

Karen Curjel

Encountering Jesus

Verfasst am Dienstag, 27. Oktober 2015

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My favorite stories from the Gospels are Jesus’ encounters with the weak. On the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time we hear the powerful story of Blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10: 46-52). Jesus is on a journey from Jericho to Jerusalem. Bartimaeus is on a journey, moving from blindness to sight. It is not so much what Jesus does, but what the blind man does. His actions are filled with energy and movement. Bartimaeus sat by the roadside begging. “He began to cry out. Many rebuked him. He kept calling out. Jesus stopped. He threw aside his cloak, sprang up. I want to see. Your faith has saved you. He received his sight and followed him.” Barimaeus was a man who lived life on the edge of society. He was an outcast, a beggar and people criticized him. But Bartimaeus didn’t care, he was determined. He was convinced of Jesus’ power to heal and his faith gave him the power to get up out of his situation. With this act, he encountered Jesus. Instead of going his own way, as Jesus told him to do, he followed him. If we focus on the verbs in this text, it seems to take on a much more dramatic tone. There is more urgency in Bartimaeus’ actions. How convinced are we of Jesus’ power to heal? When we urgently need help how often do we drop what we are doing and go get it? But when we seek spiritual healing, are we ready to cry out to Jesus, despite the ridicule from others? All around us the world as we know it seems to be changing. Parents wonder what kind of place we are leaving for the next generation. The current generation of young adults is worried about their own future. As I watch the Churches be-come emptier and emptier, I am concerned about the role of Christianity in Europe. Like the Blind Bartimaues, we need to spring in to action and cry out to Jesus. He can heal our blindness, giving us sight and insight for the future.

Karen Curjel

Helping in our Helplessness

Verfasst am Dienstag, 29. September 2015

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The civil war in Syria has been raging for over four years. According to Caritas of Switzerland, it is leading toward one of the biggest refugee tragedies and humanitarian disasters in history. It has been reported that half of Syria is on the run. Where do over 11 million people go? About 4 million have found relief in the neighboring countries of Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq but due to funding problems, support is restricted. One report stated that the exodus from Syria has reached almost biblical proportions. Add to this the overloaded boats of people fleeing parts of Africa – people whose final destination was not a safer land but death at sea – leaves us speechless. The scene of a young child washed onto land has left us feeling sick. But what can we do? Switzerland is scrambling to revise their laws on asylum seekers. Politicians remind us that the people who can’t run need our help the most. Many of us want to help, but how? Often times this leaves us feeling helpless. This question was raised one Monday morning in our Bible Group. I didn’t have an answer. Pope Francis has called on all European parishes to host one refugee family. The Canton of Zug is already home to approximately 860 asylum seekers. Unused military housing was recently opened in Menzingen to house another 110 women and families. Some parishes here will take in a family and our Bishop, Felix Gmür is organizing space for three families to move into the Bishop’s residency as early as the end of October. In his final days, Jesus spoke of the “Judgement of Nations” when he said, “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me”. When we care for the needs of the suffering, we are ministering to the Lord himself. Very few of us have the possibility to open our homes to a refugee family but we can make donations. But what about our brothers and sisters who aren’t necessarily looking for a better home? There are many poor, sick and forgotten people in our Country.
The amount of help you give cannot be measured on a scale. Look for the face of Jesus in our brothers and sisters, reach out to those who are suffering and minister to them. Turn helplessness into hopefulness.

Karen Curjel

Plainly Speaking

Verfasst am Dienstag, 15. September 2015

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The Gospel for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time on September 6 is a healing story (Mark 7:31-37). Jesus opens the ears and loosens the tongue of a deaf and mute man. The people who saw this were completely amazed. The power of Jesus reveals his compassion for mankind. Jesus not only cares for each and every one of us, he reaches out to us. In this Gospel, his encounter with the man is a personal, physical one. He took him away from the crowd and touched him. Jesus’ healing power changed this man’s life. People then went out and talked about it. Most of the people I meet have a story to tell of how Jesus has touched their life. I am sure there are many more people who have stories but for some reason it is something so private that they cannot talk about it. I think it takes a certain amount of courage to talk about Jesus in our lives. Maybe people have to see a miracle or experience something great in order to be convinced of his healing power before they can talk about. This makes me think of the prophet Jeremiah and his “Interior Crisis” (Jer 20:7-18). Deception, sorrow and terror brought him to the point of desperation. He is very vocal in his crisis, yet he is clear about God’s triumphing grace. The words of the Lord are in him like a “fire burning” in his heart. I feel the same way. I mean, I don’t walk around all day talking about Jesus – I think this might make many people feel uncomfortable. But the more I encounter Jesus in my life and feel his healing presence the more my mouth and ears open. My ears open up to the words and needs of others. Just listening to someone and taking the time to really hear their words and understanding what they mean and how they feel can be healing. Giving people the courage to speak up when they have been wronged or treated unfairly can help bring a change in their life. It can bring a change in our life too. Jesus gives us courage and when I speak his name and of the love he has for us, I feel the power of the Holy Spirit burn inside of me. This power fills me with courage which enables me to speak even more, even louder. This courage gives me the strength to speak up for myself and for the rights of others. It helps me to overcome my own pride and admit my mistakes and it helps me to confront the people I have hurt. What would our world be like if all of us would just try to be open to the words of Jesus and speak his Name?

Karen Curjel

Making a Difference

Verfasst am Dienstag, 1. September 2015

Making a Difference
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One of the most rewarding things I can do, is volunteer my time. It makes me feel good, and feel I can move mountains, when I know families who would be otherwise unclothed, have clothes, those who are hungry, are fed, and those with no hope, have a vision of a better life. Listening about what many of our collections are for, I realize how many unfortunate our parish takes care of. Many of us are struggling to keep our busy lives under control. We sometimes want to volunteer our time, but our hectic lives make this impossible. If you want to make a difference, there is a way, without sacrificing your time. Some of us are fortunate enough, to have found a good position, where we make good money. Volunteering can also be through donating for a good cause. So this month, I ask of you, if you are able, to think about taking an action to help in financially assisting Sarvodaya Special School for physically and mentally challenged children in Diocese of Puttur, India. The Diocese of Puttur is young, and gradually growing. The financial difficulties they face in this school are the costs for rent. For one year, the school building rental is under 2’000 CHF. For four specially trained teacher’s, their yearly salary (all four) just under 5’000 CHF. A driver who picks these 23 students up and takes them home every day earns 924 CHF a year. One teacher’s aid makes 770 CHF a year. All school materials, including furniture, costs 1540 CHF. Their future plan is to expand to 100 students. I look at this picture and smile, because if it were not for parish support, these children would be in the streets. Donations to collect at Mass 5&6 September.
Let us continue to make a difference where we can, and see and feel the benefits! Thank you.

Shannon Poltera

Foodies for Jesus

Verfasst am Dienstag, 4. August 2015

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On the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time we hear from the Gospel of John and Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse (John 6:24-35). The crowd following Jesus is looking for nourishment. It is the same crowd he fed with the Multiplication of the Loaves. They are hungry and they want more, perhaps they are hungry for another miracle. Jesus tells them that what they need to do is to believe in the work of God and the one who he sent. Jesus tells them that he is “the bread of life.” The bread that the crowd seeks is short-lived. The food that Jesus gives is everlasting. The Urban Dictionary describes a foodie as “a person that spends a keen amount of attention and energy on knowing the ingredients of food.” One of the first published uses of the word “foodie” was in the early 1980’s with a book called “Official Foodie Handbook: Be Modern – Worship Food”. Since then our food culture has undergone great changes. We used to refer to specialty foods, exotic cuisine and its consumers as “gourmet”. Today it would seem that everyone is a gourmet and our meals have to be not only pleasing to the eye and arousing to the senses, but be paired with the right wine. Don’t get me wrong, I love to eat and I love to cook. I do both very well, but sometimes I wonder if our food culture hasn’t gotten out of hand. Television has become overfilled with food programs, there are more than enough food writers and everyone is a critic. Facebook has turned into a photo contest of what people are eating and where. This all brings me to my question: why do we eat? We eat to live, not vice versa. What we eat should be for our nourishment. God has given us everything we need and we have power over “all the living things that move on the earth” (Genesis 1:28). What are we doing with this power? Vegans criticize us for eating animal products so we find a replacement in soy. Soy is bad because of the environment and social impacts. We are spending so much time and thought on how we feed our body, yet do we spend the same amount of time considering how we feed our spiritual needs? Jesus feeds us in his words, his actions and his body. We can read all about it in the official handbook of our faith, The Bible. We can get nourishment when we take part in the Eucharist Celebration. “Whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” Be Old Fashion – Worship Jesus.

Karen Curjel

Timeless Message

Verfasst am Dienstag, 21. Juli 2015

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During the season in the liturgical year known as Ordinary Time, we hear about the life and workings of Jesus. His message of love and forgiveness was not meant for just the early followers – it was meant for all of mankind and all ages. It is a timeless message delivered by the apostles whom Jesus handpicked. On June 29th, we celebrate and honor Saints Peter and Paul, the two great rocks that the church is built upon. They both had one clear goal: to answer the call of Jesus and faithfully preach his name. They were witnesses to Jesus and encountered the Risen Christ. Peter and Paul didn’t start out as rocks. Simon was a simple fisherman and probably had little or no education. Saul, who gradually became known as Paul, was a devout Pharisee with a university education. He is best known for being one of the strongest persecutors of Christians. Both of these men underwent big changes to become the missionaries they were meant to be. Peter and Paul left their families and home to spread the news of God’s Kingdom. Their mission brought them much suffering and eventually a martyr’s death. We too are called to change and to put Jesus first in our lives. We are invited to encounter Jesus, to meet him in the Eucharist and to follow his call. Most of us won’t suffer persecution, but the choices involved with this decision can make us unpopular, at home or at work or among our friends or even family. We don’t need to travel the world to spread the news, this has already been done. But we can spread the word by speaking Jesus’ name and being examples of his love and forgiveness; by reaching out to the poor and sick, touching with a healing presence and treating others with respect. All of this helps to build church as we become the rocks which can be built upon. As we honor these two saints on June 29th, let’s use them as role models for our Christian life. They show us how intimate our relationship to Jesus can be. Jesus asked Peter (Matthew 16:13-19), “But who do you say that I am?” Peter and Paul responded with committing their lives to him. How will we answer?

Karen Curjel

Riding out the Storm

Verfasst am Dienstag, 23. Juni 2015

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The climate in Switzerland is strongly influenced by the Alps with large climatic differences and micro climates. In the summer after a few days of hot, humid temperatures, gray clouds fill the sky, temperatures quickly drop and BOOM, the sky opens and the rains pours down. When I was a little girl I was always afraid of the storms. They scared me so much that I would hide in my bed under the blanket. As adults we learn about weather patterns and we can prepare ourselves for a storm. In our lives, this is not always the case. In the Gospel for the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Mark 4:35-41) the disciples find themselves in the middle of a storm. It seems to come on suddenly and the men panic. They are certain they will perish. And where is Jesus? How many times does a storm take control of our life and we ask: Where is Jesus? As their boat filled with water, the disciples found Jesus asleep on a cushion. They did not yet know who Jesus was and their faith was weak. They woke him and he calmed the sea. In this story, Jesus reveals who he was and he leads the disciples to become more fully who they could be: disciples with deeper faith in him. We know who is Jesus is and yet, during a storm, our faith is sometimes just as weak. We are afraid we will sink. That is when we need to find that part of us where we have let Jesus fall asleep. We need to wake it and let Jesus be revealed.

Karen Curjel

Filling Big Shoes

Verfasst am Dienstag, 26. Mai 2015

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The Readings for the weekend surrounding Ascension (Mark 16:15-20 & John 17: 11-19) focus on the final words of Jesus as he ended his ministry here on earth. We have all met or worked with people whose work we greatly admire and realize that what they bring to their position is so great that they could never be replaced. We often refer to this as “filling the shoes” of that person. Following in the shoes of a great person is not easy, if even possible. This is what the disciples faced as Jesus prepared to take his place in heaven. He tells them to “go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). Jesus prays (John 17:11) that the Father keeps them in his name. Jesus asks him that they be kept from evil and that he bless them with the truth. When I reflect on the departure of Jesus and the friends he left behind, I try to think of how they must have felt. Not only would they deeply miss the physical presence of Jesus, they would have some “big shoes” to fill. Jesus had promised them that they would receive the power of the Holy Spirit. This Spirit gives us the marvelous gift of being able to do the work of the Lord. But what is the work of the Lord and what are we called to do? I receive many compliments for the work I do. I try to use the gifts I have been given to proclaim the message of the Lord. This must be done “with all humility and gentleness” as Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians (Eph 4:1-7, 11-13). As Good Shepherd’s continues to grow, I realize that what I do, I can no longer do alone. For many years, Good Shepherd’s has been only Fr. Urs and I doing everything. We are so fulfilled in our ministry that we are slowly preparing others to do the work we do so that they too might share in our fulfillment. It is not easy because we must learn to let go. We realize that one day we must leave when we retire, leaving big shoes to fill. But as we teach others in the same spirit as the disciples, those shoes will fit and be able to go on for many years to come.

Karen Curjel

Shopping Cart or Backpack?

Verfasst am Freitag, 2. Oktober 2015

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The Gospel for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Mark 10:17-30) cre-ates a wonderful image of a wealthy, obedient man who ran up to Je-sus and knelt before him. He wanted to know what he had to do in or-der to receive eternal life. He tells Jesus that he has followed all the commandments since he was young. The image of Jesus looking at the man kneeling before him, loving him and then answering him is one to embrace. Jesus knew that simply following the rules and laws of the day was not enough. In order to receive eternal life requires much more. Jesus tells him what it takes and the man falls on his face. How many of us really know what it takes to receive eternal life? How many of us understand what it means to follow Jesus? Following Jesus leads us all the way to the cross and beyond. It is getting to the cross that scares us and holds us back. We are afraid of dying and losing our earthly possessions. When I think of our possessions I remember a question the Fr. Urs presented at a recent Spirit & Wine evening. If your house was in danger of burning and you only had time to fill two shopping carts, what would you take? I believe that we don’t need our earthly possessions to live. Of course they make our life comfortable but are they really necessary for life? When you are forced to decide in a single moment what is it that becomes important? The things that we take with us are the things that we will have to carry around later. How much baggage do we really want to carry? The image of pushing around two, even one, shopping cart filled with “things” seems like a burden to me. A small backpack filled with the minimum makes much more sense. In life we often have the tendency to do just the minimum to get by. Isn’t it the same in our spiritual life? Following the commandments, going to church, saying our prayers – these are important, but Jesus calls us to do much more. He tells his disciples that “it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Maybe we need to look at the shopping cart and take out only what we can put in a backpack. It might not be enough to enter the kingdom of heaven, but it is a good place to start.

Karen Curjel

100 Years

Verfasst am Dienstag, 28. April 2015

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Armenia is one of the world’s oldest civilizations. This small country bordered by Turkey, Georgia, Iran and Azerbaijan, has been reduced to just a fraction of its size from ancient times. Biblical tradition identifies Mount Ararat as the mountain that Noah’s ark rested on after the flood. It is an important country in Christian history as it was the first nation in the world to officially embrace Christianity as its religion, even before the Holy Roman Empire. For centuries the Armenian people prospered. While Armenia can boost such a rich history, they have suffered from centuries of persecution having been conquered by Greeks, Romans, Persians, Byzantines, Mongols, Arabs, Russians and lastly Ottoman Turks. The later was Armenia’s most brutal invader, inflicting discrimination and heavy taxation. They fought to protect their culture, tradition and religion only to be met by the most unthinkable: persecution. At the end of the 1800’s and into the beginning of the 1900’s, Armenians were massacred in what is considered to be the first documented genocide of the 20th century. On April 24, 2015, Armenians around the world will commemorate 100th Anniversary of these atrocities. American celebrities and even the Russian president will be among the VIP’s visiting Armenia. Whether we are talking about the Holocaust, Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia or Darfur or even the atrocities carried against the Native Americans, genocide and the mentality behind persons who support and carry it out is incomprehensible. We cannot change history or force nations to recognize these events. But we can recognize discrimination when we are confronted with it, stand up for justice and equal rights. All people are made in the image of God and God loves each and every one of us. We must never forget the injustices of others but we must try to forgive our aggressors. But when it is impossible to understand and justify evilness, how can we possibly forgive? I am not sure that this is humanly possible. This is where the words of Jesus echo as he was crucified and hung between two criminals: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 23: 34).

Karen Curjel

The Empty Tomb

Verfasst am Dienstag, 14. April 2015

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When someone we greatly care about dies, we feel sorrow and loss. Time usually heals the feeling of grief and what remains are the feeling of presence and the love that was shared continues to fill the heart. The Gospel of Mark (Mark 16: 1-7) for the Easter Vigil tells the events of the tomb. Mary and the other women came to Jesus’ grave site to anoint him. They wondered who would help them roll back the large stone. What they encountered must have been more than a shock. I could image their initial thoughts were that Jesus’ body had been tampered with. The women entered the tomb and didn’t find a dead body to anoint but a live “young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe.” Markus writes that the women were utterly amazed. He told them to return to Galilee and tell the disciples and Peter that Jesus had risen. It was there where they would later encounter Jesus. The Easter Vigil opens us up to an encounter with this new life. After our fasting and wandering in the desert for the past forty days we meet the Risen One in the Eucharist in a very special way during the Easter Vigil. Jesus is not dying on the cross and he is not in the tomb. He cannot be nailed down or contained! Jesus has been raised from the dead and he seeks us out where we live. He offers us new life, inviting us to open up to beauty, peace and quiet in a way that we have never experienced before. For me, I have had a very interesting and enlightening Lent experience. I have spent much of my time in the desert, struggling with snakes and isolation. During this time I found relief in the oases along the way. I was able to gain new perspective on temptation while reflecting on how I face obstacles and obstructions. We are never too old to admit our mistakes and learn from them. We should never be too big or too proud to admit our faults and apologize to those who we hurt, even if we think we did no wrong. As difficult as it is, this is that part of dying to one’s self that opens us up to a new life and deeper relationships. We at Good Shepherd’s wish you a Blessed Easter and much joy in a renewed life in the Risen Christ!

Karen Curjel

Washing feet

Verfasst am Dienstag, 31. März 2015

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Holy Thursday is one of the high points of the Easter Triduum as we celebrate the Last Supper with Jesus. His life, suffering, death and resurrection are historical events, well documented in the Bible. For those of us who follow Jesus, these events happen to us. After our Lenten time in the desert, we look back on these past forty days, reflecting on where we were and look forward to a renewed life. In John’s Gospel for Holy Thursday, the preparations for the feast of the Passover had been done. There was food, there was wine and the disciples were gathered together. John goes straight to Jesus’ beautiful act of humility: washing the feet of his closest friends. In ancient time, the act of washing another’s feet was one that could not be required of even the lowest of slaves. Yet Jesus does it, fully aware that this would be their last time together. This act is re-enacted in most Holy Thursday Celebrations. Attending this service bring deeper meaning to the Easter celebration as we can sing the Gloria and take part in the Eu-charist with renewed life. I have had the honor of being a part of the Foot Washing on several occasions, but the most moving re-enactment was in one of my Catechism classes. It was several years ago with a class of third graders who were preparing to make their First Communion. I began to tell the story of The Last Supper. I asked the children if they would like to be apart of the story and eagerly they said yes. That’s the beauty of innocence: a willingness to become a part of a story without thinking of where it might end. And so it happened: a young boy eagerly said “yes”. I gave him a towel and he tied it around his waist. He poured water into a basin and bent down to wash the feet of his classmates. He dried their feet with the towel. The atmosphere among the children was intense. Not one of the children laughed or made a joke. They watched as the boy went around the circle, tenderly serving his friends. With this act, Jesus calls us to do the same. He gave us a model to follow, “so that I have done for you, you should also do.” Serving others is a visible sign of love, even in the simple, every day acts of kindness. As our time in the desert ends, let us go out and wash the sand from the feet of others.

Karen Curjel

Mid-term Report

Verfasst am Dienstag, 17. März 2015

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We are now about half way through Lent. For those of you who are observing the Lenten practice of fasting, this is often the point where we get distracted and find it difficult to stick with our promises. Being a part of group or have a set of daily reflections can help us keep our focus on our practices. Good Shepherd’s “In Touch” Bible group has been reading and reflecting on a book of Lenten reflections by Scott Hahn. Hahn focuses our attention on God, a father who never leaves us. His first question for reflection is how our earthly father has shaped our understanding of God as Father. Our heavenly Father has been watching over us throughout all of history, saving us from destruction over and over again. Beginning with the story of creation, this book of reflections leads us through the most popular stories found in the Old Testament. At the beginning of Week Three, Scott Hahn begins telling the story of Joseph. The story of Joseph is filled with drama. He is one of Jacob’s twelve sons. Through him, God will work his plan despite the ambitions of the older brothers. What Joseph does, is done through divine intervention. God is with Joseph through all the stages of his life. Hahn uses the story to make the following points: There are no obstacles for God; Forgiveness Reunites and God uses Adversity. God IS the father who never leaves us and we can see this when we reflect on the difficult times we have faced in our life. I would like to share with you what Hahn writes at this point in his book: “Difficult circumstances never seem to deter the Father from carrying out his plans and keeping his promises. He is especially creative whenever adversity strikes, even showing a flair for the dramatic. We might even wonder whether God doesn’t sometimes arrange severe obstacles in order to make his divine power more unmistakable.” In looking back on these difficult times, we can often see that the outcome has landed us in a much better and wiser place than as before. Something dies dur-ing the dark days of our lives, but growth does come in the end. In our adversity, God demonstrates his love and power to prove that he keeps his promises no matter who or what stands in the way.

Karen Curjel

Mary’s Return Home

Verfasst am Dienstag, 18. August 2015

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On August 15th we celebrate the dogma that Mary was taken into heaven, body and soul, to eternal life. Dogma is one of those words that make some people cringe. Dogma is something we are told we must believe. The Dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is celebrated on August 15th. In the Gospel Reading, we hear about Mary’s journey to visit the elderly Elizabeth who was also pregnant. Her greeting caused an unborn John the Baptist to leap for joy in the womb of his mother, Elizabeth. What followed was Mary’s song called the Magnificat. She sings praises for everything that God has done, not just for her but for all of mankind. We know that Mary was among the first community of Christians in Jerusalem. Where her journey took her after that is not known. Since John was charged with taking care of her, it is possible that she travelled with him to Ephesus. It is believed that she returned to Bethlehem, where she died. For centuries, it was common knowledge that when her life on earth ended, no bodily remains were left behind. Christians revered the saints and cities battled for the title of the last resting place for the most famous saints. Rome, for example, holds the tombs of Saints Peter and Paul. Peter’s tomb is directly under the high altar of St. Peter’s Basilica. The relics of saints were closely guarded and highly prized. No relics of Mary have ever been reported or ever found. It is therefore believed that her body was assumed into Heaven, just as the early Christians said. In a document from the 4th century titled, “The Falling Asleep of the Holy Mother of God”, are the accounts from the Apostle John about what happened. Many paintings picture Mary surrounded by the twelve apostles as she is taken up to heaven by angels, ending her mortal journey, just as he wrote. Scripture does not give us much information about Mary, but we do get a small glimpse of her earthly journey. She said yes to God’s plan. She conceived and gave birth to the Son of God and searched frantically for the 12-year old Jesus until she found him in the temple. Mary was with him during his ministry and she stood beneath his cross. Our earthly journey sometimes finds us frantically searching where we often end up praying beneath the cross. Mary’s life can be a model for us when we say yes to God’s will.

Karen Curjel

Leprosy today

Verfasst am Dienstag, 17. Februar 2015

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Leprosy, with the proper treatment, is a curable disease. In ancient biblical times, lepers were required to announce themselves as being “unclean” and they were forced to live in isolation as found in the First Reading for the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Leviticus 13:1-2,44-46). Their only human contact was with others who suffered from the same condition. In the first century of the Christian era, leprosy was not only a terminal disease but considered the outcome of sins passed on through the generations. Disease was considered to be a punishment from God. These beliefs still exist among certain tribal religions, however we believe that Jesus frees us from sin. This is something that the leper in the Gospel (Mark 1:40-45) must have known because he approaches the Savior, begging to be cleaned. Jesus’ response was more than healing the man’s body. Jesus freed him from a life of isolation and loneliness. I firmly believe that depression is quickly becoming the fastest spreading illness of our time. Left untreated, it can be deadly. Unlike leprosy, the depressed person is not easily recognized. People who suffer from depression often lead a life of isolation and a kind of loneliness within themselves. People who misunderstand the illness sometimes think that depression is brought on by the sufferer. Whatever the cause, it is a tragic illness and one that must be taken seriously. Jesus reaches out to heal the sick, but we are called to share the life and words of Jesus. Each of us has been in some way touched by Jesus and it brings us into a deeper understanding of what it means to be a part of the Body of Christ. As we approach the Season of Lent, let us all move beyond Jesus’ words and become his hands and feet. Part of the paschal mystery means taking up our daily cross and doing what Jesus did – expressing compassion in our attitude and care toward others, even if it means giving something of our self. As we journey toward Lent, let us consider how and what we give so that we can bring healing to ourselves and each other. Reach out and touch a lonely heart.

Karen Curjel

Summer reading

Verfasst am Dienstag, 21. Juli 2015

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Until Vatican II revised the lectionary, Mark was rarely heard in the Catholic liturgy. It was believed that his Gospel was a weak, condensed version of Matthew. Mark’s style seems to be unsophisticated and in some places blunt and to the point. In Chapter 3:21, Jesus’ relatives think that “he is out of his mind”. Jesus gets angry at a fruitless fig tree in 11:12 and curses it. The tree is later found to have dried up. We hear from Mark during most of Year B in the liturgy’s 3-year cycle of the Sunday lectionary. Three Sundays during the month of July are dedicated to just to chapter 6. It opens with Jesus being rejected in his hometown. Due to their lack of faith, he is unable to perform any miracles there. Then he gathers the disciples together and gives them instructions for their ministry (6:7-13). The instructions seem urgent as he tells them that wherever they are rejected they should “leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.” Then he gives them his authority to cast out demons and heal illnesses. The lectionary then jumps to 6:30-34 where the apostles are gathered with Jesus and they tell him everything they had done. News spread of Jesus and his fame grew. He then goes on to multiply the bread and fish and he walks on water. Faith in Jesus grew so strong that the sick begged to touch only a tassel from his robe so that they would be healed. Mark shows what it means to follow Jesus: helping people in need, witnessing, living life in Christ, hard work and sometimes experiencing rejection. The lectionary skips over the part of Herod’s opinion of Jesus and the death of John the Baptist. Herod knew that John was a good and holy man and he liked listening to him speak. But he kept John in prison and eventually gave the order to have him beheaded. This did not distract the disciples from going out to teach Jesus’ message of love and repentance. It shouldn’t distract us either. As followers of Christ we have a message and it is urgent: repentance. We need to look at ourselves as disciples. When we examine our inner self and actions it can lead us to repentance which heals wounds and leads to forgiveness. This examination can change our behavior and make us whole again. This is reflected in our appearance to others and that is a message for others to see.

Karen Curjel

What Ails Us

Verfasst am Dienstag, 3. Februar 2015

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Last month Pope Francis gave his annual Christmas greeting to the cardinals, bishops and priests of the Vatican where he listed the 15 “Ailments of the Curia”. Many people heard the news reports of Francis’ message as he read the 15 ailments: Existential schizophrenia; the disease of indifference towards others; disease of accumulation; disease of worldly profit and exhibitionism; ailment of closed circles – to name a few. I am afraid this is not just a message for the Curia, but for many of us today, including me. I can say that I am sometimes guilty as charged. It is worth reflecting on how these ailments apply to our lives. Many people suffer from one or more of these ailments and I see it in my ministry when I visit families and couples in their home for sacramental preparation. People are excited about what we are doing here in Good Shepherd’s and in our Swiss Parish Gut Hirt. They are enthused about the projects Karen and I have started and the plans we have. However the sad reality is that often times, once people have gotten whatever sacrament they need, their interest dwindles. Many people display a supermarket mentality of coming, getting what they want or need and then leaving until they need something again. There are people who take and give only a meager minimum in return. It doesn’t amuse me to be so blunt and I don’t think the Pope enjoyed speaking to the Curia the way he did. Reports state that the cardinals were not amused. Pope Francis has plans for overhauling a bureaucratic structure making it more efficient and responsive. His words for some of the power-hungry clergy must not have been easy to hear. He told them that they suffer from “spiritual Alzheimer’s”. Spiritual Alzheimer’s is what can happen when the message of Jesus becomes flat and ineffective in our lives. People become so comfortable in their lifestyle that they begin to lose sight of Jesus’ message. His presence has to be felt and we need to experience him and God’s saving grace, not just on Christmas and Easter, but every day! As we turn our hearts toward the coming of Lent let us pray that we will truly be open to the fullness of the message.

Fr. Urs

Our Calling

Verfasst am Dienstag, 27. Januar 2015

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The feast of the Baptism of the Lord on January 11th concludes the Christmas season. John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the Jordan and a voice came from the heavens announcing Jesus as God’s beloved Son. We celebrate not only Jesus’ baptism, but our own as we identify ourselves as God’s sons and daughters. In baptism, we become a part of the Body of Christ united with our brothers and sisters. We then spend our life defining what our role is as Christians. To be a follower of Jesus, you must answer his call. This theme continues a week later, on January 18th when we begin a new cycle in Ordinary Time. The Gospel for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Mark 1: 14-20) starts out with John standing with two of his disciples as Jesus walked by. “Behold, the Lamb of God” the Baptist said. This is a sacrificial reference for an animal, but John was pointing to Jesus as the One who will be sacrificed. The two disciples understood, they went with Jesus and stayed with him. We too are invited to go with Jesus and stay with him. How do we do this? First we must identify Jesus. When Andrew found his brother Simon, he told him “We have found the Messiah”. Then Andrew brought him to Jesus. We also need to bring others to Jesus. We must learn to live our lives as Jesus did: by caring for others, bringing a healing touch to the sick or broken-hearted. Our journey through Ordinary Time will take us through the Gospel of Mark. Until the beginning of Lent, we will focus on the early events in Jesus’ public life, especially the call of the disciples and the beginning of his ministry. In the weeks that lead up to Lent, now would be a good time to begin reflecting on how God calls us. Open your Bible and study the Bible passages of the Readings for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time. The First Reading of Samuel’s response to the Lord when he called (1 Samuel 3-10) and the Second Reading of St. Paul to the community in Corinth (1 Cor 6: 13-20). We are challenged to hear the voice of God. John’s disciples responded at once, but Samuel was called four times. God continues to call us until we respond. Let our response be like the one found in or Psalm: “Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.”

Karen Curjel

Following a Star

Verfasst am Dienstag, 6. Januar 2015

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The Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord is one of the oldest Christian feasts. It is celebrated on January 6, but in most countries the celebra-tion is moved to the Sunday between January 2nd and January 8th. Epiphany is celebrated in many different ways depending on where you live. Here in Switzerland and in other parts of Europe, we find traditional Three Kings cake. A small plastic king is often found hidden inside of the cake. The word epiphany comes from the ancient Greek epiphaneia which means appearance. It celebrates the revelation of God in the form of Jesus. For many of us, we celebrate the journey of the three wise men to a stable in Bethlehem. The wise men, or magi, travel from the east bringing gifts. They are guided by a star as they search for the newborn king. In the Gospel for this Feast Day (Matthew 2:1-12), the deceitful King Herod plots a way to find out the location of the newborn king but is outsmarted by the magi. The three wise men search for Jesus following the signs they have received from God and they are successful in their search. The story of the magi is a story for us. We must search for Jesus no matter how long the journey takes, in spite of the challenges we face, even when we are confronted by the deceitful Herods in our life. Even when we seem to lose sight of the star and the way is not quite clear or evil forces seem to divert or searching, we must always place our trust in God. God never leaves us in the dark and nor does he abandon us. We at Good Shepherd’s wish you all the best for 2015 and may the light of the Lord guide you in the coming year and throughout all your days.

Fr. Urs Steiner & Karen Curjel

Speaking My Mind

Verfasst am Dienstag, 2. Dezember 2014

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There is an old Jewish proverb that goes like this: “I felt sorry for myself because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” In my ministry I am exposed to the secular and religious world, to a variety of ideas, thoughts, and opinions, plus criticism and complaints. I am always surprised by the complaints of people, especially when it is about the Church. There are verbal and written complaints from people who don’t agree or support the ideas of the pastor or other pastoral workers. The church bells are often a hot topic. The bells are an invitation to pray and celebrate. They are a constant reminder that we have a place where we can exercise our faith in a public place of worship. I wonder how a Christian, living in a non-Christian country, would respond to such a complaint. Our International Mass last month was well visited. It was a beautiful Mass celebrated in a shorted version of the Syrian Orthodox tradition. Among the responses was criticism that the Mass in Aramaic was much too long. A shorter Mass, even in another foreign language, would have been preferred. Is complaining how we support our Syrian friends? The Catholic Church in Zug is facing a budget that is half a million Francs in the minus. We must find new ways to reach our brothers and sisters who have strayed and offer them a personal invitation to meet Jesus in the Eucharist. We need your support in meeting the spiritual needs of neighbors, because without it, we might as well close the doors. And that is exactly what is happening all around the world! Churches are closing and in some places they are being destroyed. We are living in some difficult times as our Church is being persecuted. Are we going to stick together and support her or add wood to the fire by complaining? A young boy recently shared a story in Catechism Class. He arrived here with his family five years ago. In their home country, they would bath under a waterfall in a river because they had no running water. Their first shower was before they boarded a flight to their new home in Switzerland. A little girl looked at the boy and said that it must have been paradise when he arrived here. That’s the beauty of children - they are so perceptive and sensitive to their surroundings and to the needs of others. Jesus said, “unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 18:3). As we wait for the coming of Jesus, let us be thankful for the freedom and paradise we live in. Awaken the child in your heart and bring the light of Christ to your neighbors.

Karen Curjel

The Least of Ours

Verfasst am Dienstag, 25. November 2014

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We end the Church year on Sunday, November 23rd with the feast of Christ the King. This feast was instituted in 1925 by Pope Pius XI in response to the growing nationalism and secularism in the world at that time. The Gospel for this Sunday is a good reflection for the coming of Advent as we await the return of our Savior. Jesus speaks of the least ones and our response to their needs (Matthew 25: 31-46). We would like to share with you a story. The text has been shortened a little, but hopefully the meaning is not lost:
The day before Christmas, Sarah went to get the mail. She found an envelope, opened and read it: “Dear Sarah, I am going to be in your neighborhood this Christmas and I would like to stop by for a visit. Love always, Jesus “ Sarah’s hands began to shake and she wondered why the Lord would want to visit her. “I’m nobody special” she said out loud to herself. “I don’t have anything to offer.” With that thought, Sarah remembered her refrigerator was empty and the stores would soon close. She had less than Fr. 10.00 and could buy only cheese and bread. It wasn’t much to offer the Lord for Christmas dinner, but at least it was something to eat. On her way home, she saw a couple dressed in old, shabby clothes. They called to her for help. “I don’t have a job, and we have been living on the street. It’s cold and we’re hungry. Can you help us?” Sarah looked at them both. She was certain they could get jobs if they really wanted to. “I’d like to help you,” she said, “but I’m a poor woman myself. I don’t have much and I’m having a very special guest for Christmas.” “We understand”, they replied. “Thanks anyway”. Snow began to fall and Sarah watched them leave, she felt something warm burn in her heart. “Wait!” she said. The man and woman turned as Sarah ran after them. “Here, take this” and she gave them the food. “Thank you very much!” The woman was shivering so Sarah took off her jacket and gave it to her. Smiling, she turned and went home with nothing to serve her guest. She was cold as she reached the front door, and noticed another envelope in the mailbox. She opened it. “Dear Sarah, it was so good to see you again. Thank you for the lovely Christmas dinner and for the beautiful coat. Love always, Jesus.” It was cold outside and snow was falling. But with the warm feeling she had in her heart, even without her coat, Sarah didn’t notice.
Dear friends, Jesus is all around us and we can find him in the people we meet each day. We wish you a reflective start into the Season of Advent.

Karen Curjel & Fr. Urs Steiner

A Year of Mark

Verfasst am Dienstag, 18. November 2014

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The new Church year begins on November 30th with the First Sunday of Advent. With the start of Advent, we begin a new series of Readings, and we will hear from the Gospel of Mark. This Gospel has been called the “gospel of surprises”. Mark does not begin like the others, with the birth of Jesus. His gospel goes straight to Jesus’ ministry and is full of action up until the end. It is packed with drama as John preaches in the desert a baptism of repentance, repeating the words of the prophet Isaiah. The first words we read from Jesus are his speaking of the time of fulfilment (1:15).Then he sets out on his ministry, gathering his first disciples and then going straight to work. There seems to be urgency in Mark’s gospel as Jesus moves quickly from place to place with more action than words. This gospel is the shortest and thought to be the oldest with many theologians believing it is written from direct stories told by Peter. This would make sense - it is believed to have been written in Rome around the year 70 A.D. almost 40 years after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. This community was certainly in a crisis. The Lord had not yet returned as they thought he would. Jerusalem was under attack and the pressure in Rome was great. The Christians had been telling stories of Jesus over the years and now they felt it was necessary to write them down. Mark’s accounts appear to be the first and many of his writings were used as a script for the gospels that followed. During the next year, we will hear Mark’s version of Jesus in the Sunday Mass. I think it is helpful to prepare ahead of time by studying the selected Readings. It is always interesting to see how it is explained in the sermon. However, for Mark, the best way to study this Gospel is to follow his story from the beginning to the end. It is short, so you can do it in one sitting. Make a note of a particular passage and then once you have finished reading the entire Gospel, go back to that passage. Notice the emotions of Jesus and how Mark portrays Jesus in all his glory. Find a story that speaks to you and do some research. I enjoy the story of the Woman with a Hemorrhage. It is an example of Mark’s “sandwich technique” where he interrupts one story to tell another and then returns to the former. My research led me to a better understanding of the struggle of women in those times and the faith people had in Jesus. Jesus not only heard their needs, he felt it and answered. Let these stories work inside of you and then go out and proclaim the Gospel of the Lord.

Karen Curjel

The Persecuted Church

Verfasst am Dienstag, 11. November 2014

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North Korea, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, the list of countries where Christians are being persecuted goes on. It is estimated that approximately 100 million Christians in 50 countries are persecuted, suppressed or neglected because of their faith. During the past year, I have invited many guests to Zug under the theme of “Persecuted Christians” (Verfolgte Christen) to speak of their experiences and to provide first hand information on the situation in the Middle Eastern and African countries. In March, the General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Germany, Anba Damian, was our guest where he spoke about the latest vote for a new constitution in Egypt and it’s effect on the Christians living in that country. Lucia Wicki from Aid To the Church in Need and their role in supporting religious freedom in the world. In the late spring, Swiss Bishop Paul Hinder reported in April about the practices of the Christian minority in Abu Dhabi. His visit was followed by Patriarch Gregorius III Laham from Damascus spoke on the tragic lives of the Christians in Syria. Swiss Cardinal, Kurt Koch who serves on the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity was here in June and in August, Bishop Macram Max Gassis was guest in the English Mass. He reported on the persecuted Christians in Sudan where civil war and unrest caused two and a half million deaths and over five million people to flee that country. On the weekend of November 15th & 16th, Patriarch Ibrahim of the Coptic Catholic Church in Egypt had planned to be our guest to speak on the current situation in the land of the Nile. A bombing on Friday, October 24rd took the lives of 30 soldiers from the Egyptian Army putting this region under alarm. Under these circumstances, it has been advised that this shepherd remain close to his flock in order to tend to their needs. Since the fall of Hosni Mubaraks in February 2011, Egypt has experienced political and civil unrest. His trip to Zug has been postponed until the situation makes it possible for the Coptic Patriarch to travel. The Coptic Church is based on the teachings of St. Mark who brought Christianity to Egypt during the reign of the Roman emperor Nero in the first century, shortly after Christ’s ascension. The Coptic Church has survived as a strong religious entity and they pride themselves for their contribution to the Christian world. In these difficult times, let us especially remember our brothers and sisters around the world who are persecuted because of their faith.

Oliver Schnappauf

Synod of Bishops

Verfasst am Dienstag, 4. November 2014

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Whenever the Pope has a matter to discuss with the world’s bishops, he calls them all together to meet in what is called a Synod of Bishops. The purpose of these meetings is to give the Holy Father advice on important questions which face the Church. This Synod of Bishops began at the close of the Second Vatican Council in 1965, when Pope Paul VI wanted to continue the harmony of the bishops that was present. There are Ordinary General Assemblies and Extraordinary General Assemblies. The meeting is “Ordinary” when the topics to be discussed are for the good of the universal church. There have been 14 such gatherings to date, including the most recent. When the topic to be discussed needs a quick solution, the assembly becomes “Extraordinary”. Two years ago, Pope Francis announced that there would be an Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops to discuss topics related to the family and evangelization in October 2014. This was the third ever held. A report of what was discussed can be found in the working document called Instrumentum Laboris. (This is a working document, subject to change.) The next Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will meet for two weeks next year, October 4-25, 2015. It will mark the 50th anniversary of the Synod of Bishops. Its theme will be the vocation and mission of the family in the Church and the contemporary world. The 15th Ordinary General Assembly will continue the work of this past Assembly, which hopefully the bishops will have had one years’ time to reflect on the mission and vocation of the family in today’s world. Two very hot top-ics are homosexuals and their role in the family unit and the question of remarried divorcees in regards to receiving the sacraments. It seems that these topics stir up excitement and everyone, including church clerics, has an opinion and they are often made public. I was curious what my favorite church cleric, Fr. Robert Barron, had to write about the Synod. I went to his homepage where he writes that everyone should take a deep breath. He then turns our attention to the history of the Church’s council and the process of ecclesiastical argument. As we spend the next 11 months wondering and speculating what the results of this assembly might be, have a look ahead at the Sunday Gospel for the day the General Assembly opens on October 4, 2015. It will be the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Mark 10:2-16). Interesting, isn’t it?

Karen Curjel

The Greatest Commandment

Verfasst am Dienstag, 28. Oktober 2014

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The Gospel Reading for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Matthew 22: 34-40) finds Jesus being questioned by the Pharisees. In the previous chapters, the Pharisees have been busy looking for ways to trap Jesus. They ask him which commandment in the law is the greatest. For the devout Jew all of the commandments were to be kept with equal care. The Jews at that time were obsessed with keeping the law and making sure that others did the same. We need laws and respecting the rules that have been made is important. But when following and enforcing the laws and rules becomes a primary way of life, then living becomes secondary. Most all of us have been confronted by someone who is so bound by tradition or an attitude of “we have always done it this way” that they can’t seem to live outside of the box they have built for themselves. These kind of people need to get outside of their box and start living. Jesus answers the Pharisees’ question with LOVE by giving them two commandments. The first is to love God above all things. The second is to love your neighbor as yourself. This second commandment raises two questions. First, who is our neighbor? In all of Jesus’ teaching, he stresses that the neighbor is not merely the one near us, but anyone who enters into our lives, even if it is just for a moment. In other words, everyone is our neighbor. The second question this commandment asks is, what does loving our neighbor look like? How does that work? The love we have for our neighbor should be the same love we have for ourselves. Most of us don’t really think too much about loving our self, it’s just something we automatically do. We care about what happens to us; we take care of our self; we want what is best for our self, and we have expectations. We insist that others treat us with respect and that people are honest with us. I think that we can all agree that this is something we all want. With this second commandment, Jesus tells us that we need to do the same with the people we come into contact with – every day – our neighbors. Of course we sometimes question the laws and the rules we have and we all have been confronted by people who are crippled by these laws and rule. But imagine if we all let these two commandments control our lives. This would be the greatest.

Karen Curjel

The New Calendar

Verfasst am Dienstag, 21. Oktober 2014

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Our calendar year begins on January 1. There are 365 days in most years. This is based on the solar calendar, which means it is coordinated with the sun – winter and summer solstices are at the same time every year. We have been following this calendar since Pope Gregory the 13th made small changes to the Julian calendar of Julius Caesar’s time. Calendars are much more complex that we think. Throughout history, and even today, different cultures have used different calendars with different years of different lengths and various starting points. Add to that astronomical irregularities and some mathematics. Our liturgical calendar for the Church year is based on the solar calendar, meaning that Christmas is always on December 25th. Our calendar also has some features that are based on the lunar calendar, which is why Easter is never on the same date. It is somewhat confusing, but interesting nonetheless. The Church also has a calendar called The Liturgical Year. It is marked by special seasons like Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter and Ordinary Time. The liturgical year ends with the Feast of Christ the King, which is usually on the last Sunday in November. This year we will celebrate this feast on Sunday, November 23rd. The new Liturgical Year begins a week later on the First Sunday of Advent as we prepare ourselves for Christ and begin a new set of Readings in the Mass. We will start Year B of our three year cycle and hear from the Gospel of Mark. In Mass, we celebrate not only the Eucharist, we celebrate the Word. The Readings assigned for each Sunday have been carefully chosen and are the same throughout the entire world. It is wonderful the way the Readings relate to each other. We call this the harmony between the Old and New Testament. It can be a challenge to discover this harmony and how the Readings all work together to reveal a message for us today. As a resolution for the upcoming “new year” maybe you can dedicate some time to discover the Readings for the upcoming Sunday. There are some very useful books that offer reflections on the Readings. For books in English, I recommend “Living Liturg Sunday Missal” from Liturgical Press. For German, we use the “Messbuch” from Butzon & Bercker. Both books are a good investment in helping you to be prepared for Mass. Preparing ourselves is what the Season of Advent is all about.

Karen Curjel

The Cross of Life

Verfasst am Freitag, 24. Oktober 2014

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Jesus changed the symbolism of the cross from one of torture and death to one of life. The greatest challenge Jesus faced when he began his ministry was to change people’s ideas about who God is. The most tragic and frightening aspect of the story of Jesus on this earth is not that he was condemned by outsiders. He was condemned, criticized and murdered by religion. He was killed by an unhealthy, toxic form of a religion that had lost its impact. The Jews in Jesus’ time had been, in a way, brainwashed by the Pharisees’ thoughts and ideas of God. So much so, that they ended up worshipping a distortion of the true God. Let’s fast forward: isn’t that what we have been hearing about in the news? Radicals who turn to terrorism based activities because of their fundamental religious misconceptions. Jesus wasn’t interested in the law, Jesus was interested in people. This attitude was threatening to an institution that was exclusive, critical, and exclusive. The cross in the time of the Romans was an instrument of capital punishment, bringing shame onto the executed. At the time of Jesus’ ministry, people had an image of a God who was interested in people following the rules of the religious authorities. And those who didn’t were deemed to be not good enough. They were filled with judgment, criticism, and condemnation of everyone who didn’t fit into their ideology. And then Jesus comes onto the scene and tries to change this way of thinking. My dear friends, we are living in some very difficult times right now. We are jeopardizing what we have accomplished during the last 70 years: We are living in a world filled with fanaticism, radicalism, nationalism, consumerism, hedonism and whatever else -ism. We seem to be heading towards a world that is out of control and all the while wars are breaking out around us, diseases are breaking out, racism and imperialism are on the up rise and the climate is spinning in a way we can no longer predict. In Philippians 2:6-11, Paul describes Jesus as coming into the world and emptying himself. Jesus let go of everything. And we must do the same – let go of the things that have grasped onto us, let go of all the -isms and embrace the cross of Jesus, the cross of freedom and life. Let’s take this beautiful image of love and forgiveness and give it meaning and life. Let it find a dwelling place inside of you and let it live. And then take this symbol out into the world. Let it communicate the faith that lives inside each and every one of us so “that every knee should bend and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord”.

Fr. Urs Steiner

The Bible Continues….

Verfasst am Mittwoch, 10. Juni 2015

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Since my last visit to the U.S., I have become hooked on the TV Mini-series “A.D.: The Bible Continues,” which I wrote about two weeks ago. This series is scheduled to end on May 31st with an episode showing the return of Saul to Jerusalem after his conversion. This series is based on the Acts of the Apostles as found in the New Testament. The lives of the early Christians were not easy. They were hunted down and persecuted. They were spreading a message of love and peace in a world that was filled with greed, hate and conflict. The difficulties they faced were not just religious, but political as well. On Sunday, May 31st, Father Hani Bakhoum Kiroulos will visit Zug as part of our series on Persecuted Christians. The Egyptian priest is the general secretary of the patriarch of the Coptic Catholic Church. He has told “Aid to the Church in Need” that attacks on Christian churches in Egypt is not evidence of religious conflict between Muslims and Christians. “It’s not only Christians who are being attacked, but also state institutions.” During the Mass he will certainly address the situation in Egypt. Earlier this year, 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians were beheaded by members of the ISIL. In the early centuries of Christi-anity, the church experienced regular persecution at the hands of Roman authorities. For the Romans of that time, religion was a social activity that promoted unity and loyalty to the state. They didn’t see Christianity as a new religion, but as a superstition that was not based on their ancient customs. It is interesting to see how the world’s view on customs, religions and politics has changed, yet in some ways remained the same. Watching “A.D.: The Bible Continues” brings images and real life to the written word. So many films, television shows and documentaries have portrayed the life and death of Jesus but I have yet to find such a production done about the early days of the apostles and their struggles to build the church which Jesus taught. Their story is so inspiring, filled with strength in their belief and the power they received from the Holy Spirit. This series is not available in Switzerland at this time, but the Bible is. The Acts of the Apostles is filled with action and drama and the beautiful excitement of a growing community. I hope that reading it will fill you with enthusiasm in our faith.

Karen Curjel

The Power of Prayer

Verfasst am Dienstag, 23. September 2014

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Last June, a member from our community was involved in a terrible accident. His injuries were so severe that he was airlifted to the hospital in Zürich. The first days were critical as he lay unconscious with severe injuries. The police and ambulance crews did not think he would survive the accident. His family and friends spread the news and prayer requests from Switzerland to America grew until an army of prayer warriors had formed. Individual prayer is powerful, but prayer in groups can produce miracles. Jesus said, “Amen I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father” (Matt 18:19).When someone is sick or hurt, often times they are unable to ask for help or cannot pray for themselves. This is where the community is so important as we intercede for them. Jesus also said, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them” (Matt 18:20). Today, I found an active prayer and was reminded of something my ancestors did on the Indian Reservation where my grandfather grew up. They would make little prayer sacks. When they knew of someone who needed the Great Spirit’s help, they took a small piece of cloth, filled it with wild herbs and tied it together with a piece of yarn. While making the sack, they said prayers for that person. We could do the same, but I would formulate a blessing to go along with it. For example, “Dear Lord, please bless (name) during this time. He/she is your special child, full of goodness and love, just as you created him/her to be. Send you spirit upon him/her with peace, joy and the strength to do your will. I ask this blessing in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.” In the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, the priest performs the laying on of hands and anoints the head and hands of the one who is sick with special oil. This is followed by a liturgical prayer and often Holy Communion. The rite ends with a blessing. When our friend was able to move to the local hospital, we visited him and he received the anointing followed by Holy Communion. It was a very moving experience for all of us. This man’s accident, followed by his miraculous recovery certainly touched the lives of hundreds of people. The power of prayer and the will of God worked in this man’s life in a way that makes him a witness to faith – a witness to the power of prayer. May the Lord fill each of you with peace, joy and the strength to do the will of God.

Karen Curjel

New Movie Trends

Verfasst am Dienstag, 12. Mai 2015

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Movies based on popular super hero comics have been drawing big audiences for the past ten years. I must admit that last summer I too became hooked on the Avenger series and the individual movies of each of these heroes. The story of good versus evil is always inspiring. Good always defeats evil. Over the years, I imagine that filmmakers have run out of good stories, forcing them to turn to stories that have already been told, bringing a new twist to it. It seems that the biggest selling book of all time has become a source for new movies in the past couple of years. From “Noah” to “The Son of God”, “David & Goliath” and “Ben Hur”, Bible-based movies have been making a come back. Since studios don’t need to pay the expensive licensing fees needed to secure the movie rights, it makes economic sense. The stories are filled with enough excitement, action, and violence, intrigue and drama to keep an audience captive. And captivate it does! There is talk of a new movie about the story of Moses; another based on Exodus and a supernatural retelling of the drama based on the story of Cain. These movies are made using all the effects found in big movies of the past few years (except I have not heard of a 3-D Bible - story as of yet.) If bringing the big names from the Bible to the big screen was not enough, Bible based stories are being played out on the small screen. On a recent trip to the U.S. I began watching a TV series called “A.D. The Bible Continues” that will run for 12 weeks on the NBC Network. The story begins with the crucifixion of Jesus and continues with the early Christians. I immediately became hooked and hope that it will somehow become available in Europe. When many parts of the western world are being faced with economic challenges, political instability and religious persecutions look like scenes from the first century, today’s audiences seem to be open to the inspirational messages found in the Bible. In a time when reading the Bible and going to Church seems reserved for the elderly, I can only hope that our career driven and overly stressed generation can find the time to seek out these movies and be moved to their message and lessons: “Trust in the Lord and do good” (Psalm 37:3).

Karen Curjel

Spiritual examination

Verfasst am Dienstag, 2. September 2014

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In August, members of the Team of our parish met together to explore ways how we might better reach those who otherwise do not use the church to exercise their spirituality. Some great ideas came out of our meetings and I hope they will be put into action. But how do we define our spirituality? What does spirituality mean anyway? In the religious sense, it can be defined as the values, actions, attitude and behaviors that characterize a person’s relationship with God and others. A Catholic definition states that “for Christians, it means a life guided by the Holy Spirit, lived out within the community of believers, and characterized by faith, hope, love, and service.” Reading or listening to the news, it is clear that Christianity is facing a serious crisis. Either people are turning away from the Church or they are being forced to convert to a faith that they do not accept or worse – Christians are facing persecution. With these facts in mind, I think of the people who are wandering through life with no direction. They question the purpose of life, ask where God is and often times go out searching for spirituality. Spirituality is not found in the woods among the trees, or in the mountains or even on a pilgrimage. Spirituality is found within us and the journey to discover it is not as simple as going for a walk. Discovering our spirituality, or getting in touch with it, usually means giving something up and some people are not ready to do that. It took a leg wound and a lack of novels which led the young Ignatius of Loyola to reconsider his life’s direction back in 1521. His long and painful turning to Jesus produced his greatest work of spiritual exercises and later his founding of the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits. The easiest of his exercises is the Ignatian Examen and it can be used regularly to reflect about your day: 1. Pray for light and ask God to help you see what he wants you to see in your experiences and encounters. 2. Review your day. Stop and say thanks to God for the gifts you received, pausing to notice the feelings it stirs. 3. Choose a feeling from the day and focus on it. 4. Imagine what tomorrow will bring. Invite God to be with you in the day to come.

Karen Curjel

Lost and Found

Verfasst am Dienstag, 26. August 2014

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If we lose or misplace something, don’t we often rush around in a frantic hurry to find it? We are thankful when we find it, maybe even to the point of embracing it. Can we say the same about our life? In the Gospel for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Mt.16: 21-27), Jesus begins to show his disciples that he must suffer and will be killed. Peter, having been given the keys to heaven, took Jesus off to the side “and began to rebuke him.” Rebuke is a pretty strong word. It means to scold, punish or disapprove. Jesus recognizes this as a satanic obstacle and then proceeds to state the conditions of discipleship: “whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Lose life, find life, cross, glory – this is the paschal mystery in a nutshell. I have written about this on a few occasions and I would like to return to it again. In our First Reading, the prophet Jeremiah suffers from an interior crisis. The word of the Lord burns in him like a fire, yet when he speaks in his name, he’s afraid he will be laughed at. The word becomes like a fire burning inside him that could not be contained. That is the cross that Jeremiah must take up. So what about our cross? What about the word that burns inside us? Words that are so strong and clear that it is as if it burns inside, really wanting to come out, but for one reason or another, they don’t make it to our lips. It was about 15 years ago that I returned to a faith that I spent even longer running from. As a re-born Catholic, I was filled with a burning to share the spirit that filled me. I quickly learned that my enthusiasm was not welcome in every social situation. On a beautiful summer evening at dinner with friends, I had a lively discussion with a very charismatic man from the Wallis. I talked freely about the gifts of the Holy Spirit until I was politely kicked from under the table. I was later informed that such discussions make some people uncomfortable. This was an awakening for me and one of its results brought me to where I am now: freely speaking and writing about a faith I believe in. To get to where I am now, I had to die to my old life and then struggle to rebuild everything I lost. What emerged is the work that
Fr. Urs and I try to do on a daily basis: meeting the needs of the (not only) English speaking Catholic Community in the Canton of Zug. It is a cross that we thankfully embrace.

Karen Curjel

Swimming to Jesus

Verfasst am Dienstag, 5. August 2014

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We have all heard the saying “sink or swim”. It means to fail or succeed. Certainly most all of us have, at one time or another, been in a sink or swim situation in our life. The saying alludes to the choices available to someone who has fallen into the water. In the Gospel for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Matthew 14:22-33) Peter is in such a situation. As the disciples see Jesus walking on water toward them, they become afraid. This particular Gospel is already interesting enough, but the story takes on more interest when we read the entire chapter. After being told of John the Baptist’s beheading, Jesus, seeking solitude, is followed by a large crowd. He performs the miracle of the multiplication of bread, much to the amazement of his disciples. After dismissing the crowds, he again seeks solitude for prayer before walking out on the sea to calm his disciples who were frightened by the waves caused by a strong wind. I can imagine that it was a long day for Jesus’ followers and they must have been overwhelmed by the events. And then Jesus does something remarkable. When we are in the midst of a rough time, scared of the waves caused by something too strong to handle, Jesus comes to us. He calms us and says to “take courage; do not be afraid”. Often times we become overwhelmed, like Peter, letting the fear consume us which takes our focus away from Jesus and onto the fear itself. Like Peter, we begin to sink. How far we sink depends on the amount of our faith and willingness to place our trust in the Lord. Jesus stretches out his hand and catches us. This is maybe where the lesson of “sink or swim” is helpful. It is like watching a child learning to swim. When he or she is paying attention to the instructor and looking toward that person with confidence, the child tends to do fine – first floating, then stroking, and then moving forward in a splashy swim. But just as soon as the child’s fright takes over, he or she automatically reaches out a hand to the instructor. Without the hand of the instructor, the child might sink. For us, we need to keep our eyes on Jesus, and most especially when the waters are rough. In the big boat of life, this isn’t always easy. In our fear we doubt – we are only human - and sometimes we look away from our Saviour. But Jesus stretches his arms out for us and like a child learning to swim, we grab ahold.

Karen Curjel

Making ourselves clear

Verfasst am Dienstag, 22. Juli 2014

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When we try to explain something to someone, we choose our words carefully and try to speak clearly. When explaining something to a child, adults must be careful to use a language that the child can understand. The same thing is true when speaking to a person who does not have the same vocabulary or mother tongue as you. I am sure that it is safe to say that we have all been in a situation where the person explaining something could be speaking an Alien dialect because the words they have chosen are beyond our understanding. In order to make a message clear, one must make careful word choices. Jesus always has something important to say and his message opens our eyes and ears to growth and to the kingdom of God. He is clear in his language but I am afraid that sometimes we still don’t understand. Jesus often uses parables to deliver his message. These parables help us to form a sort of picture to help us understand the mystery of God’s kingdom. During the next few weeks we will be hearing gospels chosen for Ordinary Time. Ordinary Time is the time in our liturgical year that is outside or between special feasts. From now until the Season of Advent, we will hear from Matthew. The Gospel for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time begins with Jesus’ Parable Discourse which continues through to the 17th Sunday (Matthew 13: 1-52). Parables were the trademarks of Jesus’ teaching style. Unless the reader, or listener, are willing to probe beneath the surface of the parables, the true meaning of Jesus’ words will not be understood. In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus tells of the seed that falls on different kinds of soil. Most seeds die before they produce anything because the soil they fall on is not suitable to receive these seeds of life. Those who do receive will be rewarded with abundance. Jesus’ message is clear: receive the seed, go out and produce fruit. God doesn’t care about the quantity we produce, for Him it is the quality, the growth and the life that comes from it. The more we grow, the more we are called to go out and share this abundance with others. I think that is a message we can all understand.

Karen Curjel

Saints Peter and Paul

Verfasst am Dienstag, 8. Juli 2014

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Imperial Rome had a long history – sometimes glorious and sometimes brutal. Mythology had Rome being founded by Romulus in 753 AD. Romulus apparently killed his twin brother Remus who criticized the boundaries he had set for the city. Rome therefore began with bloodshed and over the years, bloodshed would become a big part of Roman legacy. The early people of Rome were from a tribe called the Latins. They were successful farmers and traders, which meant the city was in no way considered poor. Rome flourished over the next 6 centuries, profiting from wars which turned Rome from a small power to a great empire until civil unrest and corruption ended their happy times. In 49 BC Julius Caesar entered Rome and brought reform with him. Caesar was confronted with a civil war of his own, but managed to defeat Pompey the Great in 45 BC before meeting his own death a year later. Octavian became ruler in 29 BC and later received the title “Augustus”. He was the first Roman emperor. Augustus introduced reforms most notably the restoration of ancient morality and ancient religious festivals. This is kind of the political situation that St. Peter encountered when he went to Rome. He became its first bishop, and died there in AD 67 by being hung upside down on a cross. St. Paul was converted around the year AD 34 and spent the better part of his Christian life as a missionary and he founded many communities. In AD 60 he became a prisoner in Rome where he wrote many of his letters (Ephesus, Colosse and Philippi) before being released two years later to do more missionary work. St. Paul was once again taken prisoner in Rome where he met his mortal fate in the same year as Peter. It is not clear if they died together but we do know that they were probably buried very close together. It is not clear how well the two knew each other but they were both committed to their ministry. Saints Peter and Paul were the rocks upon which Jesus built his church. They knew who Jesus was and remained faithful to the mission he gave them. On Sunday, June 29th we recognize and celebrate the faithfulness and courage of these two saints. We might not proclaim Jesus in our everyday language the way they did, but we proclaim in the rock solid way we live what Jesus taught us.

Karen Curjel

The Gift of Time

Verfasst am Dienstag, 24. Juni 2014

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I think most everyone would agree that volunteer work is something good. It promotes goodness and can improve the quality of life for many people.
I learned this at a very young age. My parents were always involved in a volunteer project of some kind. Both my parents were involved in the Boy Scouts when we were young. When my father’s job became too demanding, my mother donated her time to our local Church Parish. When they retired, they took on larger volunteer projects. For them, it was a way of “giving back” to society – a society that had always been good to them. When I think back, I don’t recall that my parents had many things in common, except for the love of their family and children. Their volunteer projects gave them a common goal and a shared interest. I must be honest – volunteering never interested me. It wasn’t until I returned to the Church that I felt the need to volunteer my time. I began doing small charity works for the Mission in Zürich like cleaning tables after Sunday Coffee. Over time,
I felt the rewards it brought me. Not only was I doing something that was appreciated, I was reaching out into the community. The more I became involved, the more people I met; people, who like me, were interested in reaching out. Not everyone is called to serve however, and sometimes I meet people who serve for the wrong reasons. There are people who do volunteer work only for the recognition and self-gratitude. This kind of volunteering satisfies the ego and that can be dangerous. Fortunately I have not met people like that where I work and volunteer. Both Fr. Urs and I are very grateful for our volunteers. As I was drowning in work earlier this month, I had one of my volunteers ask me what she could do to help and she offered to take a big load off of my shoulders. I am dependent on people like Alma. Without volunteers like her we, as a foreign mission, cannot exist as we do. We recognize our volunteers every year with a dinner. For the past several years, we have been preparing a joint volunteer dinner with our host Parish, Gut Hirt. The English speaking volunteers join together with our Swiss neighbors and share a meal and wine. This is an evening we treasure. We cook and clean up for our volunteers and I think they enjoy it. And I must say, there is something very satisfying in serving people who serve others. It is washing the feet of foot washers.

Karen Curjel

Our Role Models

Verfasst am Dienstag, 17. Juni 2014

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A role model is a person whose behavior and actions influence others, especially younger people. What does it take to be a good role model? Well, you need to set examples, especially in public and particularly around those who are younger than you. In my experience as a mother and from working with children and youth, I have learned to treat those who are younger than me with the same amount of respect and consideration I would a peer. Knowing of course, that people big or small, young or old, are the same, separated only by their experiences. When asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus said (Matthew 22: 36-40) to love God with all your heart, soul and mind. The second is to “love your neighbor as yourself.” My second oldest child, Stephanie, is studying part time for her bachelor’s degree in social work. As part of her studies, she has had to plan and execute a campaign. She works part time for the Child & Youth Advisory Center in Baar, where she manages various youth groups. When she first began, the youth were somewhat skeptical of her. Stephanie had to earn their trust which she did by showing them respect and demanding it in return. Perhaps this is a different way of thinking, but she has been able to build up a bond of trust which opened up the door to leadership and communication. With this experience in mind, the focus of her campaign has been role models and how we, as adults, are role models the younger generation. The goal of this campaign is to bring awareness to the public and remind people that their actions, whether they realize it or not, are watched and often copied by children and youth. For several weeks, posters have been hanging up around the Zug area as well as in busses and movie theaters. They carry provocative suggestions of behavior and ask the question, “Are you a role model?” In a recent interview in the Neue Zuger Zeitung (May 19, 2014), Stephanie said that the campaign is not about pointing fingers, it’s about bringing self-awareness. “It doesn’t matter if it is right or wrong, it is about being a role model.” She also suggests that children can be role models for adults. This is clear when a young bike rider wears a helmet but parents don’t. Children are taught to cross at the crosswalk and wait for the green light. The ones who don’t are usually the adults who are in a hurry. These are things to think about. I love to learn from my children. They are my role models. www.vorbildkampagne.ch.

Karen Curjel

Our Time in the Desert

Verfasst am Mittwoch, 4. März 2015

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The Readings for the First Sunday of Lent show us the importance of making the right decision in the face of temptation. Noah answered the voice of God and Peter indicates that we are saved through baptism. Temptation can be a starting point for change if we reflect on what tempts us and how we react. I think that we often convince ourselves that we can walk away from temptation. Jesus faced temptation in the desert just after being baptized. According to the gospels of Matthew and Luke, the devil confronted Jesus with three temptations. In the Gospel for February 22, Mark’s version (1:12-15) is short and to the point. He doesn’t write about the details of Jesus’ experience, instead he places the importance on the outcome: “Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Perhaps this is a message for us as we begin the Season of Lent. No matter how hard we try, we cannot avoid temptation in our life. It is around us every day, even when we don’t realize it. How often do we something that we wish we wouldn’t have? We make a comment or give an opinion, even when we are not asked too, and what comes out of our mouth is somehow interpreted in a way that is hurtful toward another. We have regrets. But how can I know that what I said was hurtful to another or was simply misunderstood? Let’s turn this around: if some one (a friend, colleague, family member) says something you don’t like, do you tell them? For many years, I have always taken the passive road and kept my mouth shut. But isn’t this a kind of temptation? We want to say something, but we are afraid of the confrontation it might propel. How often did we have an opportunity to do something good, but for some reason didn’t? The friendly smile you didn’t give to the unseemly unfriendly person sitting across from you. The poor person that you could have had sympathy for but didn’t. Temptations always force us to make a choice. Whichever choice we make should be reflected on. A good exercise for the next forty days might be to reflect on the daily decisions we are faced with and how we choose to act, react. Listen to that feeling deep inside and ask God for clear signs of discernment. Reflect on your feeling and then repent and believe in the Gospel!

Karen Curjel

The Spirit within Us

Verfasst am Dienstag, 20. Mai 2014

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When I was a little girl, my grandmother would ask “How much does Karen love Grandma?” With my arms stretched out, I would shout: “This much!” Then she would take me in her arms and give me a big hug. Real love has no bounds. A child opens up his or her arms and takes in the entire universe. In the Gospel for the Sixth Sunday of Easter (May 25), Jesus begins a conversation with his disciples by saying, “If you love me….” Of course we love Jesus! And just like a small child, we might want to open our arms wide and exclaim “This much!” At first glance, it seems like Jesus puts a limit on this love when he says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Of course Jesus does not put a limit on his love for us and he does not want us to limit our love for him. I think what Jesus is calling us to do is to expand our love for him to include our whole entire life and way of living. When Jesus says to keep his commandments as a sign of our love for him, he is not only speaking about the Ten Commandments. He is saying that if we love him, we will want to live as he lived. Loving, in the way that Jesus asks us to, requires us to live in a way that others can know that Jesus is real and present in our lives. This is the work of the Spirit who lives and works within us. We are to proclaim, like Philip, Peter and John in the Acts of the Apostles (8:5-8, 14-17), the living like Jesus by the way we heal the hurt in others. How can we do this? By bringing a healing touch to those who are weakened or suffering. Too often, many of us do not feel confident to heal others. We think we lack the gifts or we don’t know what to say or we are afraid we will say the wrong thing. Jesus promised that he would not leave us orphans. Jesus doesn’t leave us alone. The Father sends us the Spirit of truth. This Spirit guides and nurtures and lives in each and every one of us. It is up to us to bring it out into the world around us.

Karen Curjel

Our Pilgrimage

Verfasst am Dienstag, 13. Mai 2014

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A pilgrimage is a journey one makes to a sacred place for the purpose of venerating or adoring that place or a person who has a connection to it. It can be a place one goes to ask for aid or intercession. It can even be a journey in order to get to know God better. Every step of the pilgrimage has a meaning and the experience can be transforming, changing the pilgrims perspective and outlook. Christian pilgrimages were first made to sites connected to the birth of Jesus, events in his life and his crucifixion. As the years passed, pilgrimages were made to Rome and other places associated with the Apostles, Saints and Christian martyrs. Pilgrimages are also made to places where the Virgin Mary made apparitions, like Fatima, Guadalupe and Lourdes. In earlier times, pilgrims would leave their homes, families, and all their comforts to walk for hundreds of kilometers to journey to a sacred place. Along this journey there were often sacrifices involved, some intentional and others not. To walk the Way of St. James, spending three months time for the journey with only a pack on your back is a kind of suffering. This suffering is one of self-denial which is used to reach an ultimate goal: a place of freedom from the daily habits that tie us down. Forgoing the comforts we are used to having in our daily life can be like removing a burden. No need to worry about what to wear, all you have are the clothes on your back. But a pilgrimage does not have to take us far and we don’t need a backpack for it. It can be a journey to a place within - to that place where Jesus rests with us. We can spend time in that place and then go out in the world and encounter Christ in others. As I spend this week on pilgrimage in Lourdes, I spend time in a sacred place. This sacred place is more than just visiting the sites where the Virgin Mary met a young woman on the banks of the River Gave, it is the countless encounters with other pilgrims and finding Jesus in the face of the sick and burdened. Spending quiet time alone on the Stations of the Cross and praying the rosary, making the journey to where God rests in me so that I can get to know Him better. As I get to know God better, I rediscover myself. The true being whom only God knows.

Karen Curjel

Opening the Gates

Verfasst am Dienstag, 13. Mai 2014

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On the Fourth Sunday of Easter we celebrate what is traditionally known as Good Shepherd Sunday. The Gospel for this Sunday (John 10:1-10) is an interesting image of Jesus - that of a gate. I love this symbol as it is very easy to picture. A gate of course is the doorway of a fence. We usually put up fences to provide security, keeping people out or locked in. Gates can reveal a lot about what is beyond them. A broken-down, vine covered gate suggests an abandoned house or one that is not well taken care of. A gate which opens easily and is not locked is inviting and suggests that people are welcome and many pass through. In this image we see Jesus as the Good Shepherd and how he acts toward us – he opens the gate and invites everyone to come in. He offers us security and protection. Jesus is a model for us, showing us how we are to be both a gate and shepherd for others, inviting them in and making them feel welcome and secure. But how do we do this? Opening our gate to let someone in, especially someone we don’t really know, can be very difficult for some of us. Peter writes (1 Peter 2:20-25) that in our own hardships we should show patience when we are doing good things for others. But how easy is that? When Jesus was insulted, he did not insult back. When he suffered he did not threaten back. Can we do the same? When someone hurts or threatens us don’t we sometimes strike back and then close the gate? Let’s take this image of a gate and apply it to ourselves. With Jesus as our model, he opens the gate and invites us in. Our gates should be open and remain open for each other. How can we open the door for others if we have vines growing over our gates? Vines grow out of control and choke out the light and any new growth. In order to let the door open freely, we have to remove them. I used to live in an old house that had a metal fence and gate. There was ivy growing all over and it had encroached onto the gate, making is difficult to open. The ivy had even begun to take over the garden. It was nice to look at, but it had gotten out of control. It was hard work removing the ivy but well worth it. The result was a bright new space with room for new growth. Let this Season of Easter be a time of new growth as we open our gates to new life and each other.

Karen Curjel

The Holiness of Family

Verfasst am Dienstag, 6. Januar 2015

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Between Christmas and New Year we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph on December 28th. In order to pro-mote family life and build up devotion to the Holy Family, Pope Benedict the 15th established this feast for the Universal Church in 1921. It is celebrated on the Sunday after Christmas. This year, the Gospel Reading (Luke 2:22-40) shows Mary and Joseph as devout Jews and obedient to God. They were fulfilling their obligation as new parents by bringing the Christ child to be presented in the temple. Like Mary and Joseph, most parents want the best for their children: a loving and nourishing environment surrounded by people who care about them, people they can trust and look up to. In reading this Gospel, we can see that Jesus must have had this kind of upbringing. On this feast we can reflect on our relationship with God and how we relate to the members of our family. But what is family? We think of family as mother, father and siblings plus the extended family. For ex-pats or immigrants who have moved to a foreign country, or even couples and singles who have no children, this image of family often changes. We look at our close friends and relations as our family and we depend on them for love and support. Jesus grew and became strong and filled with wisdom. Later in his ministry as he was speaking to the crowds (Mt. 12: 46-50), Jesus asked “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” and then pointed toward his disciples and said that they were his mother and brothers. “For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.” As we cel-ebrate this feast of the Holy Family, let us also celebrate the holiness found in our families – the brothers and sisters we find in each other.

Karen Curjel

Celebrating Easter

Verfasst am Dienstag, 6. Mai 2014

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One might think that Easter was over on Easter Sunday, but in the liturgical year, we celebrate the Season of Easter until Pentecost, which is fifty days later. The liturgical year is the calendar we have in the Church. It marks the celebration of the liturgy and celebrates God’s time. This is done by remembering the past, celebrating the present and looking forward to the future. We reflect on where we have been, where we are in our life now and the direction we are going. The liturgical year is built around the life of Jesus: Advent tells about his birth and the events before. Ordinary Time tells of the life of Jesus, his acts and his words. Lent tells of his forthcoming death and Resurrection. The main focus of the Readings during the Easter Season is the appearances of the Risen Jesus and the life and growth of the early Christians as found in the Acts of the Apostles. This is a very important season since the Sundays celebrate this time of hope and joy as Jesus conquered death and we journey together toward eternal life in the Kingdom of God. The season is marked with two very special feasts: Ascension and Pentecost. Forty days after Easter we remember how Jesus said his goodbyes to his disciples and returned to the Father in Heaven. This celebration is called the Ascension of the Lord. If you do the math you can see that Ascension is on a Thursday, exactly forty days after Easter. This is not a recognized holiday in many countries so Ascension is often celebrated on the Sunday following. Here in Switzerland it is holiday; schools are closed and so are most businesses. It’s interesting – these religious holidays that we have here. A few years ago I was listening to a moderator on a popular radio station in Zürich talk about Ascension Thursday. He went out to the streets to ask people if they knew exactly why it was a holiday. The people who answered must have been between the ages of 17-45. About 80 percent of those questioned did not know what the holiday was, or if they did, it was something about Jesus but they couldn’t say exactly what. It frightened me and during my next Catechism Class I made sure that the children knew what it was. Most people see our religious holidays as an extended weekend and a time to go away. Very few people attend Mass and one day the churches will really be empty. I ask myself what is happening to our traditions and why don’t people go to church regularly.  If you have an answer, I would be glad to know it. Karen Curjel

God’s Annunciation

Verfasst am Dienstag, 16. Dezember 2014

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In less than two weeks we will celebrate Christmas. It is that wonderful mystery of God incarnate. The word incarnate comes from the Latin verb “incarnare” which means “to make flesh”. When we say that Jesus is God Incarnate, we mean that God took on a human form in the person of Jesus Christ. Wow! This is a mystery that we should be celebrating every day! Mary said yes to God’s plan and Jesus grew inside of her. When we say “yes” to God’s plan for us, the same thing happens: Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit, grows in us. The annunciation to Mary, which we hear in the Gospel on the Fourth Sunday of Advent (Luke 1: 26-38) is the same message we celebrate on the Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord on March 25. God announced to Mary a new life and a plan for all mankind. God announces this plan to us through the events in our life and the people we meet. Sometimes these annunciations are easy to see and respond to. Other times, His message is not so clear or easy to understand, especially when it comes in the form of a message from another person or a specific event that is somewhat unpleasant. It might be a remark from someone who is close to us - that we are not headed in the right direction. But when we reflect on our decisions and behavior and realize that person might be right, we might be able to change something in our life that will put us back on track. As a teenager and even as a young adult, I had some rather unpleasant life changing events happen in my life. My mother would tell me that maybe it is God’s way of telling me to slow down. I had forgotten her message until I was preparing this article. She always taught me that God speaks to us every day through the words and action of others, in the cries of the sick and poor and through world events. These annunciations beg for a response. How we answer to these messages from God is how we respond to Him.

Karen Curjel

Our Empty Tomb

Verfasst am Dienstag, 6. Mai 2014

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The Gospel for Easter Sunday (John 20:1-9) finds Mary of Magdalene going to the tomb of Jesus. It was dark and the tomb had been opened and she did not see or find Jesus. It is interesting that in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke it was a group of women who were going to the tomb on Sunday morning and John writes of only Mary. From a cultural point of view, it would be very unusual for a woman to be alone outdoors. Many theologians believe that this is John’s way of highlighting her special relationship with Jesus. Jesus was a friend to the outsiders and castoffs of his time. So much so that he was strongly criticized for it. For Mary, it was bad enough that Jesus had been crucified, but now his body was missing. The doubt and sadness that she felt at the crucifixion must have left her heart with a feeling of emptiness. She ran to find Peter and the beloved disciple and her empty heart spoke to them through the urgency in her voice. The body must have been stolen. As the story progresses we know that this emptiness gives birth to hope as her darkness gave way to glory, light, life and believing. But for this to happen, it would take an encounter with the risen Jesus for her to understand what had taken place. Isn’t that the way it is for us too? An empty heart is filled with sadness that longs to be filled. Often people use fillers that are not very satisfying in the long run, maybe even fillers that are harmful. An empty heart is a dark place where faith has died and hope is lost. This causes some people to run, like Mary at the sight of Jesus being gone. But hope is not lost, we have it in Jesus who died so that we could live, but sometimes in our own darkness we do not understand this or see it. Mary ran to the others to tell them this news and they returned to see for themselves. I think there is a message in here for us and not in the figure of Mary but in the figures of Peter and the other disciple. Mary was afraid and she ran to them. They went to visit that place of sadness and darkness and one of the disciples “got it”. This is what we, who have met the Risen Christ in our life, are called to do. To journey with the empty-hearted and the brothers and sisters who live in darkness. We should examine their empty tombs and try to help bring them to a place of understanding. This is Easter joy and we experience it ourselves: Jesus is risen, he is alive and he lives within and among us.

Karen Curjel

The Desert of Our Lives

Verfasst am Dienstag, 9. Dezember 2014

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In the Gospel for the 3rd Sunday of Advent, John writes about a man who was sent by God (John 1:6-8, 19-28). John says he is “the voice of one crying out in the desert”. His cry is the message to “make straight the way of the Lord”. The man is John the Baptist and he recognizes who Jesus is and comes to testify to the light. The word “testify” means to be a witness, to declare something as truth or to publically acknowledge. The Baptist’s style appears to be quite bold and clear. The time spent in the desert must have gotten him ready for his ministry of preparing the way for our Savior. The desert is a wasteland of wide open spaces filled with silence and solitude, where the land is untouched and life is simple. In earlier, Biblical times it was often believed that demons lived in the desert and they could be met and fought there. It doesn’t take a camel ride into the desert to realize that demons can be found within us and the fighting takes place deep in the soul, testing our strength. It is usually a battle that is fought alone. But isn’t that how it is in life? The “desert” of our own lives can be a time when we feel like we are living in a wasteland or a place of so much still and emptiness that it feels like there is nothing in front of us and we can’t see where we have been. There are many people who wander around in this kind of a desert for years, maybe even a lifetime, struggling to understand the disappointments in life, of failed relationships, illness, financial stress and unemployment. All of these things can put our faith to a test. If we can try to think of these struggles as a time in the desert, taking time to be alone in prayer and contemplation, maybe we can see the beauty of the many oasises in the desert.
St. Paul always has words that can help keep us centered in our faith. His words for the Christian community in Thessalonica as found in the 2nd Reading (1 Thess 5:16-24) remind us to “rejoice always and pray without ceasing. Test everything; retain what is good.” This is the only way to help get us through the dryness of the desert and “make straight the way of the Lord”.

Karen Curjel

The Passion of Jesus with Children

Verfasst am Dienstag, 8. April 2014

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When I was a little girl, I could easily find my seat in the church by remembering the closest station of the Cross. I was always lured by the scenes of Jesus’ suffering and death. The Mass in those days was still in Latin, so whenever I got bored I would look around at the story of the crucifixion. The first time I attended the Stations of the Cross and Veneration with my grandmother, I was moved to tears. Today, when teaching children, I am a little uneasy when I present it. No matter what the child’s level of understanding is, they all want to hear and discuss the crucifixion. Parents don’t always feel comfortable teaching their children about when and how Jesus died, so often the responsibility falls onto the Catechist. While we use various methods to address different age groups, we can’t always anticipate the reaction of a student, no matter what their age. They ask questions and we must try to give them an answer – after all that is one of the reasons many parents send their children to Catechism classes. Older children prefer to watch a film that depicts the passion and there are some that are suitable for 12 year olds. However, I once had a girl who began to cry when Jesus was nailed to the cross. There was not much I could say to calm her - the crucifixion was horrible and there is no real way to protect children from it. We can share it and talk about it. I have done Stations of the Cross in the classroom, using sketches and text that the children read and present. This way the children take an active part. In the parish of St. Michael’s, Fr. Hübscher and I present a classic Stations of the Cross for children (parents are invited too) every year on Good Friday. We show pictures, read texts and recite a prayer with each station. Afterwards, the children carry 6 large wooden planks from the parish center to the large St. Michael’s church up the hill. At the entrance, using large metal bolts they are put together to make three large crosses. They are then carried into the church and placed on the steps in front of the altar. There, we sing a song and give everyone an opportunity to light a candle and place it at one of the crosses. Holy Week is about a week away. For those of you who have made vacation plans for the Easter holidays, I encourage you to include a trip with Jesus. Make your way along the Stations of the Cross. You don’t need to travel far, the scenes can be found in the Church or even on the Internet.

Karen Curjel

And now I see

Verfasst am Dienstag, 1. April 2014

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Our Lenten journey is on the next to the last stretch before Holy Week. Jesus has been revealing himself to us through the Readings for the past three weeks. Now he reveals something very important to those around him: Jesus is the light of the world. The Readings for the 4th Sunday in Lent are all about seeing. In the First Reading from Samuel, the Lord says that man does not see as God does, “the Lord looks into the heart.” We as humans are often limited to seeing only the surface, but God sees straight to our hearts. God invites us to see with him as he shows us the things that are beyond the surface. I find Lent to be a good exercise in seeing beyond ourselves. It is a reminder that it’s the Lord who leads us out of our dark and difficult moments as we journey toward the saving power of the cross. How often do we forget this when we get lost or confused during our personal struggles in darkness? This is something that Paul understood. He wandered around in the darkness until he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. This encounter knocked Paul on the ground and it blinded him for a short while, but as he was able to see again it changed his life. Paul tells us to live as children of the light because light produces every kind of goodness. Jesus is that light. We can only imagine how life must have changed for the beggar in the Gospel (John 9:1-41) who was blind since birth. He recognized Jesus, believed and then followed him. Unfortunately, the Pharisees didn’t see it that way. All they were concerned about is Jesus working on the Sabbath. They turned a blind eye to what was good in order to criticize what they saw as being wrong. They were so consumed in what they thought was sinful that they could not see the true light of Jesus. Or worse, they saw but refused to believe. During Lent, we are challenged to recognize Jesus in our work, where we live, in our struggles and in the lives of others. But I think that sometimes we get caught up in our own struggles, maybe even consumed, that we fail to see what is at the heart of the matter. Of course our challenges are important, but we must try to see that God is in the middle of everything we do and recognize the face of Jesus as the light of the world. As we journey together in these last two weeks of Lent, let’s find this light and let it knock us to the ground. When we get up, we will walk to a new place of sight and eternal life.

Karen Curjel

Pondering our Penance

Verfasst am Dienstag, 11. März 2014

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When I was growing up, my mother was very strict about meatless Fridays and even stricter during Lent, when Friday supper was completely vegetarian with no desserts. The reforms of Vatican II and the rebellious mood of the late 60’s challenged my mother’s Catholic practices. We rarely attended Mass and our Lenten penances were no longer. Easter, however, always remained an important time for me, much more than Christmas. It wasn’t until I returned to the Church that I began to really experience Easter liturgy and the weeks leading up to it. As an eager “returning Catholic” however, I was not ready to embrace the penance of Lent. I didn’t see the necessity of “giving up” something. In all honesty, I wasn’t prepared to think that I had some practices in need of giving up…at least for 40 days. After all, how is giving up dessert and wine going to improve my relationship with God? During the next years, the more active I became in the Church, and the more material I read, I realized that maybe some degree of self-denial might be cleansing. What I didn’t realize was the sense of freedom I got when I said no to a simple pleasure and turned my thoughts over to why I said no. This denial is a small suffering as we recall the life and death of Jesus in living the Paschal Mystery. We die to our self and rise with Christ on Easter as we end our days of fasting and begin our days feasting.

Karen Curjel

You are the Light of the World

Verfasst am Dienstag, 11. März 2014

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Fifth Sunday in Ordinary TIme

A metaphor is a situation in which the unfamiliar is expressed in terms of the familiar. In the Gospel for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Matthew 5: 13-16) Jesus uses the metaphor of salt and light to help us understand who we are as disciples of Jesus and what qualities it takes.

Salt has gotten a bad reputation over the years. People often have to cut down on their intake of salt or cut it out of their diet altogether. However, we need a certain amount of it in our diet. Why? The body requires certain “trace elements” such as sodium, in order to perform a variety of essential functions. Sodium helps to maintain the fluid in our blood cells and transmit information in our nerves and muscles. The body cannot make salt, so we are dependent on food to meet our requirements. We all know the need for light in our lives. Our body needs at least ten minutes of sunlight every day in order to receive enough vitamin D, which helps to absorb calcium. Our inner self also need light, otherwise we can become depressed and show signs of SAD (seasonal affective disorder). With these two elements in mind, let us consider what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. We are all called to follow him and in following Jesus we light a way for others, as they look to us to be a lamp for them in their darkness. As the salt of the earth, we can (and should) help nourish others with that “trace element” they might not get from their everyday routine. My 94 year-old father lives in a small 2 ½ room apartment in a retirement center. He eats dinner in the dining hall with the other residents and attends an exercise class three times a week. For the rest of the time he reads, watches television and plays solitary on his computer. He often complains about being bored and I tell him he needs to go out more, be with the other residents. He says he doesn’t like being around “a bunch of old people”. He is a little shy and anti-social. I was thinking about how Jesus calls us to be the salt of the earth and I quoted this verse to my father. My father is usually happy, rarely complains and is very nice to other people. I told him that many people appreciate this quality in him. I told him that he is like a bit of sunshine in the lives of others when he shares his smile with them. He thought about it for a while and then smiled. His smile comes from the heart and thinking about it makes me smile. A smile can be contagious. You are the salt of the earth. Go out today and sprinkle it on others.

Karen Curjel