Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy

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Living the Spirit of Redemption in Florida

Father Scottston Brentwood - Sunday, February 15, 2015

 

Fr Tony tell us again about your local community. Which friars live there? What is their apostolates?

Fr. James works full time at St. Jude Cathedral which is with-in walking distance from our Casa Nolasco. The rector of St Jude’s is Fr Joseph Waters. Together they take care of all the Sacramental life of the Parish and School with 350 students of so Fr James visits the kids from time to time. He also teaches Bible classes twice a week for adults. He is chaplain of the Knights of Columbus. Fr James does hospital and nursing homes visitation from time to time. All of it is done very much with a great Mercedarian spirit of much dedication and love for the least ones.... Fr. Scott works full time at another Parish, the Church of Sacred Heart in Pinellas Park. This parish is about 15 minutes from our Community. Likewise with the Pastor Fr. Anthony Coppola (another diocesan priest), Fr Scott takes great care of the people of God. Sacred Heart has about 2,000 families with many Latinos in the same vicinity. The sacramental life is very alive at this parish. Once a week, Fr Scott has a well-attended Bible class with about 60 people or so. By the same token being Canon Lawyer he helps out 3 Dioceses in some of their Canonical Cases: St.Pete, Orlando and Venice!Fr. Mike Perry is part time chaplain at Maria Manor which is a Roman Catholic nursing home and assistant living. He celebrates Mass and the Anointing of the Sick from time to time. Fr Mike is also part time chaplain at Bay Front Hospital and All Children Hospital (Friday to Sunday). He is also chaplain of the Ancient Order of Hibernian Brothers and Sisters. Fr. Oscar has a full-time job with the Latinos in St. Peter and the vicinity. He celebrates masses on the weekends at Holy Cross, St. Michael, Sacred Heart and St. Cecilia in Clearwater. Fr. Anthony helps out from time to time at St. Jude, Transfiguration, and Blessed Trinity.He celebrates the Italian Mass once a month at St. Jude.Fr Tony is also chaplain of the 4th degree of Knights of Columbus (a once a month prayer meeting at St. Jude). He also is involved in Marriage Encounter with 2 meetings every month. Lastly, Fr Tony is the Mercedarian Third Order moderator with one monthly meeting with Sue Tambasco (president).


What is the average day like at St Peter Nolasco Residence?

We do pray together twice a day at 7:00 am for 30 minutes, at 4:00 for another hour. The only meal we do share together is at 5:00 pm. During this time we talk about our day nicely with much sharing of information about our ministries. Once a month, we have a house meeting for about 90 minutes or so. Likewise once a month, we do have a short Day of

Recollection with Revision of Live from 2:30am to 5:00 PM. The rest of the day it is up to each friar use to use our free time accordingly: ministries, visitations, physical exercises, and rest, if so our body requires from time to time. We try to live as good brothers with “one mind and one heart (Rule of St Augustine)”, according to the spirit and charism of St. Peter Nolasco, our Founder and Model.


Fr Tony, tell us, what are some of the special events that have occurred for your local community this past year?

The great events every year are the ones dedicated to Our Lady of Mercy and St. Peter Nolasco...On these occasions, all of us Mercedarians have a Celebration of the Holy Eucharist at St. Jude cathedral with due permission of the Rector. Our third Order members, about 17 of them are there to support us during these days. We all attend Mass in Church and then we come together in our Community for a little get together with them and friends of the Community. We, of course, live to have pizza, from Govanni pizza place (pizza della nonna is very much liked) and wines and of course nice dessert! The get-together will last for a good of couple of hours with much love and friendship, according to the spirit of the Order, based upon fraternal love and much charity for one another.During these occasions other people will ask us to be members of our Third Order, which is becoming very active socially and otherwise. They are doing great things like visitations of some nearby Nursing Homes and alike....


As the local superior, how would you say your community lives out our Redemptive Spirit in St. Petersburg, FL?

I am just reading now the message of Papa Francesco to us Religious people: to wake up the world and go the outskirts of the cities (periphery) like here at St. Pete. I am personally trying to figure that out for us Mercedarians living here and now in central Florida what this means. That means that we are going to have to get busy in the near future and do more for the least ones of our society! Some how we have to figure that out in our Community. For instances, trying to get into the prison ministry once again, since we did it for years in the past at Maximum SecurityPrison System. Another way to do so according to the spirit of the Mercedarian spirit, visit for Masses on Sundays and bringing the Gospel message to the poor people at Pinellas Hope who have nothing for themselves, not even a place where they can rest at night time...The least ones should be on our list, in a very special way...Our working together with our Third Order, might be a great idea for more presence of us Mercedarians in the local community of St. Pete and vicinity...We hope and pray that will be our special way to free our brothers and sisters who happen to be in some kind ofpresent captivity...May St. Peter Nolasco be our guide and model in this work of Redemption of ours....Amen to that..........ciao,to you all

*____________________________________________________________________Sincerely

yours in Jesus and Our Lady of Mercy,Fr. Anthony M. Fortunato, O. de

M.*

 

http://cathedralalive.org/

http://pinellashope.org/

http://www.sacredheartpinellaspark.com/


The New Evangelization:Shoes Soiled by the Mud of the Street

Father Scottston Brentwood - Saturday, July 26, 2014

As I came close to my gate at the airport, I thought this is finally time to relax. Two weeks of summer camp in the hills (well actually) mountains of Northern Georgia had taken its toll on me. Don’t get me wrong, I had a blessed time working with Life Teen missionaries, Catholic teens, and middle school students. As always, it was a powerful experience of authentic Christianity. All the essentials were present: the Eucharist, confessions, devotion to the Blessed Mother, and the call to service. Most impressive and weighing on my heart was the call to mission. Over the past year and a half, I like so many have been made uncomfortable by Pope Francis.  I always knew about the New Evangelization, but never had it been presented to me in such a powerful and at times piercing way. Yes, this South American has a way with words. Pope Francis possesses the gift to be able to cut to the heart with powerful images and penetrating statements.

 

So as the boarding process began, I was a bit uncomfortable with my desire to focus on myself. Shouldn’t I always be available to God at all times? Weren’t we asking the teens to be missionaries to their parents, family, and friends? As I waited for my zone to be called, the word of Fr John Ignatius, another camp priest, came to mind. He had been trying to impress upon the missionaries and teens to reach out to others by “asking if they needed prayers for something” or to even “ask to pray with the person if they were open.” This is a very uncomfortable thing for a man voted most shy in his high school class. But, the Lord had taken me so far in 20 years how could I ever say no to him?

 

Okay, I thought I will just say a little prayer to be open to help those that God will place me with on this journey. This prayer was made quickly and without much fervor. Part of me wanted to be faithful, but the other part wanted a break. After all, these weeks running around with teens had left me with a severe sunburn, massive blisters on my feet, and a cold which caused me to partially lose my voice. I deserved some rest, right?

 

Finally, the time to board had come. In my zone, just ahead of me in line were two young women dressed in 19th century garb. Hmm…I thought to myself, don’t see that every day!  They must be Amish traveling back to Lancaster, PA. But, wait… Amish wouldn’t fly on planes? Maybe they are Mennonites. No matter…there is no time to talk I reasoned since we are boarding. I boarded the plane and began moving down aisle getting looks I have become so accustom to as a priest. Nearly everyone takes a glance…some are just curious, others give little smile, and still others look the other way coldly. Oh, just a few more minutes, I thought, and I would be in my seat ready for some quiet and a long nap.

 

Where is that 18 C? Okay here it comes …wait…you gotta be kidding me! I have the aisle seat next to…those two Mennonite women! Boy…God, you have a sense of humor…a Catholic priest and two Mennonite women. I had to smile to myself, since the Lord has often put me in these strange situations. My thoughts went to what the other passengers might be thinking? And, what about these two young women? What do Mennonites think about Catholic priests? Well, they probably they don't have a positive opinion if they are anything like fundamentalist Protestants. This was too weird, it must be God's plan, but why?

 

Assessing the situation, I thought it best to play in cool and see what happens. Looking back, this was just an excuse. In fact, my whole thought process was based on presumptions. It was just as Pope Francis says, “…instead of evangelizing, one analyzes and classifies others, and instead of opening the door to grace, one exhausts his or her energies in inspecting and verifying (EG 94).” How easy it is to stay in our own comfort zone and modes of thinking instead of going out into “the peripheries in need of the light of the Gospel (EG 20).” This is where I am ashamed to say that I stayed for the rest of that two hour flight. I rationalized myself into avoiding any contact with another group that I had little real knowledge of. It began with just waiting a little to not seem over anxious to speak. Then, my thoughts progressed to other excuses: I need sleep. They are talking to one another. The flight is almost over. Finally, we were landing and I had not even looked at my fellow passengers to introduce myself or asked where they were going.  The opportunity had passed and I stayed safely within my own little world.

 

Why does the Spirit lead us into these situations? What could I really have done to share the Gospel with these two women who live in such a different world? The answers to these questions are often not readily apparent. As Pope Francis says, “The gospel speaks of a seed which, once sown, grows by itself, even as the farmer sleeps (Mk 4:26-29).” “The Church has to accept the unruly freedom of the word, which accomplishes what it wills in ways that surpass our calculations and ways of thinking (EG 22).”

 

We do not know what the effect of our efforts will be. What we do know it that we are called today to be in a permanent state of mission. It is no longer acceptable to just protect and grow in our own faith or that of our families.  Clearly, I was wrong and failed to be a sower of seeds. I did not live out my baptismal call to preach the Gospel to all nations.

 

We are called to reach out and let the Spirit do the rest. Maybe it would have been a nice conversation or an opportunity to break down barriers or misconceptions. Or possibly there could have been a deeper discussion of faith and doctrine. Likely it would have been, at least initially, uncomfortable or even painful if I did not get a warm response. We must do the good we can even if in the process our “shoes get soiled by the mud of the street (EG 45).”

 

The New Evangelization sounds really nice on paper, but it is essentially a challenge to die to self for the Gospel. We can firmly believe that Jesus Christ is speaking to us today through our Pope who says, “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security (EG 49).” At least for one day, I was the one “clinging to my own security”.

 

It’s easy to preach the New Evangelization, but to put it into practice is much harder. Yet this is how the Church began. We stand on the shoulders of giants, of the Apostles, who took the Gospel to the farthest corners of the known world. Today we, like them, are looking out into a world bruised, hurting and dirty seeking something real. This is not the place for a life of ease. We are on pilgrimage with the command to preach the Gospel. This is what it means to live the New Evangelization.  To be truly in a permanent state of mission.

 

Evangelii Gaudium by Pope Francis

Life Teen Website

Permanent State of Mission 


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