St. John Paul II called for all believers to spread the message of the Gospel. As the growing season in Western New York is in full swing, one local parish is focusing on cultivating and growing its faith, strengthening the foundation of the people for generations to come.
Father John Stanton, administrator of St. John XXIII Parish in West Seneca, put his energies into a program of new evangelization for the people of the parish after his arrival in 2015. The pastoral team began to work at drawing the community together and building its faith with a series of spiritual programs rooted in traditional Catholic practices.
During Lent a program titled, "Mercy, A Bible Study for Catholics." had more than 80 participants discovering the incredible history of God's love and mercy.
Participants also came to learn and understand the importance of extending God's love and mercy to their families and the world around them. Though many participants were lifelong Catholics, this was their very first experience of exploring Scripture through reading, study, understanding and meditation.
Lenten Soup Suppers featured not only food for the body, but uplifting food for the soul as well. Each Tuesday, a short inspirational talk was given as the community enjoyed a Lenten meal.
During the standing-room-only soup suppers, reflections about Rublev's Icon of the Trinity, the birth of the Marian Franciscans, Catholic social justice and the devotional life of the Church fed the spiritual lives of as many as 100 people present for each of the suppers. Participants were delighted with the enriching knowledge and inspiration they obtained.
Spiritual renewal continued at St. John XXIII in May, when the parish embarked on the 33 Days to Morning Glory, a parish-based retreat. With the guidance of a dedicated and enthusiastic team from Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Harris Hill, more than 70 participants read and prayed with the weekly meditations of St. Louis de Montfort, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. John Paul II and Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
They gathered on Thursday evenings for six weeks, where they shared their reflections from the week in small groups, prayed together and watched a short video. The retreat concluded on the feast of the Visitation of Blessed Mother Mary on May 31, when the participants made their consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary at a festive Eucharistic Liturgy celebrated by Father Stanton.
The spiritual life of St. John XXIII Parish has new momentum and has experienced a tremendous revival, through the implementation of programs geared toward the growth of its members.
"There is a real hunger among God's people who genuinely want to grow in their faith," Father Stanton said.