Fr. Romanus' Letter of March 11th
March 8, 2018
Dear Blessed Savior Parish Members:
As I mentioned in a recent Sunday Reflection, Lent presents excellent opportunities to re-examine our faith and strengthen our friendships in God. Similarly, we have an excellent opportunity for Blessed Savior that will help strengthen our schools and most importantly, improve the lives of our students. I have been working with the Pastoral and Finance Council to initiate a new strategic vision for success at Blessed Savior Catholic Schools, and that success begins with our partnership with the Seton Catholic Schools Network. As many of you may know, we have been working with Seton Catholic Schools for the last 7 months. I am writing to inform you that in accordance with Archdiocesan directives, we will be fully joining the network of Seton Catholic Schools for the 2018-19 school year.
Through this partnership, Blessed Savior Catholic Schools will have new resources to improve academic performance and strengthen enrollment, continue to provide a strong Catholic educational presence for the neighborhoods we serve, ensure that none of our students and families are left behind, and create long-term sustainability for our students, staff, and schools.
For those of you who may not be familiar with Seton Catholic Schools, let me share some background. Seton Catholic Schools focuses on producing positive outcomes for students and enabling Catholic schools to be sustainable. Some of the benefits they bring include enriched teacher support and coaching, improved academics, progressive leadership development, centralized staffing and management efficiencies and school facilities improvements. Seton Catholic Schools will be offering positions to all Blessed Savior principals, teachers and school staff in good standing and who wish to stay. Together with Seton Catholic Schools, we can give our students and families additional support, such as guidance counseling and social worker support that we have not been able to provide enough of, so that they can be even more successful.
Seton Catholic Schools currently has 12 schools. In the first year, reading and math scores on the state of Wisconsin test are growing twice as fast. That is what we what for our school!
While developing our vision for the future, another opportunity arose for Blessed Savior Catholic Schools. Rocketship, a national network of public charter schools with one location in Milwaukee, following inquiries at the Archdiocese, approached Blessed Savior asking to purchase the north campus located at 5501 N. 68th Street, Milwaukee. After conferring with Seton, parish leadership determined that this would help further sustain and strengthen both the Parish and Blessed Savior Catholic Schools. Proceeds from this sale will be used to sustain the parish and improve the other school campuses as determined necessary. The plan is to keep our Blessed Savior North campus open through the end of this school year (2017-18). However, the north campus will not be opening for the 2018-19 school year.
Steps are already being taken to work directly with our students and families to ensure that all our students can continue to be a part of our family at Blessed Savior Catholic Schools at the West (8545 W Villard Ave.), East (5140 N 55th St.), and South (4059 N 64th St.) campuses. These three campuses will remain open and are within one to three miles of the north campus. Blessed Savior has more than enough capacity to grow at all three campus locations. Our hope is to keep as many students, teachers and staff at Blessed Savior Catholic Schools as possible.
As our new vision for Blessed Savior Catholic Schools begins, I am excited to announce that Karen Earle, who many of you have already had the opportunity to meet, will continue to lead all Blessed Savior Schools as the Head of Schools. Karen is a longtime member of St. Sebastian Parish in Milwaukee. She was teacher and administrator at Pius XI Catholic High School. As a career Catholic school educator, Karen is a firm believer in Catholic education. Her children are all products of Catholic schooling. Having raised her own children in the city of Milwaukee, she is also committed to this city and to the children who live here. In addition, having spent time in the high school arena, Karen has a solid sense of what is necessary to be prepared for high school. Karen’s goal is to support children so they are competitive and able to find success in high quality high schools leading to limitless possibilities for success beyond high school. Karen brings new energy to our schools and we are grateful for her interest in serving at Blessed Savior.
We are excited for the growth and additional opportunities that this new vision will bring to our Blessed Savior students, families and our community. We are working to make this as smooth a transition as possible for everyone. To that end, Blessed Savior will be hosting a number of informational meetings for parents, to help answer any questions. If you have questions, please call the parish office at (414) 464-5033 and ask to speak with me. In addition, a separate phone number has been established to further answer questions that our Blessed Savior School parents, staff, parishioners and others may have, (414) 831-8453. I also invite you to talk to our pastoral council and finance council members to gain their perspective.
Rev. Romanus N. Nwaru
Fr. Romanus' Letter of March 4th
Sunday Gospel Reflection:
This Sunday’s gospel is the familiar story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman – the woman at the well. The encounter took place after Jesus left the region of Galilee in the north and was heading to Jerusalem in the south. Samaria, a Gentile city, happened to be located midway between the north and the south. In Jesus’ time, Jewish travelers on pilgrimage to Jerusalem went to great lengths to bypass Samaria through an alternative route in other to avoid contact with Gentiles. Jesus’ decision to pass through this Gentile city was a lesson for his followers. That decision set the context for the fascinating exchange between him and this Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.
That this conversation even took place was simply amazing given that Jews and Gentiles went to great lengths to avoid each other. Even more surprising is the fact that the conversation was between a Jewish man and a Gentile woman. However, it is not surprising that Jesus initiated the conversation by asking for a drink after a long and tiring journey. We know that part of his Messianic mission was to break down barriers. He was not going to pass up this opportunity to teach us about the importance of reaching out to those we consider different. As Christians, we should strive to break down those artificial barriers based on gender, race, religion, age, culture, education, politics, economic status, et cetera.
After overcoming her shock about a Jewish man asked her for a drink, Jesus masterfully drew her to an understanding of God’s graciousness. He told her if she knew the gift of God and who was asking her for a drink, she would be the one asking for the living water. It is a reminder that God often comes to us in disguise - as a homeless person, a destitute, someone in dire need, etc. How we respond to God in those situations could make the difference between salvation and condemnation. Fortunately, the Samaritan woman overcame her initial cultural resistance and embraced utter dependence on God. She turned the table on Jesus by asking him to give her the water that wells up to eternal life.
Realizing that Jesus was a Jewish prophet, she courageously engaged him in theological debate about the proper place to worship God. Whereas her ancestors worshipped God on “this mountain,” that is, Mt. Gerizim, she accused the Jews of insisting that Jerusalem is the place to worship God. Jesus points to a time in the future when true worshippers would worship God neither on Mt. Gerizim nor in Jerusalem, but in spirit and truth. It is another way of saying that what matters most is not where we worship God, but the spirit with which we worship. This strikes me as a call to sincerity and genuineness in our practice of faith. Are we genuine Christians or pretenders?
In the course of their theological debate, the woman expressed hope in the coming Messiah, the Christ, who “will tell us everything.” Then, Jesus revealed himself as the expected Messiah, stating, “I am he, the one speaking with you.” The woman’s response is remarkable. She left her water jar by the well and hurried back to the town to announced the good news that she had found the Messiah. Now that she had found the water of life, she no longer needed the temporary water from Jacob’s well. At first, the Samaritans believed in Christ based on the woman’s testimony. However, after welcoming and listening to Jesus, many came to believe not because of her testimony, based on their personal experience of the Messiah.
Have a great week!
Fr. Romanus' Letter of February 25th
This Sunday’s readings remind us of the importance of faith in our relationship with God. In the first reading, God tested Abraham’s faith by asking him to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. Though the thought of sacrificing his son was both frightening and unsettling, Abraham trusted that everything would be fine. Sure enough, God came to the rescue and provided a more fitting victim for the sacrifice. For his unwavering faith and trust, God swore to fulfill his promises of unmatched blessings to Abraham and his posterity. It shows that faith is a necessary condition (conditio sine qua non - Latin) in one’s relationship with God.
Lent presents excellent opportunities to re-examine our faith, and strengthen our friendship with God. Like Abraham, we have to trust that God would fulfill his promises. Sin distorts our Christian identity and threatens our friendship with God, making it difficult to trust. The major challenge for us in Lent is to take advantage of the Lenten mantra of repentance. Of course, we must guard against possible spiritual boredom orchestrated by the constant call for conversion during Lent. God’s promise to us during the Lenten journey is not unlike that made to Abram, that is, the enormous blessings that await those who are faithful.
In the second reading, St. Paul reminds us that when God is with us, it does not matter who is against us. When God is on your team, you need not worry about who is on the opposing team. St. Paul also reminds us that in the quest for justice, only God has the power to indict and to acquit.
The gospel presents us with Mark’s version of the transfiguration of Jesus. The transfiguration narrative is found in all three synoptic gospels (Matt 17:1-9; Mark 9:2-8; and Luke 9:28-36). Mark states that Jesus took three of his apostles, Peter, James and John to a high mountain to pray (the mountain is understood to be Mount Tabor). Note that Jesus is hinting on the necessity of prayer. That prayer session with the apostles quickly turned into something otherworldly as he transfigured in their presence.
The presence of Moses and Elijah points to Jesus’ connection with Israel’s past. Jesus is the fulfillment of the law, represented by Moses, and the prophets, represented by Elijah. Ludovico Carracci, an Italian early Baroque painter of the 17th century, and founder and director of the Eclectic Academy of Painting had a beautiful painting of the transfiguration depicting the characters in dynamic poses.
Saint Thomas Aquinas considered Jesus’ transfiguration as the greatest miracle because it complimented his baptism and showed the perfection of life in heaven. The transfiguration was an awesome moment of revelation as the Father introduced his Son to the world. What a privilege it must have been for the apostles to witness their master interacting with Moses and Elijah as well as witnessing the presence of the Trinity. Note that the Holy Spirit was present in the form of the cloud from where the Father’s voice came.
Though frightening, the transfiguration experience strengthened the faith of the apostles. In fact, Jesus’ transfiguration was so important that Pope John Paul II, in 2002, included it as one of the newly established “Luminous Mysteries” of the Church. Spending quality time in prayer this Lent will make it a transforming experience for us.
Have a great week!