Everything Matters

09-29-2019Weekly ReflectionFr. John Sims Baker

Dear Parishioners of Saint Rose,

This letter is meant to strengthen our understanding of stewardship and our reason for sacrificial giving. This fall, we are having a series of homilies on stewardship in connection with an appeal to support and to become more involved in the parish. These homilies will be posted on the parish website, as well as preached at Mass. In response, I ask as your pastor for you to make a commitment to regular participation in the parish, including financial support.


What is a Steward Anyhow?

09-22-2019Weekly ReflectionFr. John Sims Baker

We are beginning this weekend a series of homilies on stewardship. Although this concept includes being generous with our money, it is much bigger than that. It is really a way of living.

In the first place, what is a steward? The Gospel today gives the example of a steward -- a really bad steward actually! A steward is one who has been entrusted with authority over goods that belong to the one who has entrusted the goods. It is a concept that comes up in the gospels a lot. The servants, for example, who are entrusted with the various number of talents, for example, are stewards. The man in the Gospel today is also a steward for his master's accounts, but he abuses the trust of his master to take care of himself.


16 Weddings - In One Day!

09-15-2019Weekly ReflectionFr. John Sims Baker

Saint Rose parish continually amazes me, but a Saturday a couple of weeks ago really stands out in my experience here. On that day, there were 16 weddings in one big nuptial Mass, along with four baptisms and 12 confirmations. There were also five baptisms of children before the Mass, as well as almost countless confessions the night before.

How did this come about? The marriage preparation ministry of the Hispanic community reached out to couples who were not married in the Church, that is, who had not received the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony -- for any number of reasons and with any number of complications. This ministry got to work on marriage preparation for these couples, as well as addressing whatever obstacles were in the way. A beautiful communion developed among the couples preparing for the sacrament and those preparing them. There was a lot of work involved, to say the least. In the end, 16 couples received the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony as well as other sacraments that were needed. In all, the ceremony was three hours! And then there was a grand fiesta.


Behind the Scenes

09-08-2019Weekly ReflectionFr. John Sims Baker

Last week, I talked about the obvious improvements going on at St. Rose in our construction projects in the church, and they are continuing at a good pace. I thank you for your support and patience during this time. I also want to tell you about other projects going on in the parish that are not so obvious: the work of our new councils and committees.

Parish Pastoral Council: This council is exactly what it sounds like, a group to guide the pastor about the parish's pastoral mission. It serves as a sort of "cabinet" to the pastor to keep the parish unified in carrying out dimensions of formation in the parish: human, spiritual, intellectual, and apostolic. The pastoral council works to foster unity between the English and Spanish speaking elements of our parish as well as unity with our parish school. This council has begun to meet and to organize itself according to this vision.


New Normal!

09-01-2019Weekly ReflectionFr. John Sims Baker

Back in November when Saint Rose took over the pastoral care of our Hispanic community, the plan with the diocese was that there would be three priests assigned to Saint Rose. There are at least a couple of other parishes with three priests, and I would say that we need that many with all the pastoral responsibilities that our parish covers. That is when Fr. Michael joined us at Saint Rose. Since then, however, for a number of reasons we have had only two priests for the majority of that time. Now that Fr. Edwuin has his visa and is back in the parish (as of last Monday), we should regularly have three priests in the parish. All three of us will be offering Masses and confessions at all of the regular times, and we will divide up certain areas that each of us will concentrate on serving. Fr. Edwuin will be especially helpful with the Hispanic community, Fr. Michael will have a concentration on our homebound and hospitalized parishioners, and I will offer pastoral care to the MTSU Catholic students. Of course, all of us will be involved in all areas to some degree.


Supernatural View

08-25-2019Weekly ReflectionFr. John Sims Baker

The Second Vatican Council teaches that the Holy Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life; that is, everything in the Christian life comes from the Eucharist and everything leads to it as well. I want to propose that our construction projects in the church are more than practical needs. These projects will help us to live and celebrate the Holy Eucharist, and therefore these practical projects are actually of spiritual importance.

We will experience some disruptions in our routines over these months of construction; but if we have this supernatural view of what is going on, it will help us to adjust joyfully. As a reminder, on Monday - Friday daily Mass will be in the Stonewall House in the Knights of Columbus meeting room. Tuesday evening Spanish Mass and Wednesday evening Mass will be in the Jo Call Room because these Masses have too large a congregation for the meeting room. The Friday school Mass will be in the gym. Adoration from Wednesday morning to Friday morning will take place in the Stonewall House. All Masses and other liturgies on Saturday and Sunday will be in the church.



08-18-2019Weekly ReflectionFr. John Sims Baker

Many things are beginning this time of year. In addition to the regular beginnings of school and so many other programs and ministries, there are new beginnings as well. The Finance Council is working on a new budget. The Pastoral Council, the Facilities Committee, and the Strategic Planning Committee have all had their first meetings in the past few weeks. Ministries such as the servers and ushers are having updated training. Our long-anticipated construction project in the church is also beginning.

Let me remind everyone that for the next few months, we will be experiencing construction going on that will deal with various parts of the church. The HVAC system, the lighting, the flooring, the organ, the new confessionals, etc. will all be parts of this project. Thank you for your patience with all of improvements. I will try to keep you posted as things develop.



08-11-2019Weekly ReflectionFr. John Sims Baker

Over the past weeks, in our country we have been dealing with the reality of violence and hate in our society. We have seen the culture of death manifested in El Paso, in Dayton, and in too many other places. This situation is the antithesis of the Kingdom of God. I know that I feel practically powerless to address such evil, except to call it for what it is and to renounce it and all that accompanies it. It is what we promise to do in our baptismal vows: "Do you reject Satan? I do. And all his works? I do. And all his empty promises? I do."

Along with the rejection of the culture of death, I also must profess confidence in a civilization of love founded on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This profession is the positive side of our baptismal promises. Last weekend in a very different setting, I felt the transforming power of mercy, gentleness, and love. I was involved in a gathering of the Entering Canaan program for women experiencing hope and healing after abortion, which is itself another manifestation of the culture of death. The peace and grace of God is so evident in these woman, who have found mercy after years of fear, guilt, and shame. This gathering was so gentle. It gave me hope.

Please resolve to embrace and build a civilization of love in your homes, in your hearts, and everywhere you go. Do not return evil for evil. Let love triumph.

Fr. Baker


Holy Land Gratitude

08-04-2019Weekly ReflectionFr. John Sims Baker

By the time this letter is printed, I hope that I am over jet lag! For some reason, it is much worse for me coming home than going over. In conjunction with the jet lag, I am even more in a state of awe and wonder at the pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Unlike the jet lag, I hope that the sense of awe and wonder does not wear off!

First of all, I am thankful to this wonderful parish for so generous and thoughtful a gift for my 25th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood. I cannot imagine anything that could have had a more profound impact on me. And to include my sister in the experience is thoughtfulness beyond measure. Thank you.


State of the Parish

07-28-2019Weekly ReflectionFr. John Sims Baker

Last week, I mainly discussed the parish staff. This week, I want to inform you of the development of parish councils and committees. The first of these to be re-established and re-energized was the Finance Council. Larry Farmer serves as the chair of this council and has been a valuable connection to previous Finance Councils on which he served. The newly constituted council was established just in time to help investigate and manage the situation of misappropriation of parish funds. (That situation remains under investigation by police and prosecutors. I will inform the parish as soon as there are any new developments.) The Finance Council is continuing to give guidance on the continuing outside review of our financial procedures, as well as helping with the budget process and financial accountability. I am very grateful for their help and expertise.


Year One

07-21-2019Weekly ReflectionFr. John Sims Baker

I am going to make an effort to give a "state of the parish" report, having completed my first year as pastor. What a year it has been! Thank God for his grace and mercy, and thank you all for your generosity and patience. Without God's grace and your goodness, I could accomplish nothing.

We are blessed with three priests in the parish, although we have not actually had three priests in residence, except for a few weeks. Fr. Michael has been such a gift to the parish with his warmth and gentleness since he arrived in November, and when Fr. Edwuin comes back from Columbia in early August (we hope!), three will be our normal number of priests. I also believe that there will soon be news to report about Fr. Joe finishing his medical leave and returning to an assignment in the diocese, but that is still in the discussion stage. I look forward to hearing more news from the diocese to pass on to you. Our deacons Pete Semich and John D'Amico continue to serve with distinction and dedication. I don't know where we would be without them. We have also been blessed this summer with the presence of seminarian Preston Thompson, who has served the parish with eagerness and joy.


Scope of Work

07-14-2019Weekly ReflectionFr. John Sims Baker

We have just about gotten all the approvals from the diocese to begin the long-discussed projects for the church. If all goes well, it looks like we will begin work by the end of the month. Let me sketch out for you the extent of the these projects. First is the long-awaited HVAC improvements to correct faulty duct work and to increase HVAC capacity, if needed. This time of year, the need for improvements in the air conditioning needs no explanation! As there is some old florescent lighting in the area of the ducts, we will be upgrading those fixtures with more efficient modern ones. Another project will be replacing the ceramic tile flooring, which was improperly installed originally, causing it to crack and to separate from the concrete underneath. This is particularly obvious down the center aisle and across the front where the floor seems to "give" as it is walked on. We have reached the limits of temporary repairs so that replacement is now called for. In conjunction with new tile being installed, a new "loop" for the audio system for the hearing impaired will be embedded in the floor. Finally, the old cry room/chapel will be converted into two confessionals and a vesting room for altar servers. Worthy and designated space for celebrating the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation has long been needed in the church. Although none of these projects is especially "glamorous," I believe that they will enhance our church in significant and needed ways.



07-07-2019Weekly ReflectionFr. John Sims Baker

We usually think of surrender as a negative word of defeat. In the spiritual life, it is just the opposite. It is the first step to victory. Surrender is the way to begin and to begin again. In the spiritual life, we are not going to do much on our own. Actually, we are not going to do anything. God is the one to get us started and to keep us going. All we can do is to accept faithfully what He gives us. That is why surrender is so important spiritually.

Speaking for myself, I am very bad at surrendering to God. I usually think that I have a better way than God does. Generally what I have in mind is a more comfortable way, but a more comfortable way is rarely God's way. Speaking for myself, I seem always to prefer the easier way, and I resist God when He offers me a hard path. And yet surrender to God's way is the way of peace.