State of the Parish

07-28-2019Pastor's LetterFr. 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.

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Year One

07-21-2019Pastor's LetterFr. 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.

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Scope of Work

07-14-2019Pastor's LetterFr. 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.

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Surrender

07-07-2019Pastor's LetterFr. 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.

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Pray for Our Country

06-30-2019Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

This week we will celebrate Independence Day on July 4. It is usually a fun holiday to be with family or friends, share a casual meal, and watch fireworks! I want to ask that we take the day more seriously this year along with the fun. Please take time to pray for the United States of America. Along with the tremendous blessings of freedom and prosperity for which we should offer prayers of thanksgiving, there are also grave problems in our country for which we need to pray for deliverance. Only God can save us! There are epidemics of hopelessness resulting in addiction, suicide, and abortion. There are plagues of confusion about sexuality and gender undermining marriage and family life and even our identity as men and women. There are crises, failures, and abuses in leadership undermining confidence in our institutions, even in the Church. Only a turn to God can set us back on the right track and restore hope, confidence, and peace. Finally, today there will be millions of people in our country who will not spend the day relaxing but rather in fear: in fear of being thrown out of the country. It is certainly true that our lack of an effective immigration policy has allowed a terrible situation to develop of disregard of law, nevertheless inflicting fear on those whose only offence is the desire to share in the blessings of this country that we and our ancestors have experienced is a short-sighted response. You don't see people lining up to get into every country! The fact that people want so desperately to come here says something good about the United States of America. Let's turn to God to keep us welcoming even as we face and address challenges.

Faithfully,
Fr. Baker

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The Body of the Lord

06-23-2019Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

Today we celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi. This is the day on which we pay particular reverence to the Blessed Sacrament. Jesus comes to us and remains with us in the Blessed Sacrament. This is a wonderful gift, which we do not deserve. Jesus displays extreme humility in coming to us in the Blessed Sacrament and allowing us to come so close to Him, even to receive Him as food for our journey to our heavenly home.

The humility of Jesus should not, however, cause us to take His presence for granted! He is the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, even if He appears as a piece of bread! We have the opportunity to show our love, respect, and reverence for Him in the Blessed Sacrament.

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PRAYER INTENTIONS FOR HOLY LAND PILGRIMAGE

06-16-2019Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

Next month, thanks to the generosity and thoughtfulness of parishioners of St. Rose, my sister (Sr. Margaret Andrew, O.P.) and I will be going on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. First, I must say thank you. This pilgrimage to the Holy Land is truly a dream come true. With my sister's inspiration, I would like to offer everyone in the parish an opportunity to share in the spiritual blessings of the pilgrimage. We would like to take your prayer intentions with us and literally place them at the holy sites we will be visiting: the sites of Our Lord's annunciation, birth, public ministry, suffering, death, and resurrection. Everywhere we go, we will take your prayer intentions.

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God Doesn't Go on Vacation

06-09-2019Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

I want to begin to address some fundamental truths for living as faithful Catholics. Among the most important of these is to keep the 3rd Commandment by going to Sunday Mass. Sunday Mass is essential for our relationship with God and for our relationships within the Church. Unless it is impossible, we must go to Mass every Sunday. As so many of you know, once you have established the habit of Sunday Mass then it is easy to maintain. The difficultly arises when we have to convince ourselves anew each week why we should go to Mass. As a friend of mine has said, it is easy to find reasons not to do something! Save yourself the trouble, and decide that you will go to Mass every Sunday period. If you are a parent, decide that you and your children will attend Mass every Sunday period. God will help you. Don't have arguments with yourself or others. Just do it.

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Parish Staff Changes

06-02-2019Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

For a variety of reasons, some of them planned and some unplanned, we are experiencing a number of changes in our parish staff. I would like to take the opportunity to inform the parish of these changes. First, I want to let you know of some departures from the staff. Anne Plüs who worked in the parish office in a number of capacities has moved from Murfreesboro. This move was long-planned and has finally arrived. Leaving Saint Rose from the formation team is Jenny Morris, who is likewise relocating from Murfreesboro. She will be assuming new responsibilities in Chattanooga. We thank Anne and Jenny for their years of service to the parish and wish them well in their new endeavors.

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Amazing parish!

05-26-2019Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

This past Monday-Wednesday, I was in Cincinnati for a conference called "the amazing parish." It is about helping pastors to lead parishes well, both spiritually and practically. I am certainly happy that St. Rose is one of the four parishes chosen from our diocese to attend the conference and to implement the amazing parish process.

The transformation begins with each pastor having a leadership team with whom he consults a least weekly. The team provides the pastor both support and accountability in leadership. I can speak from experience that isolation is the biggest challenge to a pastor being an effective and joyful leader of his parish.

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Graduations

05-19-2019Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

It is certainly the time for graduations in Murfreesboro. MTSU has already graduated. All the high school graduations took place over the past week and this weekend. Saint Rose School celebrated graduation this past Friday. Congratulations to all who have graduated. Congratulations as well to all who have supported the graduates over the years, especially parents and teachers. Graduation is an accomplishment for all of you!

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Mother's Day

05-12-2019Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

I may be getting into dangerous territory in talking about Mother's Day because for a number of people, this day may not have happy associations. My mother died the same year that I was ordained. Her approaching death was the reason for my ordination being moved up from June to March. I have therefore not had my mother during almost all of my priesthood. I do however cherish the memories of my mother and, in particular, those few months when I was a priest at the end of her life when I was allowed to spend a great deal of time caring for her. I count it one of the special blessings of being in Murfreesboro, which was her hometown, that I am able to visit her grave frequently and that of my father, who are both buried here in an old family plot in Evergreen Cemetery.

Whatever our own personal experiences or associations with Mother's Day, one fact that I appreciate more and more is that we all have a real mother in the Blessed Virgin Mary. Jesus gave His mother to be our mother while he hung upon the cross. It is the most beautiful gift that he gave to us. Accept this gift of His Blessed Mother to you. When you need the embrace and encouragement that only a mother can give, let her embrace and encourage you. She is powerful, and she is good. She cares for you perfectly as her child. So Happy Mother's Day to the mother of us all in the family of God.

Faithfully,
Fr. Baker

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Busy May

05-05-2019Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

I remember from being a pastor of a parish with a school that May is a busy month, and it comes after a busy April with a late Easter. I would say that May is second only to December for extra events. Things will then settle down to a somewhat slower pace for the summer. Right at the beginning of May, I want to ask for your patience because I know that I will not be able to get to many things as soon as I would like to. This year we are short handed both with priests and with staff for the time being. I expect that we will be back up to full staffing over the summer, but in the mean time we are managing with what we have. Please be assured that we are responding and making appropriate changes in our financial procedures and that I will be reporting on these changes and new staff to you as soon as I am able.

All this being said, Saint Rose is an exciting parish. Last weekend, for example, a flood of God's mercy washed over the parish in the celebration of many, many confessions. On Saturday, there were three First Communion Masses. The graces just keep coming!

Faithfully,
Fr. Baker

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