Pentecost Sunday


Mary and the Eucharist

We are in the last week of the month of May which has traditionally been seen as the month of Mary. Spring begins to take hold and flowers are in full bloom. Life springs anew from the dormancy of winter. Families return to walk in parks and children get involved in baseball, softball, and other outdoor sports. We feel more alive and energetic (unless perhaps we suffer from seasonal allergies). With the beginning of the month of May many Catholic families build some type of altar in their homes and place a statue of Mary in a prominent position on or near the altar. Fresh flowers are kept on the altar out of devotion to Mary. And many families prepare to celebrate First Communion with children.

Mother’s Day also falls in May (14 this year), the day when all of us like to reflect on the gift of our mothers . Whether they are living or deceased we remember them in some way, with prayers or with flowers and gifts to express our gratitude for the gift of life they gave us.

In the last encyclical he wrote before his death, Ecclesia de Eucharistia , Pope Saint John Paul 11 focused the church’s attention on the Eucharist . In this encyclical he pointed out that the church has no better model for devotion to the Eucharist than Mary. At one point the pope meditates on the Visitation (feast day May 31) quoting Saint Elizabeth‘s words “Blessed is she who believed”. He writes , “ when at the Visitation , she bore in her womb the Word made flesh , she became the tabernacle -the first tabernacle in history-in which the Son of God , still invisible to our human gaze , allowed himself to be adored by Elizabeth.” One of the chapters is entitled “In the school of Mary” and the pope speaks about how we are called to contemplate the face of Christ with Mary. As the church throughout the USA  is about to launch the parish phase of Eucharistic Revival on June 11 of this year we would do well to turn to Mary in this month of May to ask her intercession for our families and our parish community.

The greatest gift many Catholics could give to their mothers this Mother’s Day would be to return to regular attendance at Sunday mass. As a priest I hear so many stories from mothers of teens and young adults, of the pain and hurt they experience because their children have stopped attending mass. If you are among those who have stopped attending mass then one of the best gifts you could give your parents would be to recommit to mass every Sunday and bring your family along. May is the month of Mary and mothers and first Holy Communions. I pray it can be a time of renewal for all Catholics as we enter into this time of Eucharistic Revival contemplating the face of Christ with Mary.

Msgr. Brennan

Ascension of the Lord

Dear Friends,

We know from the Bible that the Ascension of Jesus took place forty days after the Resurrection: “[Jesus] presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days.” Acts 1:3. The 4th day after Easter Sunday will always be Thursday, therefore the Church, from very early on, celebrated Christ’s Ascension on this day.

But with the declining number of attendance on a weekday, many US Ecclesiastical Provinces as well as some countries, decided to transfer the feast to Sunday. You may remember that last year, our bishops of New Jersey decided to permanently transfer the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord from Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter to the following Sunday, the Seventh Sunday of Easter. Hence we keep the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord today.

Ascension does not mean that Jesus disappeared, because even as he ascended, his assurance was, “I will be with you always, even to the end of times” (Matthew 28:20). What is celebrated is Jesus’ exaltation and the end of his earthly existence as a prelude to the gift of the Spirit. Hence this feast is a celebration of Jesus’ final glorification after his suffering, death, and Resurrection – a glory in which we also hope to share.

And yet, humanly speaking, the concept of bodily Ascension is a mystery that we cannot fully understand. Pope Francis doesn’t shy away from explaining the mysteries of our faith. In his catechesis on Ascension, he says: “Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven thus allows us to know this reality that is so consoling on our journey: in Christ, true God, and true man, our humanity has been brought to God. He has opened the way. He is like the leader of a mountain climbing party that is roped together. He has reached the summit and pulls us to himself, leading us to God. If we entrust our lives to him, if we let ourselves be guided by him, we are certain of being in safe hands.”

Next Sunday is the great Feast of Pentecost. We are who we are because of the power of the Holy Spirit whose indwelling is within each one of us. Remember, what happened to the Apostles and the Blessed Mother after the Ascension? They gathered in the Upper Room and began to prepare themselves for the next nine days for the coming of the Holy Spirit just as Jesus told them (Acts1:4; Lk 24:49). They were anointed by the Holy Spirit and were totally changed. They became as new persons with a new life that even the citizens around them could see it so clearly.

As a parish community, we can be proud that we are becoming a spirit‐filled people not only when we gather to worship in church, but also as we volunteer to serve the community through the various ministries we have. At our Ministry Fair this weekend in the cafeteria, we have an opportunity to become familiar with many of those ministries. As you move from table to table, and hear more about each of those ministries, the Holy Spirit will prompt you. Listen to the Spirit and see if you are called to join any of those ministries. Do pray about it these days that the gift of the Holy Spirit will be “fanned into a flame “, “rekindled”, and “kept alive.” May the Spirit bless us as we prepare for the Feast of Pentecost.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Sixth Sunday of Easter & Mother’s Day


Dear Friends,

How nice that we have many important celebrations today!

FIRST, Mother’s Day! A very happy Mother’s Day to all mothers! It is said that every mother is like Moses. She does not enter the Promised Land. She prepares others to enter a world she will not see. Today we thank our mothers, pray for them and honor them by celebrating Mother’s Day and by offering our mothers on the altar of God. Please read the reflections, anecdotes and stories in this bulletin that is dedicated to all Mothers.

Let us keep in mind that Mary is the Mother par excellence. We are in May, the month of Mary. Our School children will be doing the traditional May Crowning of Mary this month – a reminder that she is a mother to all of us. Through Mary, the work of Motherhood is glorified and sanctified. On this Mother’s Day, presenting all mothers on the altar, let us sing the beautiful song we sing on the Feast of the Presentation, “Gentle woman, peaceful dove, teach us wisdom, teach us love.”

SECOND, Feast of St. Matthias, our parish patron. The very first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles describes the first thing that the apostles did after the Ascension of Jesus: finding a replacement for Judas. One hundred and twenty people were gathered for prayer and reflection in the upper room, and Peter proposed two conditions to make the choice: “…. one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, …. and a witness with us of his resurrection.” (Acts 1:21-22) There were two nominations. They cast lots and the lot fell for Matthias. As our patron, St. Matthias invites us to live as he lived with Jesus and to witness to the Resurrection. Happy Feast to all of us!

THIRD, Conclusion of our 60th Anniversary Year. We inaugurated it last year on the feast of St. Matthias. Anne Marie Francis and Jeff Hentz as co-chairs led the 60th Anniversary Committee, with the help of Dee Christmas, Pat Cullen, Joanne Diana, Gondee Tibay, Mary Frances Chavez, Emily Chavez, Sue Lenczewski, and Msgr. Seamus Brennan. We saw a number of memorable activities and events: Anniversary Mass with Bishop and past Ministers, parish picnic, Music Ministry Concert, Parish Cookbook, Honoring the pioneers, and a concrete plan to renovate our church building. All these made our Anniversary year very colorful and memorable.

All these celebrations remind us that we are a jubilant people moving forward on the path of holiness, bringing about the Kingdom of peace, justice, equality, and fellowship as Jesus envisaged. We are His ministers for this purpose. We have an amazingly large number of ministries to further the mission of Jesus. Next weekend you will find a number of these ministries at our Ministry Fair. May more of our parishioners be inspired to join these ministries and fulfill the dream God has for us as the wonderful community of St. Matthias.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal


Fifth Sunday of Easter


Dear Friends,

You must have noticed the sound of Hand bells (Sanctus bells) during the Mass. We began to use bells this year from the Easter Vigil Mass onwards. At our last Parish Pastoral Council, there was an overwhelming appreciation for introducing the bells. Many of you told me of your joy at hearing the bells, evoking childhood memories. One parishioner asked me about the significance of bells. Another wanted to know why some parishes use bells and some don’t. I had been planning to explain these at the earliest chance which is happening in this column.

The ringing of bells during the consecration has a long history in the church, beginning about the 13th century. In those days, churches were large, the priest faced the altar. and Mass was offered in Latin, a language most ordinary folks did not know. Still they came faithfully to church to pray and so they would recite the rosary and novena prayers to different saints during the Mass. The church realized the need for directing the attention of the congregation to the altar at least during those important moments of the Mass. Thus bells were introduced to be rung primarily before the gospel proclamation, during the elevation of the Host, the elevation of the chalice and before receiving Holy Communion.

However, the Second Vatican Council decided to have the Mass offered in the vernacular, in the language of the people, so that all can understand the prayers. According to the Dogmatic Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Church earnestly desires that all the faithful be led to that full, conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations. Such participation by the Christian people as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people” (1 Pt 2:9; see 2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism. This made the bells redundant as everyone was called to participate attentively in the Holy Eucharist. Hence many churches discontinued the use of bells. But people missed the bells, because we humans are slaves of habit.

Does that mean bells are prohibited by the church? No. Here’s what the General Instruction of the Roman Missal says: “A little before the consecration, if appropriate, a minister rings a small bell as a signal to the faithful. The minister also rings the small bell at each elevation by the priest, according to local custom” (No. 150). Besides, it is biblical. The Old Testament mentions the use of bells on four occasions: Exodus 28:33-35, 39: 25-26; Ecclesiasticus 45:9, and Zechariah 14:20; Psalm 98:4; Psalm 150: 5-6.

From my Indian background, it may interest us to know the meaning of bells in a Hindu temple. When a devotee enters the Hindu temple, he or she rings a bell. The devotee is saying to the god or goddess of that temple: “Lord, I am here, please give me your ear.”

We have to understand that as human beings, we are distracted during Mass, and so bells can help us concentrate, by bringing our attention to the most important moment of the Mass. Bells also add reverence and solemnity to the Eucharistic celebration. May the introduction of bells help us to be more attentive in the sacred Liturgy.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal


Fourth Sunday of Easter


Dear Friends,

Three weeks have passed after Easter Sunday, and I still hear so many good comments about our celebration of the Holy Week, Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday. For instance, here’s what a parishioner wrote to me: “Thank you for our beautiful holy week services. It was all so well-planned, the music lifted our spirits, the homilies were more affecting than any I can remember. This is not just me speaking, but this comes from comments from others who came to St. Matthias this week and were touched.”

As I reflect on our experience of this holiest week of the year, I think of the words of Psalm 133: How good it is and how pleasant where brethren dwell as one. That is the reality I enjoy with Msgr. Seamus Brennan who is such a wonderful brother priest to me and certainly someone you all have experienced as a prayerful, available and gracious priest. I am happy that we have three great deacons – John Radvanski, Russ Demkovitz and Ron Caimi – who give us invaluable assistance in prayer and service.

The beauty of our St. Matthias community is that our divine worship involves not just the ordained clergy, but all of us. Many thanks to our excellent music director Joan Seamon who continues her many years of faithful service, directing and coordinating all our musicians and choirs, including the many cantors, instrumentalists, and drummers.  You have been very expressive of your appreciation with applause for their prayerful and inspiring singing. If God has given any of you the talent to sing, please put it to service to the People of God of our parish. All you need to do is to meet Joan and tell her.

The altar servers enhance our liturgies. Besides the regular altar servers that Cathy Allegro, our Altar Servers Ministry coordinator, had lined up, we were fortunate to have the help of Kelly Dillon and Joe DeLorenzo who have been veterans in this ministry for over 16 years. The Community is very appreciative of their presence and altar serving. I request the parents to encourage your sons and daughters to do altar serving at Sunday Masses.

The many readers/lectors who read the scriptures, the Eucharistic Ministers who brought communion to us all, the Mass captains setting up for each Mass, the tech-people helping with live streaming as well as projection of prayers and music are all deserving our deepest gratitude. These are some of the ministries that many more could join. Will you consider?

There are many others whose service and time are also essential for a happy experience of the Sunday Masses. Our Ushers/Ministers of Hospitality warmly welcome everyone and they carefully handle the collections and assign families to bring up the gifts to the altar. Our Sacristan Mike Lanyi, other dedicated former sacristans, volunteers, members of the Martha Ministry, and Julio Montero our maintenance head, worked hard to take care of all the sacred objects, change of banners, beautifying the environment and the worship space, coordinating with our dedicated parish staff.

Every Sunday, Msgr. Brennan and I express our gratitude to all those who help us to have a positive experience of the Eucharist. Holy Week and Easter are very special times when more is asked of all these ministers and they delivered. Thank you! How fortunate we are to be the Catholic Community of St. Matthias! May the Easter Blessings continue to be with us all.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal


The Road to Emmaus


Speaking of today’s gospel, Pope Benedict XVI said “The road to Emmaus actually represents every place: the road that leads there is the road every Christian, every person, takes. The risen Jesus makes himself our traveling companion as we go our way, to rekindle the warmth of faith and hope in our hearts and to break the bread of eternal life”

The disappointment and the sadness of the two disciples represent the common experience of most people. Their description of their experience tells it all: “We were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel”. They speak in the past tense implying that they have lost all hope. When Christ walked among them they had been filled with hope. But witnessing His crucifixion and death and burial seemed to have crushed all their expectations. The resurrection and appearances of Christ will change all that. Having walked with Him and sitting down to share a meal they recognize Him “in the breaking of the bread”. On our pilgrimage of life we experience many disappointments and we lose hope. But the risen one walks with us on the road of life every day. Like the two disciples we are blind to his presence. Often we must walk many miles (years) before our eyes are open to His presence.

Our weekly gathering for mass is where we most often have our hope restored. The Eucharist is our weekly coming together to listen to the Lord’s Word and to share the gift of His Body and Blood, His abiding presence in the Eucharist .

This drama of the disciples of Emmaus appears like a reflection of the situation of many Christians of our time .Sometimes we feel abandoned and forgotten even by the Lord. But this road we walk is the way of purification and maturation. He walks with you daily. Listen to his Word and reflect on it and participate in the breaking of bread, the Eucharist, every week. In that way you too will come to say “our eyes were opened and we recognized Him in the breaking of bread”.

Msgr. Brennan


Divine Mercy Sunday


Dear Friends,

Happy Easter! Yes, Easter is such a foundational feast of our faith, which the Church continues to celebrate it for about seven weeks. Each of these Sundays are named 2nd Sunday of Easter, 3rd Sunday of Easter, etc. The power of Easter has transformed the face of the earth as believers began to increase and Christianity began to spread all over the world. The early Christians themselves were the best missionaries to their own neighbors and friends, sharing the power of the Resurrected Jesus to bring about change of hearts. It still continues to happen in our own times.

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday – a feast instituted by St. John Paul II, in order to realize the depth of the mercy of God for each one of us personally. Sister Faustina, who had revelations about this desire from Jesus, wrote the words of Jesus in her diary entry # 206: “On the day of My feast, the Feast of Mercy, you will go through the whole world and bring fainting souls to the spring of My mercy.  I shall heal and strengthen them”.

Some have asked me: “Father, are we bound to believe in such revelations to individuals like St. Faustina?” Let me answer with a quote from the most authoritative document of the Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church“Throughout the ages, there have been so-called ‘private’ revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history” (#67).

Thus the Church is very clear that the revelations experienced by Saint Faustina were of a private nature, which are not essential to anyone’s acceptance of the Catholic faith. And yet the Church promotes this popular devotion because God’s loving mercy, the focus of Divine Mercy Sunday, is the very heart of the gospel. So we see that the devotion to Divine Mercy in no way replaces any of our rich liturgical traditions or faith. The Divine Mercy devotion fosters the virtue of trust in God’s mercy that finds its fulfillment in the liturgy of Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist.

And yet, today’s gospel is about doubting the resurrection of Jesus by one of his own disciples! Presenting the doubting Thomas’ famous profession of Faith, “My Lord and my God,” the Gospel illustrates how Jesus showed his mercy to the doubting apostle and emphasizes the importance of Faith. We are invited to receive liberation from doubts and reservations about our faith, first by verbalizing our doubts and trying to get answers from those who know, and second by surrendering our lives to the Risen Lord of Mercy.

May the Resurrected Lord help us experience his mercy as we keep the season of Easter.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal


Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of The Lord


Dear Friends,

Easter Blessings to you and your dear ones!

Father Basil Pennington, a Catholic monk, has written about an encounter he once had with a teacher of Zen. Pennington was at a retreat. As part of the retreat, each person met privately with this Zen teacher. Pennington says that at his meeting the Zen teacher sat there before him smiling from ear to ear and rocking gleefully back and forth. Finally, the teacher said: “I like Christianity. But I would not like Christianity without the Resurrection. I want to see your resurrection!” Pennington notes that, “With his directness, the teacher was saying what everyone else implicitly says to Christians: You are a Christian. You are risen with Christ. Show me (what this means for you in your life) and I will believe.”

We observed the penitential season of Holy Lent; we participated faithfully in all the liturgical services of Holy Week. Today as we cap it all with the celebration of Easter, we ask ourselves this question: Does Easter impact how we live? Are we truly excited about our faith in the resurrection of Jesus who has the capacity to transform our lives with his grace?

The early Christians celebrated Easter with a tremendous sense of excitement. Throughout the entire Easter Season, the Angelus prayer is replaced by the joyous Regina Coeli, which begins, “Queen of Heaven rejoice, alleluia: For He whom you merited to bear, alleluia, Has risen as He said, alleluia.” Unfortunately, for many Christians today, it is no longer obvious why Easter should be welcomed with such joy. Despite egg hunts and spring-themed decorations, Easter is treated as a second-class holiday, lacking the cheery traditions of Christmas and Thanksgiving (as well as their commercial importance).

Yes, the words of St. Augustine uttered 1500 years ago, repeated by St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict and Pope Francis, must be made our own: “We are truly an Easter People, and Halleluiah is our song!”

Happy Easter!

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Palm Sunday of the Passion of The Lord


Dear Friends,

I read this story about comedian Yakov Smirnoff, a Ukrainian-American comedian, actor and writer who began his career as a stand-up comedian in the Soviet Union. When he first came to the US, he was not prepared for the incredible variety of instant products available in American grocery stores.  He says, “On my first shopping trip, I saw powdered milk–you just add water, and you get milk.  Then I saw powdered orange juice–you just add water, and you get orange juice.  And then I saw baby powder, and I thought to myself, What a country!” 

Smirnoff is joking but we could be making these assumptions about Christian Transformation. We go to church as if we are going to the grocery store: Powdered Christian.  Just add water and disciples are born not made.  Unfortunately, there is no such powder and disciples of Jesus Christ are not instantly born.  We must understand what it means to be a disciple. Does this mean that we should deny ourselves and take up the cross?  YES, many times we are called to do that because that is exactly what Jesus said and did!

Today we are beginning the most Holy Week of the liturgical year and the three holiest days of this week are called the “Sacred Paschal Triduum.” Last Sunday in the bulletin, Msgr. Brennan had explained beautifully the theological and practical meaning of these most holy three days and invited us all to attend these celebrations filled with Scriptures, symbols and rites that touch us and enrich us spiritually.

I too invite us all to come and celebrate this unfathomable love of God for each one of us during the Triduum. Join the Church services of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Vigil/Sunday. Keep the schedule handy on your refrigerator or mark those events on your calendar. We will grow in greater knowledge of our faith when we attend these liturgical services.

Our wonderful choir has been practicing for these services. I have been enjoying the preview of what they have in store for us this holy week. The sacrifice these talented and committed music ministers of our parish has been making, under the leadership of our wonderfully gifted Joan Seamon, will fill us all with a prayerful taste of soul-filling and inspirational music.   Come as a family and let this week help you grow closer to Jesus Christ who loves each one of us so much: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John. 3:16).

May He enrich us and bless us.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Fifth Sunday of Lent


The Sacred Paschal Triduum

After Christmas, Easter and holy week are probably a favorite time of year for most Catholics. And for many the three days, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday stand out in a special way. These days are known in the church as The Sacred Paschal Triduum, this year falling on April 6, 7 and 8. On these days the church celebrates the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, in which Jesus gave us the Eucharist; the Crucifixion and Death of Christ on Good Friday and his Resurrection from the dead with the first mass of Easter on Holy Saturday night.

But what do the liturgies of the triduum really celebrate? Many people think of these celebrations as some type of recalling or re-enactment of the historical events of the end of Jesus’ life. But these celebrations are not about history but rather about Mystery. The liturgies of these days do not take us back to the upper room or to the garden of Gethsemane or to Calvary or to Easter morning to witness the empty tomb. Our celebrations are not about what once happened to Jesus 20 centuries ago but what is happening in his mystical body the church today. You and I, baptized into Christ and the church, gifted with the Spirit, gather in faith with our brothers and sisters and offer our thanksgiving in and through Christ who is risen and living among us. Through His death and resurrection and sending of His Spirit God has taken possession of our hearts and molds us into the likeness of His son. We are a broken, sinful people who are loved and forgiven and called to holiness and truth. The mass and these special liturgical celebrations are about what Christ is doing today in your life and mine .The sacred paschal triduum shines as the high point of the liturgical year.

Unfortunately many Catholics have seldom or never participated in any of the celebrations of these special days. I invite you to consider taking part in some or all of the celebrations of these days. In addition to the richness of the scripture readings and the special music there are other rich symbols like the washing of feet, presentation of the Holy Oils, Veneration of the Cross and the lighting and blessing of the Easter fire and the paschal candle, Baptism of the Elect, adults who have made the decision to become members of the catholic church. Elsewhere in this bulletin and on our website you will find further information and the schedule for each of these special days. I look forward to seeing you during the Sacred Paschal Triduum or at least for holy mass on Easter Sunday. Happy Easter.

Msgr Brennan