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Seniors hear a message of hope

SAN ANTONIO – Senior citizens and other adults from San Antonio and beyond, gathered for Pilgrim Center of Hope’s Catholic Seniors’ Conference on May 4, 2019 at St. George Maronite Catholic Church’s Phoenician Ballroom.

Pilgrim Center of Hope offered resources for seniors including Mass celebrated by the ministry’s chaplain, Fr. Patrick Martin, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, ministry and vendor exhibitors with resources for physical, mental, and spiritual health, and much more.

During morning Mass, Fr. Patrick Martin encouraged those present to trust that the all-loving God is present to them in all circumstances, especially times of illness, loneliness, difficulty, and suffering.

Messages of joy and hope were offered in presentations by Jeannette Santos, LPC, Fr. Pat Martin, and Deacon Tom and Mary Jane Fox.

  • Recordings of the first 2 presentations, as well as photos of the day’s events, are available to view on the CSC website.
  • The Foxes’ presentation also drew adults of various ages, as it was the second in a Saturday morning Meet the Master series being offered by Pilgrim Center of Hope and open to all throughout the rest of 2019.

Seniors walked away encouraged and renewed in spirit, ready to continue their journeys in hope. On evaluation forms, seniors thanked Pilgrim Center of Hope for offering this experience especially for them.

Women renewed, challenged on North Side

SAN ANTONIO – Women from all over San Antonio’s north side and beyond gathered for Pilgrim Center of Hope’s “Come to Me” Catholic Women’s Conference on April 12 & 13, 2019 at St. Mark the Evangelist Church’s Event Center.

This was the first of two smaller conferences—rather than one large conference—in 2019. (Another conference will take place on San Antonio’s south side, September 20 & 21, 2019 at St. Margaret Mary Church.) It marked the first time CWC has been held at the venue, and was Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller’s first time visiting the Event Center; which previously had been a Protestant church.

One attendee, Blanca, excitedly shared that the building used to be the church that her husband had attended before converting to the Catholic faith. Pilgrim Center of Hope transformed the building into a “spa for the soul” including areas for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, ministry and vendor exhibitors helping women deepen and share their faith, and much more.

During Saturday morning Mass, Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, MSpS, challenged those present to apply their gifts toward unity in the Church and between peoples, assuring the women: “We need you” to heal divisions and build bridges.

On evaluation forms, women’s comments were overwhelmingly positive, citing the intimate and personal atmosphere. Laughter was heard throughout the weekend, especially during joyful and reflective presentations by Sr. Tracey Dugas, FSP, Kendra Von Esh, and Deacon Tom and Mary Jane Fox. Women walked away healed and renewed in spirit, ready to continue their journeys in hope.

We thank attendee Nea Britton for sharing her photos, some of which are included in the gallery below.

All women who did not experience the April event are welcomed to register for the September conference.

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Holy Hour for Peace In the Holy Land

The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem invites you to a Holy Hour for Peace in the Holy Land & Prayer for Persecuted Christians.

The Knights & Dames of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem have entrusted this annual prayer to Pilgrim Center of Hope. Deacon Tom Fox, K.H.S. will preside. All are welcome to join us in prayer!

840 Men Transformed

SAN ANTONIO – On Saturday, February 23, 840 “men of hope” came forth like Bartimaeus, who cried out to Jesus, Master, I want to see (cf. Mark 10: 51) for the annual Catholic Men’s Conference (CMC) of San Antonio. Pilgrim Center of Hope has been presenting CMC since 2004. The vast majority of these men came from parishes throughout the Archdiocese of San Antonio.

CMC 2019 was a Spirit-filled day marked by an enthusiastic demonstration of faith by husbands, fathers & sons, friends, and leaders. All were educated and challenged by speakers Dr. Ralph Martin, Fr. Larry Richards, and Fr. Ken Geraci, CPM. the crowd celebrated Mass with Bishop Michael Boulette, prayed together (Rosary & Divine Mercy Chaplet), and gathered in small groups in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, as part of our Eucharistic Healing Service led by Fr. Ken Geraci, CPM.

Men told us:

  • “Healing Service was great & very powerful” – Matthew Laijas, St. Anthony Elmendorf, TX
  • “Inspiring talks touched the core of my heart” – Emmanuel Odin, St Joseph Del Rio, TX
  • “Good to see so many men adoring Jesus” – Mario Hernandez, St. Anthony Robstown, TX
  • “This conference was spiritually uplifting” – Steve Navarro, St. Anthony Mary Claret SA, TX
  • One wife said, “My husband came home on fire (Holy Spirit).”

CMC 2019 – At a Glance

  • A tremendous response to Reconciliation (Over 20 Confessors were available t/o the day)
  • Powerful Eucharistic Healing Service (Over 700 men came forward in groups of 10-15)
  • All men received spiritual tools & resources about our faith and Church (provided by PCH)
  • Brisk sales of resources on prayer, Scripture, sin & repentance, and growing in faith

At the heart of Pilgrim Center of Hope’s Ministry of Conferences is the mission of providing an experience where all can learn about their true personal dignity in God, encounter Christ and the Church and be encouraged to know and love God, so as to go forth inspired and empowered, using their gifts to transform their families, parish, and society.

Mindfulness in Living Catholicism

What are we Catholics to do when someone suggests we practice Mindfulness?

You see this word a lot lately, even Time Magazine recently had a whole issue dedicated to Mindfulness as a path to happiness.

Mindfulness is defined as a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique. Mindfulness defined this way was how a practicing and very faithful Catholic explained it to me. She shared that this technique has helped her with her obsessive tendencies that can send her emotions overboard. By making note of how a text, email or comment made her feel without judging herself, she is able to keep her emotions in check.

Mindfulness is also defined as a Buddhist spirituality in which one meditates in order to empty oneself and in the practice of it, achieve self-awareness. This is incompatible with the Catholic faith which calls us instead to place ourselves in the Presence of God so as to grow in awareness of who our loving Creator and Father has created us to be.

When my Catholic friend initially brought up mindfulness, I dismissed it quickly as New Age, but that was wrong of me. Her explanation opened my understanding of not only the multiple definitions of mindfulness, but also how we should not judge a meaning based simply on a word.

This experience reminded me that as a Catholic, I am not to just accept what is being offered nor am I to dismiss without consideration. Instead, I am to listen and discern.

The Apostle, St. Paul, is a master of discernment and can teach us much in how to differentiate between New Age, other spiritualities and the Fullness of Truth; which is Jesus Christ as revealed through His Catholic Church. St. Paul teaches us to, “Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil,” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22).

We test everything by discerning the source; is it human, a spirit, or is it God? St. Paul teaches, “See to it that no one captivate you with an empty, seductive philosophy according to human tradition, according to the elemental powers of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him dwells the whole fullness of the deity, bodily, and you share in this fullness in him, who is the head of every principality and power,” (Colossians 2:8-11).

If, as with my Catholic friend, we are using mindfulness as a tool to remain in the present moment, this is good. Ignatian Spirituality, a time-honored practice of the Church, tells us that the present moment is where God is and where his grace exists for us to receive. If in this present moment we praise God for who He is and for who He has created us to be, this is Divine and worthy of our attention.

If, however, we discover in listening that we are being advised to consider a mindfulness spirituality that calls us to look inward, focus on self and empty ourselves, we should instead use this as an opportunity to evangelize. Often it is out of ignorance and a hope for inner peace that we fall into deceptions. We are not to judge the person, but certainly admonish in kindness so he or she does not continue to be misguided. The best way is to ask lots of questions as this draws the person into discernment as words are put to thought. With your questions, you have a wonderful opportunity to guide them from what they may think is a path to happiness on to the Way, our Lord Jesus Christ, The Path to Happiness.

God has placed each of us in this time and in this culture for a reason and we do not have any reason to be afraid. Living Catholicism means to grow in faith as we try and live it out in the people we encounter and in the circumstances we find ourselves. In these moments and in all moments, we are to remain open to the work of the Holy Spirit and as our Lord Jesus tells us, “…do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say” (Matthew 10:19).

Nan Balfour is Events Coordinator at Pilgrim Center of Hope. Living Catholicism is a regular column of this Catholic evangelization apostolate in Today’s Catholic newspaper. Answering Christ’s call, we guide people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life.

People must lift each other up, be lights to the struggling

Writer and philosopher GK Chesterton once said, “We men and women are all in the same boat, upon a stormy sea. We owe to each other a terrible and tragic loyalty.”

As the chairperson for the upcoming Catholic Men’s Conference (presented by Pilgrim Center of Hope), which takes place Saturday, not only do I agree with Chesterton, but I believe we are all called to do something about it.

Too many of us as Christians have forgotten that our primary call is to discipleship. Instead, we have settled into doing the bare minimum with no call, risk or challenge.

The Bible tells us that, “as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).

Combine that with the two Great Commandments of loving God above all else and loving your neighbor, and you see why I believe that it is imperative for us to lift each other up and do everything possible to be a light to those who are struggling with life’s pressures, who have lost their way and who have lost all hope.

Each year, the Catholic Men’s Conference of San Antonio features dynamic speakers who educate and challenge men to be better husbands, fathers, leaders and friends. Our presenters for 2019 include Father Larry Richards, Father Ken Geraci, CPM, Dr. Ralph Martin, and Bishop Michael Boulette. By coming together as a band of Christian brothers, we will encourage and inspire one another to grow spiritually and go from good to great in our faith lives.

The conference is open to men of all faiths. Whatever your state in life, it is never to late to begin anew in Christ. All of us would like to be better versions of ourselves. We all have room to grow. We all need to be challenged, otherwise, we will never step out of our comfort zones or the accelerator-down lifestyle that is overwhelming far too many.

The great theologian and scholar St. Thomas Aquinas once said, “The four typical substitutes for God are wealth, pleasure, power and honor.”

The pursuit of and focus on these worldly desires an often be the cause of the stormy seas that batter us on our life’s journey. They can also be obstructions (a form of blindness) to a more fulfilling spiritual life.

Fourteen years ago, when the conference was established, we chose as our theme Mark 10:51, “Master, I want to see” – because it resonated with lots of men who found themselves feeling dissatisfied with life despite having achieved the dreams of having a successful career, a beautiful family, and being a productive member of society.

It was St. Augustine who said, “Our heart is restless, until it rests in you (God).” Attending the 2019 Catholic Men’s Conference will provide all men an opportunity to encounter Jesus. It will also offer the direction and resources, the tools, to find Him in the sacraments and Scripture – and even more importantly, in each other and in the world around us.

When a man has these transformational experiences, his faith is deepened and he develops a stronger commitment to Christ. This is when a man is able to touch others in profound ways and do what St. Francis of Assisi encouraged: “Preach Christ at all times, if necessary use words.”

This column written by Robert V. Rodriguez originally appeared in the San Antonio Express-News Belief section on Sunday, February 17, 2019.

Spiritual Six Pack

 

Consult not your fears, but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do. – Pope John XXIII

Spiritually-speaking, this is the mindset we all should have as we march into 2019.

As a way to encourage you to start or add to your faith life, consider this multi-faceted “Spiritual Six-Pack” of suggestions on how to build up your relationship with Jesus Christ.

Every year, I personally use this as a checklist to take inventory of my spiritual development. First, I ask myself if I’ve been living this “spiritual six-pack,” and then I make a list of how I am going to improve in these areas in the year ahead.

RECOGNIZE YOUR VALUE IN GOD’S SIGHT

To illustrate this point, St. John of the Cross wrote an allegory that describes how God gave creation as a bride to His Son and how Christ as the Bridegroom of our Souls, paid the ultimate price in order to save us all from slavery.

I will go and find my bride; I will take upon my shoulders her sufferings and weariness; I will die, so that she may live, and so I will lead her back to my Father. – St. John of the Cross

SEEK UNION WITH EACH PERSON OF THE BLESSED TRINITY

By the grace of God, our soul becomes, first, the child of the eternal Father; second, the spouse of Jesus Christ; third, the temple of the Holy Spirit. – St. Bonaventure

LET CHRIST DWELL WITHIN YOU

St. Ignatius of Loyola once said, “Christ is the life of all those who truly live.” The more we become one with Christ, the more Christ will shine through us.

Not to live in Christ is to gradually lose the spirit of prayer, the love of virtue, the taste of devotion, and the zeal for salvation. Like a branch separated from a vine, we wither and die.

FIND UNION WITH JESUS IN YOUR WORK

The sanctification of ordinary work is a living seed, able to yield fruits of holiness in an immense number of souls. Sanctity, for the vast majority of people, implies sanctifying their work, sanctifying themselves in it, and sanctifying others through it.  – St. Josemaria Escriva

SEE JESUS IN YOUR NEIGHBOR

If Mark 12:31 isn’t clear enough, how about these words from St. John the Apostle:

In this the children of God are manifest and the children of the Devil: whosoever is not just is not of God, nor he that loveth not his brother (1 John 3:10).

Let us see in every one of our neighbors, whatever his state may be, an image of Jesus Christ, and serve each one in our Lord, and our Lord in each one.  – St. Vincent de Paul

GIVE THANKS TO GOD

When we are grateful, we love.  – St. Augustine

St. John Chrysostom says, because man so often fails in this obligation of gratitude, the Son of God puts Himself in our place and takes from His own treasures all that is necessary to do for us what we can never do ourselves.

It almost goes without saying, that daily prayer, receiving Communion frequently, going to Confession at least once a month, and keeping God’s commandments should form the foundation of our lives as Catholics.

By regularly meditating on the six aspects of your life listed above, don’t be surprised if you experience the following benefits:

  • Interior Peace
  • Spiritual Joy
  • Light
  • Consolation
  • Strength

If you are feeling compelled to regularly reflect on the “spiritual six-pack,” I want to make one final suggestion, and that is to call upon the Virgin Mary as your guide, intercessor, and protector.

…under her protection you have nothing to fear; if she walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if she shows you favor, you shall reach your goal. – St. Bernard of Clairvaux

As a gift to you, here is the Totus Tuus prayer written by St. Pope John Paul II. This prayer is at the heart of my devotion to Our Blessed Mother:

Immaculate Conception, Mary my Mother;
Live in me, Act in me, Speak in me and through me,
Think your thoughts in my mind, Love through my heart,
Give me your dispositions and feelings, Teach, lead me and guide me to Jesus,
Correct, enlighten and expand my thoughts and behavior;
Possess my soul, Take-over my entire personality and life, replace it with Yourself,
Incline me to constant adoration, Pray in me and through me,
Let me live in you and keep me in this union always, Amen.

Robert V. Rodriguez is the Public Relations and Outreach Assistant at Pilgrim Center of Hope. Living Catholicism is a regular column of Pilgrim Center of Hope appearing in Today’s Catholic newspaper.

Announcing: Multiple Women’s Conferences

The CWC Prayer

Lord Jesus, thank you for the constant love you have for me. Thank you for the gift of life and the gift of faith.

Today, take me into your Sacred Heart and renew my life. I open my heart to your grace, to be healed where healing is needed. Replace any wounds or worries with your peace and joy. Send your Holy Spirit into my life. Guide me to be the woman you have created me to be: your beloved daughter, disciple, and friend. Make me a woman of faith, hope and charity. Please remove any obstacles which keep me from living this way.

Lord, pour out your grace upon this year’s Catholic Women’s Conference, upon the planning efforts, and upon many women – that they may hear your invitation and respond. May the Conference be a time of spiritual renewal, healing, reconciliation and joy for all who attend.

Thank you, Lord Jesus. For all this, I pray in your sweet Name.
Mary, Mother of God, Our Lady of Hope, pray for us.
Amen.

Hail, Mary…


Announcement

“Answering Christ’s call” is the beginning of our Pilgrim Center of Hope (PCH) mission statement, because we want our every decision to be the product of careful & prayerful discernment. After 25 years as a ministry, PCH now enters its next era.

Where has the Holy Spirit been leading us?

Today, we announce that Pilgrim Center of Hope’s “Come to Me” Catholic Women’s Conference will offer 2 more localized conferences for San Antonio women, to serve you with a more personal and intimate experience of encountering Jesus:

“Come to Me” CWC North
April 12 & 13, 2019
Venue: St. Mark the Evangelist Church

“Come to Me” CWC South
September 20 & 21, 2019
(Venue confirmation in progress. Look for an announcement soon.)

“Come to Me” Rural & Outside Areas
Dear women living in rural areas (or cities outside the greater San Antonio area), we want to serve you more personally, too. If you are interested in organizing a “Come to Me” conference in your local area, please contact Pilgrim Center of Hope Events Coordinator, Nan Balfour.

Why More Local?

You know our CWC theme: Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) He also meets us where we are; he ‘comes to us’: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” (Revelation 3:20)

Think about how often Jesus visited people’s homes and neighborhoods – even meeting the Samaritan Woman at her local well. We are following that model this year, by bringing CWC closer to where you live.

From Our Faith

We as Catholics embrace a principle called subsidiarity, which means that we respect the differences in communities and support decision-making at the most local level possible, toward the common good of all (see “The Human Community” in the Catechism of the Catholic Church).

As a conference organized by women, we know that all women’s lives are very different. With our goal to help you encounter Christ and transform your daily life, subsidiarity directs us closer to where you live.

We are choosing parish churches as our venues, to encourage more participation at parishes outside of Mass, supporting parish activity centers and Catholic venues.

Reaching All Women

CWC aims to serve any woman who is seeking God & hope. Hosting CWC North & South enables us to focus on serving particular areas of San Antonio from which many women have not yet experienced CWC. (The map above illustrates which residents CWC North will target & which CWC South will focus on serving.)

Time to Be Missionary Disciples!

To you who live outside CWC North and South regions: We encourage you to build up and strengthen the women’s conferences already taking place in your area or local diocese. Contact your diocesan office to see what is available.

If your area does not yet offer a CWC, we are here to help! Contact us!

Having offered the Catholic Women’s Conference for 17 years, and having mentored rural communities and other dioceses to begin their own event, we at Pilgrim Center of Hope are confident that many women are ready to bring a CWC closer to their own community.

CWC & Beyond… Even More Opportunities

While our Lord has directed us to host smaller & more personal conferences this year (400 seats each), he has also mercifully been orchestrating an additional solution for our growth. Pilgrim Center of Hope will soon be formally announcing its Speaker Team, enabling you to call on PCH for a mini-CWC at your parish, or other parish-based events; like Evenings/Mornings with Mary, Socials with the Saints, and Spiritual Pilgrimages.

Plus, PCH will be offering a new “Meet the Master” Saturday morning reflection series at our peaceful Center in 2019, and continuing the beloved monthly Socials with the Saints.

Yes, this all means more opportunities to encounter Jesus! And still more is on the horizon!

We humbly ask you to pray for PCH, as we “go forth” and organize these events. Pray the CWC Prayer, which many women already pray daily. If you made a resolution to pray more in 2019, we invite you to become a daily Intercessor for Pilgrim Center of Hope’s ministry.

Thank you for your support and encouragement. We are looking forward to the adventures that our Lord has in store for the Catholic Women’s Conference and Pilgrim Center of Hope!

Three Steps to A More Thankful Attitude

Is the build up to Thanksgiving and Christmas stressing you out? Do you find it difficult to maintain a spirit of gratitude during the holidays and throughout the year?

This week’s episode of Living Catholicism will focus on three simple ways to remind you of the many blessings, gifts, and good things you have received or experienced during the past year and throughout your lifetime. There is joy, spiritual enrichment, and health benefits that come from showing gratitude and saying “thank you” to God and those around you.

We will also discuss how to remember that “God was there,” even in the ‘not so good moments’ that we experience in life.

Hope for Those Who Have Departed

In the March 16, 2018 edition of Today’s Catholic, I wrote about a friend of mine whose strong faith during her intense battle with cancer inspired me to name her a “Hosanna” woman; someone who chooses to praise God while experiencing first-hand what it means to suffer with Jesus.

My friend died last month. She died one year after she was told by doctors she only had one month. In God’s Providence, she actively used her time to pray and seek a cure while she prepared her soul for Eternity and her husband and family for lives without her. She left us for her Eternal reward only a few days after she made sure her youngest son received his first communion; the sacrament which our pastor brought to her bedside so she would not miss it.

Her online journaling drew 15,000 followers. My friend did not meet anyone who did not like her, but I doubt even she had 15,000 friends. It was her words of faith in a God she knew intimately that called them. Her “Hosanna” faith inspired in them the desire to encounter this Jesus who she loves so much.

Two months before my friend’s death, my 52-year old cousin died. He was a lost soul riddled with addiction, a history of crime, family abuse and acute physical limitations brought on by years of self-neglect. He was called a teddy bear of a man for his gentle spirit, but his spirit was indeed troubled. He did not practice his faith for many years because he believed God thought he was worth what the world told him, “You are good for nothing.”

What can we say of the state of these two souls? We can say nothing because it is only God who can read the depths of a man’s soul. But we do have the wisdom of the Church to guide us.

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we learn: “Heaven is assured for, ‘Those who die in God’s grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live for ever with Christ. They are like God forever, for they “see him as he is, ‘face to face'”‘” (1023). Purgatory is offered for, “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven” (1030).

We may assume my faithful friend is in Heaven, but we cannot know that. We are not capable of comprehending what it truly means to be purified so that we may see God face to face. My mom, whose faith and suffering matched my faithful friend’s, told her five daughters before she passed, “You better never stop praying for my soul. I am counting on you girls to get your mother out of Purgatory!”

At my cousin’s funeral, I recall the reassuring words of the priest. He said, “Scott was baptized into the family of God which means Scott is a beloved son of the Father. I trust that he is being embraced by all the Church offers so that he will come to enjoy everlasting peace.” What a consolation for my aunt and his mother!

So, what does the Church offer?

When we pray for the souls of the living and the dead and offer our little daily sacrifices and sufferings, we are joining with all prayer and all who pray. This includes the prayers and sacrifices that monks in monasteries and cloistered sisters in convents offer 24/7 for our salvation. Think of it as a huge jug filling to the brim with grace to be poured upon a poor soul in need of healing and purification.

When we participate at Mass, lifting our hearts and minds along with the Sacrifice of Jesus at the altar, we are lifting all people living and deceased along with His perfect sacrifice. This is what St. Paul means when he writes, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church” (Colossians 1:24).

What the Church offers is a way for us to help Jesus in his mission of Mercy; the Mercy merited by him alone through his one sacrifice for all, but which in his love for us, he allows us to help him distribute to ourselves and the ones we love.

Nan Balfour is the Events Coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope. This first appeared in Living Catholicism, our regular column in Today’s Catholic newspaper.