A Note from our Pastor

A Note from our Pastor

A NOTE FROM OUR PASTOR

 

My dear family of St. Matthew!

THE DAY HAS FINALLY ARRIVED!!!  TODAY, on this 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, we give thanks to God through a new priest of our Lord Jesus Christ, Father Peter Infanger!  This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!  Alleluia!

On Saturday, June 20, 2020, six former deacons — called “transitional deacons” although once ordained a deacon, always a deacon (that goes for me, too, I’ve been ordained both as a deacon and a priest, and the fact that I am a deacon is not erased when I was ordained a priest) — were ordained priests of the Diocese of Joliet.

Today, I want to give thanks to God for the amazing ways that God calls us priests.  There really are no “cookie-cutter” priests — already beginning with the 12 Apostles, so also still today, each one distinct, with his own personality and history, but each one loved and chosen by God for this particular ministry.

To give you a little sense of the broader Catholic Church, The Pontifical Yearbook 2019 and the statistics of the Church compiled for 2017 by the Central Office of Church Statistics report that out of a world population of 7,408 million, 1,313 million or 17.7% are baptized Catholics, distributed by continent: 48.5% in America, 21.8% in Europe, 17.8% in Africa, 11.1% in Asia and 0.8% in Oceania.  The presence of Catholics is differentiated in the various geographical areas: from 63.8% Catholics in the American population, 39.7% in Europe, 19.2% in Africa, up to 3.3% in Asia.   Now the American area is in itself very differentiated:  whereas in North America the percentage of Catholics is only 24.7%, in the continental center and Antilles (84.6%) and in the South (86.6%), the presence of Catholics appears much more conspicuous.  The number of priests has decreased from 414,969 in 2016 to 414,582 in 2017; this change is conspicuous since it is the first time it has occurred since 2010.   The number of candidates to the priesthood worldwide in the year 2017 was distributed in this fashion:  Europe contributed 14.9% to the world total, America 27.3%, Asia 29.8% and Africa 27.1%.

During this time, Fr. Peter was one of those preparing himself to become a deacon and then a priest.  A few highlights from his amazing and unique story.

In the first half of his life, Fr. Peter followed what the world says will make you happy and it almost cost him his marriage and family.  Now for the second half of his life, he has tried to follow God’s plan and he has learned that God’s way is a much better way of handling problem’s than the world’s way or his way.  At the age of 59, Fr. Peter entered the seminary.  He is now 65.  He grew up in the Northeast US, married with two children for 34 years, most of that in St. Louis, then he came to the Chicago metro area in November 2013 due to job relocation.  It was during that move that his wife, Michelle, died from cancer.  His older son is married with two children, and his youngest son is Father Andrew, a 32-year-old priest in Milwaukee.

He learned over many years that success, money, prestige and work are all fickle gods. When you have your priorities out of order like he did, you will eventually have problems.  God’s commandments are not hurdles but paths to human flourishing.  Satan offers “apples” but takes away “Paradise”!  “In all temptations let us consider not what he offers, but what we shall lose.” (Richard Sibbes)

God’s plan is unbelievable patience and forgiveness (Matthew 18:21-35).  Jesus said I must pick up my cross daily if I want to be his follower (Luke 9:23-25).  For many years, Fr. Peter had believed in a distant uninvolved God.  But then he started to devour the Bible.  Convicted at one precious moment, Fr. Peter (as a married man at this point) got back together with his wife with whom he had separated, and so began a 31-year period of growth in his faith and his marriage.  He realized that each one of us is either growing or declining – there is no staying in place.  After 19 years of spiritual growth, feeling that his life “was where it should be,” he came then to the hard truth that life is fragile — his wife died from cancer in 2013, and everything they had planned for the future was swept away in an instant and thus seemed hollow.  This time, it caused him to ask all the big questions like – why am I here, where am I going after here and what does God want me to do now?  “My son the priest (fellow parents, you can learn from your children!) said that there are only 3 vocations – some form of religious calling, lifelong sacramental marriage or chaste generous single life.  A spiritual friend asked if I had ever considered the priesthood.  Discerning among the 3 vocations led me and the Church to determine that God was calling me to the priesthood.”  Ask all young men and women to consider all 3 vocations.  Talk about them in the home.

So, what is your story?  Have you turned your life over to God?  Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus?  If you do, are you growing closer to God?

In the end, we all need continuing guidance from God and others.  Fr. Peter encourages all of us to grow in our faith and to feed ourselves with good food for the journey;  he suggests: as good food for the journey – The Fulfillment of all Desire by Ralph Martin, Searching for and Maintaining Peace and The Way of Trust and Love, both by Fr Jacques Philippe, The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis, and the Magnificat monthly worship guide.

Even now, and perhaps especially now, he says:  “Please pray for me.  I am praying for you.  Fr. Peter Infanger”

In the living, loving, giving and caring Hearts of Jesus and Mary, Fr. Gregor