Called to Renew: A Priest's Reflection
by Fr. Percy Juan Bacani
We are "called to renew" our faith and commitment to the building of our community to be a sign of vibrant faith and hope. We continue to take part in the mission of the Church. We are committed to being an inclusive and living sign of God’s love in and for the world. To realize this vision, Precious Blood Catholic Church is participating, alongside our sister parishes in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, in the Called to Renew campaign. The four big projects of the Archdiocese are:
- Repairs needed to renovate more than 300 parishes (built in the 1950’s) in the Archdiocese.
- Support to the Archdiocesan House of Prayer, Center for Priestly Formation, and Seminary to have more candidates and priests in the future.
- Active ministerial presence in hospitals and care for the prisoners.
- Active presence among the youth.
We are free to dream, to dream about these projects was easy – to realize them in five years appeared intimidating and overwhelming. I thought we would not be able to carry out such projects for the parish. Since January this year, together with a group of active lay leaders, I have talked to families in the parish about these plans and asked them to commit themselves to give a sacrificial offering every month for the next five years. I was amazed and surprised how many of these families to whom I have talked personally responded to the Campaign. To all I met and talked to personally, it was a pleasure getting to know your life stories in America for the first time. Generally, success stories were born of sacrifices, failures, and hard work. All are proud of their families, of what they have achieved and the blessings received from God. The blessings are personal stories of accomplishment, coupled with faith in God’s Providence. From these people, I found so much generosity and desire to help the parish – the parish they have grown with, the parish where they have celebrated significant moments of their lives like baptisms, confirmations, weddings, and funerals. For many parishioners, this is the parish where they feel at home and share their faith with others through the daily and Sunday masses.
If generosity is measured by the amount of commitments signed by 100 families and counting, we have reached more than $700,000 and counting. This is our amazing story. What is amazing is the dormant generosity present among our parishioners. When I began talking to them, I felt the excitement to share their blessings – having a good and stable job, successful children, good health, long-term relationship with the parish, and strong faith in God. I saw and felt generous hearts and the deep connection of faith and charity. Deep in my heart, they are so blessed to share their blessings. Deep in my heart, God is blessing them many times over. John 1:16 drives this home with an awesome phrase: “And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.”
Few were in doubt and hesitant to share. Some withdrew their commitment after signing. Some wanted to reduce their contribution. Others simply said no. I felt like a beggar asking for help. I heard so many reasons and excuses: that there are many expenses to be paid like high rent, that they are helping relatives and money have to be sent to the Philippines or to Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. What is my take from these apologies and excuses of not sharing? The bottom line is fear; fear of not having enough, fear of losing one’s job, fear of one’s health. Above all fear of sharing one’s resources and not trusting in God’s Providence. Kahlil Gibran, in his famous book The Prophet says: “You often say, ‘I would give, but only to the deserving.’ The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture. They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.”
We perish because we fail to connect with the magnanimity of the heart – the many blessings received big and small. We perish because we limit our capacity to give. Giving from the heart is not a matter of abundance – when I get a better job, a higher salary or win the lottery. Giving is a matter of sharing even what I need and not from my excess income or surplus.
The model of giving narrated in the Gospels is an incident involving a widow’s gift to God. She didn’t give much—just two mites—or did she? The widow put her coins into the box, and Jesus called His disciples to Him and pointed out her action: “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on” (Mark 12:43–44; cf. Luke 21:1–4). Jesus saw what no one else did: He saw the humble gift of a poor widow. This was the gift that Jesus thought worthy of comment; this was the gift that the disciples needed to be aware of. The other gifts in the treasury that day made a lot of noise as they jingled into the receptacles, but the widow’s mites were heard in heaven.
God commends giving in faith. Here was a woman in need of receiving charity, yet she had a heart to give. Even though the amount was negligible—what could a widow’s mite buy? - she gave it in faith that God could use it.
I would like to express my deepest gratitude to our parishioners who have committed themselves to our dream of renewed faith in God’s Providence and renovated parish Church and facilities. More than anything I believe in the generosity of all and in God’s Providence who gives all our needs.
God will take care of us.
Fr. Percy Juan Bacani