23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, year A

Sunday, September 10, 2017
Fr. Jon
Homily transcription: 

     Seventy years ago, St. Thomas Aquinas was established.  We are both a parish and the Catholic Student Center for Iowa State University, so we are unique in the state of Iowa.  We are not one or the other, but both a parish and student center, which presents some challenges but many more benefits.

     Since our beginning, every generation has built on this mighty foundation.  Over twenty years ago, we had our last major campaign to expand our facilities and endow the Mgsr. Supple Chair of Catholic Studies at the university.  We continue to grow today, thanks to the Holy Spirit.  Today we have a great facility, a perfect location, and expanded parking, which we received five years ago as a gift of someone who understands stewardship.

     Jesus teaches us that receivers of gifts are to become givers of gifts.  St. Paul in the second reading today tells us that all the commandments can be summed up in one sentence:  "Love your neighbor as yourself."  We are neighbors to each other.

     Today our greatest need is not in brick and mortar, but in outreach and evangelization.  As Pope Francis often reminds us, it is not enough for a church to have a nice building, open doors, and just hope that people come.  No, we must go out, go out into our community and onto campus, go out and reach more for Christ.

     So this weekend we are publicly announce a major campaign to increase our Fr. Supple endowment.  It is called Catching Souls:  Our Catholic Mission.  We have two goals:

  • First, to endow and embed four campus missionaries.  These days we are swamped, which is a nice problem to have.  And we have lots of potential to reach even more.  We are excited that this fall, we welcomed four FOCUS missionaries to St. Thomas Aquinas thanks to a grant from the Lilly Endowment.
  • Our second goal is to increase our endowment so we can open up more of our parish budget for larger parish needs.  It will help us to attract and retain the best staff possible.  This is important, because each time we have an open position and do a search, I talk to really talented candidates who can't come here because of our compensation.  They just can't raise a family on what we offer, and this campaign will help address this issue.

     Why are we doing this?  There are five reasons, which I won't tell you.  They are in the bulletin, so please take one home and read it.  We also invite you to come to the student lounge after Mass where there is a four minute video which outlines those five reasons.

     How have things changed these past five years?  Please read the bulletin, which has some good news about how we have grown to the point where we need this campaign.

     In the next few months, I will be going to alumni in Iowa and around the country to ask them to be part of this campaign.  Today I also ask each and all of us to part of making this important campaign successful.  

     Student parishioners:  Yep, you too.  I was here in the 1990's when we did our building campaign, and remember a student who pledged $1000.  When I asked him why he did this, he told me, "Well, I pay lots of money in tuition at ISU, and I have learned more at St. Thomas Aquinas than Iowa State."  I thought, "Wow, you must not have very good grades!

     Resident parishioners:  Yep, this means us too.  This campaign will give our parish financial stability and is part of how we love our neighbor as ourselves.  In my last assignment, I was pastor of a parish that had a Catholic school from pre-K to 12th grade.  Seventy percent of our Sunday collection went to support our school.  On occasion, someone would ask why we do this.  They would say, "These aren't me kids."  My response is that "They aren't my kids either, but I teach there for free and support it."  In my 29 years as a priest, I have noticed how parishes in our archdiocese who have a mission that goes beyond self-maintenance are the ones that are alive and grow.  Parishes that seem to only take care of its own members are the ones who stagnate and become stale.  This is important of our parish to continue to grow.

      So I ask you to read the bulletin to see the how campus ministry has grown by leaps and bounds these past five years.  Please read the bulletin to find out more about the five reasons for our campaign, and stop by the student lounge to see the unveiling of our campaign video.  And please join me in doing something beautiful for many, many generations to come.  May God bless our efforts to reach more.

Here is a link to the bulletin to read more about the five points mentioned above: bulletin