Pastor Letters

June 28, 2020

In 1998, 22 years ago and 17 years into the administration of Saint Joseph Catholic Community by the Marianists, the current church at 915 Liberty Road was dedicated by Cardinal Keeler. Plans for the new church began when Fr. Ted Cassidy was pastor and were completed when Fr. Pat Tonry succeeded him. The church building is the home of the Community of Saint Joseph. It is where you gather to pray and know yourselves as the people of God, fed on the body and blood of your savior and from where you are sent to be missionary disciples. Moments before the altar was anointed with chrism Cardinal Keeler proclaimed the prayer of dedication of the building. That prayer is the basis of our prayer for the Saint Joseph Community.

Father in heaven, source of holiness we glorify your name.
We Marianists, consecrated to Mary, the Mother of your Son
ask you to hear our petition for the Saint Joseph Community.
Dedicated to your service, like a temple of worship, may this community
be a home in which many are nourished by your word and sacraments.
May it be fruitful, made holy by the blood of Christ, a bride made radiant
with his glory, a mother blessed through the power of the Holy Spirit.
May ‘she’ be holy, your chosen vineyard, whose branches,
envelope all who live in South Carroll,
it tendrils, carried on the tree of the cross to reach out to the kingdom of heaven.
May she, like your church, be a temple built of living stones,
founded on the apostles with Jesus Christ its corner stone.
May she be a beacon to the parishes of Baltimore
always echoing the prayers of the saints.
Lord, send your Spirit to make this community holy;
may the baptism of its members overwhelm the shame of sin and
may they be fed at the table of Christ’s word and Christ’s body so as to give
you glory at all times and in all things. Amen

We thank you for giving us the opportunity to minister in the name of the Lord and to witness how God works beautifully in the lives of so many of you. We ask that you pray for the Marianists, especially for an abundant flowering of vocations in the Society of Mary. Please cherish the Chapel of Our Lady of the Pilar with its associations to Blessed William Joseph Chaminade our Founder. Finally allow us encourage you to heed the words of the Blessed Mother at Cana: Do whatever He tells you.

Fr. David McGuigan, Fr. Neville O’Donohue, Bro. Jesse O’Neill

June 21, 2020

In recent bulletins I have written about what I had to offer Saint Joseph Catholic Community on arrival, what I believe was achieved (and failed to do) and last week on my deepest thanks to all of you who volunteered and helped the ministry and operating of our community during my time here.  Today I want to express some of my hopes for the community of Saint Joseph. 

Fr. John Worgul has worked among you at SJCC for six years.  His move to being pastor is a blessing.  He knows many of you, he has a passion for spreading the gospel, he knows the Word of God well and he is full of enthusiasm for the vocation of being a pastor.  Count your blessings!  Getting word of a new pastor can be a thing of joy or it can be the onset of worry. The latter was not the case with Fr. John.  John’s appointment gives me hope that many good things started will continue. I want to encourage all of you in the community to continue with some trends that are moving the community in the right direction. 

Adult Faith Formation: SJCC had a long tradition of wonderful programs for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.  In addition six years ago the Finance Commission approved budgeting for the role of Pastoral Associate for Evangelization and Adult Faith Formation.  Fr. John was hired.  Having someone in that position deepens our ability to invite people to encounter the Lord and enables us to address the largest part of our constituency, adults. A position like this is the way to develop a confident community in an increasingly skeptical culture. 

Children and Teen Faith Formation: In the last two years the numbers of children in Faith Formation has increased.  Angela Jenkins and April Dietrich have done great work.  The Covid19 crisis has enabled consideration to be given to how to connect families to intellectual formation for children other than the classroom.  What seems to be emerging is that the knowledge component will be virtual while connections and gatherings will be for Mass, service and fun and will involve the family.  With prayer and attention SJCC can be at the cutting edge of formation that isn’t a burden to parents but gives energy to families. Money from the Jubilee Youth Ministry Fund will enable engaging teens by providing subsidized teen activities available at a reasonable price.

Communication:  Again, the Finance Commission enabled mission by approving budgeting for a Communications Coordinator last July.  How timely in light of Covid19?  Bill Lantry, Cathy Nusbaum and Karen Spivey have been able to keep us united around the liturgy since the shutdown.  Developing skills in the community and on staff to enable greater interaction at virtual meetings and helping people express themselves and share faith using electronic means will need to be attended to. 

I suggest that SJCC is in a strong place to move forward, to deepen faith and build greater community.  I am very, very hopeful. May God bless the work. 

Fr. Neville O’Donohue


June 14, 2020

St. Ambrose said:  “No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.” We Irish have not learnt much from the good 4th century bishop of Milan.  We don’t affirm people a great deal and with dark clouds of pessimism coming over our collective consciousness periodically we don’t gush when trying to show appreciation. Maybe that’s why we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving.  I was forcibly struck, then, on arriving at Saint Joseph Catholic Community at how thankful and appreciative you are.  For the least service, prayer or help offered there was appreciation expressed in cards, emails and verbally.  The cover photo of this bulletin has me holding a number of the more recent thank you cards, invitations and well wishes I have received.  You have been graciousness in accepting, working with, and loving the Marianists and myself over many years.  You have been appreciative, hopeful, forgiving and generous with us.  Thank you back!

I want to mention some of you by name:

  • Those who served on the Parish Pastoral Council. I won’t list you all but limit myself to the chairs: Arlene Klair, Jim Ballor, Madeline Jones, Tim Thimmesch, Christy Sommerville and Terry Morse.  Thank you.
  • The present staff, some of whom I worked with my entire time here: Meghan Snyder, Tom Schwartz and Lauren Glass. Thank you.
  • The Corporators over the years: Karen Spivey, now working for the parish, Gwen Lilly, Chris Patrick and James Kearney. Thank you. 
  • And some of our great volunteers: Danny Gallagher, Kathy Reid, Bill Strotz, Sue Wilson, Kristen Bird, Peter Sullivan, Linda Schwark, Deacons Vito Piazza and Mike Dvorak, our music ministers. Thank you.
  • The Catholic Daughters and the Knights of Columbus. Thank you.

I learned a lesson about being thankful at Taize, the Ecumenical Monastery, in France.  One of the monks gave us an interesting talk on the scriptures.  One of the people present stood up and was effusive in the thanks she offered.  It was a little excessive and the brother looked embarrassed.  Rather than saying: “don’t mention it” or “it was nothing” he simply made it a teachable moment and said “We have much to give God thanks for.”  The principle thanks we give to God is expressed in the ‘Eucharist’, the giving thanks. As a token of my appreciation of this community three of the Masses to be celebrate on Sunday June 28th will be for the people of Saint Joseph Catholic Community.  As we say in Irish: “Go raibh maith agat,” a literal translation of which is “May you have goodness.”

Fr. Neville O’Donohue SM

Pastor for a little longer

June 7, 2020

In the first of these four letters about my ministry at Saint Joseph, I explained what I hoped I would offer to the parish 10 year ago. This week I address the harder question: how did I do? There are two levels at which the work of a pastor operates: the daily life of worship, prayer, celebrating the sacraments and teaching the faith and the strategic level, such as putting in place the structures so we grow in being missionary and enabling the gospel to be heard. In both these areas there were many blessed moments of assurance of God’s presence, some strategic forward moves were made and there were times I failed.

I enjoyed the daily life of our community. Celebrating Mass and the sacraments in our big space with a ‘real’ font was enjoyable, though preaching has never been something at which I feel I am good.  At the strategic level the decision to renovate the old gym into the Formation and Fellowship center was a no brainer. The good people of SJCC had put $0.5 million in the Building Fund! The engagement of a full time staff member for Evangelization and Adult Faith Formation was the right one. Adults need to be formed first because if they are not, forming the children is short changed. The creation of two Pastoral Plans over 10 years with the help of really great Parish Pastoral Councils was where I learned the most about leadership and shaping the long term. The 150th Jubilee was a gift of timing we exploited well. Finally the creation of the twin roles on staff of Director of Mission and Director of Mission Support was a consequence of a renewed commitment to being missionary.

During the Jubilee Year of 2000 I attended a memorable event at St. Peters Basilica in Rome. Amidst some opposition from his advisers Pope John Paul II asked the Lord’s forgiveness for the sins of the Church’s sons and daughters. After each sin was confessed a lamp placed beside the crucifix was lit [see the cover photo] and to conclude that section of the Mass the Pope kissed the crucifix. The confession and request for pardon was sought for sins committed in the “service” of truth, sins that harmed the unity of the church, sins against the people of Israel, sins committed in actions against the rights of people and respect for cultures and religious, sins against the dignity of women and those in relation to the fundamental rights of the person, including child abuse.

My memory of March 12th 2020 and what I learned from Paul John Paul II that day prompts me to say that I am sorry for the sins I committed while your pastor. I ask mercy of God, and pardon from you who I sought to pastor, for when I was quick tempered, judged too soon or too harshly and when I was angry. In particular I ask pardon when I did those things to people who didn’t have enough connection with the church or with me to challenge me and where, possibly, a connection to the church was squandered.

I ask God to forgive me for the times I failed and above all to thank God for allowing me to experience His presence and power at work in the lives of so many people here at Saint Joseph Catholic Community.

Fr. Neville O’Donohue S.M.

Nearly the ex Pastor

May 31, 2020

When I was sent to Eldersburg in 2010 I had no idea that I would become the pastor. The challenge of the ministry itself, first as an associate then as acting pastor and in 2012 as pastor, forced me to think through what I could offer.  I became more convicted as time moved on and the challenges of the work became clearer. The basic principles of what to offer as a pastor I distilled as:

  1. The knowledge from my lived experience that I was a sinner who had been forgiven. The freedom from guilt and shame given me by God’s mercy was the first thing I wanted to speak about and minister to.
  2. Connected closely to that was a conviction I learned when in seminary in Rome: the Word of God is always a word of consolation for his people – preach consolation.

III. Learnings from the Marianist tradition I seek to live have much to offer in a context where people are of diverse levels of faith and interest.   The Marianist charism has a place for everyone because of its stress on our common baptism.  The charism seeks to direct people in how to pull together in mission and in the spirit of Mary for the salvation of the world.

This same Marianist heritage has allowed me to create a form of ministry that is still seen in the church. Some ministers, frequently priests, feel pressured to imagine themselves as experts in all things relating to the church.  They feel they must know a lot about canon law, counseling, liturgy, youth ministry, the theology of the body, scripture. . . the list is endless.   These ministers aim at having a synthesis of all ministries.  Bishop Bruno Forte points out the ministry of a pastor is not to be a synthesis of all ministry but to offer the ministry of synthesis.  Pastors are to bring together the efforts of the people of God and make the parts a whole.  The unity that results does seem at times very ‘busy’ because it is being worked out in the midst of diversity.  That has always appealed to me.  All have a say and each can contribute a skill, or knowledge, or an insight or a quiet act of service.

What I written here are some of the things I had hoped to offer.  

The image on the front page of the bulletin this week was taken at the opening liturgy of the 150 Jubilee of 2018.  At the beginning of the Mass people who had celebrated the sacraments were called forward as representatives of the grace God had offered our members.  Some of those called had been baptized, others made first reconciliation, celebrated confirmation, been sick and anointed, celebrated a wedding or been ordained (Deacon Vito Piazza).   They later gathered with Archbishop Lori to give witness that God can unite us in grace and truth.  That moment was one of my more satisfying moments here at SJCC.  People owning their place as graced and forgiven, as worthy of the sacraments, as united as church and standing in apostolic tradition.  

Neville O’Donohue