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Communication – The Foundation of Love and Respect

In the summer of 1968, after spending 5 years at Christ The King parish in Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood, Fr. McKenna was transferred to St. Richard’s Parish at 50th and Kenneth, a mere 1.5 mile walk from Midway Airport. Little did he realize at that time how important this area would be to him during the last three decades of his life. It was a big change for Fr. George; he was going to be a full time associate pastor for the first time since his ordination 24 years earlier – no more teaching at his beloved Quigley Seminary. As I go through his old writings – many just typed written notes for his homilies, I am still amazed at how relevant his messages are for all of us today. This post is from his homily at St. Richard’s on Sunday October 6, 1968. The message is to his new parishioners – but is relevant to all settings in life – parish, family, work, community.

Fr. George at Midway Airport, 1997 Photo from Chicago Sun-Times Archives.

I believe strongly in communication – a sharing of ideas with those close to me. Through the years as a teacher, I have always given my students many chances through the school year to communicate with me. They could always write about what they thought of our class and how it was conducted. Oftentimes the thoughts expressed were difficult to swallow, but at least it kept me, as teacher, from living in a dream world. I knew what the students were thinking from their honest written thoughts. If at all possible, their suggestions were used. They felt better because someone was listening to them.

Here in our grammar school I have continued this practice and give the children chances to write down their thoughts each week when I go into their rooms. This has built up a climate of good will; we are sharing our lives in some little way together.

We, priests and people, must continue our efforts to communicate with each other. We know what happens in the family circle when members stop talking to each other or if they continue to talk to each other but don’t speak about the real issues on their minds. Oftentimes these issues or burning ideas fester in the mind and gradually and surely break down the spirit of the home. Love grows cold for each other.

This is true too, at the parish level. When we share out thoughts and ideas together, priests and people, when we tell what issues are disturbing our minds, we set up a atmosphere of trust and mutual respect. Communication presupposes a faith, a belief in one another. I share my thoughts and ideas with those whom I trust will give an understanding ear to them. We are open to these people.

This does not necessarily mean that people communicating tell each other only pleasant things. Some parts of the communication may be hard to accept. I referred to this in my experience as a teacher. The most powerful element of communication is telling the truth, at least as we see it.

In conclusion, we encourage you to share your thoughts with us about the church in the world, or regarding our own parish. We are truly interested in what you are thinking, what you are happy about, or what might be disturbing you. There are many ways to communicate. Write a letter, come up to us at parish events, school meetings, before or after Mass, drop into the rectory, or pick up the phone and call. In truly communicating with each other we are laying the foundation of mutual love and respect.

Let me finish with the closing paragraph from Cardinal Cody’s letter: “If our age is one of challenge and change, it is equally an age of great opportunity. A new era of the church has begun. With God’s help and our own mutual trust and helpfulness, it can be a splendid era for all of us.”

Fr. George P. McKenna

May 24, 2019 Posted by | Bulletins | , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Messenger Of Peace Moves Among Us

I am sure the average reader, like myself, as a child thought of Easter as a one day event in the spring: sometimes early, sometimes late, sometimes even on my birthday!  But as we now know – Easter is a Season in our Liturgical Year of the Church.  Seven weeks to celebrate the Rising of our Lord on that first Easter Morning.  This upcoming weekend we celebrate the 5th Sunday of the 2019 Easter Season.   This message is taken directly from the notes of Father McKenna’s Homily for Easter Sunday at St. Barnabas in 1971.

Fr. McKenna preparing for a Sermon at Midway Airport.
Photo by Michelle Litvin, Chicago Tribune July 2, 1995 “God is his co-pilot”

Several times in the past years I have offered Mass at the Tomb of Our Lord in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem.  The open and empty tomb brought home graphically, the marvelous happening that took place on the first Easter Sunday morning.  An air of festivity and rejoicing cloaks the air of this Easter Time.  Christ is victorious!  He will conquer death and the sin in our own personal lives.  We cannot lose if we hold on tightly to the Risen Christ.

The message of the Lord comes to us: “COME ALIVE!”  Why continue with a lackadaisical version of living when the Risen Lord offers a vivid, electrifying version of life?  Yes, this was planned for all of us, not just the favored few.  If Christ, the Victor, is saying anything to us this Easter, He is saying “Throw off those old ways of thinking and living.  Come Alive!  Put more thrust into your life!”  You may be saying to yourself, what is this electrifying way of living that you are talking about?

Do you keep morose, harsh thoughts about some people in your hearts?  Do we think that in doing this we are healing our opened wounds of hate?  Certainly not!  We are condemning ourselves to a sub-standard style of life.  We are only living half a life, a good part of us is dead.  We are in a self-made prison and we don’t even know it.

Jesus is a Liberator.  He went about after the Resurrection freeing men and women from the prison of their fears and anxieties.  Even today, He comes to us to liberate us from the snares of sin.  He says to each of us, “Peace, Believe in Me!”  Why are we fettered with worry which cuts us off from the true meaning of the joy of living?  Why are we, followers of Christ, so sad because we are taken up with the happenings of this life as if we were to live here forever?  The Risen Lord, the Messenger of Peace, of new hope, again moves among us, lifting up weak spirits and encouraging embittered hearts.

All about us we see Nature in the process of coming alive, a freshness and newness of life.  What seemed like dead bushes, trees and grasses now begin to take on a new appearance, a new life of fresh greenery.  Shrubs are bursting, evolving buds give a promise of beauty, tulips and lilies come to life and tell us what we might really look like if we really wished it!

Have you been worrying about the same matters for the last few months?  Every day we give a great amount of time to negative thoughts.  Nothing is accomplished except to push your spirits lower into darkness.  The Risen Lord promises new life to each of us, not just in the world to come, but in the here and now!  We might use the three-way light bulb as an example.  We turn the switch once and a low light comes on.  We turn again and a moderate amount of light appears, but we turn that switch a third time, and a bright light outshines the first two!

What do I wish for you during this Easter Season?  I wish for you to see the promise of hope that the Resurrection holds out to each one of us.  To see the beauty of life, to reach out to others and allow the Spirit to come alive in our midst.  I wish that when you see darkness around you, you turn the switch three times, and let the Light of the Lord shine brightly!

Fr. George P. McKenna


May 14, 2019 Posted by | Bulletins | , , , , , | 3 Comments