The Rising Sun-Reflections on a Christmas Ministry
And Last Report on Good Shepherd Ministries of SW Fl, INC
“In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high (the Rising Sun) shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death and to guide our feet into the way of peace” Luke 1:78-79 NAB-TIB-“Rising Sun”)
In this year’s Christmas eve Scripture Zechariah, the father of the prophet John, sings a canticle about his newborn son John who is to “go before the Lord to prepare his way…”(verse 76). God’s tender compassion is breaking through into history. Through Jesus- the Christ of Christmas- God has entered the world in a new way, has come closer than ever to being one of us, bringing the light of dawn and rising sun in the night of darkness.
The Hebrew Scripture reading for Christmas Eve, 2 Samuel 7 reflects on David the young shepherd king chosen by God to lead God’s people. And in Luke 2: 8-20, the traditional Christmas Scripture, gives poor shepherds the shock and blessing of being the first to welcome Jesus into our world, responding to amazing events in the night sky, as a baby laying in a manger, a feeding trough for the cows. The image here is not only poor rough simple folks receiving the Good News and passing it on, nor the poverty of Jesus’ birth in union with most of the world’s struggling children and families but that the Shepherd Leader/king sent to the world by God is here! God is with us in a new way, in a way we can see and feel and emulate. If we but have the faith and courage, if we know his voice as the sheep know the shepherd’s voice and respond, and if we can see the light in the darkness.
Mary Marrocco (Living with Christ-Today’s Good News, December 2016, p. 162) reflects “In Christ, God gives a shepherd who knows and loves his people, goes where they go and lays down his life for them. How fitting that a group of shepherds are the first in this world to greet him. He does not rule from above; he claims his own by being born into the midst of them-of us. Christ our shepherd, come close to us”. (Emphasis mine)
Our Good Shepherd Ministries
We believe that our Shepherd is close to us this year and abides with us through illness and getting older and the need for change in our ministry and in our lives because of new bouts with cancer appearing in February and June of 2016. We believe that Light completely changes darkness. I have faced my second cancer this year and it, like the first one three years ago, was handled primarily by surgery. Judy Beaumont’s is a return of a blood cancer probably secondary to the chemotherapy given for her earlier blood cancer, APL, which was cured over ten years ago. Ten years cancer free was more precious than we knew. This one is held at bay by a strong chemo that is a monthly event. Hers is an ongoing battle necessitating our courage and strength, time and focus. This chemo beats back the blasts that could rise to AML (Leukemia) and it IS working, thank God, but takes a monthly toll. God is with us as we transform ourselves and our current Good Shepherd Ministry from a 501c3, tax exempt ministry existing since 2008 to returning to our lives offered as ministry. In a way it is a full circle, for before we ever declared a ministry with a name and a tax exempt status we simply served, especially the poor and the outcast, the broken and the beautiful different people of God.
Our Good Shepherd Ministries of SW Florida came into existence in 2003 to continue our call to shelter the homeless and to follow the Shepherd and offer guidance, care, and light to the poor and homeless of greater Fort Myers. In 2003 Judy Beaumont and I bought a small humble home to shelter a homeless family and later a homeless mentally ill woman. We sold this when their needs were met but continued to serve doing pastoral work in a Mission church serving poor African American and Caribbean and Hispanic and mixed communities, and later in a larger parish church.
In 2007 we joined with Lamb of God, an Episcopal Lutheran church Youth Group that fed the homeless and hungry in the local park. As time went on and the Youth Group moved on leaving one strong family to continue we became known as Good Shepherd Ministries once again and responded to need by moving our ministry to a different night so there would be feeding and community worship on more than one night. In 2008 we incorporated into a 501c3 ministry so donations could be tax exempt. We have had a wonderful Board of Directors over the years with several of the original members remaining. So many dedicated people have served with us in the ministry and in giving to the ministry, that it would take pages to name them and I would be afraid of forgetting one. But they know who they are and how much we thank them.
In July 2008 I became an ordained Roman Catholic Woman Priest and served sacramentally as well as in our Matthew 25 ministerial ways. Judy Beaumont was ordained as a Roman Catholic Woman Priest in 2012 and we continued to share the responsibilities of our wonderfully blessed ministry. In late 2008 Judy and I bought a house for the ministry with our own funds. In late 2009 we stopped our service in the park leaving that to other groups as we developed our Ministry House. Most people we serve just call it “the Church”. There we had feeding on Tuesdays and Sundays, worship, Sunday School and Youth work, counselling, free clothing and limited financial assistance and social services in the front part of the house. In the rear we developed first a transitional living facility and later a Hospitality House. In all until now in December of 2016 we have served 51 individuals living in “the church” for various periods of time. This includes individual women and men of all ages and families with children from toddlers to young adults and several pets. Presently it is the home of a woman Roman Catholic Priest from Latin America who also ministers. The beat is different but the beat goes on. The Sun is still rising.
A Last Report- July – December 2016
As of December 31, 2016 out of our own choice our 501c3 ministry will be dissolved but our service as God directs us will go on forever. We will not be tax exempt and minister on a large scale but our priesthood as servant leaders will never end. This is the Last Report on the Good Shepherd 501c3 ministry but it is not the last word on our ministry, God is still writing that story.
We gave a six month notice to our church community and continued our services as we began to phase out some of our activities. In July 2016 we reluctantly stopped our Sunday church services/Mass, our children’s and youth work and our Tuesday services. We had a graduation service for the youth recognizing their achievements and meaningfully prepared them for continued faith learning. To that point we had already served over 600 meals without counting seconds and take-home meals. We provided instruction and guidance for twenty children and youth. We brought an adult and youth class of seven to the Sacrament of Confirmation in June of 2016. With those confirmed in 2014, 23 of our individuals were Confirmed in their Christian faith and desire to follow Christ and we had baptized 21 from infancy to old age in our eight years as Church. We anointed many sick and dying and continued doing this in the last six months as well. We made sure that all we served had access to other churches, pastors, counselors and social agencies. We encouraged and facilitated reaching out to other churches and agencies. Then from July to now we continued to serve individuals and families with needs. We continued pastoral and counselling relationships with many and we met many material needs.
We helped a young adult attending college and working establish her own apartment where she would have space and peace to study. We helped two other young adults with transportation so they could get to work. We counselled and gave support to a young man with mental illness as he attempted job preparation programs. One of our teens was accepted into a special fine arts program and we helped her with art supplies. One of our members and Board members is shepherding two of our teens in tutoring and other enrichment activities that leads to academic success and work possibilities. We were able to take a group of children, teens and grandparents to see The Wizard of Oz at Broadway Palm Dinner Theater. Joelle, our nine year old said “This is the BEST!” We also gave summer learning packets full of learning and fun materials to all of the children.
One of our most pleasant tasks was to help one of our very hard working mothers to buy her first home for her family of four by contributing to closing costs and some repairs and set up of utilities services. Another of our formerly homeless women had to move from her apartment as she could no longer afford the raised rent of a new landlord. We helped her with Security and first month’s rent as well as furniture and also paid for her pets’ vaccinations and health needs. We assisted two others from the same development in finding and securing new housing. Pastor Judy Beaumont assisted her seven payees in obtaining other Rep. payees and in money management in their new rooms and situations. She helped make the transition easier for them. Two are now supported by family members.
Debbie and her family of four now have a new home that is their own, Thanks be to Debbie’s hard work and our gracious God!
Another pleasant task was facilitating the move of Pat S. from her room in the church to permanent subsidized Senior housing. Pat who had formerly lived in the woods with her small cat Sarah had become a real part of our community since February of 2016. She was confirmed with the group in June 2016. And Pastor Marina became her beloved housemate and catechist, teaching her to pray. She lets us know that we are in her prayers always and we are thankful. It was hard for her to leave, and we miss her too but her new home is a lovely ground floor apartment and she is very thankful for our help. She is slowly and regularly paying back the costs of her move, including old bill payback, rent, security, pet deposit, utilities set up and furniture. She is also actively ministering to others in her Senior community. We helped three others with Senior and handicapped housing applications and referrals.
The newly Confirmed with Bishop Andrea Johnson. Left to right are Brenda, Debbie with Courtney, and Joelle, Gaspare in rear, Bishop Andrea, Pat, Quay in rear and Grandma Jolinda Harmon and myself.
This is Pat in her new home in Senior Housing- Her church housemates Pastor Marina and Felice facilitated the move.
One of our most difficult situations during this time was assisting a family of seven where the mother, age 39, was stricken with advanced cancer in August. We have helped this family with emotional and spiritual support and rent, utilities and appropriate referrals and individual needs for the last few years and this continued through this period of time. They were active church members. It was hard to experience their grief of “losing the church” even as they coped with the new diagnosis of advanced cancer and the accompanying pain and treatment regimes. I attended a session with the oncologist with the couple and helped them to understand what the Doctor was conveying. I also intervened when pain issues necessitated another level of pain management so treatment could continue. With this dear family and with one of our other members who has had a recent mastectomy our own experiences with cancer forge a special bond of understanding. And, we try to be there for each one as they are able to talk about it. We mediated with another pastor and attended a church in their local area with the Grandmother and three of the children, three of the young cousins and three of our other church members. We also took them out to celebrate four birthdays on that day. We are hoping this Pastor and church will reach out to them and that transportation issues can be worked out.
(Below are the triplets with Grandma and cousins and myself on their 8th birthday , November 4,2016.)
We will continue to walk with this Mom and family although the financial support will have to be significantly less. We are hopeful for their greater independence while remaining there for them with pastoral support.
We helped several others with rent or Utility bills and with appropriate referrals. We have been shepherding one woman back into mental health treatment so she is eligible for subsidized housing in that system and so she can negotiate other helping systems. She is back on her meds and so far compliant and more hopeful.
In this Christmas season we were extremely blessed to have our Board member Gini Beecroft and her Red Thread Reading group from the Breckinridge Community to donate almost $1300 for gift cards and monetary gifts. We have dispersed these gifts and others earmarked for Christmas to twenty-five children and youth and thirteen formerly homeless and very low income adults. We did not accept gifts for the children from other individuals or agencies but had many gifts saved from the bounty of last year that made big Christmas bags for three large families and a few adults as well. One special donation enabled us to buy a new bike for Mike M. one of our formerly homeless disabled Veterans who has maintained his housing since 2009 after living at our Joshua House transitional residence. Mike also helps rescue cats and kittens that abound in his community. We have kept in touch over the years. This brings us full circle as an important part of our ministry in Lion’s Park was our bicycle ministry and Mike received his first bike from us then. Our Kathy Roddy was able to pick him up and take him to buy the bike. Her joyful appreciation for the second Christmas in her own home after losing everything is a joy to behold. The greatest joy for us is to see how mutual aid works so beautifully in our group where we are all ministers. This a truly Merry Christmas for us all despite the transitions we have now completed and continue to face.
Gini Beecroft presenting the gifts of the Red Thread Spiritual Reading Group from the Breckinridge Community
The Good Shepherd Ministries will continue as we all continue to give our lives in service.
Christ our Shepherd stay close to us. Christ, our Light continue to shine in the darkness of poverty and homelessness, brokenness, illness, despair and doubt. Continue to be Love for us, turn our tears into joy and our hands into life giving service. Turn our faces toward the brilliance of the Rising Sun.
A blessed Christmas and Happy and Healthy New Year to All.
With much love and gratitude,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP and Pastor Judy Beaumont, RCWP
Co-Pastors and Directors of Good shepherd Ministries of Southwest Florida
From The National Catholic Reporter:
MONDAY, DECEMBER 19, 2016
“African Jesuit Fr. Orobator quests for women’s inclusion in church structures” by Joshua J. McElwee , National Catholic Reporter
Rejoice, Our God is Near: Two Women Roman Catholic Priests Reflect on the 3rd Sunday in Advent 12/11/2016
This third Sunday of Advent is the Sunday of Joy-Gaudete Sunday. The readings of Advent lead us to prepare for the coming of the ONE we wait for-the ONE who will set the world aright, who will bring joy and life to the tired world, peace in the midst of conflict,forgiveness and mercy in the face of anger and hurt, water to the dry earth and those who thirst, provisions and shelter and hope to the poor, restoring the lame and blind and those in despair. The lighting of the candles for the four weeks of Advent stir alive the flames of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. We are to burn brightly with the essence of the living Christ in us even as we await the celebration of his birth once again. In the secular world and in the church, lights appear everywhere piercing the darkness, bright reds and greens and yellows and blues paint a joyful world. The deep purple candles represent hope, peace and love. The pink candle of Advent is the candle of joy. Joy is of a different order, it is a feeling, and one that we cannot fake, it must be born deep within us and its flame must last through the darkest nights and burst forth again. Even in the darkest times it burns within us for it is born of our connection with our loving God who through each one of us is making the world right. This year has shaken us with political turmoil and disappointments and fears for the well being of the poor and those who have little, and for peace in the world. Personally we each face challenges, losses of loved ones and profound illnesses that change everything. Everything but the Presence of our loving God who still works to help us rejoice and bloom like desert flowers, that strengthens the hands that are feeble with illness or age, turns around mourning and sorrow and frees us to enter Zion singing with joy and gladness. The One who secures justice for the poor and oppressed who loves the just, protects the strangers and raises up those who were bowed down IS with us and is coming again as we work for the kin-dom. (IS 35:1-6a,10; Psalm 146:6-10).In the Gospel, Matthew 11:2-11 Jesus asks John to look around and hear the news of what he has been doing. He assures John that doing the work of justice described in Isaiah IS just what he has been doing. AND, it is just what we need to be doing to get the job done. Light the light of JOY, God is not dead,nor does God rest-with our work for justice and peace the kin-dom/kingdom of God is here, and Christmas IS coming again this year!
“Our God keeps faith forever,secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry…” Psalm 146:6-7
This is part of my 2013 homily for the Sunday of Joy.
Are You The One? Homily for the 3rd Sunday in Advent A-Rejoice! By Pastor Judy Lee
This is the Sunday of Joy in waiting for the coming of Christ-for the fullness of Christ within us so that we reflect Christ; for the Christ born in relative poverty and shepherds rejoicing on Christmas day; and for the Christ who will return when the kin(g)dom is close to fruition. The pink candle of joy is lighted and we are near the birth of the baby in the manger.
Isaiah tells us ((35:1-6,10) tells us that when our God comes to save us, the blind will see and the deaf will hear, the lame will leap and the mute will sing for joy. I take this to mean, beyond the miraculous, that finally we will all understand and see and hear what the kin(g)dom of God is about, love and justice-and joy. We will get up off of our comfortable seats and walk and dance this kin(g)dom into existence. The faithful will enter Zion with joy, sorrow and lament will flee and there will be everlasting joy on their faces. For Isaiah’s exiled people freedom will bring that joy even as Nelson Mandela’s triumph brought a lasting joy to South Africa. Yet that joy is there despite the poverty that exists among the poorest for whom little has changed in South Africa and all over our world. The work of the kin(g)dom is not anywhere near done there or here or anywhere. The Psalm also assures us of God’s love and provision for the poor- “You secure justice for the oppressed- You give food to the hungry”. And at the same time we whose eyes are open know that our work is intense- there is so much work to be done so that there is justice for the poor and all are fed. And we know this even though we do our part in feeding the poor and working for justice regularly. The epistle reading today (James 5:7-10) asks us to wait patiently for the kin(g)dom to come even as the farmer waits for the crops to grow. And yet we know that we must work to bring forth the crop and the kin-dom- to unite all of us as God’s family. James wrote about that strongly –faith without works is dead! (James 2:26)
Good Shepherd Church-Pearl Cudjoe and Debbie Carey serving the Sunday Meal
But we know this (that our work is needed) only if we have indeed found the One that leads us into this kin(g)dom and asks us to work together to bring it here. John the Baptist was Jesus’ cousin, his Mom Elizabeth and Jesus Mother Mary were close friends. John knew who Jesus was from the start-from the womb as it were. John knew that his own job was to prepare the way for Jesus. John’s preaching did this and he had already baptized Jesus and experienced the Spirit of God affirming Jesus. And yet in today’s Gospel (Matthew 11:2-11) John seems confused. Perhaps we would be as well if we were in prison and it looked like there would be no reprieve and if we could not see the works that Jesus was doing, but only hear about them second hand. (And that is how it is for us, isn’t it? So we can look around and see the pain in the world and ask John’s question too. ) John sends a messenger to ask: “Are you the One who is to come, or do we look for another”? Maybe John’s Messiah was to literally free the Jews from the Romans, maybe he was to overturn the political establishment by whatever means necessary. Yet John knew the holiness and greatness of Jesus saying “I’m not even worthy of latching up his shoes”. Maybe John was just confused. I can resonate with that-we see Jesus, the Christ, filtered through so many eyes old and new, traditional theology and contemporary theology, that tell us who Jesus is or isn’t, it can be very confusing. All do it with great authority as if they finally have God in the box. But God just doesn’t fit in any box. So if we are honest we too may ask Jesus, “Are you still the One?”
Do you remember a time in your life when you were looking for “the one?” I don’t mean for the Messiah, the Anointed/Chosen one, but for the one you would love and cherish and want to spend your life with? The one who would be your lover and beloved forever? I remember that time. It was more than one time. Finding the love of your life is so complicated and so much mutuality is needed and people change so much that you don’t always get it right. I remember wondering if this one, or that one was “the one”.
The African American people also had a long period of time asking and sometimes still ask when a child is born: Is this the one? Meaning the one who will lead the people to freedom who will show the way. I wonder if they knew when Martin Luther King Junior was born that he would at least be one of the ones who would lead the way, or Rosa Parks, or Sojourner Truth? Is this the one? Did Nelson Mandela’s mother know he was the one to lead his people to freedom? Maybe not, they say he changed in prison to become the gentle forgiving leader that galvanized a country-not only by his great courage but by his love.
Well, the answer Jesus gave is a really good one. He answered with what he DID not with what he was supposed to be. He referred to the passage in Isaiah about the reign of God and pointed out that he has been making the blind to see, the lame to walk, the unclean clean/lepers cured, the deaf to hear and even the dead to be raised to life. And the “have-nots” have the Good News preached to them-by him. So blessed are they who can see this and not take offense. Offense at what- at the man who is fulfilling prophecy and bringing on the kin(g)dom? Yes, this would offend the powerful and also the traditionally religious who can’t believe that this is happening in their midst. “Can’t” because they may be expecting someone else a military leader for example. “Can’t” because he comes from a small not powerful town, though one that was prophesied for the Savior’s birth. “Can’t” because they just don’t get who he is or what he’s doing. “Can’t” because his being and preaching, his inclusion of women and outcasts threatens the status quo, including their religious establishment power.
For those who seek the one to love and settle down with-the answer is also in his or her deeds. Is this the one for me? It is if their actions not just their words show their love for you. And if you in turn reciprocate this love with loving deeds. With love it is a two way street. Well, it’s the same with loving Jesus, the Christ. If we love Christ our deeds will show it. We will become Christ-like-we will become like our Beloved. We will work hard to feed, shelter, cry for justice with and for, and love EVERYBODY. And Christ might just ask us too “Are you the one?” It is all about love after all. And that love brings us great joy-it also brings on the kin(g)dom of God on earth and forever. So do you know this Christ, is this the One for you? If it is, REJOICE!
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
And here is the awe-inspiring homily of Rev. Beverly Bingle, RCWP of Toledo, Ohio:
Today‘s reading from Isaiah
tells us to have courage
because we will be vindicated.
Justice will prevail.
God will uphold us,
make all things right and just for us.
And when that happens, Isaiah says,
the poorest will be healed.
The eyes of the blind will be opened,
the ears of the deaf unsealed,
those who can’t walk will leap like deer,
and the tongues of those who cannot speak
will sing for joy.
In the Gospel we heard Matthew tell how John the Baptist,
when he sends his followers to ask Jesus if he is sent by God,
gets the answer
in terms of a fulfillment of that passage in Isaiah:
go back and report what you hear and see:
‘Those who are blind recover their sight;
those who cannot walk are able to walk,
those with leprosy are cured;
those who are deaf hear;
the dead are raised to life;
and the anawim—the “have-nots”—
have the Good News preached to them.’
The practice of looking to the tradition
for keys to the present situation
is as long as recorded history.
It’s the habit of calling on the wisdom of the past
for guidance in our time.
James’ letter gives the same kind of advice:
Be patient, don’t grumble about one another, persevere—
take the prophets as your models.
What about us, now, in our time?
We say we are followers and imitators of the way of Jesus.
That means, according to the Word we just heard,
that we are to be teachers and healers,
reaching out in love to the poor and marginalized.
We are to work miracles, just like Jesus did.
It sounds like a tall order,
but we see those miracles all around us.
Pax Christi, the national Catholic peace movement,
has a local branch that meets over at Corpus Christi Parish.
Just one of the projects that makes Pax Christi a healer
is the “Manna bag,”
a gallon-size plastic bag full of non-perishable food and drink
that they put together and sell
so they can give them away
to those folks standing on street corners asking for help.
Then there are miracle workers like our own Liz Facey, who,
like so many other teachers,
works tirelessly to open the eyes and ears
of her special needs students.
We’ve been seeing stories on the news lately
about doctors who are pioneering stem cell therapy
that rebuilds body parts,
giving new life to people struck with disability and disease.
We all know families and friends of stroke victims
who tend them through the difficult times of loss and rehab,
loving them through every possible step of improvement.
We all face hard times, accident, illness, or surgery,
the difficulties of aging,
and it’s there that we see the loving care
that Jesus told John’s followers to tell him about.
Miracles are happening here at Holy Spirit, too.
We’re focused on the environment
and the impact of climate change
on the poorest and most vulnerable people,
and we’re doing something about it
with our Tree Toledo efforts.
And you are generous in direct help to the anawim of our time,
donating to organizations
that serve the poor and the marginalized
with housing, food, health needs, clothes, education…
it’s a very long list!
You write letters to officeholders
supporting programs that help the poor…
or criticizing programs that harm the poor.
And you pray,
preparing your heart and your soul
to be ready to love when it’s the hardest.
Christmas is just two weeks away.
It’s heart-warming for me to hear the plans you’re making
to gather with family and friends,
to share a feast and enjoy each other’s company.
And among the things I hear is
that you’re going to welcome Maude and Claude—
Aunt Maude with her acid tongue,
Uncle Claude with his overindulgence.
And you’re going to embrace Pam and Sam—
cousin Pam, who is sure to let you know
that she’s better than everybody else,
and nephew Sam with his crude language,
sneaking off to smoke marijuana behind the barn.
Even though you don’t approve of what they do,
you love them.
You’re planning to open the door and welcome them at the table.
And that’s a miracle.
As Richard Rohr said:
“The Second Coming of Christ is us.”
When we help the poor and the oppressed,
the downtrodden and the marginalized,
no matter if they’re families
racing away from their bombed-out homes in Aleppo
or family at the Christmas feast,
it’s our love that brings Christ to life again.
We are miracle workers.
People don’t recognize us as Christians
because we go out and buy lots of presents every December.
They know us by our presence, our p-r-e-s-e-n-c-e.
People see that we are followers of Jesus
because of how we treat people every day, all year long—
family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, strangers, enemies.
We meet them and reach out to them and walk with them
along the way.
We spend time with them, get to know them,
see the face of Christ in them.
That’s how they know we are Christians…
they see our love bringing light to the world.
It’s the true miracle of Christmas.
We have two weeks left to get ready
for our celebration of the fact
that we are the ones
who make that miracle happen all year long.
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue
Toledo, OH 43606
Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006
May the JOY of Advent and of following Christ be yours today.