26 Aug

Steve Silich

After I attended daily Mass recently, I jumped on the Kennedy and headed downtown to work. Sure, I
could take the train, but I enjoy using the time to think, reflect and pray.


As I was sitting in traffic (which you all can relate to), I started to think about those who have lost their
way from God and the church. What happened that they no longer participate in the Mass?


I started to look around at the buildings off of the expressway and I saw signs of God everywhere! There
were crosses on church steeples in every direction, pictures, messages and statues of Mary. A little
further down I saw rosaries hanging from rearview mirrors.


God is all around us, all of the time. We sometimes just need to stop, slow down and look around. I was
amazed by all of the signs of God that I saw once I opened my eyes and started to look.


I think it our duty as Catholics to help people find their way back to the church. If you know someone
that has lost their way from the church I would encourage you to tell them to slow down, stop and look
around. They might just find God somewhere they have never looked. Even sitting in rush-hour traffic!


Steve Silich is a father of two SJS students in kindergarten and 4 th grade, a Chick-fil-A
restaurant owner along with his wife Lauren, and has been a lifelong parishioner of Saint
Juliana.

16 Aug

Mary McNamara

I’ve been thinking about what to write for this column for a few weeks and just as I thought I had it figured out, I would scratch the topic and decide on another. I have spent time reflecting on the importance of empathy, forgiveness, diversity and unconditional love. I also, like many of you, have been struggling to understand the current instances of oppression and abuse within the Catholic church. Feelings of anger and disgust have led to me to doubt my faith. I have asked myself if I am doing the right thing by sending my children to Catholic school and carving out the time in our busy schedule to go to Mass every week. And I wonder how I might explain to my children that church leaders took advantage of those they should have protected most. Through prayer, I have come to realize that it is not God that I am angry with, because God’s Will encompasses all that is good including the important values I initially thought to write about. I will continue to strive to maintain closeness with God and to be confident in my Catholic faith.

I am hopeful that we, as a faith community, stay the course and embrace the universal truths of Catholicism. It is comforting to know there are people all over the world who identify as Catholic and practice the teachings of Christ. My family and I were fortunate to recently experience universality at Notre Dame Cathedral in Saigon, Vietnam. As we entered the basilica for Sunday mass, cultural differences and language barriers were not relevant as we were embraced by our extended Catholic community. We were united with the familiar customs of the Mass and felt the presence of God as closely as we do at St. Juliana Church.

This is a trying time and I am grateful and to be a part of our parish and school community. I pray that God’s presence is felt and will serve as a reminder for us to remain steadfast in our dedication to Him and each other.

Mary McNamara is a teacher, a mother of four, all of whom attend St. Juliana School, and, with her husband John, has been a parishioner of Saint Juliana for 14 years.

12 Aug

Emily Gunty

I was raised Catholic but never went to Catholic school.  As a kid, it was more about learning faith and being a good person and less about the rules of religion.  My parents raised us according to the “Golden Rule,” that everyone should be treated with dignity and respect.  God and faith had a role in all that.  My family always prayed before meals and bedtime, I attended CCD once a week, received all the sacraments, and went to church with my dad and sister weekly (my mom is Lutheran but we were raised Catholic). Through all this, I knew that God was out there blessing my family and me, and helping me when I needed it.  

We were always told that once we turned 18 we would no longer be “forced” to go to church.  My older sister stopped going immediately while I still had to go.  Eventually, even before I was 18, my dad no longer made me go.  I took a break for few years. I still prayed, asked God for help, but no longer attended church.  One day, my senior year of high school, something told me it was time to go back and I made the decision to do so on my own.  I started to go with my dad again, volunteered to be an Extraordinary Minister of Communion and got a little more involved.  

In college, I went to Mass on Sunday nights, became a lector, and hung around the Newman Center. But again, I felt I needed a break.  Like many young people, I don't always agree 100% with the "rules” of the church and struggle with how that ties to my faith.  I need to experience God in my own way and not always necessarily through the lens of the Catholic Church.

When I bought my house in Edison Park, church seemed to pull me back to regain my sense of community.  I registered at St. Juliana’s, went weekly and sat alone in the pew.  I started Bible Study to meet other parishioners and to have people to say hello to.  In this church I found a new family and I lector to remain involved.  I am once again in a lull with the Church but my faith has never left me.  I will be back to weekly Mass soon, I know it.  Faith is a journey and I am still going through mine. 

 

Emily Gunty, originally from Edgebrook, is a Data and Analytics consultant and has been a parishioner of Saint Juliana for over eight years.

12 Aug

Tom Dombai

For the past two years, my wife, Marie, and I have been going through the archdiocese formation
process to help prepare me to serve the Church and our parish as a deacon. The formation and
training process is a four-year program that involves the study of a great many subjects and
includes more exams, papers and projects than I ever imagined. The program is not just
academics, it is also about preparing us spiritually. Spiritual development takes real effort. It
requires greater interiority, a focusing on one’s relationship with God, and a strengthening of
one’s prayer life. But it is also the path to holiness.


My understanding of the importance of prayer has developed over the course of my life.
When I was younger, I generally prayed just when I needed God’s help the most, like to help me
get a school project completed on time when I had been a procrastinating. As a parent, I prayed
mostly for the benefit of my wife, our kids, and our extended families. My problem was that
when there was no particular thing that we really needed at the moment, I prayed less often.


Participating in the deacon formation program has helped me realize the importance of
making time for God and prayer every day. For many, including myself, forming the habit of
daily prayer requires real effort and self-discipline. As deacons in formation, we are asked to
pray the morning and evening prayer of the liturgy of hours each day. At first, this seemed like
just an added task to perform. But over time, I’ve grown to appreciate more frequent and varied
prayer in my life. While you don’t always hear God answer back, that may be because we don’t
allow for enough quiet time with God to listen for a response. I’ve learned that God doesn’t
speak to us in loud or showy displays, but rather in quiet and subtle ways. Occasionally, I feel a
sort of grace, the soft silent whisper of God, that has given me deeper insight in a scripture
passage and a feeling of inner calm that I would not have found on my own. These experiences
help confirm for me that I am traveling the right path. Forming the habit of daily prayer is
important for all of us because all are called to holiness.


Tom Dombai is an attorney for the City of Chicago, father of six children, a lifelong
parishioner of St. Juliana (58 years), and is in the process of becoming a permanent deacon
for the Archdiocese of Chicago.

05 Aug

Chris Kiefer

Years ago, as our 3 year old daughter watched Fr. Phil with his large presence and commanding voice
stretch out his arms and begin the Mass, she looked up at my husband and me in awe and asked, “Is
that God?”


What’s your image of God? What does He or She or It look like to you?


Several years ago I went through a long period of struggling with my faith and my prayer life. I tried and
tried for a long time to pray without success. I read books, listened to spiritual teachers of all sorts to no
avail. Finally, in utter desperation, I called out to God and told Him that if I could only see what He
looked like, put a face to the name, I would be able to pray again.


To my amazement, God answered me immediately! Not with a face or a body as I had been trying to
visualize but with an experience I will never forget!


My body was hit with a sudden stream of the brightest purest silver-white light pouring down on me.
This shower of light sent waves of energy through me and enveloped me in a sensation of being deeply
and completely loved beyond anything I have ever experienced. God showed me in no uncertain terms
that His substance is unconditional love and light.


As you can imagine, this amazing encounter with God’s presence has altered my life dramatically. I sure
don’t have difficulty praying anymore! I basically pray all the time – to a God who is ever present,
powerful beyond human understanding and loving beyond words.


This brief profound experience has left me with a peacefulness in my soul and the unshakeable
knowledge that GOD IS REAL! It has given me reason to continue to seek Him out through prayer,
service and in everyday life.


I’d like to share a prayer that was divinely spoken to me;

Let God’s perfect light encircle you, love you, heal you, guide you. Amen!

Chris Kiefer is a Pediatric Nurse at Shriners Hospitals for Children and has been a parishioner of Saint
Juliana for over 28 years.