Document 6103

Prince of Peace
s this special Year of Faith now comes to an end,
we find ourselves once more in the Advent and
Christmas Season. This regular time of year can
become quite ordinary for us, but hopefully the way in
which we have been able to strengthen our Faith in God in
this past year has been a help to us.
Advent and Christmas are anything but ordinary! This
is the time of year when we not only prepare as disciples
of Jesus to celebrate His birth, but we also call to mind the
many ways in which God sends His Word and Love to us
over and over. Jesus not only appeared in history, He also
can appear and does appear all the time in our hearts and
minds. We see the presence of Jesus when we look to
make the world around us better for others and to also
anticipate that world of Eternal Life that is yet to come.
It always impresses me that the Scripture writers really
had a sense of the truth of God; not only spiritual truth but
also natural truth. There was no reason for them to
believe, for example, that the world would ever come to
an end. To every person it would seem that this world is
here to stay. They didn't know scientifically, as we do
today, that the earth was about 4 billion years old and
probably has about another 4 billion years to go before it
ceases to exist as we know it. Yet, those who had faith in
God had the sense that this world that we know would not
last forever. One of the ways that believers were sometimes ridiculed was that they believed that the world
would one day come to an end! Turns out, scientifically,
the Bible was right!
So Advent and Christmas recall not just the historic
birth of Jesus, but the constant arrival of the Cosmic
Christ, who takes up residence in our hearts and in our
faith community. Whenever we celebrate the Sacraments
or share the Word of God in Scripture, we take in the
living Presence of the Risen Lord.
Jesus is the Prince of Peace. We strive to work for
peace as best we can. Peace is elusive and not easy to
maintain. Not only do we consider the challenges to peace
on a global scale, but also we can think of peace in our
communities, in our families and in our own hearts. Jesus
can bring a true peace to all of these situations if we leave
the door open to him. His historic presence was a source
of peace and consolation to his disciples and apostles and
his spiritual presence is our source of true peace today.
Quarterly Blessings
We can't confuse
peace, though, with calm
or tranquility. There are
times when peace-making can involve taking on a cause,
confronting unjust authority or challenging one another to
live in a better way. What can seem like a cause of dissention, if truly inspired by our faith, is a cause for peace that
is more real and lasting. And when we are challenged by
others, we must listen with open hearts so that we can
change and be converted in powerful ways.
So, if we believe that Jesus is the Prince of Peace, let's
be ready for an Advent and Christmas that can be very
different from the "ordinary" ones of the past. It may be
this year that we are challenged to be reconciled to an
estranged relative, better our lives by doing more for our
parish or wider community, or we may find ourselves
called to speak up more powerfully for the poor and
St. Stephen Parish is a wonderful place of many
opportunities to work for peace in our world. This edition
of Quarterly Blessings will give us many ways in which
we can see those opportunities that are before us.
So, while we shop and prepare to celebrate Christmas
this year, let's also take time to pray and meditate. If we
want to believe truly that Jesus is the Prince of Peace, then
in His name, we work to make peace more of a reality for
ourselves and others. Our prayer this year can be that true
peace be known by as many people as possible because of
our efforts.
And as the New Year begins, we can usher in 2014
with joyful hearts, knowing that we are seeking and
following the will of God more closely!
God bless you!
Fr. Robert J. Schneider
The True Meaning of Christmas
by John Watson
ave you ever heard the phrase “God speaks to your
heart in whispers?” On the night of December 12,
2011, God came rumbling into our house with all the
fury that a house fire could bring. Instead of speaking in
whispers, He had a message that at the time was unclear, but
revealed itself over the next few weeks.
My name is John Watson, and with my wife Melissa,
daughters Riley, Abbey and dog Bailey, we became a conduit
for God to get His message out.
We are your typical Catholic family. We pray at night with
our children, say grace at dinner
time and struggle to find balance
in our chaotic lives full of activities and church. We laugh, love,
stress and finally figure it out.
However, no one can prepare you
to have your life torn apart, then
On the night of the fire,
Melissa managed to get the children out of the house, and the fire
department was called. As the fire
department was doing their job, I
watched our house on fire and
thought to myself, “there has to be
a bigger reason for this happening.” The kids were tucked safely
away at a neighbor’s house.
Melissa was inside another
neighbor’s house while I sat outside watching. Kelly Goudreau
and her sons were there comforting all of us, and Fr. Bill Swengros
arrived, too. While Fr. Bill and I
watched, I cried a little and he said
a short prayer for us.
After the fire was extinguished the house was turned over
to us. At around midnight, Jared and Brandon Goudreau, and I,
walked around in the dark examining the damage. We stayed
outside of the house. As we came along the rear of the house,
near Riley’s bedroom window, Jared shined a flashlight into
the charred rubble. We found a burnt out shell of a room; no
ceiling, no roof, no clothes, or bed. Everything was a black
smoky shell. As the flashlight shinned over the doorframe, a
white light reflected back at us. We focused the flashlight onto
that white light, and there was Riley’s porcelain baptismal
cross which had hung there since we moved into the house. It
was as white as the day her godmother gave it to her; untouched by the fire. After standing and starring, it was hard to
grasp how the cross was still perfectly there. We decided it was
time to call it a night.
Waking up the next morning was surreal, trying to figure if
what we experienced was real. And here begins; the true
meaning of Christmas. The outpouring of support from the
community was overwhelming, to say the least. Initially we
thought, we have great neighbors that would help us through
this ordeal, but never imagined the number of neighbors that
wanted to help. We were provided material objects to help get
us on track, but the spiritual and emotional support from everyone is what made it truly amazing to experience.
It’s hard to accept help. It’s very humbling to admit that
you, as a family, can’t provide for yourselves. Strangers
stopped by to offer support in every possible way. Most said
that they had heard about our fire and had this inner calling to
stop by. There were countless volunteers helping sort through
items donated and items salvaged
from the house. Mothers brought
daughters and fathers brought
sons. Full families stopped by.
Some just wanted to show their
kids that Christmas is not about
the commercialized event that we
see on TV and the stores. They
wanted them to understand that
it’s about giving from your heart.
That giving doesn’t have to be a
wrapped gift, but the gift of time.
Several middle school and high
school teenagers said that they
had a need to be there and wanted
to help. They stayed for hours
sorting and helping.
In any home, there are a number of expensive items, but those
can be replaced. There are also
items that are irreplaceable, such
as a hand-made quilt, or my
daughter’s first drawing, or first
lock of hair. Those are the things
you long for, remember, and are
sad about. There were things in
our house that survived and are a true testament to God’s
presence; the cross hanging on Riley’s doorframe. Once it was
removed, there was a white outline of a cross behind it, on the
drywall. The color from the paint had faded, but the cross still
remained. Our Christmas tree was in perfect condition; still
decorated, it could have been moved and used somewhere else.
Our nativity set, and Melissa’s childhood bible – all these were
perfectly fine and untouched by the fire. Why were these
things spared? Only God knows. His presence throughout our
whole ordeal was constant. The community, and our family,
have a very different outlook on Christmas. The gift giving is
good, but the time spent helping others and loving one another
is what I think God really calls us to do. 
John Watson serves on our parish PCERT (Parish Community
Emergency Response Team) and has been a parishioner at St. Stephen
parish since 2007. (Thank you for sharing you story, John!)
Quarterly Blessings
The Gift of Peace
by Theresa Gonzalez
ince becoming head of the Catholic Church, Pope
Francis has rededicated the pontificate to economic
justice, equality and peace. On a recent visit to Assisi,
he said in a newspaper interview that his namesake had longed
for a poor Church that looked after others, accepted monetary
help and used it to help others with no thought of itself.
Since Pam Stamey and friend Heidi Smith helped furnish a
single house for a family in San Jose Mission in 2008, this
dream has evolved. While San Jose Home Makers (SJHM)
initially helped families, Pam soon learned that other needs
were unmet. Thus, the Pinellas Hope Home Makers and the
Tampa Home Makers were formed.
A recent Wednesday found Pam and a group of volunteers
delivering furniture to a family in Valrico. The single mom of
four had been to the St. Stephen, St. Vincent de Paul’s food
pantry where interviewer Nellie Negron learned her story.
She related that at the age of three or four, while following
her mother around in the kitchen, a pot of boiling water had
spilled on her, resulting in severe burns to her chest and arms
leaving visible scars. Then a couple of years ago, she was the
victim of an automobile accident and was thrown from the
vehicle for lack of wearing a seat belt, and sustained severe
head injuries. After several weeks, she came out of the coma
with memory loss and limited use of one
arm. Gradually, her memory returned.
She recovered at her mother’s very
cramped home where her children had
been staying. Once on her own, she applied for and received disability. With
the help of Section 8, she now has a
house. Nellie referred her to the Home
Makers to provide home furnishings.
Once their needs were determined by
Eva Demaris and myself, the items were
chosen from the warehouse by another
group of volunteers. Our “muscle men”
loaded the truck and made the delivery.
The two younger boys’ room was outfitted with twin beds, linens, and a dresser.
The teenage boy received a bed, dresser,
and a desk. The crew delighted in the
preschool girl’s excitement when she
stretched out on her new beautiful
purple bed comforter. She could not wait to move her clothes
from the closet floor to her drawers. The walls were decorated
with colorful three–dimensional flowers. The previously empty
living room now has a couch, end tables, a recliner and wall
Mom has applied for a grant that give adults with disabilities the opportunity to learn skills, which are consistent with
their abilities. She looks forward to getting a part time job,
since she cannot work full time.
Through the cooperation of various groups, this mom has
been able to find an element of peace for her family.
Quarterly Blessings
This is just one of the many touching stories of families
who have been helped. This past week, while speaking to a
Dover mom, a volunteer became teary eyed after hearing that
the mother had never owned a dining room table.
In closing, last spring Pam Stamey was chosen as the
Sertoma Service to Mankind Award recipient by the Tampa
Gem Club. The Service to Mankind Award recognizes a non–
Sertoman volunteer for going above and beyond in serving
others. On September 5 in Tampa, Pam was named the
Sertoma District Award winner out of nine Sertoma Clubs.
Pam graciously acknowledged all the other recipients while
humbly accepting the award.
In late October, Pam and her husband, Dan, traveled to
Gulfport, Mississippi, for the Sertoma-Southeastern Caribbean
Regional Convention, where Pam became Regional winner.
To quote St. Francis’s Prayer for Peace, “It is in giving that
we receive.” All of us Home Makers feel very privileged to
serve the less fortunate. There is something for everyone to
give to this ministry. The group meets each Wednesday
morning at its warehouse in Seffner. It is especially in need of
able bodied individuals to help load the truck, deliver, and set
up furniture. If you are unable to join us there, please visit the
St. Stephen website and make a one-time or monthly donation
to SJHM. 
For additional information about or call (800) 593-5646.
Theresa and her husband, Isidro have been active members of
Nativity parish since they moved here with their children, in 1977. She
also translates for SVdP Prince of Peace Parish in Sun City. Theresa
has been a member of Tampa Gems Sertoma Club for eight years and
is currently Vice President of Sponsorship. She serves as Family
Liaison for the San Jose Home Makers.
God Does Not Disappoint!
by Brother Tim Childers
was recently asked to share my path to service for Christ
and His Church. That is something that could be talked
about from so many different angles. I suppose that the
most appropriate way to do so would be in the context of this
Christmas season where we currently find ourselves.
It was shortly after Christmas, in January 2008, that I found
myself coming to the abrupt realization that the Christmas
story, which happened over 2,000 years ago, continued to this
very day, and I was being called to be a part of it as an active
Up until that point, I had been very much a product of the
world. I had been someone who had thoroughly sought out and
attained just about every path to “happiness” that the world
claimed to offer. For anyone who has also traveled such roads,
they will certainly agree with me on how much these roads
lead to disappointment. It was after exploring all such avenues,
that God chose to bring this world I had embraced crashing
down around me, and since I clung to it so, I went crashing
with it. In the aftermath, I was able to see from this new
perspective, that there was a war going on. Not a war of “Flesh
and Blood,” as Saint Paul explains in his letter to the
Ephesians, but a war against spiritual powers, that inevitably
spills out into the whole world that we see around us. In addition, I realized I had been helping the wrong cause. I saw that I
was aiding the wrong side, although unwittingly, by choosing
to serve myself instead of others.
Perhaps one might find the talk of a raging war during this
time of Christmas a little out of place. It was C.S. Lewis who
rightly described the sending of the Christ Child into this world
as such. He describes the world as; “Enemy-occupied territory
–that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the
rightful king has landed; you might say landed in disguise, and
is calling us to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.”
I was called to enlist in this “campaign of sabotage,” the
campaign to defend and fight for everything that is good, true,
and beautiful. The exciting reality of this is that I am not alone
in this call, for it is the same call that everyone has been called;
all the prophets and holy men and women of the Bible, the
saints and all the people through the past 2,000 years of the
Church, including you. We decide who we choose to follow.
Will we choose to
serve Satan by serving
none but ourselves, or
do we echo the words
of Our Lady, “Be it
done unto me, according to thy word?” I
had come to realize
that every human heart
is made for and longs
to give one response:
“Fiat,” meaning “let it
be done,” that Mary
gave to God every
moment of her life.
In seeing how
Mary and the saints
followed the command of Jesus to love God and neighbor, I
began to see who God wanted me to be. When we put the
needs of others before our own perceived needs, out of love for
the other, we become more truly ourselves. How exactly each
one of us is called to the service of God and others, is something that can only be discerned in conversation with God
Himself. For me, it seems to be as a consecrated religious, and
someday, God willing, a priest. For others it may be as a
husband and father, or a wife and mother. In order to hear that
“still, small voice” that God uses to call us, I use the moments
just after receiving communion to ask God how He wishes me
to serve Him. In addition, I find that praying the Rosary and
spending time in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament to be
most efficacious in discerning where He wants me to go. It was
through the Sacraments and sacramentals of the Church, the
reading of Holy Scripture, and the writings of the saints that I
am able to march forward on this journey. Please pray for me. I
will be praying for you as we strive to serve God and His
Church, in order to bring much needed healing to this broken
world. 
Brother Tim Childers, M.I.C., followed his calling to the Catholic
Faith in 2009, helped with our Life Teen program at St. Stephen, and
is now in formation for the priesthood with the Marians of the
Immaculate Conception.
“The Simple Path –
Silence is Prayer, Prayer is Faith,
Faith is Love, Love is Service,
The Fruit of Service is Peace.”
― Mother Teresa
Quarterly Blessings
It is No Secret
by Marki Tauceda
have a secret. I know the title of my article is “It is No
Secret,” but sometimes I feel like I have a secret when it
comes to Eucharistic Adoration. Jesus is waiting for more
of us to adore Him in the Blessed Sacrament! Bet you think
those of us who come to Adoration think we are holy, I assure
you we do not. Like everyone else, we echo with the psalmist
and have “our sin ever before us.” The one thing we do have in
common is our desire and hope in God’s infinite mercy and
grace. We have discovered that by worshiping the Eucharistic
Jesus and by praying as God wants us, He draws us to Himself
and gently transforms us. Jesus is always present to us in the
Tabernacle and at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We are especially blessed in our parish to have Eucharistic Adoration every
Wednesday morning after Mass and Wednesday evenings after
Mass from 7-9:30pm. It is also offered 1st Fridays after Mass. I
am fortunate to attend Wednesday evenings.
What is Eucharistic Adoration?
Understood simply, Eucharistic Adoration is adoring or
honoring, the Eucharistic Presence of Christ. In a deeper sense,
it involves “the contemplation of the Mystery of Christ truly
present before us.”
During Eucharistic Adoration, we “watch and wait”. We
remain “silent” in His Presence and open ourselves to His
Graces, which flow from the Eucharist. As Catholics, we
believe that Christ is truly and substantially present in the
Eucharist. The Eucharist is indeed the actual Body and Blood
of Christ. This is what is meant by Real Presence, the actual,
physical presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and as
such is given the same adoration and devotion that is given to
At the beginning of the exposition of the Blessed
Sacrament, a priest or deacon removes the sacred host from the
tabernacle and places it in the Monstrance on the Altar for
adoration by the faithful. A Monstrance is the vessel used in
the Church to display the consecrated Eucharistic Host during
Eucharistic adoration or benediction. The word monstrance
comes from the Latin word monstrare meaning, “to expose.”
When a consecrated host is placed in the monstrance, it is said
to be a solemn exposition. Adoration ceremonies traditionally
include Scripture readings, hymns, prayers and time for silent
adoration – just like our Wednesday evenings! We begin with
Mass at 7pm, followed by Exposition of the Blessed
Sacrament. Our wonderful music ministers Chris, and sometimes Jose, lead us in song. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is
offered and a beautiful Rosary for vocations is recited aloud.
At 9pm, we all look forward to The Divine Mercy Chaplet in
song followed by Compline and Solemn Benediction (final
night prayers and blessing). It is glorious, I must say!
St. Alphonsus Liguori wrote: “Of all devotions, that of
adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the greatest after the
Sacraments, the one dearest to God and the one most helpful to
Quarterly Blessings
How must we respond? Through our worship and recognition of Him in the Eucharist! He is calling us to faith.
“Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and
petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will
guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:
What a promise!!
Are you tired, burdened, frustrated, or misunderstood? Do
you have family members who are away from the faith? Are
you heavily laden with sickness, discouragement and guilt
from past sins? Are you trying to find hope and meaning in
life? Do not lose heart! Abandon yourself to Jesus in this
“Sacrament of Love.” He will refresh you!
“Come to Me, all who labor and are burdened, and I will
give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
The more time you spend with Jesus, the more you will
come away feeling renewed and healed. Miracles of conversion, peace, discovery of vocations, answers to prayers,
physical healings, and many other wonderful things happen
whenever the Lord Jesus is adored in the Blessed Sacrament.
These are the “gifts” that point to the Almighty Giver and
testify to His Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament.
Hear what some of our faithful adorers say:
Liz: “I love all of Wednesday night. Adoration, Mass, the
Rosary for Vocations, Divine Mercy, Benediction, you can’t
beat time spent with my God!”
Debra: “Wednesday night Mass and Eucharistic Adoration
have truly deepened and strengthened my relationship with our
Lord and Savior. I think if people understood how powerful
Eucharistic Adoration was there would be a lot more than 10
or 12 left adoring — what a blessing!!”
When asked, “What would save the world?” Mother Teresa
replied, “My answer is prayer. What we need is for every
parish to come before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in holy
hours of prayer.”
Let us love being with the Lord! There we can speak with
Him about everything. We can offer Him our petitions, our
concerns, our troubles, our joys, our gratitude, our disappointments, our needs, and our aspirations. Above all, we can thank
Him for His blessings and trust in His Mercy and grace for our
Jesus asks us, “So you could not keep watch with me for
one hour?” (Matthew 26:40)
Won't you come to be restored and refreshed? Jesus is waiting!! It is the perfect way to get that extra “charge” in the
middle of the week. Our time spent with our Beloved Savior in
Adoration can become the most profound, meaningful, joyful,
peaceful and healing experience we could ever encounter. You
will not be disappointed! After all…It is No Secret! 
Marki is active in San Jose Home Makers, Hope is Contagious Ministry, the Divine Mercy cenacle, and is our Healing Mass coordinator;
she is always ready to respond to the needs of others, in addition to
those of her own growing family.
The Lord Our Provider
by Lanette Cezair
hat a whirlwind it has been since August 8, 2013,
the day I found out that I tested positive for colon
cancer! Who would have ever thought this would
happen, certainly not I. My health has been excellent since I’ve
been living in Florida, which is now 15 years.
I became a member of St. Stephen Parish when I started
singing in the Choir, seven years ago, because I felt so uplifted
and spiritually blessed through the music selected and played
by Chris Westfall, the Music Director. The first time I heard
the Choir sing “Holy Is His Name,” I knew that St. Stephen
Parish is where I belonged.
So, I was quite surprised when I received a message at
work, that my doctor had been trying to reach me and wanted
to know when my surgery was scheduled. I called the office
and said I received a message about
surgery. What surgery? I don’t need
surgery. The nurse said, “You don’t
know what this is about? You need
to speak to the doctor.”
My doctor told me that my
colonoscopy indicated that there
was a mass that tested positive for
colon cancer, and it needed to be
removed, the sooner the better. This
began a new chapter of life, and a
new path on the faith journey, not
knowing really what to do, where to
go, and who to tell.
You see, I am a single mom
(divorced, and received annulment)
with five (yes, five!) teenagers, ages
14, 15, 17, 18, 19. Both my parents
have passed onto eternal life, and I
have no siblings. However, this cancer discovery has shown me how
much family I really have. I never
knew that I had so many brothers
and sisters, or how many people love me. I have personally
encountered Emmanuel – God with us!
When I told a friend of mine, Fr. David Hemann, who lives
in Sioux City, Iowa, about my cancer discovery, he said, “God
is provident! God provides! He’s got this. Don’t worry. I have
a good feeling…Just trust and rest in God’s Providence!”
Jehovah Jireh, my provider
His grace is sufficient for me, for me, for me.
Who is this Jehovah Jireh? According to the Jerome
Biblical Commentary, Jehovah Jireh refers to the personal
name of the God of Israel, meaning, and “The Lord will
provide.” Here I am now, going on this Exodus journey of
faith. Not knowing where to go, what to do, whom to call, but
knowing that I need to trust and hold onto Jesus.
My doctor told me that I would need to recover from the
surgery at home for at least six weeks. How am I going to take
care of my children and pay bills? I am behind, and I have no
additional resources. All I can do is hope, pray, and try to let
go and let God handle it, because I can’t.
Well, God certainly did handle it, through the family of
faith, and especially through my St. Stephen family. So many
different ministries have come together for us and they come
willingly, with joy and smiles, hugs and cards, and monetary
donations, flowers and food, furniture and fixtures for the
house and more.
“I no longer call you servants, I call you friends.” (John
While I was in the hospital, someone had pizza delivered to
our home. When it arrived my son, Rafael said, “We didn’t
order these, and we don’t have any money.”
The deliveryman said, “Don’t worry, the debt has
already been paid.”
God also manifested Himself
through my coworkers, who donated
sick time for me to use. My
children’s teachers ask how I’m
doing, and let me know that they are
thinking about me and praying for
me and my children’s friends and
parents have also reached out to me.
Hope is Contagious wanted to
know if it would be okay if people
came over to spruce up the room for
when I came home from the hospital. I said sure, that would be very
nice. When I came home, it was like
a scene from the TV show Extreme
Makeover, Home Edition! My house
was in the process of being totally
transformed. “Behold, I make all
things new.” (Revelation 21:5) The
living room, bedroom, and bathroom
walls were painted in my favorite
colors. I was shocked! It was a
Lord, I’m amazed by You! I can’t thank enough, all the
St. Stephen ministries who are walking with me on this
journey of faith. Thank you Choir, Journey to Hope, Hope is
Contagious, Knights of Columbus, Columbiettes, St. Vincent
De Paul, The Divine Mercy Cenacle, San Jose Homemakers,
CRHP, Deacon Dan, and all whom God is using to reveal
Jehovah Jireh, the Prince of Peace, to me personally.
Now I am living in peace and blessed assurance that all
will be well, no matter what! I am choosing to celebrate being
cancer free this day, to take it one day at a time, and be
positive and hope-filled!
This is my story, this is my song...Praising my Savior all
the daylong! 
Lanette and her family have been an active parishioners since 2005 –
generously sharing their musical gifts!
Quarterly Blessings
He Called Me to Peace
by Br. John-Mary Johannssen, CFR
“We can learn how the Lord acts in every vocation (cf. Ex 3:16, 9-12). First he provokes a new awareness of his presence –
the burning bush. When we begin to show an interest, he calls
us by name. When our answer becomes more specific and like
Moses we way: “Here I am” (c.f. v.4), then he reveals more
clearly both himself and his compassionate love for his people
in need. Gradually he leads us to discover the practical way in
which we should serve him: “I will send you.” And usually it is
then that fears and doubts come to disturb us and make it more
difficult to decide. It is then that we need to hear the Lord’s
assurance: “I am with you. Be not afraid!”
-Blessed Pope John Paul II, The Meaning of Vocation
eeting parishioners during a
recent visit to St. Stephen, I was
recognized as the guy whose
picture still hangs in the front office, wearing
a vintage 13th century Franciscan habit. My
family became members of the parish many
years ago, when St. Stephen community met
in the strip mall store on Bell Shoals Road,
and I received my confirmation here in 1990.
Looking back, I hope my story spurs your
own journey!
The Burning Bush
My path has woven through stages of awareness of God’s
presence; through Evangelical friends, through retreats, study,
and stepping out in faith. I was intrigued when, during a flying
assignment after the Air Force Academy, my friend Josh
Reynolds (non-Catholic) prayed with me to receive something
more of God. It wasn’t dramatic, but subjectively everything
changed for me. I had a new conviction of God’s love for me.
The Lord was teaching my soul to fly!
He Calls Us By Name
Although I went to Bible studies and prayer meetings, I
was drawn to discover what was happening in the Catholic
Church. After attending a “Youth 2000” retreat in my parish in
Little Rock, Arkansas, I experienced Eucharistic Adoration for
the first time. I knew God was talking to me. (The two longbearded, grey-habited Franciscan priests giving the retreat
looked like a couple of Grateful Dead groupies that somehow
got religion!) One of the priests challenged me, “If you think
He is calling you, you owe it to yourself and to Him to pray
about it. He will show you.”
Then He Reveals Himself More Clearly
I followed this up by spending more time in front of the
Blessed Sacrament. (I was stationed at Yokota Air Base in
Japan.) Top on my list was to reconcile the Evangelical idea
that Holy Communion was merely a symbolic remembrance of
the Last Supper, with the Catholic belief that we receive the
very Body and Blood of Jesus at every Holy Mass.
Quarterly Blessings
Providentially, an old friend sent me a copy of Home Sweet
Rome, by Dr. Scott Hahn. He was convinced by scripture to
convert to Catholicism; his main reason – the True Presence of
Christ in the Eucharist!
I visited the Blessed Sacrament chapel nearly every night,
praying earnestly to know for sure, for myself: “If You are
here, please show me. I need to know. If You are, I don’t want
to be anywhere else.” Then, after about two weeks, during a
silent moment of prayer, something…shifted…something
happened. Suddenly I knew it was all true: Jesus Christ was
present Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Blessed
Sacrament, the Catholic Church was His one true Church, and
– the kicker – the thing I hadn’t been asking Him about – He
was inviting me to be His priest!
…And His Compassionate Love for His
People in Need
Still I had no idea in which direction this
would take me. Should I be a diocesan priest
like my pastor back home, or would I perhaps
join a religious order such as the Franciscans,
whom I had met on the retreat? I continued
praying while I was in active Air Force
Once, while on duty in Cambodia, my
eyes were opened when I confronted the
poverty of the local marketplace. I met
beggars whose suffering haunted me. I felt I was the rich
young man of Luke’s Gospel. In prayer, I discerned that I had
to bear witness to the God-given dignity of these destitute, with
my life. I felt I must consider a life of religious consecration – a
vow of poverty, chastity and obedience in – in solidarity with
them. Through study at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, I
was convicted by how much of the Gospel I simply did not
This sent me to the friars I had met – to learn more about
them. I visited them in New York City, and learned more about
the Rule of St. Francis and Constitutions of the community.
Enshrined in the very first line of the Rule of St. Francis, I
recognized what had become the deepest desire of my heart:
“The Rule and Life of the Lesser Brothers is this” to observe
the Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ…”
Like Francis, I gave up distinguishing myself as a “warrior”
and returned to build the Church. My commission being over
with the Air Force, I entered the ranks of the Franciscan Friars
of the Renewal in September of 2005. Almost six years later,
on July 31, 2011, I made my final/perpetual vows of poverty,
chastity, and obedience ˗ a total consecration of my life to
Jesus Christ for the sake of the Gospel. I am presently studying
as a seminarian with the hope of ordination in 2016.
I continue to marvel at the many graces the Lord continues
to pour out on me – graces that I am fully capable of tracing all
the way back to my early years at St. Stephen. I remain grateful
to all of you who have encouraged me and accompanied me in
prayer on this great journey of faith. I pray that my story might
in some way encourage those who are finding it difficult to
persevere in faith. There is nothing special about me – I assure
you! He is calling you as well. Most likely He isn’t calling you
to be a Franciscan friar, but He is calling and inviting each and
every one of you to a life-changing personal relationship with
Him. For those of you who have encountered Him, let us not
keep Him to ourselves – we learned in the Year of Faith to
dare to share the love of Jesus Christ! As our beloved, and
soon to be canonized, Blessed John Paul II often exhorted us:
“Be not afraid!” Jesus is alive! 
Brother John Mary Johannssen is a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal
(CFR) hoping to be ordained in 2016, and who kindly wrote this story
for us during his studies in New York City.
St. Francis Prayer on the Eucharist
Let everyone be struck with fear,
let the whole world tremble,
and let the heavens exult
when Christ the Son of the Living God,
is present on the altar
in the hands of a priest!
O wonderful loftiness
and stupendous dignity!
O sublime humility!
O humble sublimity!
The Lord of the universe,
God and the Son of God,
so humbles Himself
that for our salvation
He hides Himself
under an ordinary piece of bread!
Brothers, look at the humility of God,
and pour out your hearts before him!
Humble yourselves
that you may be exalted by Him!
Humble yourselves
that you may be exalted by Him!
Hold back nothing of yourselves
for yourselves,
that He who gives Himself totally to
May receive you totally!
“I was sick and you took care of me.”
(Mt 25:36)
by Deacon Dan Gratkowski
n Matthew 25:36 Jesus said: "I was sick and you took
care of me." Powerful words from our Lord Jesus. We
are blessed at our parish to have several people who
responded to the call of visiting those who are homebound,
and now we are equally blessed to have several people
respond to the call that was made in February of this year to
visit the sick at Brandon Regional Hospital (BRH). How is it
that we are now able to visit the sick at BRH? This came
about through the wisdom of Father Arthur Proulx, pastor of
Nativity, and our former pastor, Father Bill. Father Proulx
recognized that it would be beneficial for both churches to
share the visiting of patients because the task is so large.
After discussing it with Father Bill, they decided that,
St. Stephen would be responsible for Mondays, Wednesdays
and Fridays, and Nativity would take the remaining four
days. Father Bob has been very supportive of this ministry.
We began visiting BRH in March and to date it has been a
fantastic and humbling experience for the people who are
involved in this ministry. Those involved fulfilled several
pre-requirements. Fingerprinting, a Safe Environment Program Training class for adults; they attended our Eucharistic
Ministry class with Marty Diebold, and a short session with
me explaining the Hospital do's and don'ts when visiting
patients. To date, we have 20 wonderful people involved
with this ministry and I am now looking for a few more
volunteers, especially for Mondays and Wednesdays. Think
about it, pray about it, and consider being a part of this most
humbling and rewarding of ministries.
All of the volunteers involved in the Hospital Ministry
have said that they receive more than what they give, and
each of them has found this to be a blessing. Reaching out to
God’s people and
serving for him is
also a gift they have
For me personally, I really enjoy
reaching out to the
sick (Homebound and
Hospital) as I believe
those are my duties as
a Deacon of the
Church. This has
been the most satisfying ministry of my
entire career; namely,
to serve God and His
people. 
If interested, or if you have any questions please contact Deacon
Dan by email at [email protected] or calling the
church office (813) 689-4900.
Quarterly Blessings
Following Christ
by Anna Stephanz
“When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said to him,
“Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your
house.” And he came down quickly and received him with joy.
When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying, “He has
gone to stay at the house of a sinner.” (Luke 19:5-7)
n the very first night of SNE (School of the New
Evangelization), Fr. Craig stood in front of 200
college students, including myself, and asked a very
simple question, “Why are you here?” I have been on several
faith formation trips before and most of the time I would have
a very confident and positive answer, not this time. Since I
only knew the seven other students from Florida State
University’s Catholic Student Union, I felt very much like an
outsider, wondering why I did in fact come to this retreat in
Minnesota. However, just as Jesus wanted to go into
Zacchaeus’s house, that same Jesus wanted to enter into my
heart. So as I reflected on that
question of “why am I here,” I
knew it was because the Lord had
something in mind for me, and
it was up to me to be open to
receive His blessings.
This openness to the Lord
wasn’t as easy I would have expected. For the first four days I was challenged, or one could
say, put under spiritual attack. I entered into an unfamiliar
environment that was very charismatic. Coming from a traditional family, I have always encountered the Lord in a contemplative manner, seeking Him in silence. On the fourth night,
during some time of quiet prayer, I realized several things:
My Second Home
by Amanda Allen
hroughout elementary school, kids would often taunt
me and make me feel like I wasn’t good enough. I
lacked self-confidence and felt like an outsider; trapped
and alone.
Everything changed the summer before sixth grade when
my mom made me go to Vacation Bible School (VBS). I was
afraid of kids laughing at me or not wanting to even be near me
because I was the “weird girl.” I didn’t want the church to be
one more place where I didn’t feel welcomed.
My mother and I pulled up to the gravel driveway at the
ROC youth center. As I got out of the car, my nerves began to
kick in. I quickly found a seat inside, trying to avoid the
thought of what names I would be called and what teasing
these people had in store for me.
I couldn’t have been more wrong! I’ve never met a group
of people who were so welcoming with arms wide open. For
once in my life, I felt as if I actually belonged. When VBS was
over that week, I thought, “Well this is it. See you all next
Quarterly Blessings
1. It is very beautiful to see so many students my age who
are praising the Lord and so radically in love with Him, and if
that is how they encounter the Lord, then great, but that is not
for me.
2. The Lord knows me on the level I am. I do not need to
do what the other students are doing in order to find a relationship with the Lord; The Lord loves me for who I am.
3. Dwelling on the negatives, or differences, is not letting
me be open to what the Lord has planned for me.
These realizations that made it possible for me to receive
blessings from the Lord. I could finally answer the question,
“Why am I here?” I have always searched for the Lord’s love
for me, but only recently did I truly find it. Two weeks prior to
coming to SNE, I went to confession, taking it seriously for the
first time, and it was here that I encountered the Lord and His
love for me. I came to SNE to further grow in that love, to
come to accept it and learn how to radically share that love
with others in all relationships I build. By knowing of the
Lord’s love for me, I can better understand my identity as a
daughter of Christ, which is critical when evangelizing and
inviting other people into my entire life.
As I enter into this school year as hospitality chair, my
heart is exploding with the Lord’s love. My hope is that I can
bring this holy and pure love to those who are searching for it
on the college campus. We are all living as examples to others,
however, is our life worth imitating? Are we ready to say to
someone else, “Follow me, as I follow Christ?” As I come to
fully know Christ, I hope to imitate His love in a way that
brings others closer to Him. 
Anna is in her third year at The Florida State University. She is
pursuing her Bachelor's degree in Family and Child Sciences. Anna
has been a member of the St. Stephen parish for 20 years.
year…” Until our youth minister mentioned the youth group
meets twice a week. I attended all three years of middle
I’m a sophomore in high school now and still active! I
attend LifeTeen every Wednesday and Sunday. I’ve built so
many relationships, and I can honestly say it is my second
home. Everyone there is like my second family, I know I can
trust them, and completely be myself. Never in my life have I
ever felt so blessed; so at peace, like I matter! Our parish is
made up of extraordinary people who have taken me under
their wing. Every day, I wake up and thank God for allowing
me to have this spiritual, second family in my life. Going to
youth group has really changed my perspective on life. It has
shown me how to be confident in myself and who I am. It has
given me the opportunity to make
friendships that would last. I learned
I’m not alone. My family, friends, and
most importantly, God, are always by
my side. 
Amanda is a sophomore at Bloomingdale
High School. She is very active in the
St. Stephen Catholic Church youth ministry.
Peaceful Relationship
by Jessica Seifert
veryone dreams of maintaining peace in their lives,
marriage, workplace, and peace with close friends and
family members. We strive to sustain peace with our
neighbors, strangers, peace in war torn areas of the world, and
yes, we even desire peace with our loving God. Some of us
find ourselves bartering with Him for
“one more favor” in hopes of attaining
inner peace.
God created us to have a personal
relationship with him, and this relationship was designed to last forever. However, our relationship with God gets
damaged when we sin, which hurts
Him (and us) deeply. It is impossible
to achieve inner peace if our relationship with God is damaged. One way to
rebuild our broken relationship with
Him and achieve that peace is through
prayer and reconciliation.
For some, even though we don’t
like to admit it, prayer is reserved for
those “God, where are you? I really
need you right now!” moments. Our
schedules are busy and many times we
revert to reciting a quick prayer without taking the time to focus on the true
meaning of the words we are saying. Clyde Herring, author of
“If God Talked Out Loud” writes of a person praying the
Lord’s Prayer, and during the recitation of the memorized
prayer, God interjects and holds a dialogue with this person.
God interrupts them mid-sentence with his own questions, as
they blindly recite the memorized words without consideration
as to what they are asking for. Have you ever analyzed a
memorized prayer and thought: “What am I asking of the Lord
as I pray?” It certainly made me wonder! Am I really praying
to the best of my ability?
I tried to identify all the times that I pray to God. I pray
when I need help, when I am thankful. I pray when I read the
prayer card that’s stashed inside of my bible. I pray with my
church family when we read the words to our parish prayer
before Mass and when we recite the Nicene Creed (how many
of us still need the pew cards to help us say it correctly?) I also
pray with my husband and children before going to bed every
As former OCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults)
member, I remember discussing the variety of ways Catholics
pray: silently, as a group (where one or more are gathered),
memorized prayers including the rosary and the stations of the
cross, read the bible, sing a hymnal (singing counts as praying
twice, right?). My husband and I both admit that listening to
our child say his prayers has richly enhanced our prayer life,
both memorized and those that are from the heart. Sometimes,
I find myself wishing I prayed more like him, as he seems to
have so much more peace and forgiveness in his heart.
Now is the time of year when second graders are spending
a lot of time discussing the importance of prayer as they
prepare for their Rite of First Reconciliation. I asked one child
recently how they prepare their hearts for prayer and I was told
that they like to do what’s called the “Finger Prayer”. It was
explained to me as such:
 Hold up your hand. Begin with your
thumb and pray for the people closest
to you: fellow classmates and workers,
family and siblings.
 Then, move to your pointer finger
and pray for those who point the direction in life: teachers, mentors, priests,
bishop, etc.
 Next, use your middle finger and
pray for government officials and
those who stand tall such as firefighters, police, and doctors.
 Then, move to your ring finger.
This is your weakest finger, so pray for
the weak, poor, and needy.
 Last is your pinky finger, the farthest finger from you — that is where
you pray for your own needs.
Examining your conscience and
confessing your sins to a priest can be
intimidating, but by participating in the
sacrament of reconciliation, you gain another avenue to finding
peace in your life. Many non-Catholics find it hard to understand how admitting our weaknesses and asking for
forgiveness brings us comfort, but it truly does. We aren’t
being judged for our inadequacies, we are being forgiven by
God’s endless love. Our merciful God offers renewed strength
and provides the ability to turn towards Him and away from
our sins. We should all strive to increase our visits to the
confessional to experience the peace and spiritual solace that
comes from making confession.
Developing a prayerful relationship with God and participating in the sacrament of reconciliation brings forth peace,
hope, and joy. We all want and need peace in our everyday
lives. Commit yourself to talking to God every day through
prayer, reading your Bible, celebrating the sacrament of
Eucharist every Sunday and going to confession on a regular
basis. Be faithful to Him and peace will be yours. 
Jessica Seifert is married to Mike Seifert, and mother to Joseph and
Gianni. Formerly teaching at St. Stephen Catholic School, she is
proud to be a stay at home mom while actively volunteering at the
school as their PTCO moderator. Jessica also maintains the Angels
Among Us website.
Quarterly Blessings
Peace in our Home
by Ron and Gloria Heath
ur adventure started in the afternoon on Saturday,
August 3, 1963 in El Paso, Texas. At Assumption
Church, Father McGinley performed the marriage of
Ron and Gloria. We were two people from very different
backgrounds. One was a
Southern Baptist from
Georgia and the other a
Roman Catholic from
Texas. Several people we
knew felt our religions
would be a problem. We
were young, our love was
strong and we paid little
attention. I feel strongly
we always had the
Blessed Mother looking
out for us. A very special
friend told me to always
remember that all couples
start out with the same
values; it's what you do
with them that will make
the difference. We kept our values. Look what happened!
After getting married ,we headed for Pennsylvania to an
Army Nike site in Irwin. Our oldest daughter was born in June
1964. Thanksgiving of that year a decision had to be made that
would have great affect on us. Ron was due for discharge.
Should we re-enlist for helicopter school, accept a job offer
from IBM in Pittsburgh, go to Florida and a job with RCIA ,or
move to El Paso and work at White Sands? After serious
thinking, we decided to stay in Pennsylvania, and make our
new home. We spent 12 years there and had three more children. We made many good friends and have many fond
memories. Especially when we participated in, and introduced,
Tex-Mex food to St. Malachy's Nationality Festival! Imagine,
serving tacos next to the pierogi booth. Then it was a corporate
transfer. California, here we come! We spent five years in San
Jose making new friends, memories and experiences even with
a couple of those scary "earthquakes." Another transfer
brought us to Florida, and the family settled in Brandon.
Through the years, our marriage has had it's share of ups
and downs. Some were happy events. Some were not. You
rely on the examples of your parents and you learn from your
mistakes. You also pray a lot!
All our children were raised Catholics, as we had initially
agreed. Ron supported this and converted to Catholicism on
March 30, 1986 at Nativity Church. This was a very special
time in our lives. I had set
the example, but Ron
made the decision. My
prayers were answered.
Raising those children
was a pleasure, with
many rewarding times. It
was also a challenge with
several trying times. Today, we are so thankful
that all our children are
healthy and doing well.
Our children were the
ones who called the
church regarding our anniversary. This was a big
and wonderful surprise
especially when Father
Bob asked us to stand for a Blessing. It was in the afternoon
on Saturday, August 3, 2013. Fifty years almost to the hour!
We later had a big celebration with the entire family on
St. Augustine Beach.
Our grandchildren, of course, are our pride and joy – all
ten of them! They are the new generation, and hopefully will
make their parents proud too. Our oldest grandson joined the
Navy in June. Of this we are very proud. The next five oldest
are now in junior high and high school. The others are in
elementary school. They have all started to make their way by
getting honors scholastically and being involved in many
So now we go forward! Life has been good. We hope that
our Lord and the Blessed Mother will continue to guide our
family into the future. 
Ron and Gloria have been St. Stephen parishioners since 2008.
Gloria volunteers in the church office every Friday afternoon. Both
are retired and they spend time with their grandchildren and travel
“Honor your father and mother.”
This is the first commandment with a promise,
“that it may go well with you
and that you may have a long life on earth.”
(Ephesians 6:2-3)
Quarterly Blessings
Life After Divorce
by José Colón
have been praying about sharing my experience after my
20+ year marriage ended more than three and a half years
ago. It’s been a very interesting and challenging journey so
far, with lots of ups and downs. One thing is certain: our dear
Lord has been there for me every step of the way, even when I
was not aware of His presence.
Divorce, by nature, is a very stressful and painful situation.
It affects everyone involved. People you’ve considered family
and/or friends shut you down. Children are greatly affected as
well. I can attest to that, not only due to my own children going
through it, but also because my parents divorced when I was 15
years old.
It becomes very difficult to keep practicing your faith as a
divorced Catholic. Your friends expect you to just go out and
meet other people. But divorce is what it is: a death of a
marriage. As with any other death or loss, you could go
through the Five Stages of Grief: denial, anger, bargaining,
depression and acceptance.
Even at church, it is very challenging to be a divorced
Catholic when you sometimes feel like an outsider. You go
from attending Mass as a family to going alone or only with
your children. You see other families happy, together, taking
the offerings up to the priest and tend to find yourself asking,
“Why me? Why did we not make it?” Different unpleasant
thoughts cross your mind and you ask yourself, “Do I really
still belong in this parish?”
The answer to that question is a resounding YES! As a matter of fact, it is during these very difficult times that God, the
Church and your brothers and sisters in Christ are needed more
than ever.
The divorce support group in our parish called Journey to
Hope was such a blessing to me from day one. I started attending immediately, twice a month, and felt a connection with my
fellow brothers and sisters. People from other Christian
denominations and religions attend these meetings. Clearly
divorce does not discriminate, as it affects everyone.
A few months after I started attending Journey to Hope, I
had another life changing event while in the middle of my
divorce process. I decided to attend a Christ Renews His Parish
(CRHP) retreat. I met some brothers in Christ, and today I
consider them best friends and advisors. I strongly suggest
considering CRHP, if you have not done so. Like the slogan
of that fine store for men says, “You are going to like it. I
guarantee it.”
After that CRHP weekend, along with Journey to Hope, I
am no longer alone. I realize that God had never abandoned
The legal part of my divorce was long and painful, but it
was finally done a few months after CRHP. I needed to move
forward and inquire about an annulment. Although this is
needed to remarry in the Catholic Church, it has a stronger and
bigger purpose. Part of the process requires you to examine
your failed marriage. A hurtful process of having to look back
at your marriage, but the process is really a healing process.
I submitted my petition back in July 2012. It was eye opening to explore my marriage and understand the reasons why it
failed. We all mature at different ages, but there is no set age
for it. We were too immature when we married, and the
responsibilities were too great.
After divorce, I focused on building my relationship with
my children. During this time something totally unexpected
happened. God has a very interesting sense of humour. I remember praying to God that if I find a partner I want to be able
to share my faith with her. That was non-negotiable from my
point of view. Little did I know that such woman would be
right here at St. Stephen Parish. We started sharing our experiences, as she is also a divorced Catholic, also attending
Journey to Hope. Our relationship is solid and strong, with God
right in the middle.
In July 2013, I received the news that I have been
granted the Declaration of Nullity of my Catholic marriage.
An annulment states that in the eyes of God, when we were
promising to be together for life, we were too immature to give
consent. It really felt great to receive confirmation from the
Church on the reason for my divorce, and that I am free and
blessed to move on. My girlfriend has also been granted an
annulment. Now, after more than a two-year relationship, I
proposed to her and she said “yes”. Passing time has healed
past wounds, and now we feel ready for a brighter future
together. God is amazing!
It’s been a journey to hope and I’m looking forward to adding new and exciting chapters to it. I have learned that God is
always with me. He will never abandon us. God bless you! 
“For I know well the plans
that I have in mind for
you, says the Lord, plans
for your welfare, not for
woe! Plans to give you a
future of hope. When you
call me, when you go to
pray to me, I will listen to
you.” (Jeremiah 29:11-12)
José has been a member of St
Stephen Parish since 2001
and a member of CRHP
Team 11.
Pastoral note:
An annulment is different from a divorce. A divorce is the
breaking or severing of a legal contract for the couple, properties and responsibilities toward any children born or adopted
within the marriage. An annulment does involve lawyers as
well, but they are canon lawyers, and they look at the marriage
(prior to and during) to see if the couple at the time they took
their vows, knew what they were doing and were responsible
enough to live up to those responsibilities of marriage. It does
not consider what took place after unless it was a reoccurrence
of a pre-existing problem.
Quarterly Blessings
Kindness is Contagious
by Heike House
Bake something yummy and take it to Santa and his elves (at
ost of us have heard of the concept to “Pay it
the mall)!
Forward,” and many have seen, and loved, the
Pick a favorite retailer or restaurant. Have your kids write
movie by the same name. Or perhaps you’ve heard
“why I love [blank]” and deliver the note to the manager.
about Random Acts of Kindness, made all the more popular by
Spend some time cleaning up the neighborhood by picking up
Oprah Winfrey. If you Google the word kindness, the results
are endless.
Print a happy photo of your children. Write “thank you for
In a blog I read recently, a mom by the name of Courtney
how you serve our family” on the back. Take copies all
DeFeo addressed concerns about her children wondering,
around town to those we never thank but should.
“What are we getting?” at Christmastime. Her solution for
Buy a bouquet of flowers and have your children give them
shifting the “getting” to “giving” is one we can all incorporate
away one at a time. Think of the grocery store employees
into our own families, whether we have children or not.
behind the scenes, etc.
What if the random acts of kindness weren't so random but
Take the Candy Cane Challenge! See how many candy canes
directed at people to initiate some sort
your family can distribute in your comof reconciliation - a grumpy neighbor,
munity during the month of December.
“Kindness is a language
the house with the dog barking all the
Each sweet treat must be accompanied
which the deaf can hear
time, the teacher that you like least, the
by a genuine smile, a thoughtful note or
postman you don't know, the sibling
audible kind wish from one child in
and the blind can see.”
you fight with the most. We constantly
your family.
― Mark Twain
pray for peace in our world. Perhaps it’s
Stage an early morning chalk attack.
best to begin in our own backyards.
Pick a street - yours or another! - and
Involve your whole family (kids, too!) in selecting which
write a “good morning” or “have a great day” message on
idea(s) you want to execute together. Stick to one idea, or mix
every driveway.
it up! Use your creative imagination and come up with some of
Pack a cooler of lunches and look around your city for those
your own ideas to bless people!
who could use it that day. There are so many hungry people
Create a list of people to bless. Stay as anonymous as possiwithin miles of our daily routines!
ble so that all of this giving doesn’t become about building our
Stand outside your child’s classroom and give each child a
own greatness. It’s about spreading joy to others!
single flower as they walk in. Then, as the children enter
Share the joy all at once, or spread it out by doing one each
the classroom, have them hand the flower to their teacher.
day of Advent. You don’t have to stop at Christmas!
By the time class begins, he or she will have a vase full of
Here are just some ideas to get you started. There are many
Set up a free hot cocoa stand and take donations for your
more on the internet!
favorite charity.
Fill your car with as many balloons as will fit. Take your kids
Make homemade yard signs or flags and place encouraging
to hand them out one at a time to strangers. Teach them
notes in friends’ or neighbors’ yards. Think superlatives
how to say, “We just wanted to make you smile today,” and
like “best yard”, “sweet family” or “best Halloween
maintain eye contact.
Pass out donuts to your neighbors as they leave for work in
Drive through a bank teller just to give THEM a treat through
the morning.
the vacuum system.
When checking out at the grocery store, ask your cashier what
While you’re shopping for your family at a big retailer
his or her favorite candy is. Buy one for them!
(during checkout chat time with the cashier), ask them if
Let someone in line ahead of you at the checkout.
they are still shopping for their family or if they are finMake a “see what happens” basket of goodies and notes to
ished. Surprise them big time by adding a fun gift card to
keep in your car so that you are ready for unexpected opthe order especially for them.
portunities as you run errands!
Buy lunch or coffee for the car behind you in the drive-thru.
Tape a big sign to the top of your trash can with a little treat
“For it is in giving that we receive.” – St. Francis of Assisi 
for your garbage collector. Anything from candy to gift
Heike currently serves as layout director for the Quarterly Blessings,
cards would be a great surprise for them!
and is an active member in the St. Stephen Adult Choir.
Tape a note and $1 to a vending or soda machine. The next
person along will be delighted!
“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Quarterly Blessings
Kids Korner
How will First Reconciliation bring
Peace to you?
Saint Stephen Catholic School 2nd graders
When I pray I feel real good because I know it makes me
closer to God. – Joseph
When I pray it feels good because I really talk to God.
– Adriana
I like to pray because I feel a little bit better. – Dante
When I pray, I feel calmer, I do not know why. – Tabitha
When I pray, it makes me feel very good because God helps
me. – Francis
When I pray it makes me happy because it helps others.
– Shane
It’s been seven years before I can take my first confession. It
will be like I feel like I never sinned ever. – Alexis
Prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not
So much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
What does Peace mean to you?`
Religious Education 3rd graders
To me it means that everyone is happy and safe with no
destruction or fighting. – Grace
I’ll be happy to tell God my sins and say sorry. – Diego
I think it will be like Jesus is washing my heart clean from all
my sins. – Adriana
Everyone gets along and is kind. There’s no fights or wars.
– Connor
Doves and Noah’s Ark. – Anthony
I think it will be like my heart will be filled with joy. – Joshua
When I take my first confession, I think it will go well.
– Antonio
Religious Education 2nd graders
If you have been mean to someone, God will forgive you. It
will make you feel better to have less sins. – Maier
If you call someone names and you say you are sorry, God will
forgive you. Getting forgiven feels good. – Cannon
Because if you hurt someone and you say you are sorry at First
Reconciliation then you make peace between you and God.
– Reese
Everyone can believe in their own faith and not have to hit
someone. – Matthew
Religious Education 4th graders
For me peace means to not have war and stop hate. To be nice,
thankful, and loving to all people. – Ryan
For me peace means everyone is happy and joyful. Everybody
is following the 10 commandments, and everyone is getting
along. Peace means a lot to the Saint Stephen Parish. – Joe
For me peace means people not arguing or fighting over stuff
that doesn’t mean anything. Peace means people sharing and
working together to reach a goal. Peace means getting along as
people of God even if it is a rainy day. – Maverick
Happy because I am getting closer to God. – Nicolette
It will make me feel better because I feel that Jesus has forgiven me and I am closer to him. – Jacob
I will feel calmer. – Ryan
For me Peace means to be calm with no violence. For everyone
to love. Not to bully and to make everyone be kind. – Malcolm
For me peace means to be happy to get along with each other
and to put others before yourself. – Haley
It will make me feel more comfortable with myself. – Matthew
Quarterly Blessings
St. Stephen Catholic Church
5049 Bell Shoals Rd.
Valrico, FL 33594
Return Service Requested
ur mission is met if, each quarter,
when reading the Quarterly
Blessings, one person who is not
actively involved in the church gets
inspired and excited about the great things
going on at St. Stephen and gets involved
by participating in any of the wonderful
spiritual and fellowship activities.
Comments, suggestions and contributions for this publication are encouraged
and always welcome. Please email us at
[email protected]. Any photos
submitted to the Quarterly Blessings will
gladly be returned upon request.
Quarterly Blessings Advisor:
Fr. Bob Schneider
(813) 689-4900
Quarterly Blessings Board Members:
Brandon Avery
Agatha Chee-A-Tow
Bob Dombrowski
Victor Francavilla
Jeanne Glogowski
Heike House
Matthew Irwin
Nicole Lowe
Gretchen Robens
Jessica Seifert
Rick Tauceda
Karen Taylor
Additional Editorial Team Members:
Peg Campbell
Deb Durell
Peter Konowicz
Bonnie Woodworth
Cover and nameplate design created by
Rick Tauceda.
Subscribe for electronic delivery
of the Quarterly Blessings online
Printing of the Quarterly Blessings
is provided by:
Messner Publications
3250 Dundee Rd.
Winter Haven, FL 33884
(866) 651-2111
Lord Jesus Christ, We praise You:
Bring peace into the world
By bringing Your peace
into the hearts of all.
Help us to turn
away from sin
And to follow You in love and service.
Glory be yours, and honor,
For ever and ever. Amen.