Father's Corner

Father O'Toole's Corner

Announcement of a New Principal

We are excited to announce that Clare Abkemeier will be the next principal of St. Margaret of Scotland School. Read more for a special announcement from Fr. O'Toole.

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This academic year, St. Margaret of Scotland School is observing its centennial. There are many events and activities celebrating our 100 years of Catholic education. On Sunday, October 1, we invited alumni from across the decades to join us for an outdoor Mass on the school grounds and to tour the school afterwards. Along with parishioners, around 600 people were in attendance. The following is the homily delivered by Father O'Toole on this occasion.

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Evangelizing the Numbers

Recently I shared with the parish an astounding statistic regarding St. Margaret of Scotland: in the last fiscal year (July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017) 77 infants and children were baptized! The last time we came close to that number for baptisms was 1967 – fifty years ago, when the parish was twice the size it is today. We rejoice that so many families are choosing the Catholic faith for their children. This fact also indicates the repopulation trend happening in the neighborhoods that make up St. Margaret. With this good news, however, comes the challenge of meeting the pastoral needs of our growing parish. How is our faith community to keep pace in helping families stay close to the household of God? What should we be focusing on?

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Facing Spring Projects
  • Communion hosts, wine and candles for the celebration of Mass.
  • New wrought iron protective fencing over the church wells.
  • Instrumentalists for especially festive Masses and licenses for music copyrights.
  • Plumbing repairs in the church hall restrooms.

These are a few things around St. Margaret of Scotland Church which are either always in front of us that we take their presence for granted, or their need is so unnoticed that they may not get our attention.  One thing they all have in common: they cost money.  There are hundreds more that could be named.  And like any home, our parish church has some upkeep that needs your help.

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Change, change, change

Entering my sixth year at St. Margaret of Scotland, I reflect on the changes that have happened here over the last five years.  In that time the number of households in our parish has grown by 16% to nearly 800 families.  The school enrollment this fall will be at 475 – that’s up more than 125 students in the same amount of time.  On a recent Sunday I baptized seven children and that same week I presided at the first funeral of a parishioner in over six months.  That tells you something about the ratio of our population.  The combined budget of the parish and school has climbed to nearly $3 million, a sign of the growing needs of our ministries, programs and services.  The other significant change has been with the personnel who staff our parish.  New faces are on the scene and new positions are being created.

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Forming Young Women of Faith

On February 18, Archbishop Robert Carlson announced his decision to disband the Catholic Committee on Girl Scouts, citing concerns regarding Girls Scouts USA and their parent organization, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS). Some of WAGGGS’ advocacy and policy issues are in conflict with the moral teachings of our Catholic faith. It is important to note that the Archbishop did not call for the immediate dismissal of Girl Scouts from parishes where they meet. Rather, he asked every pastor who allows Girl Scout troops to gather on parish property to conduct a meeting with troop leadership to review these concerns.

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Pastoral Plan is Rolled Out

At the Parish Forum Sunday, September 13, we formally rolled out the new Parish Pastoral Plan for St. Margaret of Scotland.  This instrument – which focuses on objectives in prayer, study, evangelization and generosity – will guide the priorities and efforts of our parish’s ministries and organizations for the next three years.  The Pastoral Plan is the product of extensive information-gathering and reflection.  Its aim is to help keep our parish vibrant and meet the needs of our growing, diverse community.  I urge you to take time exploring the Pastoral Plan.  You will hear much about it, and hopefully you will find yourself a part of it.

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Water, Water Everywhere!

We’ve all had enough rain, yet it keeps coming.  The St. Margaret Church Hall was flooded twice in recent days.  The torrential downpours on June 28 and July 1 sent water cascading down the 39th Street staircases and up through drain points.  Professional crews are on hand to do the clean-up.  Events in the hall, including Sunday donuts, are cancelled for the time being.

Read on for more pictures and information.

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2014: A Year of Favor

I’m inclined to call 2014 at St. Margaret of Scotland “A Year of Favor from the Lord.”  So many factors prove the positive direction our parish is headed.  Compared to this time last year the number of registered families has gone up from 667 to 732.  School enrollment has risen from 388 students to 408.  In 2014 48 baptisms were celebrated at our font, ten couples walked down our aisle in the sacrament of matrimony, and the RCIA is progressing with a healthy attendance.  And perhaps the most evident sign of the vitality at St. Margaret: in just four months the capital campaign “Faith in Our Future” secured over $2 million in pledges for the expansion of our school campus.  So what’s next?

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Parish Financial Report

It is the responsibility of every pastor along with his finance committee to provide the faithful an accurate report of the stewardship of the gifts that have been shared with the parish.  I am fortunate to serve St. Margaret of Scotland for many reasons, but with regards to our fiscal performance I am particularly grateful.  Here you will find an accounting of the monetary gifts to St. Margaret and the distribution of our services as well as maintenance of our facilities and operations.  As we move into an ambitious phase of our history with the construction of a new school building, I am confident that the parishioners and friends of St. Margaret – by the grace of God – will continue to support and sustain all the good work we do in Jesus’ Name.

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Managing our Parish’s Growth

Having completed three years here at St. Margaret of Scotland, the values identified in the parish’s mission statement are very evident to me.  We are all encouraged by the positive progress St. Margaret is making as a vibrant and growing faith community.  Praise be God!  Keeping the grace of this momentum going is important.  At the same time we need to anticipate new directions for the future.  In recent months I have been conversing with the parish staff, the Parish Council, the Finance Committee and the School Board about our priorities and the challenges we have keeping pace with our growth.  With their endorsement, I announce to you my plan to increase the staffing of St. Margaret of Scotland Church with two key roles: a Coordinator of Faith Formation and a Director of Development.  Let me describe the genesis for each position and what will be involved in these roles.

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Campaign Done.  So What’s Next?

Technically, our capital campaign, “Faith in Our Future,” has not finished.  The Leadership Team and its volunteers have completed the heavy work of the initial phase, which is the solicitation of major gifts and commitment of pledges from all our benefactors.  It is a three year enterprise.  The realization of all those pledges now begins.  With a goal of $2 million, to date we have $1.878.840 pledged, with $830,373 of that already collected in cash.

So in our effort to update the boilers in the existing school buildings and begin construction on the new middle school, what happens next?  Good question.  Let me answer that…

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Second Quarter Financial Report
When the annual financial report was presented to parishioners in September 2013, discussion  followed leading to a decision to provide the parish with quarterly financial updates.  Read on to view the Fiscal Year 2014 Second Quarter Report.

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First Quarter Financial Report Available
When the annual financial report was presented to parishioners in September 2013, the first quarter of the 2014 Fiscal Year was nearing it's end.  The discussion that followed the presentation and the ongoing dialog in both the Parish Council and Finance Council meetings led to the decision to provide the parish with quarterly financial updates.  Read on to access the first of these updates. 

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School Feasibility and FAQs

The Steier Group has completed its feasibility study for the potential expansion of and capital improvements to St. Margaret of Scotland School.  Their data continues to be evaluated by the members of the Parish Council, the School Board and the Finance Committee.  We hope to communicate a decision soon to everyone in the parish and school communities.  In the meantime, I would like to address some of the frequently asked questions (FAQs) that surfaced in the course of the Steier Group’s inventory.  Many of you expressed a desire to know more clearly how the parish leadership came to the proposals that were made, certainty that all options have been explored, and clarity on a few specifics.  Here and in the future I will provide answers to these FAQs.

 

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For All Us Saints

The liturgical year winds down in November, and the month commences with the Solemnity of All Saints.  What we celebrate on this holy day are not only the officially canonized members of God’s household in heaven, but the holy people we have known in our lives.  The adjacent Feast of All Souls on November 2 draws our attention to the memory of those who have passed from this life.  Those friends and family who have died share the company of the saints.  Everyone who strives to live the beatitudes as preached by Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5:1-12a) are venerable, blessed and saintly.

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Stewardship: The Path of Faith

The story is told of a wise pastor who went to get a haircut.  The barber, who also happened to be a parishioner, took the opportunity to tell the pastor all the reasons why the barber was not going to complete his stewardship pledge card.  “I don’t think we should have to promise to give money to God.  We should give what our heart tells us at the time.  I like to be able to just put in the collection whatever I have that week.”  The pastor listened carefully and after his haircut he handed the barber $1 for the $10 haircut, saying, “I like to give what my heart tells me – just whatever I have in my pocket at the time.”  “Father,” the barber protested, “I can’t pay my rent, take care of my expenses and run my business successfully if everyone would do that.”  The pastor then replied, “Neither can God.”

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Beautiful Achievement!

Our Sunday worship at St. Margaret returned to the church proper the weekend of August 25 after a summer hiatus.  The interior work of repairs to plaster damage, repainting and better illumination is the result of parishioners’ generosity with their time, talent and treasure.  These recent projects are not the only capital improvements that have been made to the church.  In the last eight years a lot of attention has been given to our beautiful space.  Everyone should appreciate the progress that has been made and the assistance that is needed to keep the work going.

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Summer Facelift

It is speculated that the last time the interior of St. Margaret of Scotland Church got a thorough paint job was 1957.  Since then, the plaster has been damaged by the elements and dust and other particulates have settled on the walls.  Thanks to your contribution to the Capital Campaign, St. Margaret is getting a facelift!  Step inside to get a peek at what’s been happening since the doors to the church closed at the beginning of June.

Return to this point again for ongoing updates and new images as the renovation project progresses.

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Retreat to the Catacomb

Few places of the ancient Christian era have captured the imagination as much as the catacombs. They are often depicted in movies and novels as subterranean hideouts where Christians gathered for worship in times of persecution. The underground cemeteries, like those outside Rome, were a network of passageways where the dead were buried. It is still popular to imagine early Christians using these inconspicuous places as impromptu locations for the Eucharist. Well, the St. Margaret community this summer is going underground for Mass to a makeshift worship space. It’s paint not persecution that will drive us down.

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The Red Egg of Easter

Recently our neighbors at the Priory of St. Dominic hosted the relic of St. Mary Magdalene for veneration. It was a privilege to pray before this large portion of bone from the woman whom the Church calls “Apostola Apostolarum” = the apostle to the apostles. This distinct honor comes from the gospel account of Mary Magdalene as the first witness to the resurrected Christ who in turn brings the good news to the eleven apostles still locked away and mourning the death of the Lord. A legend about Mary Magdalene’s Easter proclamation and red-colored eggs is fanciful but beautiful nonetheless.

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“We Have a Seagull!”

A couple rounds of black smoke from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel told the thousands gathered in St. Peter’s Square and the millions watching by television that the College of Cardinals had not yet settled on a new pope. So the waiting continued. In the meantime, a seagull or two took turns perching themselves on the stovetop. Was it a variation of the Holy Spirit, this time not in the form of a dove but another kind of white-feathered bird? Most who saw this thought nothing of it. It’s not an unusual sight. But what happened just after this spectacle got some believers thinking it was a sign.

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What Ezra does for the Israelites in today’s reading is – in a more modest way – something I feel inclined today to do for the sake of St. Margaret of Scotland.
We are at a juncture in our history when we face a future that presents new challenges.
But the past must not be forgotten. Much is to be learned from where we’ve been.

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Posted in: Father's Homilies
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Quo vadis?

The familiar Latin question “Quo vadis?” (Where are you going?) comes from an apocryphal story about St. Peter who was fleeing the persecution of Christians in Rome toward the end of his life. On his way the resurrected Christ appears to Peter, and the apostle asks his Lord this question. Christ replies, “I am going to Rome to be crucified again.” It is a response that summons the courage of the fisherman, who returns to Rome and faces his own martyrdom.

Now the Bishop of Rome, Pope Benedict XVI, is leaving his role as the shepherd of the universal Church. Might we ask the question, “Quo vadis?”

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City Catholic Collaborative Presentation - Feb 2013

On January 20 a letter was issued by the pastors and principals of the ten parishes with elementary schools in South St. Louis announcing the launch of an effort aimed at revitalizing Catholic education. This includes St. Margaret. We have entered into discussions on financial and enrollment forecasts of our schools. We promised to make regular and transparent communication with parents and parishioners.

I invite to you read further and explore the Power Point slides which offer combined data of the ten parishes regarding population trends, enrollment statistics, and education costs. Please take time to review and reflect on the information provided here.

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Will Jesus See His Shadow?

Both the Church’s liturgical calendar and a secular observance coalesce in the coming days with a theme that plays off light and darkness. February 2 is Groundhog Day. (You’re thinking, “Here again?” right?) Originally it was farmers in Germany who believed that a badger interrupted his winter nap to determine whether or not his hibernation was finished. A sunny day makes for a shadow which scares him back inside; six more weeks of winter. A cloudy day told him winter was ending and spring is on the horizon. Those German farmers who immigrated to Pennsylvania couldn’t find badgers, but groundhogs worked just as well. The choice of that date, though, is worth noticing.

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Put On Christ

There was a time when moms considered the judgment other moms made about their children’s attire and feared overhearing the comment, “Look at the way she dresses her kids!” Being presentable in public meant something. And it still does. If it’s not a reflection of where you come from, it certainly bespeaks the kind of person you are. But that has a lot to do with externals, like fashion and figure. Evidently, though, there is a dress code for being in God the Father’s house. Consider St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians (3:12-17)

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Beastly Friends of the Newborn King

In Pope Benedict XVI’s recent book, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, he debunks some of the popular myths that have made their way into our imagination about Jesus’ birth. He points out there is no literal evidence that cattle or other beasts shared the nursery with Jesus. This got some Christians on the defensive, especially all of us who are used to seeing a donkey and an ox as part of our manger scenes at Christmas. So if they’re not mentioned in the Bible, how did they show up?

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Do You See What I See?

Chartres Cathedral, about fifty miles outside Paris, France, is one of the most famous medieval cathedrals. It is a Gothic storybook – the stained glass windows, portals lined with sculptures, and the very configuration of the building – all an allegory of the Christian faith. Appreciating the details can lead to a profound encounter with the mysteries hidden within. But like taking a trip to tour a landmark, gaining the most from the observance of Christmas requires preparation. Even a seasoned believer has to come to this holy day equipped with the tools that help him or her see the details which otherwise overwhelm the senses.

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Starry, Starry Night

The darkening days of December are the inspiration for the liturgical season of Advent. As we move toward the winter solstice the search for light increases. In this spirit houses are strung with dazzling electric lights and from windows come the illumination of the warm hearth inside. Nature’s nighttime display of stars punctures the cold sky, as if to offer glimmers of something brilliant beyond the dead stillness of the slate-like surface of the heavens. Vincent Van Gogh captures this sensation for me in one of his great works. There is hope above despite the darkness around.

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She Was a Grand-Old Dame

“Grand-Old” in the sense that St. Margaret lived nearly 1,000 years ago, being born around the year 1050. “Dame” in the sense that she was a lady of nobility. November 16 is the feast of St. Margaret of Scotland, and it is the opportunity to know better this historic and saintly woman. Learn a little more …

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How Well Do You Know Saint Margaret?
True or False:St. Margaret of Scotland was not a native of Scotland.
The answer you can find further in this article.  But before you proceed, ask yourself if you know five facts about the historical person, St. Margaret of Scotland – when she lived, what she did.  As her feast on November 16 approaches, it’s worth our effort to know better the patroness of our church.

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Now is the time to be an arsonist with your faith!

The Year of Faith has begun!

Consider the exclamatory words of Jesus about His mission: "I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!" (Luke 12:49) The Church’s Year of Faith is meant to rekindle the fire of faith in the lives of Catholics so as to set the world alight with its invigorating flame. Obviously we are not to be criminal in our conduct (like a literal arsonist), but we should be daring and bold when it comes to living our life in Christ.

It's time to play with fire!

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Posted in: Pastor's Message
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To put it in worldly terms, no one holds a monopoly or an exclusive license on the Name of Jesus. That message comes through in today’s gospel when some of the apostles protest that others not of their company were healing in Jesus’ Name. We might feel that as Catholics we’ve cornered the market on Christ, or that God only functions in the familiar faith circles we keep. But Jesus reminds us “whoever is not against us is for us.” God’s goodness is achieved both within and outside the Church. Rather than being jealous about the breadth of God’s favor, we should allow it to be the cause of our celebration.

To prepare for Sunday’s Mass, read the scripture readings here:http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/093012.cfm

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Jesus measures greatness by a different standard than the world. As He tells his disciples in Sunday’s gospel, humble service to others makes one first in the eyes of God, and the Lord uses children as an example of what He is describing. Our human condition, however, sometimes draws us to status and power. St. James in his epistle warns us that these are the temptations that pull us into conflict with one another. Today we might want to take inventory of our conduct and ask God to give us the grace of joyful humility.

To prepare yourself for Sunday’s Mass, read the scripture readings here: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/092312.cfm

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Posted in: Sunday's Readings
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