Happy new year! This past Christmas will mark for me one that I will never forget. We experienced a "white Christmas" to the tune of some 12 to 18 inches deep! So many things were canceled. All our well made plans were downsized or simply didn't happen. But, that turned out to be a good thing. I hope that Christmases in the future can resemble the simplicity that I experienced. The snow brought a quiet to our little town and slowed everything. In a way, I think it was a good thing that some of us couldn't make our typical family gatherings. We had rethink what we were going to do and, in many cases, just stay home and stay warm. Consequently, our Christmas Masses were sparsely attended. I will attest that it was very dangerous to drive anywhere. So, I honor those who chose to be safe and stay home. I hope each were able to participate in the holiness of Christmas via TV, radio, or podcast. I know that the Vatican as well as EWTN broadcast Christmas Mass. Maybe you caught my own recording of Christmas Mass which I posted on my podcast (click here to listen). Having a simpler and more quiet Christmas was a blessing in so many ways. The falling of the snow reminded me of how God snows his grace gently upon us. I thoroughly loved the adventure as well. My dog wasn't so sure, however.
One of the consequences of the lack of attendance was not only a scaled down series of Masses, but also a reduction in financial giving. Normally this wouldn't be of grand concern, except for the case that the month of December accounts for 14% of our annual budget. After adjusting for corrections that occurred in the first week of January (additional donations came in the first week of Jan. '09), we fell about ~$16,000 short of our expected income. That is a serious concern for any pastor. I know that our parishioners are generous. I've already witnessed the greatness of several families who made special gifts to the parish once they were made aware of this financial situation. Thank you! To all who gave around Christmas, especially those who made up their annual gift when they couldn't make it due to snow, I also want to thank you. I want to ask those who didn't make it to Mass during our winter storm and haven't made a Christmas gift to the community of St. Anthony's to consider doing so. We are in this together. It was once said to me that whenever the parish has made a request due to a need, the parish has stepped up in spades. I agree. Thank you all for your generosity to your faith community!
Geek Communication on the Internet
Often people ask me what I do. Sometimes, people think that priests work only one day a week! However, the reality is that I often work six days-a-week and even seven. The days can last from 6 hrs to 15 hrs long. I do not apologize nor am I seeking sympathy. I own my schedule and love what I do. The work of God is important and I am honored to be part of it as his priest. But in response to those who are curious about what a priest does and desiring to increase my communication with our parish and the community at large, I became active in the social network called Facebook in 2007(click here to read). To further my desire to extend my ability to communicate with others, I've also decided to begin using another technology called "Twitter." Twitter is a service on the internet that allows people to send short messages/updates about what they are doing to others. People can choose to follow specific people via the web or even their mobile devices such as phones and PDA's. I am going to try to be more visible using these two mediums of communication. I don't know how it will all work out or if I will be able to be consistent in my use of Facebook and Twitter. But, if you wish to follow me in my daily journeys as a priest, you can do so by either checking my Twitter page or sign up with Facebook and request to be my friend (search on Facebook.com for William Holtzinger). Feel free to send me messages or comment on photos or whatever you like. For many, this use of technology is a serious invasion in their privacy, so they avoid it. I agree that it can be. But, each user is in control as to how much they share. I desire to maintain some privacy, but realize that transparency and openness are good ways to build community and evangelize. Think of it as a bunch of friends quickly sharing the latest news with each other. What's happening in your world? I'd love to know.
Blessings in Christ,
Fr. William Holtzinger