Saturday, December 23, 2017

so much to be grateful for this year

at the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock in Ireland
Thy Kingdom Come!

Dear family and friends,

I was celebrating mass at a local parish the other day. As I walked down the aisle at the beginning, a little girl shouted out, “Hey, what’s my priest doing here?” I chuckled. Turns out she goes to the school where I’m chaplain.

On December 14th, I celebrated four years as a priest. Four very happy years. I love being a priest.

And I am grateful for many other gifts this year:
signing the contract!
Four weeks ago I signed a contract with Ignatius Press! They are going to publish an updated version of my self-published book, Blessed José. The working title for the new book is “Saint José”. Ignatius is the biggest Catholic publisher in the country, which means they will be able to get the message of Saint José to many, many people.

celebrating mass on Skellig Michael
I was able to lead a pilgrimage to Ireland. Back when I was a seminarian in Rome and would travel to Ireland every year, a few of us had the dream to one day bring Americans back to the “Isle of Saints”, a place where you can touch the faith of the people. This July that dream became reality. It was awesome, and I hope to make the pilgrimage a yearly event.
on pilgrimage in Rome in the Irish Chapel in Saint Peter's Basilica
I lead my 4th pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi. I learned a lot about Rome and Italy while I studied there, and when a dad approached me four years ago asking me to take him and his sons to Rome on pilgrimage, I was elated. Since then we’ve continued the tradition annually. Not only is it a spiritual experience like no other for the pilgrims, but it’s a renewal for me as a priest to visit the places where I prepared for the priesthood and was ordained. On December 9th I celebrated mass in the place of my first mass, the chapel of San Pellegrino in Vaticano. God is good!
Brother Carlos, Brother Abraham, Father John, Father Matthew, Father Louis, Yours Truly, Father Lucio, Brother Thomas
My religious community has grown. We are now five priests and three brothers. Newly arrived Brother Abraham is from South Korea, and Brother Carlos from Mexico. We now have five nationalities in our community. My community is a real family, and I love spending time with the fathers and brothers. Sure, we do get on each others’ nerves. But we’re brothers, and with all the different cultures, out cuisine has been raised to a new level!
with the newly confirmed altar servers
I’m in my 5th year as Chaplain at Royalmont Academy and loving it. There’s something magical about spending time around wee ones. This year we’ve started to let younger boys serve at class masses. Even some first graders have been serving—though they need a bit of extra guidance. Serving was one of my greatest joys as a boy, and it wasn’t till I started serving that I actually enjoyed going to Church.
The other day six of the boys who serve at school received the sacrament of confirmation at their parish. Two of the boys confirmed are twins, so you can imagine the joy of their proud mother. As I watched them, it dawned on me that all of them are my spiritual sons, so you can imagine the tremendous joy of this proud father!
baptizing little Penelope
I was able to baptize one of my nephews and two of my cousins’ children. There’s nothing quite as joyful as bringing a little soul into the Church through baptism. “Let the children come to me, for to such as these belongs the kingdom of heaven.” We have so much to learn from little children, and each one brings so much hope to our world!
cutthroat trout at Chihuahua Lake
the gang on Mount Royal

I was blessed to spend a delightful vacation with my community in Colorado. Many of those days I hiked up to remote alpine lakes in search of trout. It took a lot of hunting, many scrapes and bruises, and many fruitless days of fishing, until I found where the fish were hiding. In the end, it made for a delicious trout dinner!
with Cardinal De Paolis at my ordination to the priesthood
I wished farewell to the Cardinal who ordained me a priest. Cardinal Velasio De Paolis was a great friend who helped save my congregation. He also ordained me to the priesthood. This December 14th was especially poignant, since it was my first anniversary without him on this earth. But I trust we’ll meet again in heaven!

When we stop to list all the things we are grateful for, there are often so many it’s nearly impossible to number them all. I invite you too to reflect upon all the graces you’ve received this year.

Also, as Christmas approaches I wanted to let you know my own needs, in case you feel called to support me. Would you be willing to help my ministry? I receive a part-time salary (about $12,000), which pays for a little over half of my yearly expenses. Healthcare, transportation, clothes, food, and other supplies cost about $22,000 a year. Would you please ask our Lord if he would have you support my mission as a priest and missionary?

You can make a tax-deductible donation to my religious community here in Cincinnati. Details are at our website

My Amazon wishlist is here. I can always use Amazon gift cards for books and the like as well.

Praying for all of you as Christmas draws so near!
Father Kevin

Sunday, December 3, 2017

remembering a friend

Greeting Cardinal Velasio at my Ordination
Dear family and friends,

Recently, I lost a dear friend. He was a simple Italian man almost half my height. He gave me and my brothers hope in a very dark moment of our history. He guided us through the greatest crisis we have faced. And, on December 14th, 2013, he ordained me a priest. 

His name is Cardinal Velasio de Paolis.

We first met when Pope Benedict XVI appointed him as Papal Delegate over my congregation. After years of holding our founder up as a model of virtue, we had discovered that he was quite the opposite. The Pope could have just shut things down.

Instead he gave us Monsignor—later Cardinal—de Paolis. At first, he was hard for me to understand. He told us to be patient and calm, that there would be a long process we’d have to go through. I, and many of my friends, were all for big, fast changes. 

When he came and told us that he wanted us to spend three years revising our constitutions, we thought he was crazy. “You must all revise your constitutions to take out any and all bad influence from the founder,” he explained. 

Why not just appoint a council to revise the constitutions? Why not just have the people in charge figure it out and tell us what to do? “No,” he said adamantly. “The Holy Spirit may speak even through the youngest one, so everyone has to have an equal voice.”
Just after our ordination with Cardinal DePaolis

And so we started. We broke up into groups of ten or twelve, and went through our constitutions number by number. It was pure pain at first, probably the one thing I most abhorred each month. Even more painful than philosophy class—imagine that!

But then, little by little the Cardinal’s wisdom showed. Once we got the format down, and all had a chance to vent a good deal, we actually started to have some really good ideas, ideas that the majority agreed upon. We started to do Eucharistic adoration before each session. It must have been a year into the project that I actually started to enjoy these “Review of Constitutions” meetings. 

When my small group of twelve finally submitted our proposals, and all of the proposals worldwide were gathered together, it turned out that about 80% of what each individual group came up with coincided with the whole. When the final version final came out, it was almost entirely identical to what my little group had produced.

Not only that, but unlike ever before, we truly believed in the Constitutions, for each and every one of us had contributed to their making. Pope Benedict and Cardinal De Paolis knew what they were doing when they asked this of us.
The laying on of hands at my priestly ordination

The Cardinal continued to guide us through our long renewal process, but he became especially close to my heart that December day in 2013 when he ordained me along with 30 other young men in the Basilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome. 

He told us:

the priesthood is a much higher ideal than any human ideal; it is a response to a call from afar; it comes from God himself… The first sentiment that arises in the human heart when faced with such a calling is something like fear and insecurity, like weakness and fragility…And we can ask ourselves, who could ever feel prepared to proclaim a message that comes from the mystery of God himself? However, we are aware that this is a call from on high to bear a message that’s not my own but of God, and this very awareness gives us the strength to take courage and respond. He who calls and sends is also he who protects, strengthens, and makes fruitful. “Go to whomever I send you and proclaim whatever I tell you. Do not fear, because I am with you to protect you.’

I am forever grateful to Cardinal Velasio. When one of my brother priests dies, we have a tradition of offering masses for the repose of his soul. I did the same for Cardinal De Paolis, and offered 3 masses for the repose of his soul. I pray that he is now in heaven, and that one day I will be reunited with this great friend and father in the priesthood!

May God bless you,

Father Kevin

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Thanking God for 10 Years of Joy

with my family shortly after professions
Dear family and friends,

Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of my perpetual profession of vows. That's when I made lifelong vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. It was also the sixteenth anniversary of my first profession.

Joy—that sunny September day in Connecticut—it was a day of pure joy. I had spent the last two years preparing for it. 

“I, Kevin, promise and vow to Almighty God to live in poverty, chastity, and obedience…”

Joy, powerful joy. During the professions mass, I had spied my family out of the corner of my eye—all eight of my brothers and sisters, mom and dad too. I couldn’t help but smile and cry all at once. After the mass, we all just couldn't stop hugging each other and laughing. I remember the bright blue sky and the puffy clouds… and this overwhelming, overpowering sense of joy. I don't think I stopped smiling for a week.

Joy for something many people would think a not-so-joyful occasion. I, along with the young men at my side, was giving up wealth, a wife, and my will after all. Yet we were so happy. I am so happy as I relive it now.  I have been so happy as I have lived my vows these last sixteen years.

visiting Sweet Claude's recently yesterday
Joy too, after the reception when, for the first time, I had donned a “clergyman”, the clerical collar worn outside the seminary. My parents asked me where I wanted to go and my choice was… you guessed it, Sweet Claude’s Ice Cream on Main Street in Cheshire.  My dad still thinks their strawberry is the best in the country, and I must agree. We went there as a family first thing each time I professed my vows, and to this day I consider getting ice cream there something akin to a pilgrimage.

Joy, yes, that's the word. A foretaste of heaven, really. I'm not saying the ride has always been as smooth as Sweet Claude’s Ice Cream, there have been and are tough moments. But that day, this anniversary, the living of these vows… yes, they are joy.

last year at Sweet Claude's
The joy of poverty, not owning anything, but really having everything. At times I’ve had to beg, and the people of God have treated me like their own son. Poverty has not been a lack, it has been fullness, freedom, peace. What do I have to worry about losing if I own nothing? Yes, there are times when I would have loved to have bought even just a cheeseburger from McDonald's, only I didn't have any money. But I have never lacked what I truly needed.

The joy of chastity, perhaps what I thought back then would be the hardest, for I dearly wanted to marry and have a family of my own. But I do have a family now, a family larger than any earthly family. I am a “Father” and my spiritual children number not two, or even ten, but hundreds. I haven't given my heart to any earthly spouse, but a heavenly one, a spouse who never has even so much as a bad hair day!

The joy of obedience, perhaps the vow that demands the most, but also the one that blesses the most. I can't count how many times I came up with what I thought was a great idea, only to have holy obedience stop me from doing something catastrophic. It is hard, but when we are obedient, God replaces our weakness with his strength. It is wisdom, divine wisdom.

Joy, yes, joy. That's the only word language provides that comes close to describing it all. Joy with a capital “J”!
the newly-professed brothers

This morning thirteen young men took their first vows, just like I did sixteen years ago. I was there at the mass, renewing my own vows in my heart as they made theirs. I ask you to pray for them and me, and I will carry all of you in my heart in prayer.

And please share in our Joy!

May God bless you,

Father Kevin

PS: It's so funny, every year we just assume that the day of professions will be a sunny day. Even if the forecast is rainy, we set up our reception outside. And the sun comes! As far back as I remember, there's never been so much as a drop of rain. It's like the heavens are joining us in our joyful celebration.