Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time

February 2, 2016 Column Father De Celles

Snow! Well, I hope you all survived the blizzard safe and sound. The priests did, and it looks like the parish facilities did as well. Thanks be to God. We’re still working on snow removal: the snowplows were here for about 36 hours straight throughout the storm, but now we’re working on getting rid of those 15-foot-high snow mountains.

I hope you all received word (through an email from the parish office or some other way) that the Bishop dispensed all the Catholics in the Arlington Diocese from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass last weekend. This was kind of His Excellency, but strictly speaking unnecessary since you are automatically dispensed whenever you find it truly unsafe or otherwise practically impossible to get to Mass. In any case, most of you did stay home, and I’m glad of that, in the sense that I was worried that some might try to come and have an accident or something. On the other hand, I was edified by the devotion of about 250 to 300 souls who braved the roads and weather to come to Mass any way. As is my policy, we offered all Masses as scheduled, except for 7pm on Saturday which I cancelled when no one but myself showed up.

So it seems we survived intact. Please let me know if you or someone you know is in need of some assistance due to the effects of the blizzard or aftermath—we’ve been able to send volunteers to help folks shovel snow or drive to doctor’s appointments, etc. (Thanks to those volunteers.)

But I have to say that there is one way the parish is not intact: financially. Except for donations through Faith Direct, the regular Sunday collection was almost zero, as you can imagine, even though we still have to pay not only for regular expenses salaries, electricity, etc., but also thousands of dollars in snowplowing and removal. Please remember to drop last Sunday’s offertory envelope into the basket this week or next, or mail it to the office. And please considering signing up for Faith Direct in the future.


Speaking of Snow. Perhaps it would be helpful to revisit our Parish’s Weather/Emergency Policy:

In the event of Weather or Emergency closings, St. Raymond’s Parish will follow Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) decisions on closings and cancellations. This information is normally available on radio and TV, and on the FCPS website (

            In short, if FCPS cancels “all activities,” so does the Parish: no parish office hours, no CCD classes, no prayer meetings, no privately scheduled meetings with a priest, no Knights of Columbus, no Soup Suppers, etc.…., nothing.

There are only three exceptions to this policy:

1) regularly scheduled Masses will never be cancelled,

2) meetings of very small groups that receive my personal permission in which case members will be notified of the exception personally by their group leader, and

3) if the FCPS cancels all activities but keeps their administrative offices open, the parish offices will be open, to the extent possible and safe.


Speaking of Collections. By now I hope you have all received statements from either the parish or Faith Direct (or both) detailing your donations to the parish during 2015. Please note that any donations made through Faith Direct will be reported to you by Faith Direct, and will not show up on your statement from the parish. If there are any discrepancies or errors in the reports you receive, please do not hesitate to contact the parish office. Thanks again for your generosity.


Religious Education: Important Announcement. After much prayer and consideration, I’ve decided to take our Religious Education program in a new direction. As part of this change, effective February 11, Maria Ammirati will be stepping down from her role as Director of Religious Education.

Maria has served as DRE of St. Raymond’s for over 10 years, and we are all in debt to her for all she’s done for our children. After discussing this change with her several weeks ago, we were both hoping she would stay with us until the end of the school year. Now, however, she tells me she would like to accept a new position that requires her to begin in mid-February, so that her last day with us will be February 11.

I want to thank Maria for her many years of dedicated and exemplary service to the parish, and to me as pastor. I ask you all to keep her in your prayers, as she will be in mine, as she begins her new position.

As to the “new direction” we will be heading in, this is still developing since much of it depends on the leadership and advice of our new DRE. In this regard, I am happy to announce that Mary Salmon will be joining us as our new Director of Religious Education. Mary comes to us from AAA Women for Choice (the pro-life crisis pregnancy center in Manassas), where she has been Assistant Director for several years. In the past she has worked at St. Andrew’s Parish in Clifton/Centreville as a teacher in their parish school and as Assistant DRE. She also has many years of experience at St. Andrew’s as a volunteer catechist and in other RE roles. She is well known and respected in religious education and pro-life circles in the diocese. I have known Mary since I was parochial vicar of St. Andrews (1999-2002), during which time I had many opportunities to work with her. I am delighted to have her join us at St. Raymond’s.

Originally I had planned that Mary would start here in June, in time to plan for next year, but she has graciously agreed to begin work on February 16. However, because of her various existing commitments we will have to make some small accommodations in her schedule to make things work out.

I hope you all will welcome Mary Salmon with the openness and fraternity that is so characteristic of St. Raymond’s parishioners, and pray for her as she begins her new work.

Change is never easy, for any of us, myself included. It often requires great trust to make necessary adjustments. Thank you for your trust in me as we move forward.


First Confessions. Please keep our second graders in your prayers this week as they prepare to receive the Sacrament of Penance for the first time next Saturday, February 6. First Confession is a beautiful thing, but it can be a little scary for some. So pray that the little ones are not too nervous, make good confessions, accept God’s grace and develop a true love for this sacrament.


Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles