By TARA CONNOLLY Staff writer
St. John the Baptist, Allentown opened a year of parish spiritual renewal Oct. 28 with a deep desire to strengthen parish life, increase their spirituality and refurbishing their Our Lady of Fatima Grotto.
Bishop of Allentown Alfred Schlert was the main celebrant at the Mass in honor of the parish as they set out on their parish renewal year “One Community: Connecting, Reaching and Building in Mary, Mother of Peace.”
“It is so powerful to come together to be able to commit ourselves to renewing our parish,” he told parishioners.
Reflecting on the day’s scriptural readings, Bishop Schlert said the central theme of readings focuses on the greatest commandment in the Bible, namely to love God and express it in action by loving him in our neighbor.
“What better words could there be to begin a renewal,” he said.
“Everything we do as a family of faith begins and ends with the love of God and love of our neighbor,” said Bishop Schlert.
He then said the purpose of growing closer to God is to form an intimate relationship with him that will spur them to love their neighbors.
“If we don’t love God, then we don’t love our neighbor. If we don’t love our neighbor, we don’t love God. It is the fundamental piece of all that we do,” said Bishop Schlert.
As a family of faith centered in the Holy Eucharist, he asked them to grow to love God better and to not just be focused on their parish itself.
“We should overflow the love of God and love of neighbor,” said Bishop Schlert.
In addition, he emphasized that the parish has always been a bedrock of the faith in the city of Allentown that has produced priests and consecrated religious.
“Please pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. It is so essential to our faith to have the sacraments and the Gospels preached to us. As you renew yourselves, renew the vocational picture of Allentown,” said Bishop Schlert.
After the Mass, Bishop Schlert blessed the parish’s newly refurbished Our Lady of Fatima Grotto that was built in 1957 as memorial of the Golden Jubilee of the parish, which was consecrated Oct. 14, 1907.
The grotto is a replica of one of the six apparitions of the Blessed Mother who appeared to Portuguese children Jacinta and Francisco Marto, and Lucia Dos Santos. Our Lady of Fatima apparitions occurred 1916-17 in Fatima, Portugal, where she urged the children to tell others to return to the Gospel through prayer, sacrifice and conversion.