By Sandra Burch
The Catholic Weekly
SAGINAW — In school, the Three Rs stand for reading, writing and ‘rithmetic. In church, according to Fr. Chester R. Smith, they stand for reshape, rebuild and reconciliation.
Fr. Smith and his twin brother, Fr. Charles A. Smith Jr., S.V.D., helped mark Black History Month at St. Joseph Parish with a visit the weekend of Feb. 25-26.
Fr. Chester led the Saturday morning workshop attended by more than 70 people, about a third of which were youth. He asked the participants to read Proverbs 29, Genesis 42, 1Thesalonians 5, Lamentations 2 and 3, Romans 7 and 8, Isaiah 55, Psalm 18 and Hosea 14.with a eye on his three Rs.
We are to reshape ourselves so we can prosper, he said. Only you can be you and if you don’t believe that then read Psalm 139. He then gave the participants an acronym for the shape — S-Spiritual Gifts, H-Heart, A-Abilities, P-Personality and E-Experiences — to help them. All of these items form who we are, he added, and how we relate to other people. When we are confronted with negativity, not only in the outside world but even in our church, we need to reshape, rebuild and reconcile ourselves with Christ.
If we reshape ourselves to love others and then share our talents with them, we can bring people into the church, Fr. Chester said. This is called evangelizing and that is the rebuilding. We learn what talents we have by knowing what we do best or what we are good at. God bestows these abilities on each one of us for the betterment of the Church. Every ability can be used for the glory of God.
In reconciliation, Fr. Chester said, we “need to talk to God first before anyone else.” With texting and the technical media available today, it is easy to talk to someone else before we talk with God.
We can recharge our batteries, Fr. Chester said, by being around positive people. He suggested people use their five spiritual senses — power, purpose, passion, peace and prayer — to motivate themselves to break out of their routines, to rebuild and reshape their lives.
Once you have Jesus in your life, he added, you cannot keep Him to yourself.
“This was pretty fun,” said Angel Villarreal, one of St. Joseph’s youth. “I learned a lot. With God in our life we can overcome anything. Fr. Chester was a dynamic speaker and I didn’t want him to stop. I cannot wait for next year’s program.”
“This workshop was for everyone in the community, not just for Catholics,” said parishioner Patricia Snow. “The breakout session in the workshop reaffirmed the need to allow the youth to share their talents. Here at St. Joe’s we do see some youth very active in ministry in the parish.”
“This was an eye-opener and a spiritual uplift with the reshape, rebuild and reconciliation theme,” said parishioner Josie Salazar. “It was an eye-opening experience that was very uplifting. Seeing the many youth at this workshop was wonderful. It gives me hope for the future. Yes, this was a Black History Month celebration, but the message was for everyone.”
Fr. Chester, saying he “would not preach at Mass but he would teach,” said during Saturday’s Mass that “we need to have the power of Jesus and to use that to break the power if the devil. To make the devil let go of you.
“If we raise our level of expectancy, day in and day out, we can expect good things. God will give you the power to make those things happen. He will bless you along the way. We are to expect good things through prayer.”
During the Sunday Mass, with the support of the Bishop Joseph R. Cistone and Fr. Frank Voris, Fr. Charles said, “we need to search for God. He is an equal opportunity experience. We need to search for a higher level of God and to be in tune with the God who came to be here for us.”
“Some churches don’t teach or preach in the way to light a fire in our soul,” said Fr. Chester. “We need to recognize that our spiritual fire needs to last all week.
“Your parents, grandparents, the priest and the nuns all know God, but do you know Him?”
The men’s gospel group, Men in the Fire, led congregation in handclapping and praising of the Lord in song. As one parishioner commented, if anyone was asleep with this joyful noise, they are either awake now or dead.
After the Sunday Mass the parishioners met in the parish hall for a potluck lunch.