For the last several months our parish family has been much blessed with a presence that exudes joy and service and faith. No, not the Holy Spirit (although He is much present in our community). We’re talking about Seminarian Orlando Rivera.
Back in March when things began to shut down, young men in formation with the Archdiocese of Baltimore were forced to leave their seminary homes and take up residence in rectories around the archdiocese. Orlando came to us and immediately made his presence known. He has not only helped insure the Internet livestreaming of our liturgies has been successful, but has worked diligently to make them look and sound better for our viewers. He has become such an integral part of everything we do that Fr. Isaac asked if Orlando could continue to be assigned to our parish. We were thrilled when we were told “Yes.”
Orlando is from El Salvador. He is the oldest of three siblings, and his parents still live in El Salvador. Even though his family was not really devout in practicing their Catholic faith, Orlando began to feel the promptings of the Holy Spirit. In 2009 he was working, studying, and serving the church as a lector. He began experiencing concerns about his life - about what kind of life he desired for himself and what he could do to help others. He spoke with his pastor who suggested he participate in studies at the minor seminary for six months, and then pre-seminary for one week. At the end of his pre-seminary experience the rector asked him why he wanted to be a priest. Orlando replied “I want to serve God through his church, and serve the people of God.”
Orlando has faced different obstacles in his journey. But with perseverance and hope he is embracing his life of vocation. He was a missionary seminarian in his country, teaching the basic truth of our faith to children, young people and adults - visiting house by house, community by community, especially during Holy Week and Christmas time - and celebrating the liturgy of the Word. His missions were usually in the rural zones of the parishes he visited by pastoral assignment.
Orlando has been in the United States about six years. He lived in Arlington, Texas until January 2017, at which time he moved to Maryland. While pursuing his vocation he’s had many different kinds of jobs, including furniture delivery, working in a car wash, and working with air conditioners. He is excited about being involved in parish life with the groups and activities of our faith community. He looks forward to participating with our ROOTED program as well as with young people in our Virtual SummerStretch and ministry to and with adults. He has a passion for catechesis, with sharing our faith through the creed, giving spiritual talks and leading spiritual exercises. Orlando hopes to participate in the consecration to Mary, visit some spiritual places for pilgrimage (such as the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, Maryland) and even just to share in fellowship with our parish family members.
Orlando readily admits some struggles with the English language - both in understanding and speaking - but he is well on his way. Even though he has been living for some time in the USA much of his interaction has been with Spanish speakers. He wants to learn from our parish family how to become a good shepherd, and get some help developing his English, as well as growing in understanding our culture.
Please be sure to say “Hello” to Orlando and thank him for all the hard work he has already done for our community, much “behind the scenes” these last few months. As he himself says, “I am happy to stay in your parish. My desire is to follow the way of Jesus, and rely on Mary’s intercession to save the soul. Pray for me. Thank you.”
It was a beautiful Monday morning in September 2016, and Clarence and I were up and out of bed preparing for the day ahead. Clarence was scheduled for a 10am CT Scan at Advanced Radiology in Catonsville, and I had a 9am meeting at the office with a customer. After breakfast, I kissed Clarence good-bye and wished him good-luck at his CT scan, not knowing that this day would be one of the most griefs stricken day of my life!
Later that day I called home to find out how Clarence’s CT scan went, but he didn’t answer. I shrugged it off as its customary for him to run a few errands during the day. At 12:30pm I called again, but still no answer. I tried calling Clarence’s cell phone but it went right to voicemail. I thought that’s odd, so I drove home to check on him, but when I got there he wasn’t home. I didn’t want to panic so I drove back to my office, ate lunch, and continued to work. Then at 2pm, I called the house but still no answer from Clarence. “Where is he?” I wondered. I grew concerned, grabbed my stuff from my office and went to my supervisor and said I think I have a family emergency, so I’m going home. As I was driving home I called the house again, but still no answer from Clarence.
Something inside me said you should call the police so I dialed 911. I told the operator my husband is missing. The operator assured me a police car was on its way to my home. I thanked her and hung up. When I got to my house 2 police cars were in my driveway. I explained to the police the events of the day, about Clarence’s medical issues, and the license tag and description of the car. I was beside myself with worry and the officers reassured me that they were going to do everything they could to find Clarence. When the officers left, I sobbed, and fell down on my knees and asked God to tell me where Clarence was so that I could go get him. I prayed, “Dear Lord, take all my material possessions, this house, the cars, and all my belongings, but please bring me back my best friend!”
I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I remember it was 5:15am the following morning. I got up and called the police station to find out if they had any news on Clarence. The policeman who answered said “No Ma’am we don’t have any updates yet, but we have put out a BOLO (be on the lookout) on the car, provided Clarence’s photo to the News media, and have issued a Silver Alert.” The officer assured me if and when they had any updates they’d let me know right away. I thanked the officer, hung up the phone, and turned on the TV. At that very moment, WMAR news was reporting on a missing man - Clarence Holmes (my beloved). Right there on the screen was the photo I had given the police officers the night before. I sobbed, and realized how devastated parents and families of the missing must feel. I begged God to help the police find my best friend and bring him home safely.
I called St. Agnes Catholic Church and spoke with Fr. Michael Foppiano. I explained to him what was going on and asked him to pray for Clarence. He immediately prayed for me while on the phone and promised he’d let the parish family know to pray for Clarence’s safe return. I was in tears and thanked him. Later that evening I received a call from a nurse at Howard County General Hospital notifying me the police had located Clarence unconscious in his car and that he was in critical condition at the hospital. When I arrived I was escorted to an area where two doctors approached me and proceeded to tell me Clarence had suffered a stroke, had hypothermia, and his kidneys were shutting down. I was devastated and sobbed. The doctors assured me they were going to do everything they could to save his life. I thanked them and God, and I prayed!
After nine long days at the hospital, Clarence was transported to Charlestown Rehabilitation Center to re-learn how to walk, swallow, do speech and cognitive therapy, and to regain his strength. He was at there for 22 days, and I spent as much time as possible with him to ensure he remembered me because one of the side effects was short-term memory loss, which the doctors said because of his age they were uncertain he would regain. I was just thankful that Clarence was alive!
Needless to say, Clarence’s stroke has totally changed our lives. He has good days and bad days. It’s a daily battle with the unpredictability of the situation. It’s been three years since Clarence’s stroke. He’s survived the stroke, other medical issues, and the death of his mother last year. Overall his health is better. Next spring, God willing, I hope to take Clarence on a short trip for some fun in the sun.
I can’t thank the St. Agnes Catholic Church family who has made time to come to my home to administer communion for Clarence when he is unable to attend mass with me. Clarence and I give thanks and Praise to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for all his mercy in our lives! And to the St. Agnes Catholic Church family for all their prayers, support, and kindness!
I was given a homework assignment in my second grade First Communion prep class: write a prayer to say after receiving your First Communion. So when I thought about what my prayer would be, I modeled it after the greatest commandment like this: “I love you Lord with my heart, soul, strength and mind.” Now while me and homework never got along and I usually did the bare minimum to get by, I felt that there wasn’t anything I could add to this prayer. The next class, the teacher called on a boy to read his prayer to the class. He prepared a long and elaborate prayer and I had a sudden sinking feeling that I didn’t do enough. And, wouldn’t you know, the teacher called on me next. I recited my prayer and, no sooner was I finished, the first boy said “That was it?!?” I expected my teacher to say the same but instead she told the boy, “The simplest prayers are frequently the most powerful.” When I received my First Communion, I prayed this small, simple prayer, and have ever since.
My name is Scott Oesterle, and I have been a parishioner at St. Agnes and St. William of York since 2003. My wife Regina and I were married at St. Williams, where she was a lifelong parishioner.
I grew up in a family in which the expression of our faith consisted of going to Mass on Sunday and saying grace before meals. Beyond that, our faith did not enter into our daily lives. By the time I was 16, I was hungry for meaning in my life. In pursuit of meaning, I made many bad decisions and bad friendships, which only left me feeling lonely and broken. One weekend that summer, I was brought to a retreat when I had originally planned to go to a big party. At that retreat, a speaker gave a talk on the feeding of the five thousand. He encouraged us that, whatever we gave to Jesus, no matter how small, He was able to transform it into something big and beautiful. I also experienced Eucharistic Adoration for the first time and I felt the Lord touch my loneliness and brokenness. Adoration was available throughout the night and I stayed up all night staring at Jesus in the Eucharist and I said to Him, “I give my entire life to You.” Jesus accepted my small offering and began a work of transformation.
After the retreat, I made an effort to change my life and my habits. I began to go to daily Mass and Eucharistic Adoration whenever possible. I began to pray the rosary and read the Bible. The more I offered myself to Jesus, the more conviction I had of the wrong paths I had previously chosen. But it was impossible to change myself by a sheer act of the will, so I asked Jesus to change me, and over the next two years, He rescued me from bad habits and friendships.
I found that when I trusted things or circumstances to Jesus in the Eucharist, He really had a way of directing my path and transforming my small offering into something bigger and beautiful. When I headed off to college, I wanted to spend an hour every day before Blessed Sacrament. I asked the campus ministry director if there was Eucharistic Adoration on campus. I was told that if I could get people to sign up and commit to it, it could happen. A couple of days later, I was spending time in the chapel with Jesus when a girl came in to pray as well. We happened to leave at the same time and I asked her if she would be interested in committing to a weekly adoration time. She said yes. A few years later, I asked her a bigger question, and she said yes again! We've been married now for 15 years and have five amazing kids!
It’s been more than 20 years since I said my first ‘yes’ to Jesus. That ‘yes’ was a small offering, similar to the five loaves and two fish, but Jesus takes what is small and weak and transforms it. Today, I need Jesus more than ever before. Today’s culture is very difficult. We all struggle daily with isolation and busy-ness and our interior life is frequently filled with stress and distraction. It looks like everyone else is happier and more put together while we are just trying to survive. By my will alone, I am unable to overcome these things. So I offer Jesus my feelings of isolation, my busy-ness, my stress and distraction. And whenever possible, I offer Him these things in the Presence of the Eucharist. They are very small offerings, and many times they are all I have. But He is always faithful and He makes all things beautiful.
I believe that each of us has a mission, a purpose in life, which has been God-given. My purpose was defined on May 18th,2017, when I went to the Baths at Lourdes, France.
I had no idea why I had been summoned to Lourdes. And truly, I was summoned. I had gone to our Lady Center, in Ellicott City to view the traveling statue of Our Lady of Fatima, on March 31,2017, and while I was there experienced a conversion of my heart, and a desire to go to Lourdes. Easter Monday, April 16th,2017, I called a friend from church and asked her if she wanted to have lunch, and then jokingly said, “How about going to Lourdes?” She replied that she was going in two weeks. I immediately asked for the number of the tour company who put me in touch with the Franciscan Mission sponsoring the trip. I was told that there wasn’t any room on the buses or the planes, and they had the hotel rooms booked. I hung up, and thought about it and called her back. I said I was meant to be on this pilgrimage. Then a call came from the president of the tour company who booked me on that pilgrimage that same day!!!
A little about my life. I am a cradle Catholic. I went into a SSND convent school at 13 and returned home at 20. I received my teaching degree from Notre Dame College and taught for 34 years until the schools where I taught in the Archdiocese were closed. I lost my job three times, and so had no choice but to retire at age 62.
I had been diagnosed at age 35 with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and severe depression. Throughout my life, I have suffered with social anxiety and episodes of panic. It was because of counseling that I was able to be a successful mother and teacher.
I had prayed for years for a divine intervention, for the Lord to heal me. I had never stopped going to mass no matter how bad the anxiety or depression was.
Through God’s grace and His divine love, I have always been drawn to the sacraments and His loving presence and have always had a very strong faith and that is what has kept me from despair. I believe I was given the gift of perseverance at an early age.
When I went to Lourdes, I did not think to ask the Blessed Mother for a mental healing. I forgot. I prayed for a physical healing from the chronic pain of the reverse shoulder replacement, I had in April,2015 and a healing from the pain of the arthritic degenerative discs in my back. At the Anointing of the Sick Mass, the next day in Lourdes, it dawned on me that I forgot to ask the Blessed Mother for a healing of my depression and anxiety. I wanted to return to the Baths, but I heard the Lord laugh and say, “Enjoy Lourdes, I know the needs of your heart!”
When I got back from France, my life started to NOT make sense. None of my doctors, who treated my depression and anxiety, can explain the change in me. My depression and anxiety are completely gone. What amazes me is that the Blessed Mother replaced my depression with profound joy, and what I am learning is that healing is a process, and I am still being healed. I recently had a physical, and my thyroid condition which I had for many years is cured.
Before Lourdes, I lived in the past and the future. Now, I live only in the present moment. I embrace each day with joy, and look for opportunities to serve the Lord. My counselor says the change in me is like night and day. He has no explanation of what happened to me. He only can attest to the fact that I am not the same person who went to Lourdes in May, 2017. Before Lourdes, I spent a great deal of time by myself. The extent of my service to St. Agnes Church was being a lector and Eucharistic Minister. BEFORE I went to Lourdes, I was asked to bring communion to a nursing home; I went and then said it was out of my comfort zone, and did not go back.
Since my healing, I now take communion to residents at three nursing homes a and to patients at St. Agnes Hospital. I also serve as an Arimathean volunteer for funerals, and most importantly, I am a member of The Legion of Mary. I go to Mass daily, and receive the Eucharist. I could not do what I do if I did not receive the Eucharist daily. People often comment that I seem to be everywhere, I believe I am on fire with the Holy Spirit, and that the Holy Spirit can not burn out. I let Him lead me to the places where I am suppose to be. I am walking with a purpose, and daring to serve where the Blessed Mother sends me!
I believe my mission in life is to be a Herald of Hope and to bring comfort to the broken-hearted, especially the marginalized. Since the Blessed Mother has put profound joy in my heart. I share that joy with everyone I meet and encourage each person to be an Ambassador of Good Will! It’s easy to do, just a kind word or a simple smile can make someone’s day! Let’s listen to one another’s stories, and see how we are all connected.
I live each day knowing that my heavenly Father knows the needs of my heart before I even ask for His help and that He only wants the best for me. My greatest blessing is realizing that God is in control; how freeing it is to live that way!
Nothing is impossible with God.