Pastor’s Keyboard

June 9, 2019 – Summer Helper Column

Summer Helper Column

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

My name is Cameron Barford, I’m currently a rising sophomore at Ave Maria University in Florida, studying Exercise Science, as well playing for the men’s soccer team. I’m very blessed to be given the opportunity to work with Fr. Scott this summer as I discern the Lords will for me. I’m very excited to get to know each of you throughout this summer!

I’m always amazed at how God works, through those who feel the most unworthy and the least called to a life in the priesthood. Growing up I never gave much thought to becoming a priest until recently.  I was always afraid that while discerning God would ask me to become a priest, so I ran out of fear of having my life chosen for me. I pushed away any idea of being a priest and in some ways told God” my will not yours”. I went away to college with no intention of really growing closer to God out of fear of how it would change me. Around the middle of March, I was in a very rough part in my life spiritually. I was suffering and fearful of what my life was to become, unable to comprehend a God who claimed to love me yet, I felt so alone and far from loved. So, I decided to do what any logical Catholic in trouble would do, call Fr. Scott! I will never forget that phone call because over the course of an hour my fear was gone, and I felt as if I was called to a deeper love of Christ, no longer afraid of what he might call me to. I accepted to work with him this summer with an open heart for the first time in my life, and let God change me. I have loved every minute of it, and I don’t regret it one bit, its truly amazing what a little faith can do to one’s life.

“Perfect love casts out all fear”. To have perfect love doesn’t mean to love perfectly but rather to embrace Gods love which is perfect. Whenever we are afraid of what God may call us to, it’s nice to be reminded by what I think are the most beautiful words in all of scripture, and a constant reminder to trust.” Behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20).

God bless you,

Cameron Barford

June 2, 2019 – Seminarian Column

Seminarian Column

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Yesterday we celebrated Memorial Day, a day of remembrance for those that died for our country and safety. During Mass, I reflected on Our Lord’s words to His Apostles at the last supper. He says, “There is no greater love than this; to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). In a translation footnote, it notes that the translation of “his friends” can also mean “ones who are loved”. This is what these service members have done, they have kept us safe from harm and gave their lives for their loved ones and for us.

But how can the average Catholic accomplish this? What is it that we can do on a day-to-day basis to fulfill this directive of God? Simply put, live for others. This is part of the path to personal sanctity, living for others in the specific way God has called you to. Actions we take for others need to be done for God ultimately. Feeding the hungry is a great and wonderful thing, but if done for personal glorification the intention is lacking. If done for the sake of the those starving, this is a noble and good intention. But, if feeding the hungry is accomplished out of a love of God, as a response to God’s love for you and in recognition of God’s love for the hungry, I cannot think of a nobler intention. Loving God through sacrificing whatever it may be, comfort, money, time, etc…, is a kind of fuel for the spiritual wellbeing of each one of us. In essence then, live for others as a response to God’s love. To live for others means to put others first sacrificing our own needs, wants, desires and essentially sacrificing our own life for others. That is how to accomplish this aspect of personal holiness.

Yours in Christ,

Joseph McHale

May 26, 2019 – Seminarian Column

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It is such a joy and blessing to be here for the summer! Thank you for your warm welcome. I look forward to getting to know everyone and all the experiences God has in store!

In the readings for this Sixth Sunday of Easter, we hear of instructions from the apostles, more of John’s vision in Revelation, and Jesus’ encouragement for all who follow him. In Acts, the apostles instruct their brothers to follow the simple laws they explain to them, for “it is the decision of the Holy Spirit,” as their message says. In his vision, John sees the holy city, Jerusalem, coming from heaven and says, “it gleamed with the splendor of God.” In the Gospel, Jesus says we must love him so that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will dwell within us. He later shares with his disciples, as he does with us, his peace. This peace is divine peace, peace from God, not of this world.

Brothers and sisters, we must “dedicate our lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Just as many saints have shown us throughout the ages, this is part of the journey to holiness, to heaven. Although it is in part our decision, it is really up to the Holy Spirit. We should be docile and open enough to the Holy Spirit and to God’s will in our lives to allow Him to work in us. If we are open to His will, dedicate our lives to His name, and follow Him, then He will dwell in us, we will have peace that radiates from us, and we will gleam with the contagious, beautiful, and loving splendor of God. Let us all be light for this world and spread the personal, deep, and real love of God!

Yours in Christ,

Dylan Prentice

May 19, 2019

Pastor’s Keyboard: Many of you might have noticed that there have been a lot of extra helpers around St. Cecilia recently. They are part of the Summer Helper Program. So, what is the Summer Helper Program you may ask? Many call it the future Seminarian Program, but that’s a misnomer. How and why does our parish host this program? How does this benefit our parish? And what does it all take?

The program started years ago when two young men, whom I was spiritual director for, said they needed a summer job to earn money before they entered seminary in the fall. They also needed help learning all the many prayers and ways to serve the Mass. They desired to experience and learn more about the life of a priest to see if it was truly where they felt called. One mom I know predicted (almost eight years ago) that I would be called by God to be a father more than I have ever been before. Boy was she right! I saw this as a one-time thing, but from then on God sent young men who desired to grow in holiness and some discerning the call to priesthood to come and ask if they could experience a summer learning and living like a Diocesan priest (to the extent they could.) Most of these men have chosen to enter the seminary to test their vocation (the seminary is where you go not when you’re sure you are called but when you experience God leading you to discern the priesthood more intensely). Some, at the end of the summer, feel that, though it’s a beautiful life, it is not where God is calling them right now. But some enter the seminary later in life. Yet, at the end of the day, it has helped them to grow to become stronger Men of God more committed to living their lives centered in Christ.

During this time, these young men spend long hours, usually four to six days a week, in prayer five to six times a day, manual labor for the parishes and parishioners in need, theological study, helping with our two youth group meetings, assisting with adult education programs, funerals, weddings, parish council meetings, visiting families, and much more. Their day starts at 6:30am with Holy Hour and Mass and often ends around 9pm or later with night prayer and then they leave to go home to sleep.

So how do the two parishes afford all of this? First these generous young men give a lot in time and talent to our parishes and to its many ministries. This year, I have sought to raise all the funds needed to pay and to feed them. That way our small parish does not have to carry the heavy load of having three seminarians and five college students. To do this, I estimated how much I need to raise. By God’s grace, most of the money has been raised through asking individuals and organizations such as the Knights of Columbus. My hope is that with gifts from individuals and organizations the rest of the funds needed will be raised. Fortunately, God has provided the means to carry out this program in the past and I am trusting in Him to provide again this year.

This program has helped and inspired many more vocations through the years and has been noticed by the Archdiocesan Vocations Office as a great program, as well. My hope is that some of the young men (if God wills many of the young men you have and are seeing coming through this summer helper program) will one day serve at the altar of God as priests.

I hope all of you reading and contributing to this program will know that by your prayers and example you too have aided the ministry they now offer to the people of God.


Your Father and Brother in Christ,


Fr. Scott Woods

May 12, 2019 – Meet our Summer Seminarian

Dylan Prentice will be arriving May 17th

First Pre-Theology
Saint John Paul II Seminary
Home Parish: St. Martin of Tours, Gaithersburg

Studied and performed opera prior to entering seminary.

My life before the seminary:

In 2017, I graduated from DePauw University with a Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance. I decided to continue on to pursue a Master of Music in Opera Voice Performance at Southern Methodist University where I performed and studied. During my years in undergraduate and graduate school, I taught both voice and piano and directed choirs.

What convinced me to enter the seminary:

During my last year of undergraduate at DePauw University, I had a profound experience in Eucharistic Adoration while on a student-led retreat. I believe that the Lord presented himself to me and told me that He was calling me to something more than a career in music performance and teaching. I applied and pursued entering seminary that fall but decided against it. After a year of graduate school and living a virtuous, sacramental life, I knew in my heart that I desired to enter seminary and follow God’s call for me. If this was truly my desire in my heart, then I knew that God had put that desire in my heart. I couldn’t ignore his call anymore!

Other interests include:

Reading, soccer, all things Maryland especially Maryland steamed blue crabs. I also enjoy spending time outdoors with friends and family, camping, hiking, and summertime crab feasts!

May 5, 2019

Pastor’s Keyboard:

It has been said “the Measure of Love is to Love without Measure”.  Words easier spoken then lived, unless we make ourselves recipients of the greatest love of all, from the very source of love itself.  Our Lord is the source of Love. “God is love” and He desires to pour that love into us.  Yet, we are not always as open and responsive as we can and should be.  Why?  Often, it’s fear.  Fear of the unknown, what will He ask of me?  What might I have to clear out of my heart to make room?  Will I truly be happy with Him?  This can often be based off of disappointments that have come with those who claimed to love us, but then failed us in some way.  Or because we feel so unworthy of this love.

Yet, the Lord as in today’s gospel reaches out to us, nonetheless, calling us “My Beloved, My chosen One”.  He has often been called the hound of Heaven, and so indeed He is.  The only question we need to ask ourselves every day is “will I let myself be caught”.  As a young child, I remember my father playing with me.  Sometimes it was hide and go seek, and once he found me, he would let me run away from him and he would chase me.  Eventually, I always let myself be caught.  Why?  Because overtime I came to know and trust that when I did only Love and Joy awaited me in his arms.  As it was with my earthly father,   so it is much more and for all eternity with Our Heavenly Father.  Everyday Jesus seeks and finds you.  Stop running!


Your Brother and Father in Christ,

Fr Scott

April 14, 2019

Pastor’s Keyboard: Wednesday of Last week, Fr Ray (the Pastor of St John’s in Hollywood, Maryland) called to tell me that he was very excited about an event that was taking place in his parish the next day. A year ago, the Archdiocese decided that they wanted to find a formal way of recognizing and honoring all those who were buried in Catholic Cemeteries who had been slaves.  In many of the parish cemeteries, these places of rest were lost to human memory and not recorded or there were no markers left.  The Archdiocese decided they would offer plaques and large markers to honor them.

Fr Ray decided this was a great opportunity to not only honor these sons and daughters if God who were forgotten but to help others in the parish and county to remember this sad history of our Church, Nation, and Country.  He wanted to have a Mass that would focus prayers for the repose of their souls and honor their faith in the Lord.  He arranged for an amazing Opera singer to sing Negro Spirituals.

When he chose the date for the Mass, he had not looked for any special date in particular, he just wanted it to work with his very full parish schedule.  So, he knew it was Divine Providence when it turned out that the date he had chosen was the 51 anniversary of the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King and the day chosen to announce the New Archbishop of Washington, who it turned out was the first African American Archbishop of Washington!

As he told me this, I too was becoming more excited, especially since the new archbishop’s name had not been officially announced yet, but the media found out early.  I decided then and there that I would attend even though it was my day off and I would already have said Mass in the morning.  But as this thought was going through my head Fr Ray said, “I know it’s short notice, but I was afraid to ask since it’s your day off, but would you mind giving the Homily for the Mass tomorrow?”  Well, he had already gotten me so excited with the rest of the news I couldn’t imagine saying no.

The day of the Mass arrived and I found myself filled with meetings (though it was my day off, it’s also Lent),  I won’t go into my schedule but the only time that day I had free was the 15 minutes I had for a power nap.  When I arrived that evening to concelebrate the Mass and give the homily, I realized I had had no time to prepare.  I said a quick prayer and made an act of Trust in the Lord and he provided all I needed.  Grace was abundant.  The music was superb, the talk by the Head of the Intercultural Office for the Archdiocese was powerful and so was Fr Ray’s short talk of what inspired him to have this Mass.  Then to top it off all of us lit candles and walked into the darkness to illuminate the night with faith, song, and prayer.  The Memorial was then blessed, and we sang one last song in honor of Our Lady.  It was beautiful, powerful, and a blessing for all who came from across the county.  Let us remember this sad history, less we repeat it.  Let us honor all the victims of slavery through learning their stories and praying for the repose of their souls.  And let us strive to illuminate this dark world where hatred and division often seem to win out, with the light of Christ’s love, mercy, truth, and charity.  The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it!
Your spiritual Brother and Father,
Fr. Scott

March 31, 2019

Pastor’s Keyboard will return next week.

What is Laetare Sunday?

 A little light breaks into Lent this Sunday! The Fourth Sunday of Lent (March 31st) is called Laetare Sunday, when the Church takes a bit of breather from Lenten practice and opens Mass with the Entrance Antiphon, “Rejoice, Jerusalem … Be joyful, all who were in mourning!” – taken from Isaiah chapter 66.

To get a deeper insight into this “Rejoice” Sunday, we asked Father Matthew Ernest to explain some of the theology and practice related to the celebration. Father Ernest was ordained in 2004 for the Archdiocese of New York, where he serves at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Scarsdale. He holds a doctorate in Liturgy from The Catholic University of America and has assisted in the preparation of the new translation of the Roman Missal.

     Fathers for Good: Where does the name “Laetare Sunday” come from?

Father Ernest: Laetare Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Lent, takes its name from the Latin word which begins the entrance antiphon (introit) for that day. Laetare means rejoice, and this Sunday is marked by a relaxation of the penitential character of the Lenten season. In church, flowers may be used to adorn the altar on this day, and the organ may be played more fully.

     FFG: Are we supposed to “Rejoice!” in the middle of Lent?

     Father Ernest: Indeed we are! On this Sunday, we look with expectation to the great Solemnity of Easter for which we have been preparing ourselves as a Church during the Lenten season. By its anticipation of the joy of Easter, Laetare Sunday is meant to give us hope and encouragement as we slowly progress towards the Paschal Feast.

     FFG: Did the priests used to wear rose vestments on this Sunday?

     Father Ernest: Not only did priests used to wear rose vestments, but they still may! On both Laetare Sunday and Gaudete Sunday (the Third Sunday of Advent), a priest may wear rose vestments. The color rose is used as a sign of the joy which characterizes these two Sundays. The use of rose vestments probably stems from an ancient papal tradition of blessing golden roses which would be sent to Catholic heads of state in Europe on the Fourth Sunday of Lent.

     FFG: Are there traditional (or contemporary!) celebrations or observances that a family might observe to make this Laetare Sunday more memorable?

     Father Ernest: In addition to attending Sunday Mass, a family might choose to mark Laetare Sunday by anticipating the Easter feast; a Sunday brunch with roses on the table would be appropriate. A family might also wish, during this beginning period of spring, to plant a rose bush on this day. Finally, there was a medieval tradition of visiting one’s “mother church” (the church where one was baptized) on this day. A family trip to see where mom and dad or the children began their journey of faith could make for a fine Sunday afternoon outing!

March 24, 2019

Pastor’s Keyboard:  “The Joy of the Lord is my strength”!  Recently a student from China came to meet with me.  He was raised in an atheist country where the faith is very controlled and often suppressed.  During his years at Ryken he said he encountered Christians who were filled with Joy.  Every year some of teachers and I take some young men to visit the seminary for a day.  Usually we always end up taking some non-Catholics and even non-Christians.  Some of the priests at the seminary were not happy when we first did this, but I explained that as a convert myself, I knew it could help them to be open to the call of the Lord to the faith and from there to a potential vocation to the Priesthood.  This young man said that trip had a huge impact on him.  He said he had never met so many young men who were so happy and fulfilled.  It inspired in him even more the desire to become Catholic himself.  What amazed me was the expression of joy I saw on his face as he spoke of the young people and teachers that influenced his decision to enter the church.  I thought to myself, surely, he knows that the church is going through one of the greatest crises it has faced in the modern era?  Surely, he knows that the media and many others have little to nothing good to say about the church or those who serve her?  Yes, he knows, yet what has influenced him to see the good and beauty in the church has been Christians alive with the joy of the Lord despite the failings of some of our own.

This year I’ve had a number of students at the high school and the college and both parishes that want to enter the church. Most have supportive families, some have been told NO!  This young man comes from a prominent family and so the consequences could be bad.  He knows that he could be risking family disapproval and government disapproval, yet he is determined.  Even before he met with me, he started to attend daily Mass, though not receiving Holy Communion, he started to pray daily, and started to read more about the faith.  He is a passionate young man who desires to give his life to the Lord and if necessary, for the Lord.  It’s a beautiful thing to think about the effect the everyday students and teachers have had on him.  He went to another Christian school before Ryken where the same gospel was preached but he said it was not lived out in daily life.  He said here in our community he has experienced both the teachings and the teachings lived out in the lives of his fellow students, teachers, and the seminarians he has met.  Now he wants to enter the faith.  How many people like this young man exist in our families, among our neighbors, co-workers, and among our friends.  They are watching us, even when they seem not to be listening to us.  Therefore, we must make sure that the gospel that we have learned, and that we speak, matches (by God’s grace) our lives.  The lived Gospel can have the most powerful effect on us and on others.  The lived Gospel in your life this week at work, at home, in the neighborhood, among your friends might not only save your soul but theirs.  Please Lord may it be so for us all!


Your Brother and Father in Christ,

Fr. Scott