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Dear Friends, 

I cannot tell you how important and how influential Jack Shea has been in my life and in my ministry. He taught me that what we do as priests is an art form, a craft, that has to be cultivated and practiced. 

He taught me that important preaching and helpful pastoral ministry begins with “shortening the distance” between the Tradition and the “folks.”  

By that he meant that you had to begin your preaching and your ministry with the ordinary experience of the people gathered and be very aware of the conditions under which and for which they have gathered. 

If you are going to ask or expect people to assemble for some kind of experience of “Church,” you had to make sure that you took careful note of where they are coming from and where they are going. That is why we have suckers, ice cream trucks, kid blessings, lots of food with religious education on the side, and, especially, why we have made a commitment to excellence with our music program. 

Jack taught me the absolute necessity that a preacher see movies and plays, read books, listen to music, be aware of art history, and the value of being away, not on vacation, but on sabbatical as a regular part of my self-care.     

The personal statement of Jack Shea that can be found on his website ( follows. 

“As I look over my shoulder, I see there was more unity in the decisions I made and the directions I took than I knew at the time I was making those decisions and taking those directions.

I was always interested in how individual and communal faith was a resource for engaging the situations in which we find ourselves. How did it illumine the mind, inspire the will, gladden the heart, and galvanize actions?
Over the years, I had ministerial, academic, and organizational positions where I could pursue this interest. I often worked with higher-level ecclesiastics and academics.

But my heart was always in the grassroots. How did people in parishes and workers in organizations bring their faith into what they were experiencing and doing? How did their spiritual identity inform their physical, psychological, and social conditions?
I co-founded and directed for 20 years a Doctor of Ministry Program that specialized in how to do grassroots theological reflection. Participants came mostly from parish ministries, but also from hospital and prison ministries.

 With the help of community organizers, organizational development specialists, sociologists, psychologists, scripture scholars, and theologians, we engaged the problems and possibilities of parishes. I developed products and services to meet those challenges and turn them into opportunities for growth.

For ten years, I was the Executive Director for Design and Implementation at the Ministry Leadership Center (MLC). MLC created formation programming for senior executives of five Catholic Health Care systems.

 I resourced and facilitated over a 1000 leaders as they learned to articulate and integrate the tradition of Catholic Health Care into the mission and work of their organizations. I also worked with non-Catholic faith-based organizations in health care and social services. I developed products and services that combined the theory and practice of bringing faith and spirituality into organizational life.

So, somewhat to my surprise, there has been a consistent motivation and concern throughout my work. I am still doing today what I started doing at the beginning—helping people bring their faith and spirituality into their life situations. Along the way, I’ve learned a lot.” 

Jack Shea has been my friend and mentor for years. I received my Doctor of Ministry under Jack’s direction in 1992.. 

As a professor of systematic theology at Mundelein Seminary for years, he collaborated with some of the finest women and men in this country in the second half of the 20th century in creating a remarkable energy for the renewal and reform of American Roman Catholicism from the inside not the outside with intelligence, hope, compassion, and wisdom. 

Jack began with the Bible texts, the Gospels in particular, his series of books for preachers and teachers, Spiritual Wisdom of the Gospels, has been an indispensable source of wisdom for me in my preaching and in my attempts to make the biblical texts entry ways to wisdom and wonder for you.

 He used to have workshops for preachers in the autumn and then before Advent and Lent each year but as my generation of priests began to retire and the papacy of John Paul II made the homily increasingly into cultural and political rants, the demand for his kind of theology among the clergy diminished, sadly.

 Jack is a man of profoundly unself-conscious prayer, a spiritual teacher and guide without pretense, and a man deeply sensitive to the moral ambiguities that dwell in all human hearts, not the pettiness of correct behaviors, but the depths of alienation that is the root of all evil.

 He has written poetry, serious theology, wonderful reflections on the Gospels for Sundays and Feast Days, and a wonderful, wonderful book about Christmas. I offer some quotes from his writings.

 Jesus was the catalyst of a salvific experience, the bearer of divine salvation. Jesus now lives in the far reaches of God; but the experience which he inaugurated did not “ascend heavenward” with him. It continued among his followers who called themselves the Body of Christ, the ongoing possibility of salvation. The transmission of Christian faith is incurably people-centered, dependent upon the press of flesh from generation to generation. But no matter how many years distance us from Jesus, we will not forget him. His life, death, and resurrection is the authentic revelation of the living relationship to God. The upshot of all this, as chapter one suggests, is that we are a People of Spirit and Memory.

 This is from, An Experience of Spirit: Spirituality and Storytelling .

 Many years ago I was having a drink with a preacher in mid-January. He was telling me about a gimmick he used for the recently past feast of the Holy Family. He entered the pulpit with a small trophy and told the congregation that he and the staff had an announcement to make. They scrutinized the families of the parish and decided to award a trophy to the family that most resembled the Holy Family. (Although I cannot remember any exact words, I will express the gist of the conversation in dialogue form.) “Well, Jack, the place went dead quiet. The people stared at me with a look that said, “You idiot! What have you done?” “What were you after?” I asked. “My people think holiness is perfection. No negative feelings, no hurtful words, no lying, kids always obedient to their parents and parents always understanding their kids. If there is friction, the Holy Family heals it in a half hour, like the nonsense family comedies that are on television. But real family life is far from this idealistic picture. There is always discord, lack of communication, imputation of bad motives, mistakes, grudges. When judged against the perfection model, no family is holy. Even Jesus spoke some harsh words to his parents.” “So what were you after?” I asked a second time. “I wanted to disabuse them of the holiness-perfection connection.”

 The above is from, The Spiritual Wisdom Of The Gospels For Christian Preachers And Teachers: Feasts, Funerals, And Weddings: Following Love into Mystery: 4 (Spiritual Wisdom ... For Christian Preachers and Teachers)

 You can find out more about Jack and some more examples of his writing and a complete listing of his books at his website;


Father Niblick





You are invited to join me in looking at and trying to see better  through artists and their work.


In our time, the artistic, the aesthetic, the beautiful, the true is difficult to appreciate because we have so much stuff, so many images, so many objects, so many sounds, and data that flies through our airspace totally undetected by us but if we did notice it we might be a bit less rushed and hurried through our lives.


We will meet on Tuesdays, afternoon and evenings, March 12, 19, 26, and April 2, 9, and 16. Afternoons from 1:30 to 3:00 and evenings from 6:30 to 8:00.


I have found new materials and done more reading and I will offer some images and ideas that we have not talked about before.


A complete schedule of artists and topics will be in next week’s and subsequent bulletins.




The Movies this Lent will not be as entertaining as they might have been in the past and I want to try and be available to hear your comments and ideas, so we will have just 4 movies.


After Easter, we will have movies that might be considered less serious but still dealing with important topics.





             Beautiful Boy chronicles the heartbreaking and inspiring experience of survival, relapse, and recovery in a family coping with addiction over many years. Based on the best-selling memoirs from David and Nic Sheff.




            Is based on Garrard Conley’s memoir of the same name. The film deals with so called, reparative or conversion therapy, designed to facilitate a change in sexual orientation, a “change” which medical and psychological professionals agree is impossible and unnecessary. It is illegal in many states and countries as it is based on the application of physical and emotional violence, but it is endorsed as a legitimate “science” by many Christian fundamentalist groups.



            is a romantic drama based on a novel by James Baldwin. James Baldwin (1924-1987) wrote essays and fiction exploring the intricacies of racial, sexual, and class distinctions in Western societies, especially 20th century America.