Sunday, February 11, 2018

More than ever, we need to hear Jesus speak

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor 

Quote of the Week: “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also filled with the overcoming of it.” — Helen Keller.

“One who bears the sore of leprosy shall keep his garments rent and his head bare: He shall cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean!’ since he is in fact unclean. He shall dwell apart.”

This was the sentence bestowed upon the leper. He will be separated from family, community, human touch, closeness and intimacy.

To be healed of leprosy was to have one’s life given back to them. It is no wonder that, no matter where Jesus went, no matter how he tried to go off to deserted places to pray, they always found him; they searched him out.

They looked everywhere, because they were in need of healing, liberation from evil, clear teaching, and truth that could lift their spirit.

Jesus had it all. Jesus gave all. Jesus gave people back their lives. Jesus showed them the way. Jesus opened up the meaning and the power of God’s kingdom to them.

We live in a world inhabited by hundreds of millions more people than in Jesus’s time. We have bigger issues, more disease and illness, poverty, greater political divides, unprecedented social and financial complexities, more educated people, and — at the same time — lingering illiteracy.

With over 6 billion people on the planet, we are facing issues such as the availability of clean air and water, climate change, and new or unpreventable or untreatable infectious diseases.

Instead of becoming more manageable and understandable, the world is becoming more difficult, congested, complex and divided.

More than ever, we need to hear Jesus speak. We need his healing touch.

We need Jesus’s promise of the kingdom. We need our hungers and thirsts — deep within our individual and collective spirit — satisfied.

More than ever we need to echo the words of the psalm today: “I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.”

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112; email Follow Father Perry on Twitter: @MrDeano76.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Jesus is the healer and restorer of life

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor

Quote of the Week: “Our greatest fulfillment comes from giving ourselves to others.” — Henri Nouwen.

Job speaks of a life filled with misery, drudgery, troubled nights and restlessness without hope.

Paul speaks of spending his life in the service of the Gospel, to preach it free of charge to all persons: “I have made myself a slave to all so as to win as many as possible. To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak. I have become all things to all, to save at least some.”

Jesus was pressed by the crowds at night and at dawn; they sought him out. He “went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.”

But they pursued him, whole towns who were seeking healing and to be freed from demons; Jesus spent himself for others.

In each of these readings today, there is an emptying of self, yet for very different reasons and with very different results.

Job found emptiness that became meaninglessness; Paul found ultimate meaning in preaching the Gospel. To this end, Paul dedicated the rest of his life.

Jesus was pursued; no matter where he went, he was found. Not only did he know there was meaning in what he said or did, the people knew it, too, and sought what he had to offer to restore their lives.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus would finally say: “I am the way, the truth and the life.”

It couldn’t be put more simply. Jesus as healer and restorer of life is the Jesus that many still seek today. The greatest healing throughout the Gospels goes to and comes from the center of the Spirit in each of us. It is there that we open up to God to find strength, meaning, hope, life, truth, and the way.

The Responsorial Psalm invites our praise of the Lord, “who heals the brokenhearted.”

Let us lift up our hearts! Let us lift them high and sing out our praise to the Lord who: is good, is gracious, who rebuilds and gathers, who heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds, who calls each by name, who sustains, and in whom there is wisdom without limit!

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112; email Follow Father Perry on Twitter: @MrDeano76.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

In Jesus, the word of God comes to us

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor

Quote of the Week: “May your choices reflect you hopes, not your fears.” — Nelson Mandela.

God said he would send a prophet like Moses. His authority was guaranteed for the Lord God himself said: “I ... will put my words into his mouth; he shall tell them all that I command him.”

According to our biblical history, we have always had a relationship with our God who has sought to communicate with us; he chose instruments to speak his word, and the fulfillment was to come in Jesus.

As Jesus began his public ministry, as is recorded in the scriptures of these first weeks of Ordinary Time, the reactions of the ordinary people were consistently impressive: “All were amazed! What is this? A new teaching with authority? He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”

His fame spread everywhere. Historically we see the effect of Jesus. The penetrating question of real significance for us is whether or not Jesus — his teachings, his word, and example — amaze us.

And even if they do, is there more? Do we feel compelled to follow him? Is his word truth like no other truth?

Do we hear God’s voice in what he says and does? Is discipleship with Jesus something we can hardly resist?

Do we find a pride and self-conviction in sharing the Gospel with others?

Being touched or impressed by fame is one thing. Finding “abundant life,” as Jesus has promised, is another.

Finding life even in sorrow, pain, failure and death is the glorious power of the Gospel.

This is faith. This is Paschal Mystery. This is the fulfillment of God’s promise: “I ... will put my words into his mouth; he shall tell them all that I command him.”

In Jesus, the word of God comes to us. Jesus, word, God — all are one.

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112; email Follow Father Perry on Twitter: @MrDeano76.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Would you abandon your boat and follow Jesus right this moment?

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor 

Quote of the Week: “My mamma told me it’s not what they call you, it’s what you answer to.” — Donna Brazile.

The call of the first disciples is known by most all of us and pretty much taken at face value.

Jesus sees them, invites them to follow, and they get up and go. That’s it.

But if you stop to think about it, there is something quite mysterious about the account, if not weird. At least from the text itself, there is no evidence that they knew each other before this moment or that they had ever had any contact or conversation before.

Jesus saw Simon and Andrew (they were brothers) and he said to them: “Come after me and I will make you fishers of men.”
They abandoned their nets and followed him.

A little farther along he called two more brothers (James and John) as he passed by them; they abandoned their father and boats and followed Jesus, too.

No questions were asked.

Jesus gave no explanation or information. They all walked away from their work, their families, their routines. Why? What happened that was so compelling that they simply followed without a moment of hesitation?

Did Jesus have some mysterious power to command an utterly total response on the part of these brothers?

From the first moment that Jesus began his public ministry, it seems he had an overwhelming effect on people. They said: “Where does he get this authority? No one has ever spoken like this.”

The evangelist Mark presents a Jesus to us that has power over demons, over nature, over human illness.

Does his power reach into us? Does his word have authority and leave us spellbound? Do we find that, when he calls, we always wish to follow?

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112; email Follow Father Perry on Twitter: @MrDeano76.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The servant of God will not be denied

By Bishop J. Terry Steib, S.V.D.

Below is a transcript of an homily given by Bishop J. Terry Steib, S.V.D., bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Memphis, Tennessee, during a special Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels honoring late civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Together we celebrate the day for a man of God who knew what the Lord meant when he said, "You are my servant through whom I show my glory." 

Martin Luther King Jr. was that servant of God, sent in our midst to help us find a new way. And together we recall a memory of a prophet of our time who has now become in many ways a light to the nations.

And we commemorate that dream not just to the African-American community, but to all the people of the United States, and yes, even to the people of the world.

In our first reading, the prophet Isaiah tells us that the servant of God is a person upon whom the Spirit of the Lord is present. The servant of God is a person whom the Lord has chosen and sent to bring good news to the afflicted, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, release to the prisoners.

Isaiah was a servant of the Lord; and in his time, the people of God had returned to their own land, but they were desperate for a new beginning, desperate to make a whole a land that had been destroyed, desperate for a message that would transform their lives. It was to these chosen people that God sent his servant Isaiah.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in our time, was a servant of the Lord who came into the midst of the people as the people of God were trying to bring themselves out of the tortured times which was called Jim Crow at that time.

For too long, slavery meant that the black people had to mind their place. For too long, slavery meant that black people had to drink from one fountain, while the white people drank from the other fountain.

For too long, slavery meant that the civil rights of a minority group of people was different from the civil rights of a majority group. For too long, what African-American people said did not matter as much as what caucasian people said.

It was in our midst that God sent his servant Martin Luther King Jr..

He helped us to see the promised land of civil rights, for whoever was willing to open their eyes, he proclaimed the good news to the poor, to the victimized, to the enslaved, to the prisoners of the remnant of slavery.

We know his dream, and many of us can remember the wonder of having it spoken on that August day in 1963. We remember the baritone voice of Reverend King touching the hearts of some 250,000 marchers at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., when he told them, "I have a dream."

We remember the thrill of it, and we still hold on to the dream.

And the dream is just like every other human being's dream. It's a dream of being free to be ourselves. It's a dream of being able to pursue the ideal of what it means to be an American: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

"I'm black and I'm proud," we said back then. "Black and beautiful, and free," we said back then. "Black and Catholic, and free," we said back then.

And what are we saying today?

And yet, sisters and brothers, even though we know the dream of freedom, even though we have heard many people espouse this dream, even though some of us were in Washington, D.C., when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. put beautiful words to the dream, we know that the dream is deferred, it's put off, it's waiting for its completion.

Are our lives better now than they were at the height of slavery? Of course they are. 

Are our lives better than they were when we were sitting at lunch counters or refusing to move to the back of the bus, or watching and hearing about our young men and young women being killed when the bombs went off in Southern churches for no other reason than they happened to be black? 

Are things better today than they were then? Of course they are.

But the dream is still deferred, like a raisin in the sun, like a festering sore. We've come a long way, but we still have a way to go.

How do we know that? We know that the dream is deferred because we have hundreds of people who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, stating in effect that African-American people are inferior and should remember their place.

And we thought that somehow, these terrible statements ... just maybe we as a nation were beyond such horrible historics.

We know the dream is deferred because we know that nine African-American people were killed in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, recently because a deranged young man chose to shoot them while he studied with them in Bible study group.

We know the dream is deferred because a candidate in recent election for an Alabama Senate seat said that America was great back in slavery times, because families stayed together.

Which part did he miss? That slavery is wrong, immoral? Or did he miss the fact that one of the tragedies of slavery was that black families were broken apart for no other reason than that the slave owner could get a better price for this or that stronger slave. 

Or that the slave was a father to several children, or that the slave was pregnant, made no difference. The master sold the strongest to the highest bidder.

Sisters and brothers, our enslaved families, our enslaved ancestors, lived their wretchedness, hoping, praying, and living for the moment when someone would make their dreams of freedom come alive.

And here came the drum major, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. And oh, yes, the dream is still deferred, byt the prophet, the servant of God, will not be denied.

I'd like to believe that what has led us to this day, will give us a sense to continue to ask about his dream, his cause, suggesting that in that dream, he lives somewhere nearby.

Perhaps, we will have the wisdom and the knowledge and the courage to introduce our young ones to the hero, who by the end of his life was totally committed to bringing the good news to the afflicted, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty, to release the prisoners.

Perhaps, we will remind ourselves that the old dream, the famous and forever quoted dream of 1963 was only the beginning. Perhaps, we will remember that neither the dream nor the dreamer can die in places where men and women and children give themselves to the building of a better world.

And wasn't that what Martin Luther King kept saying to the end of his life? Let us rededicate ourselves in the long and bitter but beautiful struggle for a new world.

So let us invite ourselves, and our young ones, to build on that dream. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Good things come to those who wait for God

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor

Quote of the Week: “Listen to your inner self, it is who knows you best.” — C. Elizabeth.

Who likes waiting for anything?

Yet, isn’t life waiting, waiting, waiting?

Today’s scriptures are filled with words and images of waiting, listening, being called, looking for, staying, and finally being bluntly called to “come and see.”

One could easily come to the conclusion that an absolutely essential quality to being a person of faith in a vibrant relationship with God requires waiting, listening, and expecting.

These aren’t just Advent themes, but themes of everyday spiritual life.

Minister Darrick McGhee states it this way:

If you can wait on your hairstylist, you can wait on God. 

If you can wait at a fast food restaurant, you can wait on God. 

If you can wait in the emergency room of a hospital, you can wait on God. 

If you can wait in rush hour traffic, you can wait on God. 

If you can wait in line to purchase concert tickets for your favorite artist, you can wait on God.

If you can wait on a nice cup of coffee to brew, you can wait on God. 

If you can wait on a parking space to open closer to the entrance, you can wait on God. 

If you can wait until the end of the week or month to receive your paycheck, you can wait on God.

If you can wait on the Lord, then speaking the words of Psalm 40 today should flow sweetly from your lips: “I have waited, waited for the Lord. Here am I, Lord, I come to do your will.”

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112; email Follow Father Perry on Twitter: @MrDeano76.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

St. Bernard Catholic Church presents a Christmas Choir Concert

On the Feast of the Epiphany, let us close the Christmas season in song. Participating musicians will include all of our parish choirs, solo musicians, and a special performance by Father Perry Leiker, who will present a medley of Christmas songs.


Part I

Sunday, January 7, 2018

We are children of the light

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor 

Quote of the Week: “This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.” — Alan Watts.

The feast of the Holy Family and today’s celebration of Epiphany are closely connected in the person of Jesus.

Last week Jesus’s parents presented him to God. This week, he is being sought after by King Herod, supposedly so that Herod could show him homage.

However, we know the darker designs, and all of the babies under 2 years of age in Bethlehem discovered those designs as well.

The deeper connection for us and for our families lies precisely in the connection of the feasts of the Holy Family and Epiphany. The whole idea of presenting a child to God is not some pretty little ritual or Kodak moment.

This is serious!

Parents give their child to God; they dedicate their child to grow as God’s child, as a holy child. They shape and form their faith.

Parents will educate, foster self-respect, model wholesome familial and social interaction, be the best models of faith, and provide both caring and tough love to their children.

They will not be afraid of the word “no.” Parents will always teach the consequences for one’s actions. This child will know love, how to survive, know who they are and will contribute generously to making this a better world.

The light has come! Epiphany!

This light drew the Gentiles to the birth of Jesus; they recognized who he was and that he had a mission and significance as bright as the star that led them to him.

Even King Herod was afraid, because truth and love would replace lies, hate and fear.

What powerful and controlling king wouldn’t want to stomp out a new power of love, peace, justice and goodness.

Epiphany proclaims this new light in the person of Jesus Christ. Epiphany is the light that calls us to recognize our Lord. Epiphany is the revelation of the eternal truth inviting us to participate in it as never before.

We are children of the light. What will it be for my and my family: light or darkness?

Who do I present my child to: God, or the world of greed, profit, materialism, mindless pleasure and no values?

God, take me. God, take my child. God, take my family. God, take my future. God, take this world.

We present all to you. Give us your light. Be our Epiphany today, the revelation of you in our lives.

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112; email Follow Father Perry on Twitter: @MrDeano76.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Rededicate you and your family to God

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor

Quote of the Week: “Blood makes you related. Loyalty makes you family.” — Unknown.

From the very first chapter of the scriptures, when it comes to family, it is clear what God intends: “Be fruitful and multiply.”

Today’s feast focuses on the holy family: Joseph, Mary and Jesus.

From the beginning of Genesis we see God’s desire and plan for a regenerating of the species through a fruitful multiplication.

God tells Abram (who becomes Abraham in the Covenant with God): “Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can. Just so shall your descendants be.”

Even in Abraham’s old age God provides for the beginnings of a mighty nation with many descendants. Sterility is no obstacle for God. But there is more in the feast today as we listen to the Gospel of Luke.

The Jews had a very deep faith understanding of the God-gift that family was, both in thanksgiving and the deepest sense of dedication. After 40 days the child was to be presented to God.

In this particular family story, prophecy and grace, and the beginning of redemption, surround this ordinary family event. Devout Simeon declares: “My eyes have seen your salvation ... a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory for your people Israel.”

And he continues: “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted.”

Even Mary’s future pain and sorrow is predicted.


Is this what we can expect from family, whether a small family like Jesus’s, or the enormous human family promised to Abraham by God?

Is it always to include suffering? Will there always be struggle? Is there no doubt that both falling and rising is in the picture?

And so what makes it holy?

“The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.”

The favor of God falls upon all of us, especially those anointed with God’s own Spirit in baptism.

There is no question about God’s promise of fruitfulness — just count the over 6 billion presently inhabiting the earth.

There is no question about the favor of God — available to any and all who open their heart to him.

Perhaps the call of this feast day is to rededicate our self, our life, our day and our future to the God of Abraham, and our God, too.

Perhaps this is what makes each of us and any family “holy.”

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112; email Follow Father Perry on Twitter: @MrDeano76.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Sister Dolores was a woman of wisdom and grace

Sister Dolores M. O'Dwyer, photographed at St. Bernard Church on Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012, shortly after her retirement Mass. (Photograph by Michael J. Arvizu/St. Bernard Catholic Church)

Raised from a source of strength

Dolores Margaret O’Dwyer, B.V.M., was born on Aug. 28, 1923, the third child of William and Margaret Meaney O’Dwyer of San Francisco, Calif. She joined siblings William and Mary Catherine. Dolores’ parents were born and married in Ireland before immigrating to the United States and settling in the Mission District of San Francisco.

Her father had a fun-loving personality, opposite yet complementary to the quiet, serious and pious personality of her mother. Both parents had strength at the foundation of their characters. The O’Dwyer family belonged to St. Paul Parish and Dolores attended and graduated from St. Paul elementary and high school, where she was taught and influenced by the BVMs.

Religious vocations apparently ran in the O’Dwyer family. Dolores was inspired first by her mother who belonged to the Third Order of St. Francis and instilled in her children that religious life was something wonderful. Her brother William joined the Lasallian Christian Brothers and later become a diocesan priest. Her sister, Sister Mary Catherine (Paul Anthony), entered the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) congregation in 1932 and died in 2001. Dolores herself entered on Sept. 8, 1941, and received the name Wilmetta upon her reception on March 19, 1942. She professed her first vows on March 19, 1944, and lived 76 years as a BVM.

Dolores taught in elementary schools for 24 years. She was missioned at St. Odilo in Berwyn, Ill.; St. George, Christ the King, and St. John in Seattle; St. Clare in Portland, Ore.; and Holy Family in Glendale, Calif.

In the middle of Dolores’ teaching years, tragedy struck the O’Dwyer family. Dolores’ mother, who had been diagnosed with dementia, was exceptionally restless on Oct. 1, 1956, so Dolores’ father decided to take his wife for a ride, which included a stop at the bay to gather sea grass as they used to do in their early days in Ireland.

After returning home, Dolores’ father fell asleep and awoke after midnight to discover his wife was gone. It is believed that she thought it was morning and had headed to Mass at St. Anthony Church, only to be struck and killed by a Greyhound bus.

In a letter to friends, Dolores wrote about the comfort the family received from the BVM community. “There was a special BVM rosary [in the afternoon] ... My Dad was greatly impressed and [remarked], ‘I gave two daughters [to the BVMs] and got a hundred in return.’ My cousin who is a Sister of Mercy was there and was overcome by the charity and love of the BVMs ... Please accept [our] thanks ... for your part in making this tragedy easier to bear. All your letters and promises of prayers have made us all so happy.”

Sister Dolores M. O'Dwyer greets wellwishers at the conclusion of the 5 p.m. Mass on Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012. Sister Dolores was St. Bernard Catholic School principal for 36 years before her retirement. (Photograph by Michael J. Arvizu/St. Bernard Catholic Church)

An award winning principal, dedicated to Catholic education

In 1968, Dolores became the principal at St. Bernard in Los Angeles and remained there for 36 years. She truly became the center of the St. Bernard community. The pastor wrote, “The greatness of your service to St. Bernard School and Church is not measured only in the number of years you have given, many as they are. Your service is measured especially by the love you have shown, the dedication that is always evident and the God-given talents you have shared with generations of students and families.”

Dolores was a woman of wisdom and grace as she face numerous educational challenges and proved herself an innovative leader. She received the Distinguished Principals Award from the Department of Elementary Schools of the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) in 1991. The executive director of NCEA stated, “Sister Dolores has a clear, integrated philosophy of Catholic Education, is highly regarded by peers, students and parents. She firmly believed that a Catholic School is a place where children are allowed to grow to maturity in finding God and contributing to society.” In recognition of this award, she was also honored as the “Principal of the Year for the Western States.”

As a member of the 1994 delegation of the NCEA and the People-to-People Organization, Dolores visited and studied Catholic schools in Australia and New Zealand. In 1998, Catholic Charities honored her with the Lifetime Achievement Award for her involvement in Catholic Youth Organization athletics. Dolores engaged with her students by attending all school activities and challenging the athletes to learn the skills of the sport and to play as a cohesive team, skills that helped them succeed later in life.

From left, Diane Barber, Sister Joan Maga, Sister Dolores M. O'Dwyer, and Mary Lou Krajewski pose with Sister Dolores at a celebration in honor of her 36 years as principal of St. Bernard Catholic School principal. (Photograph by Michael J. Arvizu/St. Bernard Catholic Church)

Dolores’ contribution to Catholic education was tremendous. Her determination, unselfish devotion, love, faith and skills as an educator influenced the lives of many students, parents, teachers and staff. She was a source of inspiration as she taught by example that every person is loved and cherished by God, and that we are all one family. She truly made a difference.

Not slowing down, even in retirement

After retiring in 2004, Dolores volunteered as a tutor at St. Bernard and pursued her other interests, which included crocheting, cooking, reading, indulging her cats, and cheering on the Los Angeles Lakers. She had a delightful wit and a cheerfulness about her, and was honest to a fault. She loved to sing and dance, and enjoyed a good party, all of which fit quite well with her Irish heritage.

Dolores moved to Mount Carmel in 2012. It was a difficult transition at first, but eventually one could hear her singing, sometimes through the night. The last verse of “Amazing Grace” was a favorite tune: “When we’ve been there ten thousand years/Bright shining as the sun,/We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise/Than when we first begun.”

Dolores longed to join her parents, brother and sister. Finally, last Saturday, Jesus came for her. One can imagine Dolores speaking the words from Song of Songs: “Hark! My lover—here he comes ... My lover speaks; he says to me, ‘Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come!’” With this invitation, Dolores followed her beloved to a new dwelling place; her voice joined the heavenly chorus.

Sing on, Dolores! Sing on!

Dolores died on Dec. 16, 2017, at Caritas Center in Dubuque, Iowa.

She was preceded in death by her parents, brother Rev. William O’Dwyer, and sister Mary Catherine O’Dwyer, B.V.M. (Paul Anthony). She is survived by cousins and the Sisters of Charity, B.V.M., with whom she shared life for 76 years.

Dolores was 94.