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Profiles in Catholicism
 
An Interview with Father Phillip F. Cioffi, Orat.,
Assistant Pastor, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel
by Gordon Nary

 

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Gordon:

 
  Some of our readers not have seen the excellent article on you by Dolores Madlener in the Catholic New World  a few years ago which gives us a great overview of your vocation and your interest in electric rails. With vocations to the priesthood declining, what advice would you give to those who question if they have a true vocation for the priesthood?
     
Fr. Phil:

 
  Take advantage of different opportunities for discernment. Go on a retreat, use the resources offered by, for example, the Archdiocesan Vocation Office such as Chicago Priest. Get involved in some type of ministry in a parish or other setting. It's important to know yourself and to be honest with yourself. Get feedback from your family, friends, and co-workers.   How do they see you? Pray and be patient with yourself and God,
     
Gordon:   When did you join the OLMC Parish Staff and what have you found most rewarding at OLMC?
     
Fr. Phil:






 
  I came to OLMC in July, 2011. The church was in middle of the Renovo restoration/renovation. I was privileged to be here for the re-dedication of the Church and the consecration of the new altar in September of that year. I was very struck by the beauty of the Church, the quality of the liturgy and attention to detail.
 
I have also found it very rewarding to  get to know the staff, parents students of the OLMC Academy. It  has been a delight working with them.
 
Having been born and raised in the city, and having graduated from DePaul University, I was also happy to be here in the Lakeview and Lincoln Park area. Convenient to transportation and the beautiful lakefront and being close to so many cultural attractions and fine restaurants, I really do feel particularly blessed. I love the cultural diversity and  it  is so heartening to see so many younger people attending Mass here. Also  have really enjoyed working with the RCIA team in bringing new people into the Church.
     
Gordon:   If someone was considering joining OLMC, what would you counsel them on the advantages of being an OLMC parishioner?
     
Fr. Phil:   We have a very gifted parish staff , a great school , many prayer and devotional opportunities, a beautiful Church with great liturgies, superb choirs and musical program. Your presence will be appreciated here and we encourage people to use their gifts and talents.
     
Gordon:   Do you have any observations on the OLMC Parish Transformation Plan?
     
Fr. Phil:












 
 
In various parishes over the years I have participated in a number of parish renewal programs. These programs addressed the spiritual renewal of the parishioners and of the parish community as a whole . I am thinking primarily of Christ Renews His Parish, Renew, Kingdom retreat Weekends, Cursillo, etc. In addressing the spiritual renewal of souls these were excellent programs. Sometimes, however, once these programs had run their course, people then said, "Now what? where do we go from here?"
 
Most recently there was the Tomorrow's Parish process, which sought to assess the current status of parishes in terms of attendance, membership, finances, stability, etc. Goals were set to implement changes over a five year period. This was a step in the right direction insofar as its addressing  the bigger picture of the parish as a day-to-day organization from a "business" point of view as well as a spiritual communion.
 
The Parish Transformation Plan seeks to go even further. It is ambitious and comprehensive, with a detailed "blueprint" extending over a period of five or so years. To have specific goals with target dates in mind helps to enflesh what otherwise remain just great ideas. Hopefully the hard work of the volunteers who have participated in the process up to now will indeed lead to some great growth and development of our parish family.
 
We all need to hope in our lives, to be able to look forward. This document and the volunteers who have given their time and talent can really help us do just that, just as Pope Francis and our new archbishop Cupich have helped us to do.
     
Gordon:   In your opinion, how has the election of Pope Francis had an impact on the perception of Catholicism by non-Catholics?
     
Fr. Phil:   The Holy Father's election certainly has had an impact. The overall change in tone shows a shift toward being more inclusive and brings new hope to many people both within the Church and outside the Church.
     
Gordon:   What reaction did you have about Pope Francis's observation that young people not to waste time on Internet and Smartphones?
     
Fr. Phil:
 
  It is a point well-taken. We all need entertainment and diversion in our lives, but the  internet can be addictive and time-consuming and I do believe it can be a hindrance not only to productivity but to healthy human relationships and social and emotional maturity.
     
Gordon:   Your weekly homilies are exceptional. How long does it take on the average to prepare a homily?
     
Fr. Phil:

 
  I am happy they have been of some value for you. It is difficult to measure in terms of time preparation. I try to read a number of scriptural and liturgical commentaries designed for homily preparation, but always keeping in mind the congregation I am  addressing . I try to let ideas "simmer " in the days before I preach, and I have to remind myself to trust the Holy Spirit to help deliver a good message.. To be honest, I do have a tendency to procrastinate. I seem to need the "deadline pressure" to focus and get it together and hope that I am not getting in the way of the Holy Spirit!
     
Gordon:   Thank you for a great interview.