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OLA Parish Blog

Spring 2019 Landings Program

April 7, 2019

We're all on our unique spiritual journeys. We are all wandering in a forest of solitude often surrounded by our peers and yet completely alone with only God to talk to from our hearts. So it is, when you discover a group of like minded individuals along their journeys in the forest who take the time to reflect and to speak aloud from their hearts with authenticity and the slowness of contemplation, you know you have reached a clearing in the woods that can let the light shine down through your skin and make sense of it all.

The OLA Landings program - a program for returning Catholics - is just that. I’ve participated in a few of the OLA Landings programs so far and each one is different. Each group is focused around the same basic theme: to welcome and to walk with fellow Catholics as they make their way back from the wilderness and to the welcoming heart of the church. In each meeting, participants and leaders gather around a central table in the Saint Francis room where a candle is lit to speak deeply from the heart and to share how and why they are drawn to the church. In each meeting, I notice the Holy Spirit is there with us in the room, making it all happen, allowing healing to take place, enabling someone to find the right words, or advising someone when to speak and when to keep silent. Not everyone makes it to the end of the 8-10 weeks that a Landings program lasts. You have to find the commitment in you and be able to push back on the forces in life that keep you from being centered on knowing God. You have to make God a priority in your life at least for one or two days a week to let the benefits of Landings hospitality show its benefits. But sometimes that is just not possible and we see people who can’t make it to meetings or finish the program. It’s not always up to them. If it’s not the right time for them, things won’t come together.

In this video, Michael Kelly talks about the Holy Spirit and the role it plays as “The Great Encourager” in other people’s lives and how as Christians we are called to be “people of possibility.” We are called to find a way to get things done and to create holy moments in our daily lives and the lives of others.

Because I’ve seen the Holy Spirit at work in every Landings meeting I have been to, I know that each meeting is bound to create multiple holy moments on any given day. Also, everyone in a Landings group ends up becoming a voice for the Holy Spirit by encouraging each participant to share what’s on their minds and in their hearts. We welcome each person with open arms even when they continue to struggle with doubt, with inner conflict and sin. Perhaps you know someone in your life who you would like to see return to the church. Perhaps you have been an encourager in their lives already and you have done what you can to pray for them, to invite them back to the church and to look out for them as they resist, postpone or deny God. It’s not an easy journey, but it is a worthwhile journey, an experience from within the heart. I encourage you to share with them information about our Landings program, to let them know that we have this group, that it is welcoming and ready to greet them and develop a new relationship with the church. Perhaps this is the relationship they were always looking for in the first place.

Posted by Joe Witherspoon

Tags: #catholicconfession, #catholicreconciliation, #returningtoconfession, #returningtoreconciliation, #returningcatholic, #returningcatholics, #Landings, #Landingsprogram, #Landingsforreturningcatholics #SpringLandings

A Journey to Jerusalem

January 27, 2019

Saint Augustine once said, “The world is a book and those who do not travel only read a page.” When I was a kid in school, I’ve read countless history books, including the Bible about Israel, most especially about Jerusalem. And I’ve seen all the movies made about Jesus Christ; from “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” to the “Passion of the Christ,” and of course, “The Son of God.” But who would’ve known that one day I would set foot on the place where Jesus Christ lived, and at the same time explore the ancient wonder that is Jerusalem?

The Old City of Jerusalem is home to three of the world’s greatest and Abrahamic religions: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. It is a city like no other. Known as the City of Gold, in Hebrew, Jerusalem is like a spiritual lightning rod that is sacred to all the Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike. For the Jews, Jerusalem is a cultural, spiritual, and national center for the Jewish State since the 10th century BCE. In ancient times, the Jews believe that Jerusalem was the kingdom to their two greatest kings--David and his son, Solomon. As for the Muslims, Jerusalem is the third holiest site next to Mecca and Medina. This is the place where the prophet Muhammad ascended into heaven. And as for the Christians, Jerusalem is known as the Holy Land: the place where Jesus Christ lived and preached his gospel. And for the rest of the world, Jerusalem is one of the most ancient cities that is fascinatingly unique because this is where the first-century rub shoulders with the 21st century. This is also the city where picturesque old neighborhoods nestle against the glistening office towers and high-rise apartments. Jerusalem consists of four ethnic and religious sections: The Armenian, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Quarters. The Old City and its Walls form a UNESCO World Heritage Site which was declared since 1982. Overall, Jerusalem is one of those places that has to be seen in order to believe because it is truly breathtaking!

Jerusalem’s Old City is home to several of its most important and contested religious sites that includes the Western Wall and the Temple of the Mount for the Jews, the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque for the Muslims, and of course the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Via Dolorosa for the Christians.

At the Western Wall or Kotel, the air is electrifying at Judaism’s holiest prayer site. Hundreds of worshippers recite scriptures daily; lay their hands on a 2000-year old stone wall and utter heartfelt prayers. The Western Wall is the outer portion of the Temple of the Mount in which the Second Temple once stood. Its builders would never have imagined how their creation would eventually become a religious shrine of such magnitude. It is open 365 days a year, and the shrine requires all of its visitors to dress modestly. The Western Wall is divided into two sections: a small southern section for the women, and a much larger northern section for the men. This is where you will witness the black-garbed ultra-Orthodox men rock backwards and forwards on their heels, and bobbing their heads in faithful prayer. The women worship with passion and whole-heartedness. Also visible at close quarters are the wads of paper stuffed into cracks between the stones. The Jews believe that prayers and petitions that have been inserted between the stones will have their prayers granted. The Western Wall is also the place where the Jews celebrate their Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah ceremonies. This is also a great way to experience how the Jews worship and live out their faith: truly fascinating and remarkable!

The Dome of the Rock is one of the most photographed buildings on earth. Known as the crown jewel of the Temple Mount/Al Haram Ash Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary), this gold-plated Dome is the symbol of the city. What would Jerusalem be without it? The Dome of the Rock is sacred to both Muslim and Jewish faiths. And according to the Jewish tradition, this is where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac to God as a testing of faith. But on the 11th hour, an angel of God appeared to him and told him to stop what he was doing and sacrifice a ram instead. It is also one of the greatest stories ever told in the Bible, so the Christians believe in it as well. In the Islamic tradition, the Dome of the Rock is where the prophet Muhammad ascended into heaven.

Only Muslims can enter the Dome. However, visitors from all creeds can enter the plaza. And just like entering the Western Wall, all visitors are required to dress modestly. The golden Dome captivates you even from a far: day or night, and it is definitely my kind of shining, shimmering, splendid! While getting lost through the tiniest alleys of the Muslim Quarter, the sound of the Adhan or the “Islamic Call to Prayer,” fills the air which is recited by the muezzin which is the person who leads and recites prayer through a loud speaker from the mosque. His call to worship to all the Muslims in the city, no matter how great the distance, will leave you speechless and in awe-struck wonder! The call of the Mu’addhin, is considered an art form, that is reflected by the melodious chanting of the Adhan. It only shows how devoted Muslims are in their Islamic faith. It is no wonder why Islam is considered one of the world’s greatest religions.

When in Jerusalem, the first thing you will notice are the flocks of wide-eyed with awe pilgrims of the Christian faith, and that includes my parents and me! Everywhere you go around in this ancient city, each place always has a story to tell. And it gets so exciting, much more exciting if it was from the Bible. Just to see the place come alive before your eyes, is jaw-dropping itself.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is as magnificent as it can be. Located at the Christian Quarter, the Church is considered the “Holy of Holies,” in the Christian faith. This is the place where Jesus Christ was crucified, died, buried, and resurrected on the third day. The church is believed by many Christians to have been built over the biblical Calvary/Golgotha. And for the past 16 centuries, pilgrims have traveled near and far just to worship. Beholding the place where Jesus’ cross stood more than 2,000 years ago, took my breath away, and to gaze at the church’s vast interior and most of all going inside Jesus Christ’s tomb is a call to worship as well as a lifetime achievement in itself. As early as the 12th century, the maps reveal that that Holy Sepulchre was the spiritual focal point of Christendom and also the most important pilgrimage center. The church was constructed to enable its pilgrims to move from one chapel to another, and to visit the culminating Holy Sepulchre in all its glory.

And just like the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock, all visitors are required to dress modestly when visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. So please save your Daisy Dukes for another day, or just wear them when you trek up the Masada or jump into the Dead Sea!

Down the Via Dolorosa, called the “Way of Suffering,” is one of the best Jesus experiences I will never forget. Located within the Old City of Jerusalem, it is believed to be the path where Jesus walked before he was crucified. Today, the Via Dolorosa is marked by the Stations of the Cross. It is a winding route starting at the Antonia Fortress, west of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and with a distance of 2,000 feet. Since the 15th century, there are fourteen stations, with the remaining five inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Our adventures in Jerusalem took us as far as the Garden of Gethsemane which is located at the foot of the Mount of Olives. This is the famous place where Jesus Christ prayed while the rest of his disciples slept the night before his crucifixion. This is also the site where the Agony in the Garden took place, and where his disciple Judas betrayed him to the Sanhedrin in exchange for thirty pieces of silver. Today, a church is built at the Garden of Gethsemane called the Church of All Nations or the Basilica of the Agony. It enshrines a section of bedrock where Jesus is said to have been praying the night before his arrest.

We also discovered the Church of the Flagellation which is a pilgrimage site located at the Muslim Quarter of the Jerusalem’s Old City. Located near the Lion’s Gate and the Dome of the Rock, this church is famous for the spot where Jesus was beaten and scourged by the Roman soldiers before his journey down the Via Dolorosa and all the way to Calvary. This was also the location in the Bible where Pontius Pilate gave his final judgement to Jesus. During his time, the street of the Via Dolorosa was a market place. Centuries later, it is still a market place. The Church of the Flagellation Monastery stands as the traditional Second Station of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa. The original church was built by the Crusaders centuries after Jesus Christ, during the Ottoman period, and today it is now run by the Franciscan Order.

Jerusalem at night is amazingly spectacular, most especially at the Tower of David Night Light Show, or the Jerusalem Festival of Lights 2018. The Walls of the Old City become a stage for a nighttime show celebrating Jerusalem’s 4,000-year-old history through sights and sounds. An audiovisual light show is projected over the walls starting at the Damascus Gate to the Jaffa Gate. The dazzling light show brought King David and many Biblical heroes alive. Animated figures, artwork and texts from English, Hebrew, and Arabic danced across the ancient walls. It actually reminded me so much of Disneyland at night. It just shows that Israelis know how to party, and their summer nights are always a blast!

Aldous Huxley once said, “To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” We often have preconceived notions of what other countries are like, most especially countries in the Middle East such as Israel. I walked around the Old City of Jerusalem in the middle of the night, and I’ve never felt so safe. Israelis are very warm and friendly regardless of what their religious beliefs are. And Israel is a melting pot of different religions—Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. And because of that, they can all still live in peace. Well isn’t that what “Shahlom,” is all about? Jerusalem is a city like no other. It is a passionate beauty with sweeping views, a living history, as well as a sacred silence. It is a place that has to be seen in order to believe because it will truly take your breath away!

Posted by Hannah Rebosura

Tags: #Jerusalem, #Catholic, #Catholicism, #Christianity, #Israel, #Jesus, #HolyLand, #Dolorosa

Time to Reconnect with Your Catholic Faith?

December 8, 2018

I am writing today to reach out to anyone who for whatever reason, has drifted away from his/her Catholic faith. I believe now is an important time for good people like you to reconnect with the church.

It is a tumultuous time for the Catholic Church. It is dealing with the biggest crises in recent history and it is processing a rapidly changing world and society. In the meantime, we all still need God in our lives. We need a supportive Church that helps us deal effectively with life’s opportunities and challenges. That’s why now, more than ever, is an important time to consider reconnecting with your Catholic faith.

Nearly 800 years ago, St. Francis of Assisi was operating under somewhat similar circumstances. He made it his mission to rebuild the Catholic Church based on simple tenets of prayer, humility, and brotherhood. At Our Lady of Angels, we are using St. Francis as an inspiration to invigorate our church. We’d love to have you join us.

If this message is ringing true to you, then I want to make you aware of a returning Catholics program at Our Lady of Angels called LANDINGS. Landings is a discussion-based program that facilitates a return to the Church. It is for listening and for being heard. It is a place for asking questions and for reconnecting with your faith.

During a ten-week series, a small group of Our Lady of Angels parishioners, some of them “returnees” themselves, meets with a small group of inactive or returning Catholics to share and explore their faith together. Landings is now in its third year at Our Lady of Angels. Past participants have found it a very rewarding program.

The first Landings session is January 9. You can find out more information by emailing Please spread the word about this worthwhile opportunity, or get in touch for more information.

Posted by Tanya Roberts

Tags: #catholicconfession, #catholicreconciliation, #returningtoconfession, #returningtoreconciliation, #returningcatholic, #returningcatholics, #Landings, #Landingsprogram, #Landingsforreturningcatholics

Rebuilding my Faith

November 1, 2018

In our Landings meetings, which happens throughout the year on Wednesdays in the St. Francis room we gather as returning Catholics called by God to review our spiritual journeys thus far and to redefine our spiritual lives within the community of the Catholic church. Many of us have been away a long time and have only just begun to experience the beauty of being “immersed in our faith”, as Father Michael has said we must be, for the first time as adults. And though some of us might have felt like outsiders, we are grateful for how warm and welcoming our journey back home has been. In fact, we’ve come to realize that our experiences and wisdom gained from the outside can be valuable gifts to those who never left and also to those who are still lost in the wilderness.

Some of us have previously spent many years and even decades away while learning about other spiritual paths, or believing in only science and chance, only to find these paths lacking in ways that finally forced us to embrace our church for true and full nourishment. All of us have, in one way or another, let life get in the way of our daily relationships with God, whether by working too much for material gain and consumption, or by wasting our time on self-centered interests, or through hours spent engaged in soul-robbing entertainment. At the same time, all of us bring many unique and important gifts back to the church and with unique
perspectives and life experiences that we are not ashamed of.

This fall we launched Landings 2 for brothers and sisters who have completed the original Landings program and who wish to further develop their faith practice. This group is designed to dig deeper into the roots of their faith and to allow it to flourish tall, healthy and proud like a giant Sequoia. We are being asked, in this program, to look at where we are now, now that we’ve returned; to consider what gifts we bring to our community and to decide on ways that we can contribute and profess our love of God through ongoing acts and deeds. We are also actively thinking about the stress the church is under at the moment. Just as we have returned to the church, we read in the news about Catholics leaving due to the sex abuse reports and so we are energized to welcome any one who has left the church recently or many years ago. We speak their language better than anyone, we know how things will be for them outside the church and we know how it will be when they decide to come back. Brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, fathers, mothers--we all know family members and friends who have stopped walking with God, or who still walk with God but lack the close community of faith and brotherhood that only a loving church can provide. We ask you, reading this now, to look into your circle of friends and family and let them know about our ministry and help us reach them. It might only take a small nudge.

Our church is rebuilding itself and perhaps at the right time. We are rebuilding our faith and connections with God at the same time and so we understand that the Catholic Church is a living and breathing institution that has evolved without stopping for more than 2,000 years. As returning Catholics, we have much to offer our community as it seeks to revitalize, redefine and renew itself in a time where it is becoming perhaps harder to reach a world that is overly distracted and isolated by technology, by media and the daily grind. Like the hero’s journey of a Hero With A Thousand Faces, we returning Catholics once left the village, explored the outside wilderness, fought temptations and maybe even conquered some dragons and have returned to tell the tale and share our experiences and findings with our community. It’s good to be home.

Posted by Joe Witherspoon

Tags: #catholicconfession, #catholicreconciliation, #returningtoconfession, #returningtoreconciliation, #returningcatholic, #returningcatholics, #Landings, #Landingsprogram, #Landingsforreturningcatholics

A Eucharist Centered Life

August 8, 2018

Mass is the source and summit of our Catholic life. It’s where heaven and earth intersect. Divinity wraps itself around humanity, and through Eucharist, we become rooted in the sacred, replenished in spirit, and reminded that -our lives are not about us. Who will we share the Eucharist with this week?

And when families make the Mass a Sunday ritual, our days become centered in God. We place God first in our lives. And in the words of St. Francis of Assisi, we begin a simple, joyful walk - to “live the Gospel”. Catholic thought leaders liken it to a good exercise regime: Other things start to fall into place.

  • Faith: We seek out more opportunity during mealtime, bedtime, and drive time to pray with each other and individually – putting our trust in God – HIS will be done.
  • Intimacy: The Gospel message becomes part of the family conversation. It ignites a discussion, sometimes a debate over meals, on the way to or from school – drawing the family out.
  • Presence: The religious art that adorns our walls seem to illuminate and draw us in as if to invite a personal conversation. We feel a sacred presence in our home.
  • Healing: The family gets to confession more frequently, and we talk more openly about the things that weigh heavy on our hearts which leads to more family discussion, and sometimes… resolution.
  • Serving: We search out opportunities for the family to extend ourselves to others less fortunate and to our parish community, seeking out more meaningful opportunities that remind us that our neighbors matter… that we matter to them.
  • Enriching: We become more sensitive to social media, TV, music, and other forms of entertainment – opting to “unplug” on a lazy Sunday afternoon to spend more quality time with family.
  • Readiness: We begin to make more decisions based on the present and eternity, leaving the past behind and the future in God’s hands as he has much better plans for us that we ever dreamed possible!
  • Celebration: Family moments become bigger celebrations because the nature of life and each person in the family becomes more precious. And then the celebration begins: Saint’s Days, Church Seasons… SUNDAYS!
  • Gratitude: Nature and humanity in all her colors and hues become illuminated. We start to recognize and acknowledge our many blessings throughout the week.
  • Discipleship: We invite others in and encourage them to participate in parish life, to become part of our community.

And over time, we start to shed our ego, our fears, our stuff, our need to be busy; to ultimately simplify our lives, to find the joy in everything. We become grounded in God, and more connected to each other.

Posted by Laura Elmore

Tags: #Franciscan, #Capuchin, #Simple, #Serving, #Gratitude, #Healing, #Faith, #FamilyLife, #Discipleship

(Len Privitera, OLA SVdP President)

OLA Brown Bag Sundays

July 2, 2018

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink... - Matthew 25:35

If it is the first Sunday of the month, then you know it is "Brown Bag Sunday" at Our Lady of Angels, Burlingame. Volunteers for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP) make 300 lunches every month to help feed the homeless.

The SVdP San Mateo County central office has a Homeless Help Center on B Street in San Mateo that offers meals to those in need during the week. On weekends there is no meal service, so the Center distributes the brown bag lunches so that the homeless have weekend meals.

All are welcome to help put together the lunches. Arrive in the "Lower Hall" at 8:00 am the first Sunday of every month. Volunteers organize the assembly line and then help pack the non-perishable lunches. There's usually some protein, canned fruit/applesauce, chips, cookies and a drink. The team effort usually takes an hour or less. It is a great family activity or a way to make new friends and achieve community service hours.

Since its inception, OLA "Brown Bag Sunday" has created well over 30,000 meals and volunteers have donated thousands of hours feeding the homeless in San Mateo County.

Posted by Tanya Roberts

Tags: #OLABurlingame, #SVdP, #Catholic, #Volunteer, #Meals

Journey back to my faith...

April 16, 2018

I went to confession for the first time in 30 years last week, allowing myself to accept one of God’s most precious gifts. Well, that’s not entirely true. Two years ago I thought I could get away with reconciliation by going to confession at the Vatican while in Rome during Holy Week. The helpful Italian Father there listened to my predicament, seemingly absolved me, but politely referred me back to my home parish for further guidance. “Uh oh”, I thought.

I was baptized and confirmed at OLA as a youngster and drifted away from the Church and its beliefs as a teenager. Like Saint Peter and the rest of the Apostles, I denied Jesus again and again throughout my life in public, unable to reconcile the religion of my childhood with the adult life that we are all thrown in to. And I dreaded the idea of going to confession, confessing to a priest who I have known since I was a young boy.

For the past few years, I’ve been on a journey, a pilgrimage, back to my faith, my Church and to God and the community of faithful who have been there all along. It’s easy enough to get back into the rhythm of going to mass but it is something else to approach a whole internal belief system that you let go undeveloped since you were a teenager. I knew the doors of the church were always open to me, but I yearned for community and I wanted help expressing my mature faith now as an adult and Landings provided the perfect, warm-hearted invitation to focus on my faith in the company of others who were in a similar situation.

As the 10 week series came to an end, perfectly timed with the end of Lent and the coming of Easter, I happened to go to Mass and notice an evening reconciliation date for Monday. With Landings under my belt, I finally felt completely at ease with the idea of going to confession and I knew I had to go and I knew exactly what I was going to confess. I felt that I had landed, that accepting God’s gift of reconciliation was like a graduation gift for my hard work of coming back to God, to the Church and to Jesus.

Posted by Joe Witherspoon

Tags: #catholicconfession, #catholicreconciliation, #returningtoconfession, #returningtoreconciliation, #returningcatholic, #returningcatholics, #Landings, #Landingsprogram, #Landingsforreturningcatholics

Your faith journey continues...

March 14, 2018

Here’s an interesting option to explore on your faith journey

Last year I helped Our Lady of Angels kick off a program for returning Catholics called Landings. Landings helps reconnect people who have left the church or are no longer inspired. Since the initial debut, we’ve had dozens go through the 10 week program. Landings is far more rewarding and enriching than I could have ever imagined.

About 10 - 15 of us meet once a week to discuss our Catholic faith. We take turns sharing our stories. Every week we also explore a different facet of the church. We talk about the Eucharist, prayer, sin and suffering among many other topics. There’s always a lively and thought-provoking discussion.

Each session is made up of a variety of people who are at different stages of their faith journey. That’s one thing that makes Landings so compelling. We’ve had some participants who haven’t stepped into a church for more than 30 years. Others faithfully attend mass their whole life -- but are feeling like something was missing. We have people who enjoy talking, and we have people who prefer to listen. There’s often a member or two well-schooled in Catholic doctrine, and then others who don’t really know that much about the church. In every session, there’s one thing that’s always a constant. Each Landings group is special - filled with interesting people who have something meaningful to contribute.

Here’s some of the feedback from past OLA Landings participants:

“If your faith is in doubt, Landings is worth your while.” -- Ling G.

“Landings biggest benefits are meeting such great people and learning other’s beliefs.” -- Linda T.

"Landings helped me to get closer to my religion and my church by going through the exercises personally and coaching me through this process. I'm on a pilgrimage and Landings is part of that and it's never ending." -- Joe W.

A new Landings session starts May 2. If you’re interested, email us today for more information at There’s no obligation and all are welcome. We’d love to have you join us.

Posted by Tanya Roberts

Tags: #catholic, #catholicfaith, #catholicchurch, #returningcatholics, #nonpracticingcatholics, #faith, #landings

Is God giving you a nudge?

December 21, 2017

Have you or someone you care about been away from the church for a while? Perhaps you feel God’s nudge that it is time to come back. Our Lady of Angels has a wonderful opportunity for returning Catholics called Landings.

Landings is a 10 week program that helps you re-engage with your Catholic faith. You meet one night a week with a group of both practicing and non-practicing Catholics. Each evening different faith-related topics are discussed. Stories are told. You can ask questions and get answers in an open, accepting environment.

My friend Darlene Wigler and I started a Landings chapter at Our Lady of Angels because we both spent a good number of years away from the Catholic church. Coming back isn’t always easy. Landings helps make it a smoother, more rewarding journey because you are not doing it alone.

This is our second year offering Landings. Past participants ranged from people who never left the church, but didn’t feel “connected,” to others who were gone for more than 30 years.

Landings is offered by parishes across the U.S. (and other countries around the world). Developed by a Paulist priest more than 20 years ago, thousands and thousands of people like you have enjoyed the program.

The first session starts on Wednesday, January 17 at 7:00 pm. Space is limited and re-registration is required. If you would like enroll or would like more information, email before January 10. We look forward to hearing from you.

Posted by Tanya Roberts

Tags: #Catholic, #Catholicfaith, #Catholicchurch, #ReturningCatholics, #NonpracticingCatholics, #Faith, #Landings