Elmira pastor pleased by Q&A session - Catholic Courier
Father Scott Kubinski offers communion to parishioners during a Nov. 9 Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Elmira. Father Scott Kubinski offers communion to parishioners during a Nov. 9 Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Elmira.

Elmira pastor pleased by Q&A session

Do you think Jesus knew he was God? If so, when did that realization come to him?

What Christmas presents does the pope receive?

How do we reconcile a loving God with all the tragedies in the world?

The mix of questions ranged far and wide, yet all were fair game during "Ask Father" on Oct. 23. The informal open forum, held in the hall of Elmira’s Our Lady of Lourdes Church, featured Father Scott Kubinski, pastor of Christ the Redeemer Parish, as host.

Prior to the event, written questions had been deposited into drop boxes at the three Christ the Redeemer churches — Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Casimir and St. Charles Borromeo. All 26 questions were then combined onto one sheet, with copies distributed to the participants as "Ask Father" began. Questions were picked randomly out of a bowl.

"Some are very thought-provoking, some don’t have a clear answer, and some are just fun," Father Kubinski observed.

Queries asking the best way to discern God’s will for your life, and how we can deal with the process of aging, certainly would qualify as thought-provoking. Parishioners also sought answers on Catholic Church teaching and tradition, wanting to know what the church says about homosexuality; whether pets go to heaven; what happens after we die;and if there is purgatory and how people end up there.Other questions probed personal details about Father Kubinski: What does he like reading for pleasure; why did he become a priest; what is his favorite color; is he an animal lover; does he have a favorite saint.

Some questions addressed local issues. For instance, one person wanted to know why there’s not a stronger focus within the parish on praying the rosary: "Do people even know how to say it?" Somebody else wondered why First Friday and First Saturday observances don’t take priority at Christ the Redeemer. And, one inquiry asked what the future holds for the parish’s three churches. (Several consolidations of worship sites have taken place in Elmira in recent years, and Father Kubinski recently announced that Christ the Redeemer is putting several properties — not including any of the churches — up for sale to help strengthen parish finances.)

Along with voicing concerns there also were suggestions made: instituting a coffee hour after Sunday Masses if families would offer to assist with it, and moving some weekday Masses at Our Lady of Lourdes to the chapel in the office building as a cost-saving effort.

Father Kubinski said his approach for the more meaty inquiries was not to answer them right away, but instead ask participants how they would answer the question.

"Sometimes they are right on; at other times they have misconceptions," he said.

He added that "Ask Father" was not so much a question-and-answer session as a chance for discussion. Observing that differences of opinion can naturally arise on sensitive matters, he said it was his responsibility to ensure that "if it does started to get a little heated, you remind them that we are not here to argue — we are here to dialogue."

He noted that some lengthy dialogue and reflection emerged on the matter of whether Jesus knew he was God and how old he was when he first came to that realization. "These are the questions we need to stay with; it helps deepen our relationship with the Lord," he said. "I don’t always have a black-and-white answer, but use it as a teachable moment."

In fact, dialogue became so lively on Oct. 23 that there was only enough time to address 11 of the 26 submitted questions during the 90-minute session. So, Father Kubinski asked if participants wanted another round of "Ask Father" and when they responded in the affirmative, he set up an additional "Ask Father" that will take place Sunday, Dec. 11, from 2 to 3:45 p.m. at Our Lady of Lourdes.

Father Kubinski, the second-year pastor at Christ the Redeemer, said he has held get-togethers similar to "Ask Father" in previous priestly assignments. He said feedback from parishioners is generally strong: "It is a lot of fun. I like to be open and hear different points of view."

He added that "Ask Father" promotes a greater connection between a pastor and his parishioners than simply speaking from the pulpit allows.

"I think it comes down to, they feel respected when they have a chance to speak and their leader is with them," he explained.

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