Does Your Home Have a Center?

My name is Fr. Joel Sember and I am the new Catholic priest in Antigo. You can find me at St. John, Ss. Mary and Hyacinth, St. Wenceslaus, and on the Antigo Area Catholic Churches YouTube channel. I replaced Fr. Matt Simonar who is now serving at Nativity of Our Lord Parish in Ashwaubenon. His former associate, Fr. Zach Weber, moved on to campus ministry at UW-Oshkosh. My new associate pastor is Fr. Callistus Elue. He comes from Nigeria and has served the past 8 years in Crandon. Fr. Callistus will be in Antigo through the end of 2020, but I look forward to serving the Antigo community for many years to come.

Change is never easy. Changing assignments in the midst of a pandemic has been particularly challenging, both for us priests and for the people. I have to learn a lot of names already, but it’s even harder when they are wearing masks. People are hesitant to invite the priest over and we aren’t having our usual large gatherings, like the Fall Festivals. When you preach to a congregation wearing masks, it feels like a bunch of blank stares. People are understandable keeping their distance. Everyone is out of their normal routine. Life feels more than a little off-balance.

Meanwhile I’ve been settling into the parsonage, learning my way around town, and trying to find a new routine. I had never read the Journal when I was told it was my turn to write this column. My secretary tracked down some old copies for me so I could see what my fellow pastors had written. I found this quote:

“Does your home have a center? While writing a book about using a home to improve wellness and happiness, [Carolyn] DiCarlo has been researching sacred spaces. These spaces always have a fixed center from which to gain orientation, she says, and activity flows in and out of that center.” (Antigo Daily Journal, “Improving your home’s function as a virus refuge”, May 8, 2020, p. 13).

Does my home have a center? My thoughts immediately went to the small chapel where Fr Matt and Fr. Zach celebrated Masses during the suspension of public celebrations. The first time I saw this little space, I fell in love with it. I hung up some religious images that are special to me. Each morning and night I pause there for quiet prayer. The space immediately felt like home. The feeling of ‘home’ is starting to spread to the rest of the buildings and out into the town.

Does your home have a place to center yourself? All you need is a corner of a room. Hang a crucifix or some favorite religious artwork. Paint it a special color. Put up a scripture quote or inspirational saying or song lyrics. Add a candle or other cozy lighting (please do not leave a burning candle unattended). Find a prominent place for your Bible and prayer books or inspirational reading. If you live alone, perhaps a whole room could be turned into a sacred space. You will be surprised at the positive change that flows from the daily use of a prayer corner.

We stay balanced by keeping ourselves centered (that is why it’s called your ‘center of gravity’). Your home needs a center. But even more importantly, your heart needs a center. Daily prayer time is essential to helping me stay centered.

We have all been eagerly awaiting the end of the pandemic. It seems that things will get worse before they get better. Instead of waiting for a “new normal” to settle in, let’s make the most of the time we have. Simplify your home, declutter, add some warmer colors, find a center. Does your home have a center? Does your heart have a center?

-Published in the Antigo Daily Journal