My Dear Family of St. Mary’s:
It is with a heavy heart that I write to you today. When I made the decision to come back to St.
Mary’s as your pastor, I made the decision out of sincere love for all of you and out of a deep desire to do whatever I could to facilitate true healing and renewal as together we worked to move our parish family forward. I also promised to be as genuine and transparent as possible, while seeking to restore trust among you by my love and commitment. With God’s grace and as a result of working collaboratively with so many of you over these past years, we have indeed accomplished much together. I am immensely grateful for all of the staff and members of the various ministries who have been so much part of bringing about a renewed spirit within our parish, despite the challenges that remain.
After much prayer and discernment, however, I have come to the realization that it is now time for me to step back and rest for a time in order to tend to my own personal spiritual and emotional needs. Consequently, I have submitted my request to Bishop Scharfenberger that he relieve me of my pastoral responsibilities for St. Mary’s in order to pursue a sabbatical during which I intend to rest, refresh and recharge myself spiritually, personally and emotionally. This request has been approved by the Bishop and I am eager to make the most of this opportunity that will begin on May 1, 2020. I am confident that this period of rest and reflection will enable me to discern where and how the Lord would like me to next devote my talents and ministry in His service. Suffice it to say, I will depart St. Mary’s with only immense gratitude for what I have gained from you, even as I have tried to reflect Christ Jesus – his care and concern for each of you – during the time I have been privileged to be your pastor.
I was originally scheduled to depart on April 20th, but the Covid-19 pandemic has altered these plans slightly. Given the particular challenges that the Covid-19 situation has brought on us all, I have decided that I cannot leave until I address some larger concerns that relate to the overall health and viability of our parish. Although many of my more routine responsibilities will be diminished and delegated to others during these next few weeks, I intend to focus my immediate attention on the needs of the parish that I deem most important, namely, the communal, spiritual and financial directives of the parish. It will be my aim to fully utilize our trusted staff, deacons, trustees and councils to define and put in place new directives that are vital to the parish and its future. These directives will be monitored by the same team mentioned and of course, will be a high priority for the new pastor when he is named. I will keep all of you abreast of our progress over the next few weeks prior to my departure.
I will always love you and let us pray for each other as we continue to endure the burden of being apart during this ongoing coronavirus threat. Please be assured that you will remain always in my heart and in it will be my constant prayer that the vitality that has defined St. Mary’s for over 170 years will continue long into the future – a shining example of Christ’s tremendous love and abiding presence in our community.
Sincerely in the Risen Lord,
Rev. Robert W. Zilliox
Pastor of St. Mary’s Swormville, New York