So today I begin with the news that a pastor has been named for our family of parishes, and that will be Fr. Tom Mahoney who is most recently serving at Infant of Prague parish in Cheektowaga. Serving together with him as parochial vicars will be Fr. Art Mattulke, Fr. Walt Szczesny, and Fr. Joe Franz all of whom will be starting their ministry with us on July 1st. Now, if you are listening and doing the math, then by now you are realizing that I am not a part of the team going forward, and that also beginning July 1st, I am to be assigned as pastor in Niagara Falls, Lewiston, and Youngstown.
I know that this is not what we were expecting, myself included. And though I will not be a part of this family going forward, I want to thank you for the blessing that we've been to each other and for all that we've shared, and I want to say that I am so, so proud to have been your spiritual father. And so, as your spiritual father, it’s up to me to help you, and give some advice here, to teach us, as the Hamilton song goes, to teach us ‘how to say goodbye,’ just as Jesus was doing for his disciples in the Gospels of these past few weeks as he prepared them for his ascension. I imagine that your hearts and minds are racing in a million different directions right now, I know mine certainly have been. As you ponder how to react and respond, I want to pass along some dos and don’ts that I think you would be wise to listen to.
Don't wallow in self-pity... We've been down this road before, and we know by experience that the pain we have demands to be felt. We will need to grieve, and grieve properly, in order to come to accept reality and turn it into thanksgiving and to able to look forward in hope. We’ve had a good few years here and we’ve accomplished a lot together. Not everyone can say that, and we’re among the lucky ones. There is also a good team of priests coming in that will keep us moving forward. Don't wallow in self-pity because the sabotage and self-inflicted wounds that come from self-pity’s temptations will only hurt you more than anyone else, and I don’t want that for you, but do give yourselves permission to grieve.
Don't cling... A few weeks ago, Jesus said in the Gospel, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold,” and he also would remind the people to whom he ministered that “To the other towns and villages I must go. For this purpose, I was sent.” This Easter Season as I listened to the Scripture readings, I have been amazed just how much the early Church was on the move as the Apostles and Barnabas and Paul and Timothy travelled around the Mediterranean world to share the Gospel. This was the case of St. John Neumann, our parish’s spiritual founder, who stopped here from time to time as he ministered to several parishes in Western New York simultaneously. Mary Magdalene wanted to cling to the risen Jesus but then He wouldn’t have been able to ascend to the Father. Our faith is gearing us up towards heaven and the bigger picture. So, this is not just goodbye but also until we meet again. Don’t cling. Do learn to let go so that greater things may happen.
Don't be selfish... It's natural to want to cling to something good, and there are a lot of good things happening here at St. Mary’s. It’s ok to recognize and appreciate the blessings that God has given to us, but the gifts we've been given have also been given to share. That is what love is about, and what sacrifice is about. The Renewal will only be fruitful for our lives if we approach it with a spirit of openness. If we are defensive, we all will lose. Don't be selfish. Do share your time, your knowledge, your relationships, your very selves with others.
Don't compare... The new team coming in is not named Fr. Bryan and Fr. Luke and you can’t judge them for that; they bring their own personalities, spirituality, and gifts to share. Maybe that's a relief to some and if there is any ill-will that we left on the table, I want to apologize to you and leave on good terms. That aside, comparing is dangerous and traps us in the past to the things and people we loved. Comparing is a hidden jealousy and prevents us from experiencing the grace of the moment. Do stop and recognize and give thanks for what you do have and open yourselves to the opportunities of the moment in front of you.
Don't get distracted... When Fr. Bryan and I first arrived here, our community was being pulled apart and being distracted by many things, many of which were no doubt very important and concerning to us. And when I arrived, I was in need of great healing as well. And it came, only because we put our focus back on Jesus and returned to being the people we were called to be: disciples of his making our way to heaven. Jesus is still here and has been all along. It is he who takes care of us. Don’t get distracted. Do keep your focus on the Lord and all these things will be taken care of besides.
Don't be afraid… God loves us through all things. Jesus reveals this in his resurrection, in his triumph over sin and death. We are still in the Easter Season celebrating this. There is no hardship that God couldn’t love us through, not this parting, not the Renewal, not our own difficulties or circumstances. Jesus knew that was his mission and his prayer in the Gospel today glorifies God for accomplishing that saving plan and giving all of us access to it. Reread the Gospel. That is my prayer for you. Don’t be afraid. Do put your trust in the Lord.
6 do’s; 6 don’ts... These lessons are as much for me as for you. Don’t wallow in self-pity. Don’t cling. Don’t be selfish. Don’t compare. Don’t get distracted. Don’t be afraid. Do grieve. Do let go. Do share. Do give thanks. Do keep your focus on Jesus. Do trust in God. That’s my advice and wisdom for you. To use St. Paul’s words to the Philippians community whom he loved, so I say to you, “Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen now in me. Then the God of peace will be with you.” I'm counting on you.