Saturday, May 23, 2015
Within the past several weeks, we have encountered the gospel passage wherein Jesus employs the analogy of the vine and branches to describe the relationship we must maintain with Him. Stated in very elementary terms: no matter what, stay connected! For us as Catholics, by extension, we are called to work diligently to maintain unity and connectedness with one another as well, in community.
At this particular time, such an exhortation strikes me as especially apropos! For in the immediate future we are to experience significant transitions on our parish staff. The one we have known about for a while-- not that it makes it any easier--is the conclusion of Fr. Augustine's assignment as Parochial vicar at St. Mary Parish. Within such a brief time, Fr. Gus has entered deeply into our hearts and the life of the community.
Based on my use of the plural, 'transitions,' obviously this is not the only change I need to communicate. After twenty-five years of loving service as a deacon in the diocese of Cleveland, Deacon Bernie has formally submitted a letter of retirement to Bishop Lennon, who has received and accepted it. Now, please understand that Deacon Bernie is not leaving us. He will continue to have office hours (mainly on Mondays), and will be a presence within our liturgical celebrations. Yet, he will have what I hope is a more relaxed pace and choose those activities and projects that most energize him. Nevertheless, it will be adjustment, for us and for him!
There is no way for me to express adequately -- certainly not in this short article-- the debt of gratitude and level of respect I hold toward Bernie. In my first months as pastor, back in summer 2003, he was just the right balance of guiding father and mother hen for me. During some fairly stormy days in the history of the parish, he served as a stalwart presence- a bit like a venerable captain of a ship that is listing. With the help of God and a rock-solid faith, and in tandem with the people of Saint Mary who, in my view, are as rooted as the crops in Holmes county, Deacon Bernie kept the boat afloat. We will honor the occasion of his silver jubilee and Fr. Augustine's gentle and holy service to the parish on Sunday, June 7, at the 10 o'clock Mass; a reception will follow, in the gym.
There is yet one further change in staffing to convey. Some of us already have become aware, through involvement in Sunday PSR, that Jacki Knox is completing her ministry as Coordinator of Religious Education at St. Mary. Actually, over my years here, Jacki has worn a number of different ministerial hats, given her interests and skill set. I thank Jacki for her fidelity to the mind of the Church; no doubt, the hearts that she has touched will continue to beat stronger, because of their contact with her.
In light of these revelations, I would exhort us all to take at least a couple of good deep breaths-- breaths of the Holy Spirit whose coming we mark on this Pentecost weekend-- and lift our hearts in fervent prayer, for Jacki and Deacon Bernie and Fr. Augustine. Let us pray for those ministers who will carry forward the good work they have laid out on our behalf.