Over the course of 29 years, the Apostle Paul traveled to at least 49 different cities and countries to spread the “Good News” of Jesus Christ. While the calculation isn’t totally accurate, if we took the average number of years Saint Paul ministered to one community was about a year and a half. Of course, some places he visited shortly and sometimes longer. But the point is that Paul was called by God to encounter 49 places over 29 years. To be sure, a year and a half doesn’t seem to be much time to offer ministry in any one place. And yet, that’s what God called him to do.
On this final weekend of my pastorate here, I find myself reminded of this. It was only a year and nine days that I served as your pastor. Understandably, this time seems way too short. And yet, if we think “big” we realize that many others have moved from place to place according to God’s plan. The Apostles are another great example. Jesus sent them forth and said, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave town” (Mark 6:10). That’s what I have done (although I am certainly no Apostle!). And as I said the weekend when I announced my transfer, Acts 28 teaches us how the Apostles relied on the Holy Spirit to help them in making decisions. While any departure is always difficult, we should all rely on the decision of the Holy Spirit to embrace change once again. As for me, I thank God for my health having improved; even though that is the reason for my assignment back to Saint Philip’s.
I willingly and happily honor the wishes of the bishop. But it is much easier to do so knowing that the care of our parish is being entrusted to a good priest, Fr. Francis Marotti. He will be a good leader for our parish. Working closely with Deacon Mike, I know that you will welcome him very quickly and accept him joyfully as your new spiritual father.
As for me, I know that our time has been short but I pray it has been good. I hope that I have had some influence on many of you about accepting and appreciating the joy of the Gospel. I’m confident that I have done my best to reach out to you in every way I knew how and as I was able. I’m happy that I leave the parish financially sound and the family enrollment increased. This, of course, is the blessing of Almighty God… I just tried to follow His will. I’m also happy about changes we are making to the school, which is an important part of our parish. Returning to having a preschool alone (for now) and welcoming the presence of Vineyard Academy is something that will surely reap benefits for many years to come. And by the way, I thank those who have been helpful and supportive of these new opportunities. I also leave knowing that a terrific staff is here. There have been unexpected changes this past year, but I know Father Marotti will be able to “run with it” very quickly with the great staff we have. And I’m happy that we have so many young families in the parish, and that we have tried to reach out to them and others; beginning to layout the groundwork so that more people will be involved with the parish and be active members as the parish moves forward.
In John 3:30 we read, “He must increase; I must decrease.” That’s something that I try to remember. I don’t always hit the mark, but it remains a good prayer. It is my prayer for all of you that John 3:30 is a constant reminder of who is really in charge, and that our daily efforts must be driven by mandate of the Risen Lord and not our own. It is my sincere hope that St. Ann Church will grow and thrive; not through the efforts of only some, but by the entire parish community as a whole. That is a mark of a vibrant parish.
Finally, when I first came to the parish, I said very plainly that the mission of the parish is to develop and nurture a relationship with Jesus Christ and to become Saints. May it be brought to fulfillment.
Praised be Jesus Christ, Now and Forever!