Happy Fathers’ Day!
We have not met yet, and so perhaps it is strange that I write you as if I were already your pastor. I understand that you have been without a pastor for some time, however, and I want you to know that you have been in my thoughts and my prayers for several weeks now as I look forward to the formal beginning of our relationship, which is July 1st. In the meantime, I have a few thoughts I’d like to share with you.
I understand that many first responders make our parish their spiritual home. My first five years as a priest were in a parish with many police officers, fire fighters, paramedics and city workers. I have watched in pain these past few weeks as protesting, looting and rioting have shaken this and other cities. In particular, I have seen how police have been portrayed with a broad brush in such a way as to cause people to point fingers and question the integrity of those sworn to serve the people of Chicago. As a priest I know what it is to have people look at me with suspicion, wondering whether I am guilty of the sins of those few who betrayed the trust of those they were sworn to serve. I empathize with those officers who are doing their best, putting their lives on the line, even if others question their motives and intention.
As I prepare to begin at the parish I want to express my gratitude for the support of those on the Renew My Church team, who are helping me to transition into the parish. Cathy Walz has agreed to help me arrange a number of small group listening sessions in July so that I can meet some of you and learn about your hopes and dreams for the parish as we prepare to create this new future together. Please consider signing up to participate in one of these sessions. I will add more if needed.
I have wrestled with the question of where to live. For now, I am going to make St. Gabriel rectory my primary residence. Fr. Rich Creagh has recently retired as associate pastor there, but will continue living there and will help out there as much as he can. I think he has told you that he has some health issues that may restrict his presence and ability to celebrate Mass, etc. I have so enjoyed the few conversations we have had so far, and I think it would be helpful to live in community with him in order to develop a relationship and form the basis of a priestly team. I may end up moving to Nativity of Our Lord, who knows, once I have a better sense of our parish. I will set up my primary office at Nativity of Our Lord, as that rectory looks like it will work best as the Ministry Center for the united parish.
I will be working with our deacons to figure out how to begin celebrating public Masses, hopefully starting soon after I arrive. The big question will be the Mass times. Given Fr. Rich’s health, it will be important to establish a Mass schedule that makes it possible for me to cover all of the weekend Masses if necessary. Nothing will be set in stone; we just need a temporary schedule to get Masses started during this COVID-19 time. I can celebrate up to three Masses on a Sunday, and one Saturday evening Mass. My sense is that we should schedule a Saturday evening Mass at one site, a Sunday evening Mass at the other, and then two Sunday morning Masses- one at each site. More to come on this.
Issues such as permanent Mass times need to be hammered out in a Parish Council. In order to pave the way for one, we will first put together a Unification Council, made up of parishioners from both worship sites. This will serve as an interim advisory group for me until we can transition into developing a formal Parish Council. More to come on this as well.
As I wrote in my letter of introduction to you, I truly sense that the Holy Spirit has brought us together. I understand that the path to unification has been rocky, but I have also heard that many people of good faith and with good hearts are willing to work together to help develop a renewed Catholic presence in our neighborhoods. Let us band together to revitalize our faith communities. I truly believe that the goals of Renew My Church- to make disciples, to build community, and to inspire witness- are worthy of our effort.
One final personal note: my mother has been suffering from lung cancer and is in hospice at her home in the Detroit area. I believe in the power of prayer, and I ask your prayers for her and for my family as we move into what looks to be the final stage of her illness.
May God bless you!
To register for one of the "Get-to-Know-You" sessions, please click the following link to Signupgenius or call the rectory for help with signup.