Dear Friends at St. Ignatius Parish and St. Agnes Parish,
With the summer months now unfolding, I wish you all a season of grace and renewal!
Towards to the end of 2017 I made my visitation to the Jesuit works and communities of San Francisco. I was able to visit each of your parishes and was impressed by the life and activities in each. People from all over the region are drawn to your vibrant liturgies, each community with its own flavor. I thank Fr. Ray Allender and Fr. Greg Bonfiglio for their leadership of St. Agnes and St. Ignatius respectively.
During that visitation Ray, Greg and I spoke frankly about the increasing challenge of finding pastors to serve all our parishes within the ten states of the Jesuits West Province. Being pastor requires a rare combination of administrative and pastoral skills. While many Jesuits generously make themselves available for Sunday supply work in parishes, not many have the desire or skillset needed for full-time parish work, and even fewer to serve as pastor.
We are now at a juncture that invites our creativity, and the exploration of new ways for us Jesuits to continue serving in all the parishes we currently help to run. And this comes at a time when both of your parishes have already begun exploring what you share in common, namely through last fall’s joint meeting of the two Parish Councils and, more recently, a joint staff meeting. This is an exciting, aspirational moment for both parish communities.
I believe St. Agnes and St. Ignatius parishes, given their geographic proximity, are uniquely suited for a creative “team approach.” I am hoping that by July of 2020, when I end my term as provincial, your two parishes would be able to operate under one Jesuit pastor – as two parishes with one mission. I see this common mission already unfolding in your shared commitment to social justice, your desire to help with regional cooperation among Bay Area Jesuit works, and the hunger for ongoing formation ignited by the Spiritual Exercises and the visioning of Pope Francis.
This timeline also gives both communities time to discern the best configuration of ministers to effectively serve your two worship sites – St. Agnes and St. Ignatius – again, as two parishes with one mission.
I do not mean to imply that your two parishes are not distinctive and do not have their own styles and community make up. On the contrary! As a former pastor, I know that each worshipping community is unique. But it is also one Jesuit community which serves both of your parishes, underscoring how much you have in common, through a shared Ignatian charism, shaping us for love and service.
This heightened collaboration, from common Ignatian roots, will help your two parishes to speak with a united voice on important justice issues, do more together in formation as companions of Jesus, and contribute more effectively to the vibrancy of the local Church and network of Jesuit works in the North Bay.
When Archbishop Cordileone and I spoke last November, he expressed his support for the model proposed here. It is an arrangement that will allow the Jesuits to find a way to serve you far longer into the future.
As the old California and Oregon Provinces came together this past summer to form the new Jesuits West Province, we found we had to look beyond historical boundaries to find our deepest spiritual roots. Even so, I am hopeful that if St. Agnes and St. Ignatius Parishes were to form one larger, pastoral family, you too would find renewal in your deepest Ignatian and Catholic roots. There can be great grace in reaching beyond our old boundaries!
Please know of my prayers and support as you continue on this journey towards one pastoral family in July of 2020.
Scott Santarosa, S.J.