Fr. Greg's Pastoral Letter-June 16, 2019

Dear Sisters and Brothers –

As I sit to write a few words on Father’s Day, my own father is in surgery for a badly torn rotator cuff sustained in a fall at their home a few weeks ago. As surgeries go, rotator cuff isn’t at all bad. But, Dad is 89. You get the picture—it’s fair to worry.

Some 25 years ago, I heard about some health concern either Mom or Dad had weeks after the fact; I wasn’t happy. “But we didn’t want you to worry.” That’s fair, I suppose. But I argued then—and I still argue today—that worry is part of the package of loving another person. So, we came to an agreement that with health, or any issue, we would be honest, giving one another the gift of walking with and loving authentically. That continues today.

I’m not sure what this has to do with Father’s Day, per se. However, my ruminations have me grateful once more for a father (and mother, but I talked about her last month!) who has always wanted to protect me but has learned to balance that with the other values in life, in this case, my being able to love well.

Let’s pray, then, for our dads and stepdads, our granddads and goddads, and dads-in-law in thanksgiving for the life lessons they taught and teach us still, and for them and their intentions that God bless them abundantly today and every day really—like you and me, they can probably use it!

On another note, last Sunday we celebrated the great solemnity of Pentecost that both brings our Easter season to a close and celebrates the miraculous gift of the Holy Spirit, first, to the early Christian community and, second, to us. The very same Spirit then and now.

That Spirit was palpable at the 10:00 am Mass at which we also had a beautiful celebration of my Silver Jubilee, the 25th anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. It was just spectacular, and I am grateful to so many! I’ll express my gratitude appropriately elsewhere soon.

I said in my homily that this is a great time to be a priest. I also believe it’s a great time to be a member of the Catholic Church because, though last summer and fall were a disaster, this is a new summer, and it began with Pentecost. The Church, from the ashes of the scandals, painfully evident on every continent, has a new opportunity to choose how it wants to be in the world. And I want us to take an active part in that. By discerning. By listening. By asking God's Spirit to show us, step by step, where we should go from here. Right here, inside our St. Ignatius Church walls.

I shared with you that my ideal parish is one in which everyone feels seen. Noticed. Like they and their deepest, holiest desires belong here. It’s a broadening and deepening of what already exists at St. Ignatius. My sincerest hope is that we see each other more profoundly, even the way God sees each of us, with tenderness and delight, with gratitude and even a sense of humor about our imperfections.

To that end, I introduced two blank books, like the one at the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I invite every parishioner to write what they want from our parish. I’m not talking about our complaints or our sufferings, which we honor regularly in our prayers and friendships. I’m also not talking about things that are only practical. Rather, let's spend time with what our hearts deeply want. Let’s think, “If the Holy Spirit had total reign here, what would this parish look like?” Each week, I will read what you have written and pray with and think about your holy desires, asking the Holy Spirit to help discern how s/he is speaking through you. And I really want each of you to read what others are writing in the books and pray with what you read, whether or not you have written anything. Then, I might write again the next week, as you might, too. Perhaps, for example, based on what you express, we might begin a new ministry for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one, or I might eventually find I need to apprise my Provincial and the Archbishop that we’re hosting an evening simply to listen to married men and to women who feel called to priesthood. Who knows?!

This is serious work, attempting to listen to what God is inviting us to. And it requires respect and openness. We won’t always agree with one another, but let’s proceed in a way that reflects the kind of community we hope to be. So, the ground rules are two: First, we remember that each person is taking a risk, writing with good-will, and being generous in sharing his or her deepest desire; and for that reason we will read, listen, and pray over what we read with reverence. Second, we will not comment on or debate what others write in the books; we will not cross-talk.

Let’s ask God to help us make room in each of our hearts for every single thing that each of us deeply hopes for, whether we agree with it or not, whether it makes us happy or not. Let’s be bold, concrete, and out-of-the-box in asking we want from the Holy Spirit. And let’s hold one another with care as we listen to one another, discerning together just where s/he is eagerly waiting to lead us.

I’m so excited for this way of trying to notice and listen to the ways the Holy Spirit is moving among us. Please join me in praying for this process.

God bless all those who act fatherly towards us and St. Ignatius Parish.

Oremus pro invicem,

Fr. Greg