Fr. Greg's Pastoral Letter--September 15, 2019

Dear Sisters and Brothers –

In last week’s pastoral letter, I recalled sharing with you at Pentecost one of the traits of my ideal parish – that parishioners feel seen, feel that we feel that we belong to one another in some way. That same day, I introduced our Be Seen books, inviting everyone to share with me and with our community – either anonymously or with your name – the holy desires for our parish faith community given to us that live in our individual hearts. I want each and all to feel that their voices are important and are heard, knowing that I read each entry, reverently, recognizing the gift that it is.

This process is also important because it has the potential to give us some indication of how the Holy Spirit is calling us into the future as a faith community. St. Ignatius teaches that essential in the attempt to listen to the Holy Spirit, is the sharing of our individual desires, so that they may be seen together. This is discernment, sifting, considering and praying, in order to discern how and where God is moving. The window on our Be Seen books is closing – they will be available for you to write in through the next two weekends. The link on our homepage ( and the submission box on the Communion rail will also come down. I hope that all will participate (if you haven’t already! And thanks to those who have!), taking a bit of time in the next couple of weeks to consider what you deeply want for us, and taking a bit more time to share it with me and with us. It need not be fancy prose – the Holy Spirit can work with bullet points!

Next week I’ll write about some of what I’m hearing, what we need to consider, pray about and discern. (I’m hoping I’ll get more …) This week, however, I’d like to share with you a surprise byproduct of the books. Many have used them in a way I did not intend, which has been to inscribe their prayers of petition and gratitude, love and empathy. They are tender: “Please look over my beautiful sister as she enters the realm of high school.” They break my heart: “Please help me to save my marriage.” They are simple: “Dear Lord, Gratitude, Gratitude, Gratitude.” They are delightful: “God please let today be an AMAZING day for every person on this planet. :-)” They are honest: “Dear Lord, I don’t even have the words.” They move me: “O Lord, please bless and heal my family. Please give our grandchildren a better health condition. Please help them with their autism.” They teach me: “Dear God, thank you for our new roof.”

Though not what I had intended or imagined, they did accomplish what I’d hoped for: I see the authors of these prayers, into the depths of their hearts. And they have allowed me to get a glimpse of God as they know and trust him. Again, I suggest you take a few minutes and scan these books.

Another fruit from this discernment is the revitalization of our social media presence, particularly Instagram and Facebook. These past days and for this next week we’re asking you to join us and your fellow parishioners by sharing photos of your Sacred Space, the place where you find God. It could be your favorite easy chair, a trail in Muir Woods, a particular pew or shrine in the church, or even on your bicycle. Upload a photo to Instagram or Facebook, and tag with both @stignatiussf and the hashtag #SacredSpace on each photo.

Finally, because the bulletin was not delivered two weeks ago on account of some fires in northern California, I am going to reprint the bio of the second of our two newest staff members, Travis Russell, S.J. (the bio for Teresa Cariño, our Director of Faith Formation, appeared in last week’s bulletin).

A new face you’ve likely seen belongs to Fr. Travis Russell, S.J., our new Associate Pastor. Originally from Sutherlin, Oregon, Travis was ordained this past June in Portland. He entered the former California Province in 2008, a year after earning his B.S. in Global Security and Intelligence Studies from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. As a Jesuit, Travis has worked with the Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative, which does spiritual formation for and advocacy on behalf of prisoners; Cook County, IL Juvenile Detention Center; the Jesuit Refugee Service in Malawi; and Verbum Dei Jesuit High School in Los Angeles. While earning his Master of Divinity from Boston College, he served as a deacon at St. Mary of the Angels in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston. About a dozen parishioners from there traveled to Portland to be with Travis when he was ordained. When I introduced myself to them, I was given what felt like a command to take good care of him; I promised them we would! And I had an experience while there that was similar to Maggie’s when she attended the Jesuit ordinations on the east coast in June. Again, from Jesuits, “How come you guys got Travis?” and “We thought that we were going to get him.” and “You guys are so lucky!” Again, I prefer the word “blessed.”

Welcome, Fr. Travis. We’re so glad you’re with us.

Have a great week!

Oremus pro invicem.

Fr. Greg