Well, the change has finally taken place. Yesterday, June 29th, with the help of some good friends (a big thank you to them), we loaded my stuff into our vehicles at St. Luke the Evangelist Parish and left there about 9:30 am. At 11:00 am we arrived at St. Mary’s of the Lake in Watkins Glen to unload my stuff in the office and rectory. (Please remember I will be serving two churches, the second being St. Benedict’s in Odessa https://www.stmarystben.org).
So came the end of my assignment at St. Luke’s. In leaving a parish assignment there is always some sadness. I have to come to know people that I will miss. I pray that I did what God wanted me to do there. While there is sadness in leaving, this “end” leads to a new beginning at St. Mary’s and St. Ben’s.
So, how has my assignment at St. Mary’s and St. Ben’s begun? When we arrived the first thing I did was to take the people helping me to show them the inside of St. Mary’s of the Lake Church. As we walked toward the church I found myself wondering who we might find praying inside (please remember this was my home parish before ordination). As we entered the church, sure enough there was someone praying and she looked familiar to me. As soon as she saw me, she knew who I was and welcomed me. She asked if I knew who she was. I told her that after 14 years, she looked familiar but I couldn’t remember her name. She then responded by naming her son who was one of the altar servers when I presided at Mass for the first time 14 years ago here. I immediately remembered who he is, who she is, and, in fact, I also know her parents who are parishioners here. I see this as a moment from God. What would be the chance without God that the first person I see would be part of a family where I know three generations?
Then, my friends and I unloaded our vehicles. I then spent some time talking with staff before I began to unpack. In the evening I met with one of the parish deacons and his wife who is the wedding coordinator (both of whom I have known for years) about a wedding in the parish this Friday before bringing a long day to an end.
Then this morning brought my first Mass here as the Parochial Administrator. I went to the church extra early to get ready. In recent weeks people have been asking me if I was getting excited for the change. Before Mass today the “goosebumps” started. Several of the people who remember me came to me to say hello. There were about 35 people at Mass and I recognized close to half by name with others looking familiar.
Then, during the homily, I started with the gospel and having faith in Jesus. Then, I included mention of today’s optional Memorial for the first Roman martyrs. I told them while it is an optional memorial, it holds a special place for me because it is also the anniversary of my ordination. I had major goosebumps at this point as I see it as another moment from God that my first Mass here would fall on the anniversary of my ordination. To add to this, I told them that the red chasuble I was wearing today was part of a set that they (as a parish) had given me as a gift at my ordination.
After Mass, I talked to more people. The conversations today included a person who was the emergency room physician when I had my appendix out before I belonged to the parish and a woman who I knew some but also knew her mother (now gone home to God, rest in peace). She reminded that before I was ordained, I had served at her sister’s wedding. Perhaps what most struck me in my conversation with her was when I remembered that the first time I accompanied the parish priest responding to a death, it was for her uncle. Another moment from God.
God is good.
Yesterday and today has largely been about my encounters with people I know. I also had parishioners who joined the parish after my ordination introduce themselves. In the coming weeks, I’m sure I will come to know more “new” faces. Please, let us pray that together we do God’s Will.