The post that follows is a letter to parishioners and others who made my 25th anniversary such a joyful celebration. You can also click on the following links for: 1) my grateful thoughts about all who have supported me in my vocation, and 2) Archbishop Miller's homily at Mass on June 25.
All the attention I received during my anniversary celebrations was put into perspective by what someone said when I exclaimed how beautifully the church was decorated. "Don't worry Monsignor," I was told. "This is all for Jesus; only the party is for you!"
When all is said and done, I think the 'party' was for all of us—because the celebrations, particularly the two jubilee Masses, surely brought many graces to the entire parish, even those who could not be with us. This week I felt the intense spirit of communion that unites our parish, and I saw the dedicated stewardship that makes it strong.
We were united in communion by the presence of Archbishop Miller on Saturday, and reminded of the courage of the apostles by having Bishop Monroe with us on Tuesday. The presence of newly-ordained Father Bryan Duggan and Deacon Pablo Santa Maria reminded us to pray for priests and for more vocations. I am grateful to them and to our devoted altar servers, and to Amina Storch, who arranged the magnificent flowers that graced the church.
After one of the Masses someone exclaimed to me "I am just so glad to be Catholic!" It wasn't an offhand remark. I felt the same way myself, as I took part in such intense and beautiful liturgies. Both Masses were planned and prepared in every detail by Robert Hickson, and the music drew us wonderfully into the sacred mysteries with the talented help of the Curalli family on Saturday, and of Chris Chok, Karen Dy, Michelle Keong and our other talented musicians on Tuesday—aided on both occasions by the beautiful violin of Karen Teufel. I was delighted by the presence of students from St. Anthony's School, who offered a beautiful song at Communion time under the direction of Mr. Peter Abando.
If you weren't at the Saturday Mass, I hope you will take a look at Archbishop Miller's homily—and if you didn't get a copy of the Mass booklet handed out on both Saturday and Tuesday, I hope you'll read my words of thanks from those programs.
The head of the organizing committee for the celebration, Karen Lerner, was efficiency and patience personified! I cannot possibly thank her enough. Her hard-working committee—Maureen Giefing, Mari-Ellen Martin, Nicole Bitelli and Helen Minshull—were also wonderful. Maureen and Arlene Boreham's work decorating the gym with flowers was another visible act of the stewardship of time and talent; less visible was the tireless and thankless work of the wonderful Mary Forristal—ironing 65 tablecloths—and the efforts of Anita Callahan to make sure we obtained enough glasses and cutlery for a large crowd.
Those who attended the dinner on Saturday night were treated to a wonderful meal thanks to the talents of John Carlo Felicella and his capable crew. On both Saturday and Tuesday, generous volunteers worked very hard setting up and cleaning up—they are too many to name.
I am very grateful to the lively MCs—Angela Sargent and Chris and Meghan Chapman—and to those who spoke so beautifully—Rolly Waechter, Barbara Dowding, Sister Josephine Carney, and the representatives of parish groups. I'm not so sure that I'm as grateful to those young people who skewered me so effectively in their clever video, but I certainly admire their comic talents! The same is true for the musical duo of my brother Kevin and nephew Neil!
For their many hours of work on the video presentations I must thank Alex Buhler, Marilyn and Stefanie Elliott, my sister Sheila and particularly Father Xavier, who more importantly has been a brother, a friend, and a help in so many ways. We are richly blessed by his presence in the parish.
The beautiful program cover, and the invitations sent to people outside the parish, came from the talented hands of Jean McCarron.
I'm very grateful to an anonymous donor who provided wine for Saturday's dinner, to Tim Lack who made sure the proceedings were legal, and to Cecilia and Bill Curtis who helped with the bar.
All the members of the parish staff, particularly Robert Ibanez and Lenny Silva, were caught up in the preparations for these celebrations and gave generously of their time, but I have to single out our parish secretary Marilyn, who served as the ringmaster of a three-ring circus while remaining unfailingly patient and kind.
I know there are names missing, but they are known to God, who will—I hope and pray—reward you all for your love for the Church and your kindness to me.
So much time, talent, and treasure can only come from a deep spirit of communion and stewardship—and of love for the priesthood. I can never thank you properly, and I recognize that much of what you do is done for the Lord. But I can at least say that your love is returned, in full measure.
I'd like to repeat and underscore something I wrote in my words of thanksgiving in the programs for Mass:
I thank you, dear parishioners, for your astonishing generosity, acceptance, confidence and love. If I am a good pastor, it is in no small measure because you have taught me how.