Dear Parishioners and Friends of St. Gregory’s,
This will be the final Sunday that I offer Mass as your pastor. I will be offering the Mass in thanksgiving for all of you, for all the friendship and love I have received from you, all the ready help and offers of help, for all the sound advice and counsel that so many of you have provided for me. I offer it for your physical, emotional and spiritual welfare as we continue to grapple with the coronavirus that keeps us at a physical, though never spiritual, distance from one another. When Fr. O’Connor takes over as administrator next Tuesday, I am confident that the parish will be in the hands of a talented and dedicated pastoral leader. And I expect to be back here every now and then, insofar as I will be pastor emeritus. As the late Father Andrew Greely was fond of ending his homily at funeral Masses, “See you around.”
My thanks to all who turned out on Friday afternoon to see Father Szymon off and cheer him as he drove away. We all wish him much happiness and effective ministry at St. Mary Gate of Heaven Parish.
I cannot but think that, in normal times, this would have been the closing weekend of the 41st annual Great Gregorian Festival. I gnash my teeth in frustration at the weather that has proven to be festival weather par excellence – night after night of rain-free warmth. What fun it would have been. But, as Brooklyn Dodger fans used to vow at the end of every frustrating season, “Wait until next year!”
Parents, students and school administrators are warily anticipating the start of the new school year in September. I know that Ms. Alaimo, Tom VanBuskirk and the Board of Directors of St. Gregory the Great Catholic Academy are doing everything in their power to prepare for the best educational experience possible under trying circumstances. Likewise, Sr. Pat and her staff of catechists, RCIA team and WHY CATHOLIC? coordinators are hard at work to prepare a vibrant Faith Formation program for the coming pastoral year.
I look forward to settling in at my cottage on Lake Pocotopaug later this coming week. The quiet mornings at lakeside will afford me the opportunity to reflect prayerfully on the past eight years – and the forty-one that preceded them – and to look forward with joyful anticipation to this next stage in a life’s journey that has proven to be richer, far more rewarding, and unimaginably more chockful of love and happiness than ever I could have dreamed as I sat beside the same lake as a newly-ordained priest forty-nine years ago.
At the end of one of her novels, the marvelous author Alice McDermott has a pastor questioning a talented visiting organist about how he acquired such virtuosity at such a young age. Is it a gift or the product of hard work, the priest wonders? The young man gives a rather lengthy reply that prompts the priest to utter the closing words of the novel. “Well, it is a gift then.” As I close the last chapter of the story of my full-time active priestly ministry, I can only echo that wise old monsignor. It has all been a gift.