In my last post I mentioned that Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Archbishop Emeritus of the Archdiocese of Saint Louis celebrated mass last Sunday at our Cathedral Basilica. I hoped that the text of his homily would be posted on line, and it has been. You can read it here. In case you aren’t familiar with Cardinal Burke, he was Archbishop of Saint Louis until last June when the Holy Father appointed him Prefect of the Signatura in Rome. Then in November, he was elevated to the College of Cardinals.
He was in Saint Louis this week to celebrate a mass of thanksgiving on Sunday and to participate in the Ordination of Monsignor Edward Rice as auxiliary Bishop.
In his homily on Sunday, the Cardinal had this to say:
Receiving new and weightier responsibilities in the Church, my thoughts have turned naturally and gratefully to the gift of having served as your archbishop. My life in the Church and whatever service I have been and am able to give to the Church has been immeasurably blessed by the faithful of the Archdiocese of Saint Louis and by the years I served you. I do not forget you and the great blessings which have come to me in the Archdiocese of Saint Louis. When I was appointed Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, I was particularly grateful that the Holy Father had given me the title of Archbishop Emeritus of Saint Louis. I treasure my continued relationship with the Archdiocese.
I found the Cardinal’s words particularly relevant because I’ve been appointed by our current Archbishop to new and weightier responsibilities in the Church. Beginning this Monday I will assume a new position, Director of Saint John Nepomuk Chapel. Like Cardinal Burke, I am very grateful for all the blessings I have received at my previous assignment at Saint Bernadette Church. Also like Cardinal Burke, my boss, the Archbishop of Saint Louis, has allowed me to retain my ties to my former parish as well. I’ll continue to serve the parishioners at Saint Bernadette by celebrating a morning communion service twice each week and perform some other duties as well.
It was an extremely difficult decision to accept this new assignment. Saint Bernadette has been my family’s home for thirty-five years. When I was ordained in 2002, I was allowed to remain there as a deacon. With the exception of my oldest son’s baptism, my children received all the sacraments of initiation at Saint Bernadette. I was blessed to be able to baptize two of my grandchildren there. All four of my kids attended grade school there before the school was forced to close in 1999. I could easily have served there as long as the Lord gives me the physical ability to function as a deacon. (Hopefully a long time. But you never know.)
I have a plethora of friends at Saint Bernadette including many who have allowed me to participate in some of the pivotal moments of their lives; baptisms, weddings, and yes, even funerals of loved ones. I’ll miss these people dearly.
But, I was ordained to serve the Archbishop and to go wherever he needs me. Now he’s called me to a unique ministry. Saint John Nepomuk is a church community that dates back almost until the Civil War. Like a lot of inner city churches, many of its members have migrated to the suburbs. Nowadays, it’s a chapel rather than a parish, meaning that it has no geographical boundaries. People come from all over the metropolitan area to attend mass there, many because of their Czech heritage.
Attendance has dwindled and when the most recent pastor retired, the Archbishop made the decision not to assign another priest. My role will be to run the physical plant, find priests to celebrate mass on the weekends, and to provide for the spiritual needs of the community. Saint John is the only parish in Saint Louis to use this model. With God’s help, the church’s members and I will make this work and possibly open the doors for others to do the same.
So, while I’m sorry to leave the comfort of Saint Bernadette, I realize that I wasn’t ordained to be comfortable. Like Cardinal Burke, I look forward to the challenge and look forward to my continued association with Saint Bernadette parish, too.