OK. You’re sitting there in your pew and you’re wondering, “So who’s this guy now? That’s a fair question. My name’s Deacon Mike Buckley and the Archbishop has appointed me Director of Saint John Nepomuk Chapel. “Oh, great!” you think. “Another stranger.”
It’s true, I am a stranger. In fact, a lot of people might tell you I’m stranger than anyone you know. But the Archbishop sent me, so here I am. In fact, here’s what the Archbishop wrote to me in my letter of appointment.
“As Director, providing guidance and direction, you are to work with and for the dedicated members of Saint John Nepomuk Chapel who have worshipped there for so many years and who hold Saint John Nepomuk Chapel dear in their thoughts and in their hearts.”
Don’t ask me why he chose an Irish deacon to serve the oldest Czech church in North America. He had his reasons, I guess. But as I thought about it I realized that throughout the history of the Church, men and women have been sent to serve people of other nationalities. My own patron saint, the patron saint of Ireland is an Englishman named Patrick. That seems to have worked out pretty well.
As an outsider, I don’t know that I can ever understand the deep feelings so many of you have for this wonderful church, but I can appreciate the history and I can definitely appreciate the beauty of this, historic house of worship. In fact, let me tell you a little story. [You’ll soon realize that I do like to tell stories.]
Anyway, I thought, I’d tell you a little about myself this afternoon (morning) so you get an idea of where I’m coming from. Hopefully, over the next weeks and months, I’ll learn more about you. But, keep in mind that you only have to learn one new person. I have to learn about all of you. If you greet me after mass today and introduce yourself and I forget your name by next week, please don’t be mad. It’s one of the hazards of age. I don’t remember what the others are.
I was ordained by then Archbishop, now Cardinal Rigali in June of 2002. That means I’ve been a deacon for (count on fingers) almost nine years. I’ve been married to my lovely and talented wife, Jan, for 42 years. She’s given me four wonderful kids, who are actually adults now. I still call them “kids” which they may or may not like. But, if you’re a parent you know that they’re always your kids no matter how old they get.
Two of my kids have kids of their own, for a total of four grandchildren. I may brag about all eight of them from time-to-time but usually only to make a point. I hope you’ll bear with me. I’m more than happy to listen to you brag about yours any time you want. If you’re interested, I do have pictures.
I’m not a cradle Catholic. I was raised a Baptist and converted to Catholicism when Jan and I were married in 1968. It’s am interesting story. I’ll tell you some day, but not today.
This might be a good time to mention that there will be a parish meeting tomorrow (this) morning after (9:30) mass. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss plans for 2011 events. It will also be a good time to ask me any questions you might have. I hope you can make it.
In the second reading today, Saint Paul writes to the Corinthians that “there should be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.” Hopefully you and I are united in the same purpose. I take Archbishop Carlson’s words very seriously, that I am to work with you and for you. I know some of you may be disappointed that he didn’t send you a priest/pastor. But we have to deal with the reality that their aren’t enough priests to go around.
The good news is that this Archbishop doesn’t like to close churches. He’s appointed a committee to look at new and different models for keeping them open. This community has a prominent place in the history of the Archdiocese of Saint Louis and you have a chance to make history again. If you and I are successful here, we’ll give other smaller worship communities a model to follow.
In our Gospel today, Jesus calls Simon and Andrew, and James and John and promises to make them fishers of men. He calls you and me to be fishers of men, too. As I wrote in this week’s bulletin, there is no greater good that you and I can do than to bring others to Christ. That’s our common purpose. That’s what Paul asked of the people of Corinth and that’s what Christ asks of you and me.
Jan and I were members of Saint Bernadette parish in South County for thirty-five years. I’ve been a deacon there since I was ordained. It’s been our church home for more than half our lives. I thought long and hard about accepting this new assignment. I was very comfortable at Saint Bernadette. But, you know what? I wasn’t ordained to be comfortable. I was ordained to serve God’s people. And He’s called me to serve you. He’s also called you to serve one another.
So, as we begin this new chapter in the life of this wonderful church, I’m looking forward to working for you and with you. When the Apostles asked Jesus how to pray He taught them the prayer that we pray so often, alone and together. “Thy kingdom come, THY will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” I don’t know exactly what God’s will is, but I’d like to close by sharing a prayer with you written by the famous Trappist monk, Father Thomas Merton:
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you and I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing.
And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road although I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.