Thank you!

This has not been an easy bulletin article to write.  I have experienced many moments of writer’s block.  In fact, in this moment I am two days overdue from the time I said I would turn it in.  Really, I think the problem is this: writing this bulletin has a certain finality to it.  It is the end. It means it is time for me to listen and trust in Christ’s words, Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go. This is priesthood.  Going where God needs you and not necessarily where you want to go. 

I would like to first express my gratitude to Fr. Tony.  He has been a blessing to me in many ways, and I would like to highlight two ways in which he has been a great gift to me.  Fr. Tony is very faithful to his prayer life.  It is said that good leaders never ask others to do what they themselves are unwilling to do.  Fr. Tony is constantly reminding us how important it is to go the classroom of silence and pray. Friends, we are so blessed to have a pastor who lives it.  Bishop Walkowiak reminded his priests, and encouraged the newly ordained at Fr. Andrews’ ordination, that all priests ought to “be with Christ” every day.  This is Fr. Tony.  He has encouraged and helped me remain faithful to my prayer life in these early years of ministry.  Fr. Tony has also given me confidence and hope that I can be a good priest.  Fr. Tony, thank you for your affirmations, for your patience, and for helping me grow into this life.  It truly has a been an honor and a privilege to have you as a mentor. I truly thank God for your love and friendship.  Never forget that you are a great priest. 

I am also very grateful to the staff at Our Lady of Consolation.  This staff is filled with people who are committed to our parish mission.  I am grateful for Linda’s joy and ability to bring a smile to anyone’s face.  I will miss Julie’s good, and sometimes facetious, humor. I am thankful for Nickie who seems to have the battery life of an infinite number of energizer bunnies. Mary, whether it was the songs you taught the school kids or the Emmaus song at the end of the Easter season, I found myself emotional because the presence of the Holy Spirit in those moments were undeniable. To Kevin, who has such a fatherly heart for our school kids. I admire Shaun for his servant’s heart.  He is a man that constantly denies his own needs in order to help others; someone Fr. McGivney would be very proud of.  To Anne Marie who has a wealth of parish life experience that has been very valuable to me and the entire staff. And finally, Steve and Leah, who have been a great addition in the office and have given us an outsiders perspective on how to continually improve. But to summarize, this staff is a group of committed people, who give everything that they have in order to help those they serve realize how much God loves them.  

Two years ago, I arrived here a baby priest.  I arrived excited for priesthood.  But I also arrived with feelings of uncertainty. Do I even know how to be a priest?  Well, as it turns out, I had no idea how to be a priest.  And yet, that is what I am most grateful for. After moments of both great successes and struggles, I leave here with a better understanding of priesthood.  I leave here with a better understanding of what it means to love God’s people.  I leave here truly thankful for the love you all have shown me.  Last year, reflecting on my first year as a priest I wrote: 

“Friends, the priest’s vocation is to imitate Christ’s loving service completely. The life of a priest is a shared gift.  It has been a great gift to me as I have encountered God in so many people and experiences [during my time at OLC]… Much more can be said here, but I end with this, somedays I fear I am receiving much more from all of you than I could possibly give to you.  But isn’t that whats truly great about Christian friendship, we become icons of God’s goodness, grace and love for each other.”

And so, I would be remiss if I did not thank all of you, the parishioners of Our Lady of Consolation.  Thank you for your love.  Thank you for your prayers.  And thank you, for teaching this baby priest how to be a priest.  I will be forever grateful and hold this awesome parish close to my heart wherever I go. 

Love, 

Fr. Stephen

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