During Fall 1991, my husband, the good deacon, spoke with Father Farrell several times to discuss his potential service to the new parish. Early on, these two seemed convinced that they would work very well together. When we invited our potential pastor and his associate, Father Phil, to dinner at our home, they hadn’t yet met me. Though being part of a new parish excited me, it also frightened me a bit. That evening, I hoped to make a good impression as Mike had.
During dinner, Father Farrell asked what I wanted to bring to this parish. “Welcome,” I said immediately. “I want it to be welcoming. I want everyone –no matter what their story is– to feel welcomed. This is church and everyone should be able to feel at home here.” Father Farrell smiled and remarked that this sounded good to him. Still, though all seemed to be going well, I knew that deacons couldn’t simply appear on the doorstep of a church. They had to be “wanted” and they had to request an official transfer. Halfway through this dinner, which my nervousness kept me from eating, I finally asked, “Do you want us?” Father Phil responded for them both. “Of course! You two will be great!” And that was that.
On February 12, 1992, we gathered in a meeting room at the local Holiday Inn. More than two hundred potential parishioners attended. Father Farrell took the podium with a smile and offered a grateful welcome to all. After reporting what he’d done to prepare, Father listed many other tasks to be completed and ministries to be formed if we were to function as a “real” parish. Much to our relief, sixty-seven families registered and numerous volunteers stepped up to serve. John offered to coordinate ushers. Sister Christine arranged for her master carpenter to build us a portable altar. Art busied himself with making the school gym we’d rented a bit more “church-like” while we were there for Mass. Others signed up to be musicians, communion ministers, lectors, set-up crews and much, much more.
It was the first weekend of Lent 1992 when we celebrated our first Mass as a parish family. We filled every chair in the gym and much of the space along the walls. Parish registration forms, contribution envelopes and our first parish bulletin made us feel somewhat like a “real” parish. More importantly, we who had already made this new parish our home extended our smiles and our welcome to all who joined us to pray that day. Though we couldn’t predict the twists and turns that would characterize our eventual journey together, we knew we were in the best of company –with one another and with our loving God who brought each of us to that particular place and time…
Below is the first edition of Something To Think About which appeared in our parish bulletin that first weekend together. I hope we’ve managed in some small ways to do what we set out to do. Lent 2012 offers us the perfect opportunity to tweak our efforts as needed. Together, may we all commit to bringing our best as we continue this journey together.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT, The First Sunday of Lent, 1992
Have you ever been perplexed or depressed by the circumstances of your life only to find out later that everything has turned out well? The faithful in today’s readings dealt with every sort of trial. Yet each, from Moses to Jesus Himself, emerged triumphant. When one places a vision before his or her personal needs, trials encountered become small and unimportant. What matters is that sense of inner peace growing within our hearts when we know we are headed in the right direction.
Some of us may have felt perplexed or depressed as we looked around during Mass today. We may have wondered what we were doing trying to worship our God in a gym. We may have questioned how we can possibly function as a parish when we do not even have a church. How are we to pull this off?
Perhaps it’s a matter of vision. The rest of the Catholic World celebrated this First Sunday of Lent as the beginning of their journey toward Easter. They hope to emerge a bit better and a bit closer to God. To us, this First Sunday of Lent is much more. We are sharing the experience of the first Christians. We are on a journey to build Church. They celebrated the Eucharist, shared the word and served one another wherever they were. Some thought they were a bit odd, while others observed, “See how they love one another.” We, too, have the opportunity to bring a very special presence to this world of ours as we build the Catholic Community of Warren Township. The trials wills come, but the rewards… Perhaps, someday, someone will say of us, “See how they’ve loved one another. See how they’ve loved Me.”
©2012 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved