The readings today are especially apt for me to say farewell to you and to express my profound gratitude to all of you.
In the passage from Revelations 21:5, Jesus sits on the throne in heaven and says, “Behold, I make all things new.” He is assuring the disciples that he is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Jesus wants them to be confident and at peace as they take up his cross for the greater glory of God. By being faithful to his commandments, his teaching and his example, we are part of a grand plan of God to renew the face of the earth. He renews us as people. He renews society. He renews the Church. This message leads us to the words of our gospel today:
My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
I know that change can be frightening to many of us. This change is frightening to me. Some of you have expressed your deep sadness that I am leaving and will not be your pastor. I am profoundly sad about it. I have been grieving for many months when I saw where my illness was leading. When I asked the bishop in January to approve my retirement, my gut was twisted, my eyes were weepy. I love this parish and I love you. You are part of me. My sense of self and sense of mission is tied directly to you. It hurts to walk away from this.
You will be forever in my heart. I am grateful for you beyond words. Twenty years as your pastor is a great blessing for me. I have been able to be a father with a family. The family has changed, people have arrived, moved away, died, grown up, moved into the parish. I have watched and have been part of all the ups and downs of life.
Together, we built a vibrant community of faith. We built and moved into a new church. We started construction on a new parish activities center. We have survived COVID even though we have lost friends to its ravages. We closed our church completely for two months, then started bringing people back to Mass in person. There is so much to say, so many reasons to appreciate God dwelling among us. I have worked with wonderful clergy, staff and volunteers and met thousands of people. For now, I say farewell. I love you. I pray for your needs daily. I hope that I will see you again here or in the eternal kingdom of God.
— I love you,