On this Sunday that follows my installation, last Sunday, as pastor of St. Mary’s Parish, it seems appropriate that I share with all the essence, at least, of what I shared with the parishioners who were present at my installation. My first words are words of thanks. Thanks to His Grace Archbishop Michael Miller, for his presence among us. I’m happy that my installation as pastor provided an opportunity for the archbishop to touch base with the St. Mary’s portion of his flock.
Thanks to my Dominican brothers who were all there to support and encourage me by their presence. I take this opportunity to thank Fr. David and Fr. Claude for their generous willingness and availability to relieve Fr. Gabriel and I, when we need help. Thanks to all those, too numerous to mention by name, who worked very hard to prepare the liturgical celebration of my installation, as well as the impressive celebration that followed in the church basement. Thanks to my beloved brothers, the Knights of Columbus, who took the time and trouble to prepare an honour guard. Thanks to all the groups that gave me a spiritual bouquet. These assurances that you will pray for me are the finest gift you could have given me.
I was deeply touched at the sight of so many people who changed their mass attendance routine to be present at the 11:45 mass for my installation. This touched me deeply. I’m equally touched by the ever so warm “welcome home” embrace that I have experienced since my return. I can’t thank you enough for this. This day is a bit poignant and somewhat bittersweet for me, but nonetheless happy, because it just so happens that my installation as pastor falls on the feast of St. Francis Xavier, a Jesuit who is very dear to my heart. He is the missionary to the Chinese people that I wanted to be. But that was my plan, not God’s. And so today, I say simply to St. Francis Xavier, “Happy Feast Day, I love you, and I commend to your intercession the Church in China and it’s evangelizing mission to the Chinese people, but also, the Church in Vancouver, and it’s evangelizing mission to the people here. As for me, it would seem that God wants me here at St. Mary’s. So here I am. Please pray for me too!”
Some of you know my limitations well, for having been here during my previous time as pastor. Others have yet to discover them. I acknowledge them in advance, and I ask for your mercy with respect to my shortcomings and inevitable mistakes. When I became pastor of St. Mary’s in 2000, I said to Tim Diewold, one of our parishioners, “I’m okay with becoming pastor, but I’m just so scared that I’ll make mistakes.” His reply was: “Don’t be silly. Of course you’ll make mistakes!” It was very liberating. Now, 11 years later, I’m much less afraid, partly because I’m 11 years older and now I know that I will make mistakes, but mostly because I also know from experience that at St. Mary’s there will always be mercy for my mistake, and for that I am profoundly grateful to you all and to God.
Lastly, when I left St. Mary’s in 2006, I said to the parishioners: “Pastors come and pastors go, so don’t cling to them. Cling to one another, as Church.” Well, as it turns out, sometimes pastors actually come back! So today I say: in the time that God will give us to be Church together, let us stick together, cling to one another, hold fast to one another as Church; let us hold fast together to the alertness, to the vigil to which we were called in last Sunday’s gospel, the vigil of shared faith and hope and love.
The Lord will come, and we will be standing and ready to greet him when he comes. And in the meantime, inasmuch as we keep lit and burning brightly the vigil lamps of faith and of a hope so strong that it becomes an expectation of his coming to us in all kinds of ways, big and small, I just know that he will continue to rain down miracles of grace as he always does on this blessed place that we call St. Mary’s Parish.
Thank you for your support, and may God bless us all.