A Note From Fr. Timothy
During my time as pastor of St. Michael, Saint Cloud and St. Joseph, Waite Park I have had to say goodbye to many parishioners. Many of those were final goodbyes as we celebrated funeral Masses for them. Others were parishioners who said goodbye as they moved to another parish for health or work-related reasons. Still others simply disappeared silently and we said goodbye as we removed inactive names from our parish database. In each of those situations, those goodbyes affected our parish and the pastor.
It is humbling to have buried a significant number of charter members of St. Michael’s, for example, and marvel at their dedication to the parish and the community to establish St. Michael, get it going, and set it up for the future. And then I wonder if we will ever see that level of consistent dedication here again. Or to say goodbye to a number of parishioners who in their retirement years are permanently moving somewhere closer to their children and grandchildren or where it is warmer in the winter, and I wonder who might step up to replace their years of experience volunteering in the parish. Or to remove someone’s name who has been inactive for five years and without current contact information, and wonder why they left and why they left without saying anything. And I wonder if there was something I did to drive them away or if I could have done something more to help them stay connected to their faith.
Yet, through each goodbye, life at our parish persisted. The sacraments continued to be celebrated, people continued to gather in prayer, and the faith was taught. We found ways to adapt, fill in the gaps, and carry on. Things certainly look different than they once did, but the eternal message of salvation is still proclaimed and lived in our communities.
Now I say goodbye to not just one or two individuals, but to all the members of our parish communities as I am being moved to another assignment. And though there is much sadness in saying goodbye, I am buoyed by learning from the experience of so many previous goodbyes that the spiritual life of the parish will persist. The core of faith in the hearts of so many will continue to inspire lives dedicated to God and to the care of others.
And even as we say goodbye, we remember that there will also be greetings to come. New arrivals into our lives and communities for us to get to know. New opportunities to reach out a helping hand towards someone to make them feel welcome, and perhaps new occasions for us to humbly accept a helping hand in return. Even as one chapter of our lives might come to a close, we believe a new chapter will open with all its possibilities and potential. Through all the changes, the hellos and goodbyes, we believe that we as members of the Body of Christ are united in him. And through the connections formed by that unity we continue to remember and pray for each other until we all meet again – whether in this life or in the one to come.
Fr. Timothy Gapinski