Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
There has been a real joy in the last two months here in the parish. Yes, there have been challenges, as we’ve transitioned through sets of protocols for Mass and other occasions. That has not been especially joyful, though I’m pleased with how smoothly things have gone. What has been a particular joy is the ability to see and
reconnect with parishioners who’ve recently started coming back to Mass.
Now, I love all of my parishioners. And while I’m obligated to say that as the shepherd for the community, it is also the honest truth. It’s been a wonderful boon to have so many individuals come and participate at Mass since the churches reopened in June of 2020. If you’re part of that, you’ll never know the full extent of how much your presence at Mass buoyed me in difficult times. It’s been wonderful to hear from others of how they’ve utilized the livestream and maintained their worship and connection to the parish in the safety of their homes. But strange and wonderful it is to be surprised by a familiar face walking into Mass for the first time
since the beginning of the pandemic.
Such an experience has put a new perspective on the parable of the lost sheep for me. I tend to be more pragmatic and less sentimental when it comes to certain things. As such, the parable of the lost sheep, where the Good Shepherd leaves the ninety-nine in search of the one, has never sat very well with me. It never made good business sense to leave so many alone to find just one. But the elation felt when something or someone shows up, unannounced and unbidden, like parishioners after such a tumultuous period of history, in some ways surpasses the quiet joy felt when seeing the same faces week in and week out.
The reason for this is likely quite pastoral. Those consistent and steady, I’m quite certain that their faith is being fed and their relationship with the Lord is growing and deepening. But for those who may have wandered? Or were anxious about coming back and not sure of their personal safety and so stayed with the
livestream? When one of those appears, the heart of the pastor jumps a bit in having them be more fully restored to the flock.
Friends, there is still more to go until we are fully back and together again. And for those still unsure and staying away out of safety concerns, I certainly get it. But these moments of joy in seeing my friends and parishioners again has made me hungry for more. There’s roughly 80% of our parish that even before the pandemic, were only coming to Mass rarely, if it all. As we continue in the months to come, my plan is to find ways to welcome back more of these sheep into our parish flock at St. Charles.
Peace and Goodness,