The joy of freely giving yourself away also leaves the door open for the unexpected. One of my greatest hopes has been to learn and see how a large parish can be made into an intimate place of encounter and mission. Both Fr. Paul and Fr. Joseph and the entire staff of St. Johns modeled this for me in so many amazing ways how this is done. I discovered that mission requires self-gift to others. Inviting others to partake in parish life requires that people be known and shown the healing power of Christ. In today’s world of apostolic mission, St. John’s has shown me that it demands we get outside ourselves. While it is not in my nature to do things like go online and speak on Facebook Live, act out the life of a Saint for Totus Tuus, find myself in a jousting match with a pool noodle, or get into a dunk tank, the parish has shown me that mission requires we delight in spending time with God’s people. When we give ourselves away out of love for God and for the sake of others, I found that God in return fills our hearts.
Beyond the excitement that comes from giving yourself away, is walking faithfully into the unknown of what God has prepared. Having had little prior experience of being a public person, charting into the waters of preaching and liturgy was another point of intimidation. Getting to know the hearts and minds of the people of St. John’s allowed me to step forward in a new and bold way so that my heart could be seen and received by a multitude of others. You all have shown me that loving God’s word and loving God’s people are inseparable. When we pray together as one body, our public act of worship becomes a transcendent participation in the divine life of God. I received a new and surprising taste of “firsts” in these things as a newly ordained deacon, for example, I was given the opportunity to perform my first baptism, preach, plan funerals, conduct communion services, and assist our priests at mass.
All of what I received by the grace of God and through your generous spirit will never fit in this one page. If I can leave with you one thing, it would be my gratitude. Thank you for showing me the love and joy of the Lord by being the people of faith that you are. Never in my life have I experienced so much delight and joy in the Lord. It helps me affirm my calling, but I also hope it affirms for you the good things God is doing in this parish. You have made a tremendous impact on my life and formation as a future priest. I will be back for visits, but please continue to pray for me in my last year of seminary. If you wish to contact me by email you may reach me at: email@example.com.