Dear brothers and sisters,

Welcome to Fr. Steve Patti, OFM, who preaches and presides at each of the liturgies this weekend. I’m thrilled that Steve’s gifts and talents will be utilized for leadership to continue the wonderful mission of our parish: “Inspired by our patron Francis of Assisi, we seek to proclaim the reign of God by growing in Holiness through our experience of Christ in word, sacrament and one another, offering Hope to those who hunger for human dignity, and extending Hospitality to all.”

You’re likely familiar with the story of Sir Christopher Wren, the architect of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London who one day when visiting the construction site asked a stone worker, what are you doing? He responded: cutting stone, just making a living. He asked a second stone worker the same question, who with a great smile and a gaze towards the heavens, replied: I’m building a cathedral. If Christopher Wren were to stop by and ask us what we’re doing? I’d say we’re building the Body of Christ. If I was simply a stone cutter, it would be easy to say good-bye – saying good bye to brick and mortar is always easy – What’s difficult is saying good bye to the Body of Christ – here and now as I’ve come to know you – you are the Body of Christ. Which is not to say we haven’t cut a lot of stone, there always seemed to be a capital campaign underway. I witnessed your generosity through the construction of our current sanctuary, the addition of elementary and middle schools (Thea, Bonaventure, Jacoba, Juniper Halls), two campaigns for the diocese responding to the Diocese’s growth (God’s Work Our Challenge and the Cathedral), and our Growing In Faith Together expansion (Elizabeth Hall, Assisi Community Center, St. Mary of the Angels Chapel and Siena Center for Lifelong Learning). From the papacies of John Paul II to Benedict to Francis, we planned for the future, responded to the signs of the times in our midst. And you’ve done that.

Together we have received Eucharist and washed one another’s feet, as we have celebrated new life through baptism & memorialized our beloved dead. In this we have known the presence of Christ walking with us in our midst. For any priest, the greatest gift is to be able to share people’s lives in times of both joy and sorrow and to walk the Christian journey with you; from simple days of Advent to the great Easter Vigil, gathering about our altar Sunday after Sunday. Thank you for being the Body of Christ growing in holiness by creating vibrant schools and family faith formation to form us as disciples of Jesus Christ, extending hope to those who hunger for human dignity through our many outreach opportunities and extending hospitality by being faithful to the cornerstone of our church my house shall be a house of prayer for all people.

And yet there is much work yet to be done. How do we continue to evangelize in a secular world? How do we continue to reach out and welcome people who are hurt or alienated or indifferent? How do we engage those who are disinterested in their faith. I know you will keep on having these conversations. You will be a better parish because of them.

On a personal note, I’ve been especially grateful to have been surrounded by Bill and David, caring brothers in the friary – and thankful for the dedication and excellence of so many partners in ministry – our pastoral staff, teachers and all who support our education and pastoral ministries along with the leadership of so many parishioners.

As I bid farewell, my hope and prayer is that the Holy Spirit will continue to stir into flame the love of Christ that I have witnessed in your hearts: that you may grow in holiness, extend hope, and offer hospitality as you bear witness to the presence of God in the world. Everything you do and are, is rooted in the Eucharist. Here Christ continues to be broken and poured out for the hope and well being of all in this house, a house of prayer for all people. We, like the Canaanite woman of last Sunday’s gospel have been entrusted with a great gift, the gift of faith. May that faith grow ever deeper by being inspired by our patron Francis as you seek to proclaim the reign of God in your lives, building the Body of Christ.

Peace and all good,

Fr. Mark