Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Last weekend we were fortunate to have with us his eminence Theodore Cardinal McCarrick to celebrate the Eucharist with us and speak Sunday afternoon about Immigration Reform from the Catholic Church’s perspective.  This Thursday evening we welcome Congressman David Price (Democrat representing US House district 4) to St. Francis who joins us for our continuing conversation on the role of faith, the common good and the role of government.  I regret that Congressman Holding (Republican representing US House district 13) declined our invitation. “The congressman’s schedule is booked solid during the district work period,” his scheduler notified me after several failed attempts to secure a date for him to come to St. Francis.  I have invited him to consider a future time and continue to hope he will accept.  If you know Congressman Holding, please encourage him to accept our invitation.  I am committed to a bi-partisan conversation that focuses on “the role of faith, the common good and the role of government.”

Thank you to Sue Mathys, our Coordinator of Stewardship who invites us to consider our biblical tithe to support the good works and mission of our parish.  Please prayerfully consider your sacrificial gift to the offertory and complete your pledge card.  Thank you.

This past Tuesday the diocese, with sadness and yet great faith in the resurrection, celebrated the funeral liturgy of our Bishop emeritus Francis Joseph Gossman.  One of my fondest memories of Bishop Joe Gossman was on Monday July 24, 2006.  He was preparing to retire and we Franciscan Friars of Holy Name Province invited him to join us for Evening Prayer and dinner.  During the prayer, we presented him with the traditional brown habit of our order worn by Francis of Assisi.  It was our way of recognizing him as one of us.  The decision to affiliate Joe to the Order of Friars Minor was approved by our Minister General in Rome because he recognized as did we,  that Bishop Gossman manifested in his life many of the virtues of St. Francis and in the words of Francis himself, “preached the gospel always using words only when necessary.”

“I am very humbled by this recognition,” Bishop Gossman said in response. “It is I who should be thanking the Franciscan friars for the love and support they have given to me over the years, but more importantly for the love, support and dedication they have given to the people of the diocese through their ministry and through their witness of Christ.”

Ever a humble witness to the gospel, I am grateful to have known and shared my priestly ministry with Joe Gossman.  His faithfulness to his episcopal motto “to serve, not to be served,” was a hallmark of how he lived his life.

In the peace of Christ,

Fr. Mark

Fr. David knew Bishop Gossman since the 1980’s and shared these memories:

In 1985 two parishioners of St. Francis of Assisi Parish came to New York City to ask if we friars from Holy Name Province would be willing to minister at St. Francis. Two of us visited the parish and then met with Bishop Gossman. “Good to meet you, Bishop Gossman,” I said. He replied: “My name is Joe. That’s the name my parents gave me when I was baptized. Call me Joe.” That characterized the man more than anything else. He was down to earth and very human. There was not an officious bone in his body. He was one with the people, all the people. He lived simply and there were times you could feel his discomfort with ecclesiastical trappings. Joe Gossman was collegial to a fault. His hand was on the diocesan tiller, but you knew that it was the people who were making the ship sail.

As Ecumenical Officer for the diocese, I had many opportunities to be with Bishop Gossman as we interacted with clergy and laity from other Christian and interfaith communities. These communities had enormous respect for him. They knew he was one of them, seeking with them to serve and make a difference in the world.

Joe Gossman was a man for justice and peace. He joined many of us witnessing for the plight of the immigrant farm worker. He joined the boycott of Mt. Olive Pickle Co. at their factory in Mt. Olive, NC, and was persuasive in getting the company only to buy their cucumbers from farmers who respected and cared for their farm workers and their families.

Joe Gossman cried easily. During the sexual abuse scandal that hit the church I remember him being interviewed. Tears came to his eyes as felt the pain of those abused by priests. Victims of abuse were his first concern.

I remember a couple of times when we ran into each other when he would say to me: “David, if you’re down around the Catholic Center, drop in. I have a few love letters for you.” These were hardly love letters. They were complaints about me by some people unhappy with me as a pastor. “Joe, this is my love letter to you. Thank you for what you taught me about ministry. Thank you for being a man for others. Thank you for having the heart of a shepherd after the heart of the one Shepherd. I know you are with that Shepherd now. I send my love.”

Fr. David J. McBriar, O.F.M. 

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