January 5, 2020
First of all, I think we need to address the elephant in the room… As you may have heard, the process the friars of Holy Name Province have been conducting to reconfigure our ministry sites has been completed. Our numbers are so critically low, that the decision was made that the friars will withdraw from serving the people of St. Francis Parish in Raleigh…8 other parishes were similarly informed that a friar presence will end by June 2020. Steve, Jim and I are shocked and deeply saddened.
The ministry is life giving; you are a generous, encouraging, and hospitable people. The gift of Francis of Assisi is in your DNA. You are St. Francis Parish, and the parish, school, and pre-school will continue. I believe this decision to leave was made not because of any lack in you, but in our lack of friar priests who are still young enough and able to work.
As I prayed on this decision in light of the readings of today’s solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, I remembered a line from Stephen Sondheim’s musical Sunday in the Park with George. A character sings, “ Move on…stop worrying where you are going, move on…the choice may have been mistaken, but choosing was not, just keep moving on.”
The readings are all about people on the move…The Word of God MOVED so as to became human in the person of Jesus of Nazareth…The magi MOVED from the comfort of their homeland to Jerusalem where one would expect to find the newborn King of the Jews. They MOVED to Bethlehem where they did find Him, and were so MOVED by their encounter that they MOVED home changed persons, and Moved by another route. The locus of God’s presence MOVED from the Temple of Jerusalem as the reading from Isaiah says to the person of Jesus Christ.
So now it’s time for us friars to Move… it’s one of the things that make us Franciscan. It is also how we live out our vow poverty; we are called not to cling to any place or people. As a people formed in Franciscan spirituality, you are now called to live out our poverty of place and persons with us, and together with one another. This can be a movement of grace for all of us if we so choose. The friars will be okay…as will all of you and St. Francis Parish….if you remember you are here to encounter Christ. The friars, like the star that guided the magi, merely point to Christ. You must continue to MOVE deeply into Christ, Move more deeply into trusting the Holy Spirit within and among you, and MOVE more deeply into what it means to be Franciscan.
So what do each of us do in the meantime? Each of us must continue to do what we have been doing…growing in our understanding that we are all saints of God in the making and are called to act as such. Pray for one another and be kind to one another. And as for me, I’ll continue to greet you, share your joys and pray with you in your sorrow as I hold the door. May the Lord give us all peace.
Fr. Steve K.