from last week… “We have certainly grown as a parish in every way conceivable… The potential and opportunities are amazing.” And we have a vision to meet the challenge of amazing. Our Vision: True North for the North Campus re-development will expand our ability to more fully be a parish that offers holiness, hospitality, healing, and hope. Already more and more ministries are meeting and operating out of the North Campus facilities – and the months and years to come will bring more improvement, enhancements, and opportunities for outreach. It will be remarkable to watch the vision come to fruition in the next few years. When I stop and think about what will grow and flourish, I can’t help but think of the path and the people that brought us to this point in time.
In 2005, the community held its collective breath as they said good-bye to the long-serving Jesuits, wondering about the Franciscans who were coming and the change that loomed just over the horizon. There was change, but also there was continuity in the people worshiping and serving here. Fr. Andrew Reitz, our first Franciscan pastor, built upon that foundation and added to it, helping build our Franciscan identity as a parish known for its wonderful welcoming spirit. His pastorship lasted only four years before he was called to NYC to serve that community. I was blessed to follow in his footsteps and continue to build upon the family that you established with him and the other friars.
More than 15 years of Franciscan presence here in the parish, as individual priests have come and gone, the same welcoming and fraternal spirit has been a constant – and it will be as we move forward together as a community. It is who we are, Franciscan brothers. Thank you to my brothers for your support and encouragement.
It is said each pastor brings a new set of skills and perspectives, often the vision and energy to take the parish to the next junction in the journey. Over the last few weeks, after the news of my pending transfer was announced, many people have been so very kind and generous in their remarks and praise of what I have done. One person, asking about my time as pastor, wondered if there was one thing about which I was most proud. The person has some suggestions, all of which, in their own way, marked another step on the journey through economic downturns, rebuilding years, and now the era of the coronavirus pandemic. I said that I would have to think about it – which at the time was really just a dodge to not answer too quickly. But I have been thinking about it.
A long time ago a wise priest, friend and mentor told me that wherever this Franciscan journey took me, whatever my assignment, whatever was accomplished…always remember the Holy Spirit was already there working among the people…try not to get in the way. Perhaps, that is the answer, I stayed out the way of the working of the Spirit. Now and then I cajoled and encouraged, recruited and sometimes drafted, but stayed out of the way to let the gifts of the Spirit arise from people, letting them discover their own calling in the faith. And discover they have.
This column is too limited a space to mention all the people and ministries that have arisen, led by the Spirit, and given amazing witness to the love of Christ in the world. There are ministries and groups that did not exist nine years ago, there are ones that have been revitalized and renewed, and there are the ones ever sure and steady. Thank you to the leaders, the ministers, and all who have supported them with prayers and donations.
Along the way I have received tremendous support from the parish leadership councils, advisory boards, and ad hoc groups brought together as the need arose. And in the beginning, there was need galore. But each difficulty, crisis, or problem was engaged and overcome. The breadth and depth of wisdom and experience was a gift from God. Thank you to all the women and men who served on the councils – and a special word of gratitude to Jim Rossman, who was there through thick and thin.
And then there is the staff. The parish has a great staff that works together, laughs together, cooks and eats together, and prays together. But I am not telling you anything new; you have already encountered their welcoming spirit, their smiles, and the love of Christ, which flows from their lives into yours. There is not enough column space to thank them adequately, but I will get to do that in person this coming week. This staff is overflowing with the gifts of the Spirit! I hope I stayed out of their way….at least a little. Thank you!
In the midst of all the change, there is the sure foundation of the people of God – that’s you, the community of Sacred Heart! From the Parish Advisory Board to the quiet soul in the pew. From Riverview to Pasco. From South Tampa to New Tampa. From Channelside to Tampa Heights – and all the places in between. This always has been and always will be your parish. We friars are here for a while, for a time, to serve with you. Thank you for being a part of this community and a part of my life.
I know that you will support the new pastor, Fr. Stephen Mimnaugh, OFM, and the new community of friars, as you have always supported us. There are more amazing things to come – be part of it!
There is lots more to say but know that you are ever in my prayers and thoughts. We will meet again, this side or the next. May God give you peace.