July 2, 2017
Dear People of God,
Today we celebrate the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time. The theme of today’s scriptures call us to realize that our lives are networks of relationships which can change over the course of time. As I begin this new relationship with you at St. Luke the Evangelist and you welcome a new Pastor, perhaps today’s readings are a good introduction for all of us. Change is often difficult. We become comfortable in daily routines, circles of friends, and activities where we invest our time and energy. We get into patterns of being comfortable with what is, and then something changes; a new job offer, an illness, a family crisis, an expected death, and yes folks, a change in the one place that is often our anchor; our parish family. Today I come to you after 8 years at Our Lady of Sorrows parish in South City. The Archbishop has asked me to be part of a new family, and to work with you in building up God’s Kingdom in this neighborhood. I am happy to be at St. Luke the Evangelist and hope we will forge a relationship of mutual trust, collaboration, and charity. Of all relationships that we experience, the most important one, of course, is our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. When we make Him our primary relationship, then all the changes of life, good or challenging, can be faced with hope.
On this first Sunday, I want to give you a brief biography, so you have some insight into your new pastor. I am the seventh of eight children, born to very Irish Catholic parents on Sept. 15th, 1957 (the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows) in a small town in the south-east corner of Vermont called Bellows Falls. My parents were devout and active in our little parish and helped all eight of us to love our faith. I first heard the call to be a priest in Kindergarten. After High School, I joined the Mill Hill Fathers, based here in St. Louis. After just a few months, I realized that being a missionary was not my call. I then became a seminarian for the Archdiocese and went through college and seminary in Shrewsbury. I was ordained to the priesthood on Dec. 15th, 1984. I served several parishes as an associate and was made pastor of Immaculate Conception, Union in 1996. I then served as pastor at Assumption in Mattese, Sacred Heart, Crystal City, and recently at Our Lady of Sorrows in South City. I have been ordained for 32 ½ years and have had a variety of assignments that have been both challenging and opportunities of growth. That’s a brief bio of the past 42 years. As I come to St. Luke’s, I am bringing my four-legged family; three English Springer Spaniels, named Hilda, Maggie, and “Carlson,” (named after our beloved Archbishop.)
As a ‘newcomer’ to this community, I want to get to know you, and will be working on learning your names and faces. Please be patient as this often takes time. In the first year with you, I hope to do three things and do them well: ‘Look, Listen, and Learn’. Some may be looking for immediate change, and I ask you to please be patient. Share your ideas, hopes, dreams, and insights with me. I want to hear your thoughts and concerns. Some may be comfortable and happy with everything just the way it is. A new pastor comes to a parish with fresh eyes that often can see things from a new perspective. In my first year I will take notes, and having listened to your counsel, we can then move forward. The one question that I propose for us to begin our new relationship is, “Lord, what do YOU want us to be doing to build your Kingdom in our midst?” With that as our common focus, I will be making notes, and through this column and through meetings with our parish leadership, will use the coming year to discern with you what Jesus may be telling us.
Finally today, I want to thank Fr. John-Paul Hopping for his brief time as pastor of St. Luke’s; for his love and service to you, his flock, and for the many good works of charity and stewardship he has performed with you. Let us wish him well as he joins a new family at St. Peter’s in St. Charles. Father Hopping is a very talented and dedicated priest. I am sure he will bring many blessings to his new assignment. May God continue to bless his ministry.
God Bless, have a great week.
(Please say three Hail Marys daily for our parish.)