At this time of the year, it is good to recognize the Good News in our community. It is a time to look back with gratitude for all that God has done in our midst. It is a time for thankfulness and hope for the future.
For me, I look back on 2013 and see how the Year of Faith has helped us shore up our faith in the moral issues of our time. I give thanks for all who spent extra time to offer a daily Rosary, Fast on Friday’s, and attend our monthly Solemn Vespers with Adoration. I am also thankful for the concrete steps we’ve taken to begin the process of renovating our Church. We have a long way to go in the process, but we have a solid core committee who continue to discuss and explore ideas. I am also thankful for the work of Alan Crews who will be officially retiring as of this month. His joyful presence and work ethic has been inspirational for me, the staff, and parishioners who have worked with him. I am thankful for the arrival of John Becerra, our seminarian intern, who has added a view of hope for vocations to the priesthood. These are just some of the local happenings within our parish. But, there were some much broader events that also has effected the larger Church.
This past year we witnessed two major leadership changes in the Church, one locally and the other globally. First was the significant appointment of Archbishop Alexander Sample as our new Archbishop coupled with the retirement of Archbishop Vlazny. Then shortly after that, Pope Benedict XVI stunned the world by his humble resignation, thereby setting into motion a conclave which elected Pope Francis, the first Jesuit pope and the first pope to take a name in honor of St. Francis of Assisi. Instead of the common news cycle of criticism of the Church, it was refreshing to hear and watch reports of these events set in a positive light. Since then, Pope Francis has continued to surprise and shock the world by his humble living and colloquial way of speaking. His actions of kindness and compassion have inspired many. I highly recommend reading the encyclical that he and Pope Benedict wrote, Lumen Fidei, as well as Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium. While some in the secular press have been negatively critical about the latter document, I recommend that you read it for yourself and do not depend on the secular media to digest it for you. It is an amazing exhortation to be more evangelical in living out and sharing our faith. It would make a wonderful new year’s resolution to get a copy and prayerfully read just a few pages each day. We will be reading it as part of our weekly staff meetings in the new year.
We live in amazing times. 2013 was full of wonderful outpourings of the Holy Spirit locally and globally. Please continue to ask God to pour out His Holy Spirit upon us. Pray that we will be, as a community, a beacon of faith, hope, and love to our civic community as well as to the larger global community.
Finally, I want to express my thanks to all of the parishioners of St. Anne’s, St. Patrick of the Forest, and Our Lady of the River for their faith-filled example to me. Serving you as your pastor has fed me deeply. Thank you, especially, for being patient with my mistakes and helping me get up when I have fallen. I give thanks for being here with you as we, together, journey on this path of faith.
Fr. William Holtzinger