Evening in Trumansburg offered many gifts - Catholic Courier
Matthew H. Clark Matthew H. Clark

Evening in Trumansburg offered many gifts

I don’t often have the opportunity to celebrate with the people of St. James Parish in Trumansburg, a village in Tompkins County close by the border with Seneca County. Earlier this week we celebrated Eucharist and confirmation together in their lovely church.


The evening was bright and beautiful, and the people who participated in the ceremony came in a warm spirit of affection and support for the candidates for confirmation. Most of the candidates were in their early to mid-teens. The one exception was a man who is to be married soon and who wanted to receive the sacrament before that event.

The young people were charming, reverent, joyful, and quite ready to speak about their hopes and dreams. One athletic and personable young man shared with me his ambition to perform both in Major League Baseball and the National Football League. I’d say that that’s a mighty ambition but … do you remember Bo Jackson? The young man’s sharing evoked the memory that very early in my life I dreamed of playing first base for the Yankees. That hope faded probably no later than the third inning of my fourth game.

Another gift of the evening was the presence and pastoral leadership of the Capuchin Fathers who serve three communities in the Tompkins-Seneca area of our diocese. They are Father John Tokaz, OFM Cap, who is Pastor of St. James, and Father Bart Minson, OFM Cap, pastor of St. Francis Solanus in Interlaken and Holy Cross in Ovid. Joining us was Father Eugene O’Hara, OFM Cap, who is in retirement and lives with the Capuchin community in Interlaken.

I am pleased and always grateful that they embody the Franciscan charisms and traditions in our diocese at this time in our history. At a time when we are challenged by deep questions of economic justice and concern for the poor it is good to draw strength from St. Francis’ poverty and simplicity of life. In an age when we need to pay special attention to our obligation to be responsible stewards of our God-given resources, we have the example of the man from Assisi who so deeply reverenced all of God’s creation. As we experience so much violence in this world we find encouragement in the courage of Francis, who desired so deeply to be a channel of peace.

When I arrived at St. James, I had some time to stop in the church and pray for awhile. I had just driven in from a funeral in Syracuse and welcomed a few moments of quiet to pray about the events of the day and to prepare for the confirmation.

In the midst of that time, I became aware of a woman in another corner of the church working away quietly at what I assumed were preparations for the evening’s celebration. As I left, we greeted one another but did not introduce ourselves. A short while later at dinner I met the quiet worker. She is Barbara Willers, who is catechetical leader/youth minister at the parish.

Later, in church, I noted Barbara’s attentiveness to people present and to the event we were celebrating. At the end of the liturgy, Father John included in his remarks warm words of gratitude for Barbara for all she had done for him and for the candidates in preparation for all that we celebrated.

I mention that not to embarrass Barbara but to thank her not only for her quiet, generous service but for reminding me during this Easter season of the people I meet every day who, like her, generously and quietly serve their sisters and brothers.

Peace to all.

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