“Deep Faith, Hard Work” is one of the themes St. Pius X in Chili raised up in celebration of the 150th anniversary of their parish. Originally called St. Feehan’s, the parish was established in 1854 by Bishop John Timon, Bishop of Buffalo. Remember that the Diocese of Rochester was not established until 1868.
St. Feehan’s was established when the growing Catholic community of Chili petitioned Bishop Timon to send a priest to them on Sunday. They felt that their numbers warranted the request, maintaining that it was more reasonable for one priest to travel to them than for so many of them to go to downtown Rochester each Sunday. Bishop Timon agreed. The priest came to celebrate the sacraments in the house of parishioners, and St. Feehan’s was born.
When we celebrated the event last Sunday, it was a wonderful moment for grateful memory and renewed hope — all joined in the hearts of today’s community. It was very much an invitation to the spiritual themes of Advent.
This holy time certainly calls us to remember the gracious love of God for our mothers and fathers in the faith. But it also is a special moment to remember that God is with us — no less than he was with them — on our journey of faith. Advent faith assures us that what God has begun in us through the Christmas feast will be brought to completion when Christ comes again in glory.
As I experienced the joy of the celebration with the community of St. Pius, I was mindful that present in the congregation were babes in arms, people who — like myself — are closer to the end than the beginning and all ages in between. The assembly provided in a deeply human way a visible reminder of God’s enduring love for and abiding presence to each of us, all the days of our lives. It was the Advent story embodied in that particular assembly.
On display, for all to enjoy that day, were a great array of photos and a huge historic timeline posted on the wall, noting significant moments in the history of St. Feehan/St. Pius and of our nation. One could see what was happening in the parish during the several wars in which our nation has been engaged since 1854. One also could see how the parish responded to the crash of 1929 and the Great Depression. And, how the parish moved through Vatican Council II and the great cultural upheavals of the 1960s. As I observed it all, I was drawn to Advent prayer: God has always been faithful, is now and will remain so — drawing us to fullness of life.
Such celebrations enrich the life of any community. People become aware that they are important parts of a story that is larger than they are, but which would be less than it is without them. The young learn from their elders that deep faith and hard work will, in God’s gracious providence, see them through the ups and downs of life. And, we seniors learn from the young that God constantly renews the community with gifts of new life and fresh dreams.
I encouraged you last week to an Advent disposition of attentiveness, to attend carefully to what you experience so as to see the deeper meaning of life’s ordinary events, their relationship to one another and how they contribute or not to our growth as people of faith.
To that invitation, I add a second: Is it possible for you during this Advent time to speak with a friend, family member or other loved one about those things that claim your attention during this holy season? Memories of God’s goodness to you? Hopes for the future? Those things that now help you link the memories and the hopes?
Such interchange connects us, at least in a symbolic way, with the greater story of the community and helps us to draw on its strength. And, I believe that such an interchange can be the richer if you’re lucky enough to have the conversation with someone of a generation other than your own.
My thanks to Father Dan Holland, the planners and organizers of the jubilee celebration and all at St. Pius X for their deep faith, hard work and wonderful gift at the edge of the Advent season.
Peace to all.