David Moore, a parishioner at Our Lady of Good Counsel and pastoral minister for the 19th Ward Catholic Community, kindly sent me a copy of Bishop Thomas Hickey’s words to the people of the parish when that community was established on October 27, 1928.
David did so at my request following a conversation that we had at the reception following the church’s closing liturgy on Sunday, May 7. During that conversation David noted that Bishop Hickey had cited the growth of the Catholic population in that part of the city as the driving cause for establishing the new parish. Further, David acknowledged — with some sadness — that the thinning of the population in the area now made advisable the parish’s closure.
I found his disposition to be quite inspiring. It was framed and shaped by his affection for the parish and his fond memories of life in the community, by his faith and recognition that the church has adapted — and needs to continue to adapt — to changing pastoral circumstances; by his sense that through the pain of this closure people will find new life and possibilities as they gather at St. Monica’s with the people of the 19th Ward.
The conversation with David renewed my awareness of how generously and faithfully the people of St. Augustine’s, St. Monica’s, Our Lady of Good Counsel, Emmanuel Church of the Deaf and Ss. Peter and Paul participated in the pastoral planning process.
They worked very hard. They struggled. They prayed. They wept at times. But in the end they developed a plan around which all could gather in a spirit of faith and hope, and walk into the future.
The people and their planning representatives bore the brunt of the challenge. It is the people ultimately who know God’s grace and make it work.
Having said that, I need to add that critical to the success of the project to date has been the work of individuals called to provide leadership throughout the endeavor.
I think among others of Father Ray Fleming, pastor to the 19th Ward Catholic Community, and his pastoral staff and their predecessors. Ray was an excellent leader through it all — consoling, encouraging, challenging and hopeful.
Through the course of the work Ray, several times, mentioned how helpful our diocesan Pastoral Planning staff had been. Bill Pickett, and later Bernard Grizard, oversaw the effort. Deborah Housel provided ongoing assistance and guidance through the whole experience.
As I look back at the whole process on the occasion of this writing, I am deeply grateful for the blessings God has showered on our entire community through the generosity, good spirit and lively faith of all the people to whom I have referred.
They were not the first community to launch into such a venture, nor will they be the last. But they have made a wonderful contribution to us all. They remind us that with trust in the Lord, with respect for one another and with a willingness to search honestly for the common good, we can accomplish great things.
I thank David Moore, the community gathered at St. Monica’s and all who serve them, for all they have done to remind many of us that the Lord calls us to new life even in the daily dying that we do. That’s a wonderful Easter gift.
Peace to all.