My dear friends,
We have been together for some time now, over seven years. I came to the rectory on Easter Sunday, 2000. Father Murray had moved out and had said his last Mass that morning before going on vacation. We were about twice the size we are now, with the grandchildren of many parishioners in our CCD and a few fervent military families from Summerfield.
I assisted Fr. Golden (who was dying from cancer) at Mount Calvary and at the nursing home. In exchange he gave our kids an in-parish rate at his school. We had a good team of servers for a while and even a youth group. But the kids quickly grew up with few replacements in sight. Our senior citizen population has gotten still older, but its faith and dedication remains undaunted. I said many times over that I felt like the lone sinner in a community of saints. My estimation of you remains the same. I have benefited from knowing you. As a small community we know quite clearly that everyone has value and a role to play in the life of this community and in the mission of the Church. We gave assistance and food to the poor. We had RCIA classes and prayer groups for advancement in the faith. There was bible study and book study groups. There were flea markets, bazaars, pot-luck suppers, and so much more. We were (and are) a family.
One of my sad duties has been to see so many of our good people get sick, move to assisted-living care centers, or pass away. We have lost many wonderful souls—surely our loss but heaven’s gain. I have wept with you on many occasions in grief over those whom God has taken home.
I cannot say for sure what time holds for the parish, but Holy Spirit will thankfully continue as a faith-community at least into the immediate future. Do not loose heart. Other parishes have struggled as well. Mount Calvary saw a 200 person drop in average weekly attendance in just a year. The local Knights of Columbus is also struggling with membership and advanced ages. We actually grew for a couple of years but then the closure of military housing and plain old human mortality set us back. We do not worry, but surrender to divine providence. God will take care of things.
In my time here we have had some fun. I was delighted by how well our 40th anniversary celebration went last year. The weekday chapel is bright and of sufficient size for the groups we get. Our main church is more beautiful now than at any other time prior in its history. It is adorned with a 16 foot tall wooden crucifix, a metallic tabernacle with the scene of Pentecost, and three wooden reliefs of the Holy Family. There is also an angel-shaped monstrance behind glass and a Sacred Heart statue in the side chapel.
Over the years we have had so many wonderful volunteers, too. I am afraid to mention names for fear of missing a few and hurting feelings. They have done everything from teaching the faith and fixing computers to singing in the choir and decorating the church. I want to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart.
This past Monday I saw Archbishop Wuerl and he gave me a new assignment. I did not ask for it, but it is a good assignment and a priest does what he is told and goes where he is sent. My last Sunday Mass will be 10:30 AM Mass on July 8. We will have a little goodbye reception afterwards. If you want to help, please call Betty Markauskas at [deleted online].
Starting on Wednesday, July 11, I will be the new pastor of Holy Family Church in Mitchellville, MD. My replacement here is a very fine Vietnamese priest, Fr. Tom Tran. I know that you will make him feel welcome. It is my prayer that Father Tom will have better fortune than I did in building up and maintaining the parish.
I really do love you all very much! I have been happy here.
God bless and keep you all,
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