The following is a letter I wrote last evening to be published in next Sunday's church bulletin.
As I write this letter on Tuesday evening I have spent only a little over 33 hours as your pastor. But I am very grateful to have been able to spend many hours here spread over the past 6 weeks. Early in July I visited for 5 days to meet with Father John, members of the staff and some of the parishioners. I was here for a few days before and after Joe Murray’s first profession Mass, then went on retreat in Suffern, NY, and arrived back here last Friday. I met many of you at Father John’s farewell Mass and reception. All of you have received me very warmly. Thank you!
Father John has a true pastor’s heart for you, the people of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish. It comes through in so many ways! The most obvious is the warmth and affection that flows between you all and him, back and forth. Back in June, from the beginning of our conversations about this transition, John said more than once that he wanted to do everything he could to make this a smooth handoff. I know that this is partly because of his concern for me, a fellow Augustinian friar, but also largely because of his great love for his flock, and his desire to make this transition go as smoothly and painlessly as he can for all of you. You all know that Father John has exceptional organizational skills and pays remarkable attention to detail. He has organized packets of informative materials having to do with all facets of the pastoral and administrative activities of the parish. Besides reserving large blocks of time to sit and explain these things to me, he has written many pages of notes to convey the more important points. Often in recent years when a new pastor replaces a previous one, this kind of overlap is not possible. Sometimes the two pastors never get to meet in person. In one case I heard about, the new pastor arrived at the rectory and the parish secretary handed him an envelope from the previous pastor containing some keys and a note saying “Good luck!”
So I consider myself extremely fortunate to be following Father John in this work as your pastor. Both you and I owe him an immense debt of gratitude.
When first I was informed about my appointment as pastor here, I was apprehensive. For many reasons. It has been a long time since I last was a pastor. It was a much smaller parish in a nation far away from America. But God gives us the grace to do the job he calls us to do. As Augustinian friars, our community life, centered on supporting each other in our relationship with the Lord, is the sustaining basis for our ministry. I am extremely pleased to be teamed with Fr. Jorge Luis Cleto and Fr. Jim Cassidy as my brothers in the friary and as co-workers in the parish. Please pray for us, that we might grow into a community that St. Augustine would be proud of, and that we might serve all of you in the wider parish community in a way worthy of Jesus Christ our High Priest.
And we three Augustinians will of course pray for all of you, our brothers and sisters in Christ.