Dear Good People of Saint Mary,
As I write this article tonight, we have just returned from the special Gala Dinner given in honor of Bishop Loverde on his 50th Anniversary of Priesthood. Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception and Holy Cross Academy were represented by a table of senior staff members.
As we were driving home, we were commenting on the importance of such events. For the life of our diocese, as our third bishop, Bishop Loverde has been a remarkable leader, whose example of service has deepened and grown the outreach of our diocese to open hearts and make Jesus known to them. He has been for our parish a good friend, always supporting with his presence and genuinely interested in our family of Saint Mary. Under Bishop Loverde’s care, our parish has seen remarkable accomplishments as well. Such events provide a corporate memory for our community that is so important as we offer our gratitude and pray for the future leaders of our Church.
Included here is a smaller version of the ad that we will be running in the Arlington Herald this week to honor him. It features a photograph of him anointing our new altar at our Mass of Dedication on November 22, 2010, nearly five years ago.
Bishop Loverde is, for me, an inspiration of how authentic ministry looks. He has given himself repeatedly to our diocese, to an extent that would seem physically impossible even for a young man in most circumstances. At times he will share the reality of fatigue, of frustration, of real challenges, but never as a complaint. It seems to work for him in such a way that he comes through the challenge with greater energy than before. He is always there with a smile, asking how you are, and really wanting to know. As we have learned in the Called and Gifted program, this is how you can discern authentic gifts: no matter what they demand of you, if the gift is real and you are using it effectively, you will be more energized afterward than before.
If you are discerning a ministry in the parish, this is a good lesson for you, too. Right ministry gives you life, in the same way a good homily gives you hope and encourages you to have the courage to go forward and try harder. Right ministry, in the end, asks two questions that demand an answer. The first is, after I’m done, am I closer to Christ? Or farther away? The second is similar, but even more important: After I’m done, have I had something to do with making Christ more present? Is Christ more present to those whom I have served?
I chose the text in the ad to the left very carefully, they are words of Pope Francis at the Chrism Mass in Rome the first year he was Pope. He told the priests at the Mass that, to be authentic, they had to be witnesses and mediators of the nearness of God to all those they came into contact with. Not just to help people call him to mind, but to make his nearness palpable, immediate, here and now. God’s presence.
Thomas Merton is quoted saying that, second only to the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, the next most important place where you will encounter the real presence of Jesus is in the person who is standing in front of you.
God bless you.