With this, my inaugural letter, I greet all of you on my first weekend at Our Lady of Mount Carmel. If you were able to attend Mass this weekend, you heard me say that being here is very much home-coming. This was my parish when I first moved to the Valley in 1983. Msgr. McCready guided and encouraged me through my seminary years, and it was here that I celebrated my First Mass on June 2, 1991. I don’t wish to dwell on these sentimental realities, but they are a big part of my joy and my gratitude to Bishop Olmsted for allowing me to serve as your pastor.
My stay with you will not be long-term (at my age, not much is), but for however long the Bishop and the Lord allow me to serve you, I hope to make the most of it. We are well aware of the excellent work that your previous pastor, Fr. John Bonavitacola, has done over these past 21 years. It is my intention to stay the course. I will rely on the Holy Spirit, the true source of those good works, to help you “continue to complete them until the day of Christ Jesus, our Lord” (Phil 1:6). Please pray that this be so.
This weekend marks a milestone in our Diocese. After a most confusing and, at times terrifying 16 months, Bishop Olmsted has now reinstated the solemn obligation to attend Sunday Mass. Many of you, thankfully, have already begun to return to Sunday and even daily Mass. But many of our brothers and sisters have not. For some, there are still health concerns regarding the pandemic. For others, I fear that a year-plus of Sundays that did not include attendance at Mass has now become a pattern. They have developed other ways of occupying their weekends. What can we do to help them return?
I know that some will say, “Father, it is the Church’s fault for limiting access to the Sacraments and removing the Sunday obligation that has encouraged many to drift away.” There is some validity in that argument, but I know that our Bishop, and those who advise him, have tried to balance a lot of very frightening unknowns to protect the well-being of his "ock with his unwavering conviction that we cannot live without the Eucharist. In the months and years to come, there will be many post-mortem analyses of how the Church handled the pandemic, but starting today, our eyes must be trained on looking forward and not behind.
Those of you who are now settling back into your normal Sunday schedules, I ask that you look around and see who might be missing? Can you give them a call or send them a text letting them know that our doors are open and, we are no longer dispensed from attending Sunday Mass (unless the network news has had a change of heart, they may not have heard that). The bare fact is that, unless you are sick or simply unable to attend, deliberately missing Sunday Mass is a serious sin against the Third Commandment which must be confessed. While knowing this should compel you to act with urgency, I don’t recommend that you lead with the hammer. Instead, remind them of how important it is to worship and give thanks to our Loving God who has given us all good things. Let them know that our community misses them and wants to see them back—soon! Tell them that you and your family will be praying for them (and do so).
As if this weekend were not replete with enough major events, our nation celebrates the founding of our country 345 years ago in 1776 (and not some other contrived date that a few deconstructionists would propose). America is by no means perfect, and at this time we are beset by a divided and acrimonious spirit. But perhaps today we should assume the “glass half-full” perspective and thank God for the freedoms and blessings that we all share. I recently read The Last Green Valley by Mark Sullivan. This thrilling story of the escape to freedom of a family caught between Stalin and Hitler during WWII should make most readers deeply grateful for our way of life, however flawed.
Please introduce yourself to me (repeatedly, please!) and pray that my service at Our Lady of Mount Carmel may bless you and please the Lord.
Love, Fr. Charlie GoraiebBACK TO LIST