Eighteen years ago when I was asked to leave St. Dunstan’s and come to be with the community of St. Theresa’s I knew I was fortunate to be invited. This was a community that had much life and deep faith. It was known for its strong sense of community and the constancy of its spirit of hope and promise. St. Theresa’s always had a reputation for being a welcoming community marked by a readiness to embrace all who came to it. This strong community spirit continues to this day and I thank you for the blessing that you have been for me over the years I have been with you.
Matthew in the core of his Gospel presents us with a summary of the message of Jesus. He does this through a sermon or discourse that we have come to know as the Sermon on the Mount. This sermon runs for three chapters (ch.5-7) and captures the main elements of Jesus sought to teach by both his words and his actions. He begins the sermon with a series of blessings, beatitudes. (Matt.5:1-12)
A true disciple of Jesus will absorb and live these blessings as well as the blessings that are revealed in the many actions and relationships of Jesus that we see throughout the Gospels. It is in these blessings that we discover who we are as disciples and how we can bring the reign of God to a reality in our lives and in our world. God and Jesus himself becomes real to us all when we discover the many blessings that are poured out upon each and every day.
As I leave St. Theresa’s I cannot help but recount the many, many ways in which you have been God’s blessing for me, and for others. You are a parish community that lives with an openness to all. The hospitality of Sunday morning begins in the parking lot but becomes more evident in the buzz and conversation before Mass. It continues in the coffee after Mass out into the parking lot. Your openness is revealed in the readiness to welcome the stranger into our midst – whether simply someone who we do not know or someone from another land and culture. Blessed are you.
You are a blessing in your willingness to reach out in care and compassion beyond our community. It is the first parish I have been in which dedicates the entire proceeds of its fall supper and other activities to causes outside the parish and even outside our country. Blessed are you.
You are a blessing in your readiness to respond to individuals and families in need, financial, spiritual and social. You have blessed many facing the loss of loved ones, supporting them through a prayer team as they enter the funeral experience. You have blessed many through outreach at the time of financial struggles. You have shown the blessing of welcoming outreach to immigrants and refugees who have come to shores from other lands. Blessed are you.
You are a blessing in your support of projects for our youth and our children. As catechists and as leaders and examples of involvement you have blessed them with a faith that is lived through action and love. Blessed are you.
There is much that I could say about many individuals and groups who have shown a witnessing faith in practical ways during my time with you. You are a whole community, disciples of Jesus, expressing Jesus’ love in real ways. I cannot name you all, but please know you have been, and are today a blessing to me and to all the persons who come to the community of St. Theresa’s. Blessed are you.