For my final two weekends as Pastor at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church, I shared a Farewell Letter Homily in the style of the letters St. Paul wrote to the communities he had been a part of. Here is part I.Dear brothers and sisters, Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. In these days of farewell, My hope and prayer is that the Holy Spirit will continue to stir into flame The love of Christ that is in your hearts, That you may grow in holiness And bear witness to the presence of God in the world. We have been entrusted with a great gift: The gift of faith. May that faith grow ever deeper Through prayer, service, and fellowship, That you may always “keep your eyes fixed” on Jesus Christ And help others to do the same. As I reflect on these last five and a half years During which I have served as your pastor, My heart is overflowing with gratitude For the gift you have been to me in my priesthood. I have often boasted of you And the privilege to serve in this parish: Of the centrality of the Eucharist in your life and the care that is given here to liturgy and music; Of the unselfish nature of your service in our community; Of the vibrancy of your faith formation programs and school; Of the dedication of the parish staff and parishioner leadership; Of the long tradition here of mentoring seminarians and young priests; Of your openness to think strategically and plan for the future. Know that I will always keep you in prayer, That the good work that is active in you Will be brought to completion through Christ Jesus, our Lord. I want you to know, brothers and sisters, The gifts that you have given to me in my ministry, And not only to me, but to all who have been witnesses to your love. Gifts of generosity and encouragement, Gifts of hope and strength. I came to you five and a half years ago as a teacher, and you have encouraged me to teach: From twenty sessions over two summers on Church History To Week One and Soup and Soul Food gatherings To discussions of books like The Shack and The Hunger Games To preparation for the Third Edition of the Roman Missal. Thank you for joining in the conversations: Your hunger for learning has been a gift to me. I came to you five and a half years ago with many interests, And you have encouraged and put up with The time I have spent away from the parish: From serving as a Spiritual Director at Saint Meinrad Seminary To participation in many boards and committees; From pilgrimages to Italy and in the Footsteps of St. Paul To participating in the Wabash Pastoral Leadership Program. I hope that these other ministries have made me a better pastor. Thank you for supporting these opportunities: Your encouragement has been a gift to me. I came to you five and a half years ago at a time of both growth and challenge in our parish and in our world: Finishing a capital campaign in a challenging economy; Growth in ministries when people have more options to choose from; Planning for the future at a time of changing approaches to Church. We’re still trying to figure many of these things out: How to evangelize in a secular world How to reach out and welcome people who are hurt or alienated or indifferent How to be the best stewards of the resources entrusted to us How to stand up for the truths of our faith. Keep on having these conversations: You will be a better parish because of them. Thank you for helping me balance growth and challenge: Your faithfulness has been a gift to me. I came to you five and a half years ago as a priest, a minister of the sacraments, And you have opened your hearts and homes As I have baptized young and old, As I have celebrated God’s forgiveness and healing strength, As I have witnessed the union of marriage, As together we have received and adored the Holy Eucharist, And as we have buried our beloved dead. For any priest, this is the greatest gift: To be able to share your lives In times of both joy and sorrow As a reminder of the presence of Christ Who is always among us. From 12 Hours of Grace during Lent To the Great Easter Vigil; From hospital visits in the middle of the night To the funeral of a 105-year old woman with no family At which over 125 parishioners attended; And through the celebration of the Mass day after day, week after week. Thank you for this sacramental ministry: Being able to walk the Christian journey with you has been a gift to me. More than anything, know that you have been a blessing to me, During these five and a half years, As I am confident you will be for your next pastor as well. I encourage you, brothers and sisters, To continue to open your hearts in love To persevere in prayer To serve the needs of the holy ones and to let the peace of Christ dwell in your hearts. As it is written through the Prophet Isaiah: “Darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples; But upon you the LORD shines.” Keep on being the light that you have been for me And the world will know That God dwells among us.