A Parish Resurrected
Perhaps it was simply a shortage of ink or maybe the sheepskin upon which the gospel writers wrote was in short supply, but it seems to me that the amount of time between Christ’s rising from the dead and his ascension into heaven was awfully short. I always thought that it is the present historical period that seems to race along and that ancient epochs took longer to complete yet here we have the gospel seeming to say that in a few short weeks Christ’s presence on earth ends until he returns again. So monumental a thing done in so little time!!
In our own lives we seldom see a sudden change - an engagement may last a year; marriages can last 50 years or more; a baby takes 9 or so months to be born; a beloved parent my fade away through illness over several years before being called home; a hoped for political or societal change may be long in the making and even longer before the benefits of such change are even appreciated. Yet we all, once past a certain age, reflect on this situation and conclude that such is life.
Yet changes do occur and can we not observe them to be a form of resurrection - a renewal or an accession to a higher level of life? We see such things all the time - a child completes the long arduous process of education leading to a medical degree; a son completes his training and is ordained a priest; a friend long unemployed finally, through dogged efforts, finds another job; a relative finally discharges the burden of substance abuse. These are forms of resurrection.
Communities can also be resurrected. Cities like the Boston and New York of my youth were racially divided, corrupt, dysfunctional places yet today bear no real resemblance to those earlier darker days. Perhaps Detroit after its “forty days” in the wilderness will be resurrected to a new life, who can say? But places like New York and Boston, like Detroit, were once written off as failures.
My wife Mary Ann and I have been parishioners here since the early 1980’s. Our 3 sons attended the school; we both have been active in the parish on various levels over the years. We have seen the decline in church and school enrollment; we have seen the weariness in the Augustinian priests who oversaw the parish and how that weariness slowly colored the community. Frankly, I for one was pretty sure I could see the writing on the wall and it was not a cheery message. And the news that the Augustinians were leaving sounded initially like the order was abandoning a sinking ship even though I understood in my mind and heart that such was not the case.
The word that the Michaelites (whoever the heck they were) had agreed to take over our parish and that the new pastor was both Polish and a resident of Canada (and probably a Maple Leafs fan) was likewise unsettling. I am sure I was not alone.
In a short few months a new energy has slowly but steadily begun to seep through the cracks and into our community at St Clare. Some would ascribe it to the coming of spring or perhaps to the improvement of the economy and perhaps these opinions are partly right. But I believe that this new energy has appeared precisely because of the appearance of the Michaelites. The new ideas and energy brought by the order and Father Andrew has acted as a catalyst, releasing the pent up energy of the community. To me this is the beginning of the parish’s resurrection. I do not mean that a miracle has happened and that the St. Clare that most of us used to know so well 25 or 30 years ago will instantly return. We have much work ahead of us just as the church had much work ahead of it after Christ’s resurrection. But the spark is there, the energy is there all that is needed is that the community recognizes what has occurred and exploits the opportunity.
The opportunity for resurrection is upon us as a community and perhaps in a few years we can say to each other at the Easter celebration “Christ has risen and so have we”.