This morning, after Communion and instead of the announcements, Fr. Wolfe read a letter from the pastor, Fr. Nick. The words had the cadence and tone of Fr. Nick’s voice, the clarity and simplicity of his spirit. When the letter was finished, the congregation was terribly quiet, in that stunned way of sharing a deep sadness, an unwelcome farewell. Fr. Nick would remain pastor, but Fr. Wolfe would become the administrator as Fr. Nick met the next phase of his battle with cancer. In the parking lot, there were exchanges about what a great job he has done in the parish, how people loved his homilies and his sense of humor. On the drive home, I realized it is all too often that we wait too long to celebrate the good in one another, to acknowledge wisdom, kindness and generosity in another.
Through odd circumstance, I have had the unexpected good fortune of having a few lengthy conversations with Fr. Nick. I would be the first to acknowledge the skepticism with which I approach the ordained, and he was more than accepting and understanding of that. We talked about the scandals that have defined the church in this era, and he imagined the generations it would take to recover from all that, for trust and confidence in institutions and hierarchy to be earned and restored. He is compassionate and caring, realistic and resolute. His vision, his faith is alive in his interactions and his leadership. This morning, sitting in that stunned silence, I realized that Fr. Nick is one of those who is already rebuilding that trust, meeting people where they are, and devoting his life to service and faith without expectation of reward or seeking heightened status. Somehow, humble and modest, he touches people, even the skeptics.
There are others, and there are other moments that show that broken trust is being slowly rebuilt by individuals whose humanity and faith reside together in comfortable harmony and inspire others. Not too long ago, in Danbury parish, a young priest was invited at the end of Mass to share an announcement. The parish had been his first assignment; he was being reassigned. He spoke of how much he loved the parish, and then visibly choked up, leaned on the podium. There was a split second of awkward silence and a single clap from the rear of the church cascaded into full fledged applause and a prolonged standing ovation. He wept. He, too, is rebuilding the trust, moment by moment, interaction by interaction.
Ours are confusing times of transition and change, full of endings and new beginnings. But all around us, there are signs of rebuilding trust. Thank you, Fr. Nick, for the gift of the journey.