FAIRFIELD—(The following is the message that Dr. Eleanor Sauers read to the congregation of St. Anthony of Padua in Fairfield on Sunday, February 17, when Dr. Sauers was installed as Parish Life Coordinator of St. Anthony of Padua Parish by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano.)
Bishop Caggiano, the parish of St. Anthony will be forever grateful to you for your faith in our community. We are so blessed by your presence here today.
Thank you all for being here today to celebrate with our parish. Many thanks to the members of the Jesuit Community, our partners in this venture, the other members of the clergy who are with us today, Betsy Browne representing the Town of Fairfield, my friends, many of whom have traveled great distances, and my family…my daughters Colleen and Megan, their spouses Bill and Dave, my grandchildren Liam, Caelan and Dylan, and most especially my husband Bob…you are the wind beneath my wings.
I stand before you today, humbled and honored to be in this new position of Parish Life Coordinator of the wonderful community of St. Anthony of Padua Parish. The journey to this day has been a circuitous one, led I believe by the Holy Spirit and Fr. John, and paved with so many experiences that seemed unconnected at first glance but in retrospect were threads woven into the tapestry of my life and the life of this parish. Seventeen years ago this week, I came to this parish to help my friend Fr. John Baran as he began his tenure here. Neither of us could have predicted how the parish and our lives would unfold from that point, but what we both knew was that the people perish without a vision, and that they would be looking to him, and eventually to our parish team, for that leadership and direction. It is in that vision that our parish team, Frank Macari, Beth Paris and I, are firmly rooted, aided capably by those with whom we work most closely.
We chose the icon of the Trinity by Andre Rublev as the root metaphor for the parish, imagining a place that would reflect the qualities modeled in that icon, the qualities of respect, equality, mutuality, listing attentively to God, to one another and to ourselves. We sought to create an environment where all would be welcome, where people would be treated as adults, with dignity, and respect for their individual spiritual journeys. Through well-planned liturgies (complete with beautiful music) meaningful preaching, educational, service and social opportunities, we tried to provide hospitable spaces where people might be encouraged to develop and grow into the whole, and holy, persons God created them to be, people who could find meaning in their lives and contribute to the healing of the world.
It is this Christ-centered legacy that continues today in this parish, and to which I remain committed. The community that is St. Anthony’s Parish is rooted in the mission and ministry of Jesus as outlined in the Gospel. Coretta Scott King said that “the greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.” I can vouch for the compassion of this parish, toward one another and toward the greater community and the world.
In the time since my appointment was announced, back in December, I have been overwhelmed by the offers of help I have received. The energy and excitement about being the first parish of its kind in this diocese is palpable, and has generated a great outpouring of offers to help in whatever way possible to contribute to the flourishing of the community. This is no surprise as this parish is noted for the enthusiastic involvement of its parishioners in whatever endeavor we undertake.
When thinking of the parish as a whole, the question becomes, as Vincent Harding has posited, how do we work together and talk together in ways that will open up our best capacities and our best gifts, in the service of God and one another. In this matter, it is the icon of the Trinity that provides a roadmap for how to proceed. The icon invites us to model our human living on the relationships depicted within it. The attentive listening and deference shown among the three figures evokes a sense of collaboration and collegiality. The difference in their dress shows the diversity among them, yet the bond of love that keeps them in the circle together unites them. They are not threatened by their differences, but made stronger and healthier by embracing them. It would seem that a parish based on this model might foster the growth and potential of each individual and the community.
St. Anthony Parish is unique in many ways, and that uniqueness has brought us to this point in history. We have been forged together as a community through times of rejoicing and sadness, through baptisms and funerals, through picnics and soup suppers, and have emerged to be who we are today…a community of people who are journeying together toward the Lord, bound up in our love of the Lord and of this parish, nourished by Word and Sacrament, active and conscious participants in our liturgies and in our world, and determined to become the people we were created to be, harbingers of hope to a world in need, and playing our part in the unfolding of the reign of God.
Today is a celebration of who you are, who we are together. May we continue to hear the Good News together, to live the Good News together and become the Good News to others, together.
On behalf of the parish I would like to thank all those who made this day possible, certainly my team of Frank and Beth, Joe Milone, the many friends who have come to help, Fr. Michael Boccaccio, Fr. Michael Callaghan, and our Jesuit partners who have helped keep this parish moving forward. Thank you to all who helped organize the events today. We thank the choir, the instrumentalists, and our special guest Dan Schutte for the beautiful music. May we go forward together, rooted in our past, but moving toward our future with faith, hope and love.