Homily by Archbishop Patrick C. Pinder, S.T.D.
Mass of Thanksgiving
for the Ministry of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (SS.CC.)
in the Archdiocese of Nassau (1961-2011)
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
St. Francis Xavier Cathedral
[Psalms 13:4-5, 6]
II Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18
“We know that all things work for the good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”(Romans 8:28) With that note on vocations from St. Paul we began our hearing of the Sacred Word on this pleasant October evening.
We are gathered this evening for a celebration in the truest sense of Eucharist. That is to say, we have come to give thanks. We have come to give thanks to God for the ministry of the men of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, among us.
Their ministry among us as priests and brothers began in 1961. This year 2011, with the departure of Fr. Martin Gomes, SS.CC. that presence and commitment of fifty years draws to an end. This moment leaves us thankful but it leaves us sad as well. No one likes to see friends leave.
On June 29, the Feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul, in the year 2005, we were gathered in this Cathedral for a similar celebration. We had gathered to mark the formal conclusion of the Benedictine Mission to The Bahamas. On that occasion I said, “Let there be no mistake about it, the end of the Benedictine mission here is a renewed call for deeper responsibility and commitment on our part. We must now, not just admire and talk about what they did. We must do in our time what they did in times past.” These thoughts come back to me tonight, with full force, as we gather to mark the end of the mission of the Sacred Hearts Community here among us.
Think for minute, the Sacred Hearts Community has been present and ministering among us since 1961. From then until now is a span of fifty years. The reality is, we have no local Bahamian priest who has served us that long. The one who comes closest is our highly regarded and deeply loved Monsignor Preston Moss, who was ordained in 1965 (46 years ago).
Fifty years of ministry, presence and witness and work is a contribution for which we could not sufficiently repay in any material way.
I am pleased that we have with us tonight Fr. William Petrie, SS.CC. who is the Provincial Superior of the Sacred Hearts Community. Also present are other members of this community who have served here in the past, Fr. Michael Kelly, SS.CC. and Fr. Stan Kolasa, SS.CC. Of course, our beloved Fr. Martin Gomes, has been this community’s enduring presence here over at St. Joseph ever since the departure of our much loved co-worker Fr. Patrick Fanning, SS.CC. whose latest assignment here was Long Island.
This celebration tonight will have a second chapter at St. Joseph Parish this Sunday. It is only fitting to be so. After fifty years the men of the Community of the Sacred Hearts have surely left their footprints in our Bahamian sand.
In fact that footprint is impressed in more than just sand. It is molded in brick and mortar. Who can see and not be impressed by the beautiful church of St. Francis de Sales in Marsh Harbour, Abaco? That beautiful church was first born in the artistic imagination of Fr. Stan Kolasa. It is his legacy, his gift of beauty to us, as a place to worship God, the source and fullness of all beauty.
The renovated Our Lady’s Church with its ample baptismal font and air conditioning – this is but a part of the gift of Fr. Michael Kelly. Fr. Kelly spent the great majority of his years as a priest right here in The Bahamas. His surely is a Bahamian priesthood.
Alas, the great builder himself is Fr. Martin Gomes, he rebuilt the St. Joseph Rectory. Then, he undertook the task of the new Parish Church. Finally, he turned his hands to the splendid new Parish Hall. Each project he began and carried through to completion bringing the entire parish community along, onboard the project.
The footprints which the men of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary have left are not just in concrete and stone. They are also in the hearts and lives of our people. Often, I have heard of how the men of the Sacred Hearts community have touched the lives of individuals. These impressions are remembered and retold even years after the priest had gone to a new place - some in this world, some in the next. Here we remember Fr. Chris Grannell, SS.CC.
As we gather on this occasion and listen to the words proclaimed, we note some words from the Second Letter to Timothy, “I fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”(II Timothy 4:7)
The words speak not of following blindly or listlessly, but of honing our skills and putting out our best. They speak of persistence, of finishing the race.
Our faith is not for the faint-hearted or the uncommitted. However, the reward at the end of it all is more than worth the sacrifices we must make along the way. In another place St. Paul says: ‘We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” I mentioned that this is a note on vocation. And so it is, it is referring to our Christian vocation. Each of us has one.
In the men to whom and for whom we offer thanks tonight, we have excellent examples of vocations lived out well, priestly vocation. Today, I was presented with a neat little booklet titled, A Popular History of the SS.CC. in The Bahamas. It is written by Fr. Michael Kelly. In a sense it is a new Acts of the Apostles. It is a brief account of the apostleship of the Sacred Hearts Fathers among us. In it the author points out that their mission to The Bahamas is ended but their love for The Bahamas continues. I am deeply gratified to know that and I, no doubt, speak for many beside myself in saying so.
Our Gospel today begins by setting the scene with Jesus passing through towns and villages, teaching as he went. These men to whom and for whom we gather to offer thanks, they too have passed through many towns and villages in this little Archdiocese of ours. They too have taught in the name of Jesus by word and example.
As we come to this moment when we must part, we do so thankfully and prayerfully. We pray that God may always bless your community with every kind of goodness and grace. May you prosper in every way that advances the Gospel and gives glory to God.
Now, I have one final request. I ask the favor of your prayers for our Archdiocese as well. Though we may be distant from you, may we always remain close to you, always in your prayers. May we support each other in prayer and though we travel different roads now, may we be united in the fullness of our hope which is the glory of God’s presence in the fullness of time. In the meantime… God bless you always.