Homily by the Most Reverend Patrick Christopher Pinder
at the 85th Anniversary of Our Lady’s Church, Nassau, Bahamas
November 13, 2011
33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-31
I Thessalonians 5:1-6
Eighty-five years is a very long time. Not many of us live that long. So as we gather in celebration to mark the 85th Anniversary of this parish, let us be thankful.
Let us be thankful first to God, the creator of all and of everything. He gave us the gift of life and the gift of faith which we share and cherish. Let us also be thankful for all his servants who have ministered here in Our Lady’s Parish over these eighty-five years.
Those of you who are the parishioners of long standing will remember with fondness even with reverence, the many priests and religious sisters who served here over the eight and a half decades of existence of Our Lady’s Parish. You will remember their care, their characteristics, their leadership, their example and their sacrifice.
Of course you will remember the same for the many members of the laity who were formed in the faith in this parish and who in turn formed this parish and made it the community of Catholic faith that it has come to be.
I remember as a newly ordained priest celebrating my first Sunday Mass here at Our Lady’s. It was 6:30 in the morning. The church was full as it was every Sunday morning at 6:30. I recall thinking; you must fight off many devils to make 6:30 Sunday morning your regular time for worship. There were many who did then and still do now.
The first superior of the permanent Catholic Mission in the Bahamas was a Benedictine priest named Chrysostom Schreiner. His successor another Benedictine named Hildebrand Eickhoff held office from 1925-1928. It was during his tenure that this parish was built.
It is important to know that Nassau, in those days, was a very different place than it is today. For one thing the different neighborhoods were more easily defined than they are today. I believe this area was called Young Town. It was far from being the most prestigious or privileged part of town. It was a place where there were people with much need.
Yet it was in the heart of this community that a Catholic Parish was established, eighty-five years ago.
I do not need to remind you that until the construction of Loyola Hall and the new St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, this was our largest church building. Everything of significance was celebrated here!
Now we need to recognize that when the early Catholic Mission placed this parish in this location it was intended to be a message for us.
The Catholic Mission sought to locate its presence in the very heart of the ordinary Bahamian. It sought to identify with the common person. It sought to share the treasure of our faith and traditions with the meek and the lowly and there to implant a sense of the nobility of God’s grace offered to each of us without distinction and without exception.
That was the message and the lesson of placing this parish here eighty-five years ago. Today we cannot afford to miss that message. We cannot afford to ignore that lesson. We must keep faith with the commitment made by those who came before us in the faith. We must keep faith with them.
I am not certain that we are doing that though. We have inherited the legacy of those who have gone before us but are we following their example? I am not so sure that we are. The lack of vocations we are experiencing is but one example. I expect there are others as well, such as failure in family life and in our broader commitments to building up our community – our broader social commitments.
As we celebrate the 85th Anniversary of this parish perhaps it is time for us to search our souls… time to reconsider where we place our values, how we act and how our priorities need to be re-assessed. It may be time for some adjustment. This is something I will return to at another time. For now let us look at the Word of God placed before us today.
It is the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time. Next Sunday is the Feast of Christ the King which ends the current Liturgical Year. The following Sunday is the First Sunday of Advent. As we move towards the end of the year, the scriptures turn our thoughts to the end of time and even the end of our own lifetime. Today is also our civic observance of Remembrance Day.
As we listen to the Word proclaimed today we hear first from the Book of Proverbs. It extols the virtues of a good wife and mother. It then focuses the theme of this season with these words, “Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting; the woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her the reward of her labors …” Proverbs 31:30-31
Our reward - indeed our eternal reward is the only worthy goal which motivate the values and the sacrifices we honor and undergo in this life.
St. Paul carries the discussion a bit further with these words, “But you, brothers, are not in darkness, for that day to overtake you like a thief. For all of you are children of the light and children of the day. We are not of the night or of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober.” 1 Thessalonians 5:4-6
Finally, our Gospel is a parable about those given a gift and later called to account for how they use that gift.
Final judgment is very much a theme in our scriptures reading at this time of year. We are reminded of it not to stand in fear but rather to prepare. We prepare for final judgment by the way we live our lives today. Our call and duty is to live lives of goodness and virtue, of caring and even sacrifice. We do so following the example of those gone before us in the faith. We do so after the example of Christ himself.
It is his example which motivates us. It is his Word that forms us. We have the gift of a parish whose history itself is a lesson and message and example for us. Let us accept that gift and honor it faithfully.
May we always seek to become more fully what we are called to be – as we gather so often around the table of Word and Eucharist – may we become more fully the Body of Christ,
- in this world,
- in this neighborhood,
- in this place we call Our Lady’s Parish for 85 years and counting.