At our Parish Leadership/Visioning Night last week we looked at all the upcoming transitions that will be happening over the next year and-a-half. On the overall parish level these transitions will be tied to the new grouping of parishes called the Family of Parishes. For St. Regis the more intensive planning for our Family of Parishes takes place this spring, with July 1st being the official starting date for the Family. Our Family consists of St. Regis, Holy Name, St. Owen, and Our Lady Queen of Martyrs. Each parish will maintain its own individual identity with specific households registered in the parish, responsibility for financial stability and maintenance of its campus, and creating and carrying out various ministries and outreaches that are important to the parish. But all of that will now need to be done, while keeping in mind what is happening at the other parishes in the Family. In the next couple of bulletins I will touch on what such a transition might look like over the next eighteen months.
More personally and significantly, I also shared with people at our Leadership/Visioning night the staff transitions which will be occurring over the next few months. Most immediately, Mary Von Koss, our longest serving pastoral associate, will be retiring at the end of January. Mary has been on the parish staff and shared her leadership gifts, love of liturgy, dedication to adult formation, and prayerful (continued on page 3)and compassionate approach to life with this parish for over twenty years. It is a large understatement to say that we will miss her, and, I hope, not quite an accurate statement. We will miss her daily presence and insights and leadership tremendously, that is for certain. But Mary is a member of St. Regis Parish and will continue to be so, even in retirement. We will see her at various Masses and events as we move forward. Moreover, after taking some time for herself, I am hoping she will be willing to continue to share her many gifts with us on a part-time basis. What that means exactly is yet to be worked out, but I am certainly open to some type of part-time contract. However, we do need to honor her as she transitions into this new phase of life. Her last full-time weekend with us will be January 29/30. At all Masses that weekend we will ask her to come forward, recognize who she is to us, pray with and over her, wish her well, and have some COVID-sensitive hospitality available after Mass. Again, it is not a goodbye. It is a bon voyage to a new phase of her life. Elsewhere in this bulletin Mary shares some of her own thoughts on her retirement.
I can only imagine the many, many times that the rest of us will look at each other and say something like “Why didn’t that get done? Oh, right, Mary did that.” Or, “How would Mary have handled this?” Or even, “Mary, hello, this is Fr. Dave, where is…?” In going over the many big and little things Mary does for the parish, it is impossible to ask one person to simply “take it over.” In fact, everyone’s responsibilities will be changing in some way due to Mary’s retirement. The second transition that will be happening—the move to senior deacon status of Deacon Francis King. This will take place at the end of June. Senior status means that he will let go of all the oversight he gives to Christian Service and support ministries like New Dawn, Young at Heart Seniors, and Divorced Catholics. Again, like Mary, Deacon Francis is a member of the parish and will still be in the parish. I will still invite him to deacon at a weekend Mass when available, and if he wishes, to give an occasional homily. The benefit of senior status is that he can to do such things on his own terms, if he so chooses. You do not need to wish him well just yet! That can take place in June. I bring up his transition now so that the parish can appreciate that the remaining staff will have a lot of adjustments to make, and to be patient with us as we go through the transitions. Foreseeing both Mary’s retirement and Deacon Francis’ move to senior status was the main impetus for bringing on another full-time pastoral minister, Scott Anastasia this past summer. Along with Scott, myself, Chris Gawel, Theresa Skwara, and other staff members we will find a way to cover all the bases as best we can.
A third area of staff transitioning is in the business office. We hired Kim Smith about nine months ago as the assistant business manager, so that she could learn the ropes and be ready to step into the position of parish business manager, once our current business manager, Liz Kemp, retires which will be taking place in the next few months. We are in the process of hiring a full-time assistant for the business office—in the position of Parish Accountant. Once the person comes on board, Liz will transition to part-time and then to full retirement. Liz’ knowledge and dedication and personal integrity to account for everything in a proper manner has made my job as pastor measurably easier. Sometimes people forget that the business office is managing an enterprise of 50-60 employees and a campus of buildings that require constant care. That takes lots of work and careful attention, and Liz has been invaluable in providing that. Once we have a more certain date for Liz’s retirement, I will let everyone know.
I am not very good at transitions. Never liked them. But I do know and have learned that all transitions carry loss and hope. Our parish theme—Our Journey Continues—which we will use for another year or so, is so very appropriate, given all these transitions. In faith we do not hold onto what is temporary, no matter how good it is. We hold onto what is eternal—the grace of God that comes to us through Jesus Christ for our good and the good of all the world. Having our eyes fixed on what is permanent, what is eternal, can help us both grieve well those realities we have to let go of, yet be people of hope and creative love as we fashion something new through the grace of God. If God does not abandon us—and God does not!—then we need not be afraid of what the future will bring.
Our journey continues.