Well, the cat’s out of the bag, as they say, so I can share some of my thoughts and feelings on what generated this update on Facebook yesterday:
Thanks, by the way, for all of your warm words of support and prayer, and your messages sent in private. I have felt very warmly the touch of your thoughts & prayers. And they have contributed to the reflection that yields this post.
Our Pastor is Leaving
Today or tomorrow, the parishioners of our parish – Holy Family Parish – will receive in the mail a letter from our pastor, Father Larry Brunette, explaining that he is resigning from that role effective June 1, so this is his last weekend with us.
In his letter he gives a glimpse into why he’s leaving and explains why his departure from the parish is so sudden.
Here’s an Adobe PDF version of the letter, in case you haven’t received yours or are interested in reading it here.
I remember a few times in life that a parting has hurt so badly that I could almost taste the hurt. Some of them seem silly now.
I remember the first time I bought my own “real” car and I moved the last of my things out of my first car.
I remember the end of each of the nine summers I worked on summer camp staff, moving out of my cabin and heading home, leaving friends but taking memories.
I remember saying goodbye to “Chief,” my favorite dog.
I remember leaving an era during load out, the morning after a play I had written had influenced the lives of 7,000 of my brothers.
I remember 8th grade graduation and high school graduation, moving out of my parents’ house for the first time, and subsequently moving out of my first apartment.
I remember saying goodbye to my grandma one last time.
Meeting Father Larry
Eight years ago, my close friends Sam & Cheri invited me back to church. At the time, I was living in Collinsville (about 15 minutes from here) and there was a newer priest at their parish who they thought I’d relate to. So I went to Mass with them.
I met Father Larry that day.
And in a short meeting, I was inspired by him. He had been a married man, a computer salesman, and had raised a family. And when his wife passed away, he pursued a calling he had perceived as a young boy, and became a priest as a second vocation.
That was Father Larry’s last day at their church. He explained that he was heading to Holy Family in Granite City to be their new pastor. That was my home parish from my childhood and hometown!
The next weekend, I was back home at Holy Family.
Father Larry’s Role in my Journey
Over the coming months after coming home to Holy Family, I got back into music ministry and eventually was asked to become a music director and lead our contemporary ensemble.
One Wednesday night, I was at the church practicing with the Ensemble and stayed for 7 PM Mass. And this girl came in. Her name was Suzanne.
Suzanne and I had grown up together at our parish grade school and in high school (she was a year ahead of me.) We had been on the speech team and in plays together. She was the girl I thought would never be interested in me.
But after re-meeting in that chance moment in our home church 8 years ago, we started talking and going out and catching up on old times.
And today we’re married.
Father Larry prepared us for marriage, became an integral part of who we are as a couple, presided at our wedding, and Baptized our children.
He brought friends and family into the Church. In the 8 years he’s been here, he has buried close to 400 of our fellow parishioners. His impact extends well beyond our own family, but deep into the fabric of many of the families in our parish and in our sister parishes here in Granite City.
What an impact one man can have!
Most importantly, between the Jesuit priests at SLU and Father Larry, I’ve learned over the last several years something very important. They’ve added a layer of “heart” to the faith of my “head” and intellect that I had falled back on as a boy and young man. I credit Father Larry with helping to point me to this faith of the heart that has made me a better man, husband, and dad.
Turn, Turn, Turn
Each parting opens the door to new opportunity.
This week has brought confusion. Then anger and frustration. And then hurt. Can’t ignore the hurt.
But finally, it brought peace and prayer.
We’re going to miss him. Selfishly, not just as a parish. But our family will miss him. Our boys love him. They’re confused and sad.
But there’s comfort.
We believe in the Church that Christ started. We believe in the presence of the Holy Spirit, gently guiding these mere mortal men we call bishops, who are the successors of the Apostles. We believe that “everything happens for a reason,” and that the next man sent to shepherd us and our community of faith will be the man we need, here and now.
As hard as this might be for us, it’s also hope-filled. And that’s the spirit I want to share with my friends in our parish in the coming days and weeks.
Father Larry will be missed. And we will pray for him as he discerns where the Spirit and Church are calling him to minister next. But we await our next shepherd, and what God has in store to teach us through his love and guidance and wisdom and teaching.
As a friend said today, this is an opportunity for us to all remember that God is firmly in control, that He knows what is best for us more than any of us can imagine. And that we need to remember to rely first and foremost on Him, and then to trust the ministers he sends our way.
Each goodbye leaves an open door. Each parting leaves an open path. And each of our individual paths – even as they converge and diverge – leads toward the eternal home where we’ll never part again.
The wind was knocked from my sails for just a moment. Then I remembered that as long as we have the courage to hoist our sails, God will provide the wind. And we sail onward.
PS: Please keep Father Larry in your prayers. Our community has the strength to support one another as we meet our new pastor and settle into the future our parish life holds. But Father departs on his own, needing our prayers and friendship, and support more than ever.