A. What a joy to celebrate with all of you the 150th anniversary of St. Michael Parish here in Clear Spring and, at the same, time, to confirm young people from the parish. In a sense, we are celebrating all at once the past, the present, and the future of this community of faith.
B. In that same spirit, we acknowledge and thank the priests who are with us today: Fr. Ernest Cibelli, your current pastor; Fr. Collin Poston, who served until recently; and Fr. George Limmer, your pastor emeritus, who continues to serve so generously. I would imagine that Fr. Larry Adamczyk is holding down the fort at St. Mary’s and we grateful to him as well and send him our greetings. Dear brother priests, thank you so much for your devoted service to St. Michael’s!
C. So, let me now suggest that we proceed in three ways: first, a brief reflection on the history of St. Michael’s; then, a word to those who are being confirmed; and finally in God’s grace, let us tie the two together for the benefit of everyone.
II. A Brief Reflection on the History of St. Michael’s
A. The history of St. Michael’s begins just as the Civil War concludes. War, of course, never simply concludes but leaves behind many scars and much grief. Many families in this area had lost their sons in the conflict and now with great faith and fervor came together in a little brick structure to form what would become St. Michael’s Parish. The seeds of faith had been planted many years earlier by pioneering priests & laity; now they blossomed in a new community of faith. On July 15, 1866, while Martin John Spalding was Archbishop of Baltimore, the cornerstone for a new church was laid and families who were charter members of the new parish generously set about completing the new structure and beautifully furnishing it. In the years that followed it would be served by a host of dedicated priests and the little congregation would grow in size and in vigor in an area that was regarded as a crossroads for commerce, farming, & industry.
B. And we think of the priests, who in more recent times, have served this parish and the dedicated laity who have carried forward its mission, associated as it was first with St. Augustine in Williamsport and more recently with its mother church, St. Mary’s in Hagerstown. Let me mention Monsignor Alfred E. Smith who celebrated his fortieth anniversary of priestly ordination among you in 1996. As you know, he has just celebrated his 60th anniversary of ordination, so we take this occasion to thank him and to send him our love and gratitude for 44 years of service to St. Michael’s here in Clear Spring. I am sure Monsignor Alfred E. Smith would like to be with us today; he joins us in a union of prayer and sends us his warmest greetings.
C. Under the pastoral guidance of Father Poston, St. Michael’s has continued its legacy of devoted pastoral service, especially in its outreach to young families and the youth of the parish and in the development of the Warner Center. For these and so many other accomplishments, we are truly grateful!
III. A Word to Those Being Confirmed
A. Now let me offer a word to those of you being confirmed. I am delighted to share with you the Sacrament of Confirmation today. No doubt you are well prepared for this sacrament: • by growing in knowledge of the Church’s teaching, • by learning to pray and by attending Mass on Sunday, • by receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation • by reaching out in love and service to those in need.
B. As you know, confirmation is not the end of your faith formation nor should it be “the sacrament of good-bye”, to quote Pope Francis. Confirmation means you and your families are committed to professing your faith, to worshipping each Sunday at Mass, to receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation regularly and by leading a life of charity and service for others. In other words, all the things you did to get ready for Confirmation are thing you should be doing all the time – this is how we follow Christ as active members of the Church. In the Sacrament of Confirmation, by the prayer of the Church, the laying on of my hands, and the anointing with holy oil – the seven gifts of Holy Spirit are confirmed in your soul so that, as you grow into adulthood you will know Jesus and follow him as fully initiated members of the Church and because of that you will live differently.
C. The world all around us would like you to be like the rich man in the Gospel who was only worried about his own comfort and convenience. It seems to tell us that happiness lies in owning the latest i-phone or android. We don’t have to be really rich to get stuck on ourselves and on our possessions. It can happen to anyone and when it does, we have no room in our hearts for God or for other people, especially those in need. If you truly welcome the Holy Spirit, you will live differently. You won’t put your hopes in what the world offers but rather in the love of Jesus that will keep you going no matter what you face. And you will start thinking of how God is calling you to serve others, perhaps as priest or as a religious.
IV. Writing a New Chapter
A. So, dear young people, let’s write a new chapter in the history of St. Michael’s. You have a new and energetic pastor, Father Cibelli and you are about to receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit. You parents and godparents are up to the task as well. Let’s write a new chapter as a community of faith, worship, and service – filling this church to overflowing each week; truly knowing, loving Jesus while professing and living our faith courageously; living the vocation of marriage & family while raising up vocations to the priesthood; and serving the needs of others with charity that helps to spread the Gospel.
B. Then this small parish church will continue to be a light brightly visible a beacon of hope and ray of warmth to many who are seeking the faith, even if as yet they do not realize it. Congratulations to one and all and through the intercession of St. Michael, may God bless us and keep us always in his love!