30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
50th Anniversary, St. Isaac Jogues
Oct. 28, 2018
When a new parish is founded, demographic studies are done, needs are assessed, and projections of future growth are gathered. Next a temporary place of worship is identified and soon thereafter plans are made for a church structure designed to meet the needs of the emerging parish community. A similar process was followed, some fifty years ago, when your founding members, drawn from St. Ursula’s and Immaculate Conception, gathered under the direction of your first pastor, Fr. Norman Gies to make plans for a new parish to be named after St. Isaac Jogues. Among us today are some of those pioneers, those founding parishioners – I wonder if you would stand so that we might recognize and thank you!
Those who founded this parish had a lot of vision as they identified priorities and established committees to address major pastoral ministries, such as liturgy and faith formation. Your founders were thinking, not only about the present moment, June 1968. No, they were seeing far into the future, seeking to provide not only for themselves but for those of us who would follow them in the decades ahead. Through the years, this process of looking ahead continued with active lay leadership and participation under the guidance of visionary pastors such as Fr. J. J. Cronin, Fr. Hammond, Fr. Roth, and now Fr. Brian Nolan, as well as the many priests who, now and in the past, have assisted at this parish. Let us express our appreciation to these, our spiritual leaders!
Thanks, in part, to this longstanding and far-seeing partnership of laity and clergy, St. Isaac Jogues grew into a vibrant community of faith, worship, and service. Today it continues to be blessed with active lay leadership and with parishioners who are very devoted to the mission of the parish. And that mission is described in terms of building the Kingdom of God and in terms of being fruitful branches attached to the Vine who is Christ – as you go about the ministries of Liturgy, Faith Formation, Service, Stewardship, and most importantly of all, Evangelization. Above all, today, we want to thank God for the blessings of these years. For while it is we who plan and work and strive to see ahead, it is God who gives the growth and it is God who holds us in his Provident hands.
Thus far, I have spoken about your visionary leaders and indeed the visionary spirit of this parish community. And of course, it is right to celebrate how far-seeing they were, how they had an uncanny ability to peer into the rapid changes of the future. Now, however, we ought to speak about their depth of vision, that is, their graced ability to look into the deepest reasons for making all the sacrifices necessary to establish, maintain, and grow a parish community, with all that entails.
To understand the “depth perception” of your founders and leaders, let us draw upon the figure of Bartimaeus the person in today’s Gospel whose sight Jesus restored. It is immediately apparent, isn’t it, that Bartimaeus was conscious of his needs. After all, he was poor, homeless, and deprived of sight. But when Jesus approached, he had enough “insight” to call out to him, “Son of David, have pity on me!” Even before he met Jesus and experienced his healing love, Bartimaeus knew that he stood in need of what Jesus alone could give him. There follows this dialogue between Jesus and Bartimaeus. Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” Given Bartimaeus’ physical blindness, this seems to be an obvious question. So too, Bartimaeus’ reply seems equally obvious, “Lord, that I may see!” But beneath Bartimaeus’ request for the restoration of his eyesight there lay a deeper request, a deeper desire for that inner spiritual vision we call faith. Jesus cures Bartimaeus and adds, “Go your way, your faith has saved you” – The restoration of Bartimaeus’ physical sight symbolized the newfound wholeness of his faith, the restoration of his inner vision that enabled him to gaze with confidence upon Jesus as Savior and Lord.
The most fundamental motivation for founding a parish and for participating in parish life through thick and thin, including and especially the crisis which has beset the Church at every level – is that same deep inner vision with which the Holy Spirit endowed Bartimaeus – the same faith which prompted him to call out to Jesus of Nazareth in his need; the same faith by which he joyfully responded when he was called by Jesus; the same faith that gave him confidence in the Great High Priest, Jesus, who offers himself as an expiation for our sins whenever the Mass and the Sacraments are celebrated. This is the deeper vision of things that lies at the heart of this and every parish. This is the deeper vision that animates the ministries & good works of St. Isaac Jogues and makes it an attractive community for people of all ages and diverse backgrounds. And it is this deeper vision that we celebrate as we bring this anniversary year to a close.
Forward in Faith
Now, it is our turn to look ahead. An anniversary year rightly celebrates past accomplishments but it must also be a point of departure for a future full of hope. And in this moment we rightly find ourselves once again engaging in pastoral planning, focusing on the mission of evangelization, and looking at the mission priorities that will continue to make St. Isaac Jogues a vibrant community of faith, worship, and service to others. Much like the charter members of this parish, you are once again engaged in what some would call strategic planning, looking ahead to the next five, ten, twenty, or even fifty years, planning so that St. Isaac Jogues will be the spiritual home for Catholics yet unborn.
So let us pray for the gift of vision, far-reaching vision – for although it is true that only God truly knows the future, he does enable us human beings to look ahead, and to try to provide not only for ourselves but also for those who will come behind us. Yet, all of our planning and all of our effort will come to naught without that deeper vision of faith exemplified by Bartimaeus, a bold, exuberant faith, a confident faith that enables us to be not only members of the Church but disciples, not only teachers of the faith but witnesses to Christ and his love, not only worshippers but worshippers in spirit and truth, and not only people of kindness but true servants of those in need.
In this way, we live in hope that one day faith will give way to sight, images and shadows will give way to truth, and the travail and suffering of this world will yield to the joy of heaven where we will be united with the saints and angels, including our glorious patron and martyr, St. Isaac Jogues for all eternity. May God bless us and keep us always in his love!