June 28 – Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sadly, today is Fr. Mark’s last weekend with us. Most newly ordained priests find it difficult to leave their first assignment. I hope Fr. Mark will carry with him treasured memories of his first priestly assignment here at Our Lady of Mercy. I know I do after leaving my first assignment 35 years ago at St. Alexander in Villa Park. I don’t know whether it is true or not, but it’s been said about priest transfers (to keep us humble I suppose) that 10% of parishioners are happy to see you go, 20% are really upset, and the rest just kind of go with the flow. I suspect that a much greater percentage here at OLM are extremely sad to see Fr. Mark leave! I join you! I know that Fr. Mark and all of us feel short-changed with the COVID-19 restrictions. Not being able to express our gratitude, love, and best wishes to him with a proper reception and opportunity to greet him individually really stinks! Priest transfers are strange in that this weekend we say goodbye to Fr. Mark, and next weekend, while we are still grieving the loss of Fr. Mark, we welcome Fr. James. And Fr. Mark is welcomed at a new parish. A week hardly seems enough time to grieve!
I especially want to thank Fr. Mark for what he has done for our parish (the list is endless) and for me personally during his three years at OLM. As a priest nearing retirement, it was a special honor to have a newly ordained priest assigned to minister with me. I have been a pastor 27 of my 39 years ordained, with eight different parochial vicars ministering with me during my four pastorates. I cannot thank him enough for the youthful vision, hope, and hard work he has brought to ministry and rectory life. Fr. Mark encouraged me to embrace a new vision for the future church! – moving a parish from maintenance to mission. Fr. Mark is an excellent preacher putting his heart and soul in preparing homilies. I have said that he is the Bishop Fulton Sheen of our time! His homilies at times challenged me in areas I didn’t want to be challenged. He is a man with a deep spiritual life of prayer, lives a life of simplicity (compare his clothes closet to mine!) and is a convicted disciple of Jesus! I once told his mother that I didn’t know if I was living with a future bishop or saint!!
While we have had our arguments over theology and rubrics of celebrating the Mass, we have had fun too. We have enjoyed bantering back and forth with each other at Masses to make you laugh. I just pray that one day his heart will be converted to liking dogs. I hope so…his new pastor has 3 dogs! God bless you Fr. Mark! May the people at St. Mary in Mokena be as blessed as we have been with your presence and ministry!