Last Sunday’s Gospel opened with Jesus telling a parable to the chief priests and elders, where He spoke of a ‘landowner leasing a vineyard and going on a journey.’ While I am quite aware that I don’t own Holy Family, as pastor, I certainly have a certain oversight of Holy Family. And I’m very happy to say, that upon return from my sabbatical ‘journey’, I have been amazed at all the wonderful fruit that has not only been ‘produced’ but offered up for the True Landowner in my absence. Before my ‘official return’, I had a few quieter days getting acclimated and reintegrated into parish life. I met with staff members and unofficially dropped in on a few functions. It was amazing to see so much parish life humming along. School is in full swing, having finished its first quarter with increased enrollment, smiling faces, and much learning going on. Our Children’s Faith Formation program has seen a hug increase in engagement under its newly formatted structure. Adult faith formation is moving ahead, as is RCIA. We have (nearly) 12 folks looking to engage in BeFriender ministry training. The Fridays for Fathers group met for Bible study. People are stepping up to assist with St Elizabeth Monday night dinners. We have a huge group of teens preparing to go to NCYC in a few weeks, as well as record numbers in our Youth Ministry activities. And lots of things, I’ve not even had a chance yet to hear about. It’s almost enough to make me wonder if I shouldn’t step away – or, get out of the way! – more often. But yes much good fruit has been produced and offered up in my absence. This makes me swell with satisfaction and affection for my Holy Family family. All I can really say in light of all this wonderfulness is Thank you!
Thank you to Almighty God for the vast opportunities of these last four months, personally and for our parish. Thank you to Archbishop Thompson, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, and benefactors for helping to make this time away possible.
Thank you to the staff here at Holy Family Parish & School for stepping up and ensuring that everything ran so smoothly in my absence. Honestly, I think things might have run smoother in my absence, than if I was here! Most parishioners don’t fully grasp all that our staff does under normal circumstances to share the Gospel, form intentional disciples, engage in fellowship, and fosters service. These past 4 months, our wonderful staff has driven these necessary endeavors, and I’m thankful.
Thank you to my brother priests who stepped in to assist: Fr Harry Tully, Fr Ken Bartch, Fr Jose Neri, Fr Steve Schwab, Fr Bill Ernst, Fr Sonny Day, and Fr Steve Banet
Thank you also to the parish volunteers who helped handle so many little things that just needed doing. Many tasks go unseen and unnoticed, but not unappreciated! I’m thankful you stepped up to take care of it.
Thank you to all of you for your patience when parish life did not run quite like you were used to and yet you found Christ in the Mass and parish life. Thank you also for all your prayers, words of encouragement, and gestures of support.
The time away on Sabbatical was truly a graced time. I’ve been asked numerous times, “what was the best part?” And I can’t quite put an answer to it. My sabbatical was intentionally structured with a wide variety of endeavors and experiences, destinations and delights. Each brought different graces and blessings. Working in community alongside the dedicated staff at Nazareth Farm who took this “old man” in to help (I was 20 years senior to anyone on staff!). I’ve done the whole planes, trains, automobiles, plus buses, trams, funicular, ferry, canoe, and on-foot. The 7700+ miles I drove as I passed through 15 States. The 7000 or more miles flown. The 30-days spent camping in the wonderful outdoors. The 300 miles hiking & canoeing. The 5 European countries I was awed to tour. The 200 miles of the El Camino de Primitivo from Oviedo to Santiago as a pilgrim praying & persevering. The hundreds of churches, cathedrals, and basilicas I’ve visited and tabernacles I’ve knelt before. The friends, the family, the laughs and tears. The minor injuries and bumps along the way. All were best.
So what was the best part? It might just be the overwhelming experience of love and welcome, which I’ve received in returning home. I’ve heard more “We missed you… I missed you” than I can count. I’ve had seniors and second graders give me a hug and tell me they are glad I’ve returned safe and sound. Kindnesses in word and gesture have been bountiful. And for all of them, I’m thankful. I’m grateful. I’m humbled. Humbled to be home. Humbled to be your priest and pastor. Humbled to be part of this Holy Family family. So thank you!
Nothing Less than saints for the Holy Family of God.
Holy Family, Producing Fruit for the Lord, Pray for us.
~ Fr Jeremy M. Gries