There have been three amazing Pastors in my life; priests whose homilies spoke to me in Mass, who challenged me to ponder and grow in my faith and relationship with Jesus, and who celebrated special Sacraments with me: Marriage, Baptism, and Anointing of the Sick.
One of these men is Fr. John Rooney, my current Pastor and the founding Pastor of St. Angela Merici Catholic Church. Although I only joined St. Angela’s 18 months ago when we moved from across town, I’ve known Fr. John for the past few years as Lisa’s and our mother’s Pastor.Fr. John possess that spark which allows him to truly connect with people of all walks of life. His energy and passion spills over and warms your heart. His homily resonates in your soul, because long after you’ve forgotten the words, you remember the feeling.
Thursday morning Lisa sent me a Skype message.
“Fr. John is leaving St. Angela’s”
Moments later, I opened my email to read his letter to the Parish informing us that he has been assigned to St. Mary’s Seminary as Director of Spiritual Formation starting July 1.
When our mother heard about Fr. John’s reassignment, she wrote, “I will never, never, never forget the compassion and love he showed our family when my mother passed away and his personal attention to her and us at her funeral. He is truly a blessing. He will be fabulous as a Director of Spiritual Formation at the Seminary. But, he will be missed by all of us.”
This past Sunday, he spoke at the end of Mass, telling us personally of his new calling. He told us that being our Pastor had changed his heart and our influence on his priesthood will play a part in the formation of new priests. When he mentioned that as our founding Pastor, we can’t easily get rid of him, because his name is carved into the cornerstone, I thought, “No, your name is carved in our hearts.”
Emotions tugged my heart in two directions.The immediate sense of sorrow for losing this amazing priest at our parish quickly dissolved into excitement that he will be involved in the formation of new priests and a radiant joy in knowing that our future priests will be spiritually directed by Fr. John. One day, five, ten, fifteen years from now, we will hear a homily that rings with Fr. John’s influence, and that expectation gives me hope for the future of our vocations and the development of strong priests.