Appleton, WI

May 29/30: Day by Day with Father Bill – Weekend Edition

In Joy & Sorrow

In response to the Lord’s promise to give the new King Solomon anything whatsoever that would assure that he would be a successful King, I have always been impressed by King Solomon’s request. He does not ask for a larger army or palace or greater wealth or property. King Solomon humbly requests, “Lord, give your servant a listening, understanding heart!” (I Kings 3:9)

While I will never be asked to be a Bishop and would never want to be a Bishop, I have thought about the value of selecting a motto, as every Bishop does, for his ministry. For my ministry, I have always kept close to my heart, King Solomon’s prayer. “Lord, give me a listening, understanding heart.”

Thanks so much to those of you who prayed for the sixty members of our parish family who participated last Saturday in our Synod. I believe that every endeavor for the Lord must always be grounded in the power of prayer, which is primarily about listening to the Lord. Apart from the Lord, we can do nothing. For so many weekends, at every Mass, we prayed together our Synod Family Prayer. “We journey together to listen and learn from the Holy Spirit, speaking through every member of our parish family, trusting that the Lord desires all that is good, beautiful, and true for us!”  On the Eve of our Synod, last Friday night, with the Risen Jesus, present before us in the Blessed Sacrament, we prayed, “Make us attentive listeners and learners as you call us together in the abiding presence of your Holy Spirit. Lord Jesus, give us a bold and courageous spirit that we may trust more and more that you will show us the way forward as we grow together in holiness and in a sincere desire to embrace all that is true, beautiful and good. Gaze upon us with your magnificent love…”

Last Saturday, our Parish Community Room became another Upper Room, and the Holy Spirit was present in our midst, just as the Spirit was present in the midst of those first disciples, gathered around Mary, the Mother of the Church. There was a palpable joy in the room. The friends and followers of Jesus had come prepared to have inspired conversations around the focus areas of our parish family’s mission and vision; namely, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, worship and mission. My responsibility, along with the other members of our Senior Leadership Team, was to keep my mouth closed (I may have wavered just a tiny bit) and to listen and learn. “Lord, give me a listening heart.” 

That listening and learning, reverencing every person and her or his insights, is the beauty of the synodal path. The whole story is always greater than the sum of its parts. 

On Pentecost Sunday, in his homily, Pope Francis said, “The Spirit tells us, Look to the whole. The whole, not the part. The Spirit does not mold isolated individuals, but shapes us into a Church in the wide variety of our charisms, into a unity that is never uniformity…There in the whole, in the community, the Spirit prefers to work and to bring newness.”

Something new was being born through our heartfelt conversations last Saturday. The larger Church needs to be much bolder and never afraid of this Synodal Path, as shown to us so beautifully by Pope Francis. The Spirit speaks through every human heart. Our parish motto suggests this as well: Ripples of God’s love, through our hearts, to all hearts.”

Now it is the Holy Spirit’s task to inspire me, as I put my fingers on my laptop’s keyboard, to summarize the conversation of our Parish Synod. I think I will title this Pastoral Letter to the Family of God of Saint Mary Parish: Were Not Our Hearts Burning Within Us. In this Letter will come incentives to move us on the way forward together. Stay tuned!

It was a dream come true for me to experience a Parish Synod. I am so grateful to the Senior Leadership Team, our Communication Task Force, and Beth Power, our Pastoral Leadership Council Chairperson, Cindy Boyer, our Pastoral Leadership Council Chairperson-Emeritus, and Sister Marie Kolbe, our facilitator, for putting together the many details that made my dream possible. Without them, the Synod would not have been possible. 

I have another dream. Ask me about it, if you are interested. Perhaps you may be able to help make it happen!

Father Bill +