The Gospel reading in the Roman liturgy for this weekend (12th Sunday in Ordinary Time) recalls Jesus' question to his disciples about who people thought he was and whom they thought he was. He then predicts his passion and death and challenges all of us who wish to be his disciples to "take up our cross and follow him." We all know that, as it was true in Jesus' own life, suffering will also be a part of our lives; what form it may take will differ from person to person. As one grows older and feels the aches and pains of old age as I am now experiencing, one realizes the truth in the fact that suffering will be with us but it should not change our faith in our God who will see that we will be able to face the suffering when it comes.
Even with this background, I must also say that there are times when God gives us moments of great joy. This weekend was one of those times for me. Several events took place which made the weekend a memorable one.
First, this weekend saw the celebration of the 100th anniversary of a church in the city of Troy, New York (as well as the 85th anniversary of the parish's school). The Church of Sacred Heart in Troy figured a great deal in my own life. I spent twenty years there (from the mid 1960s to the mid 1980s) as the parish organist and choir director. Then in the fall of 2011 I was asked to assume the role of temporary administrator of the parish while its pastor recuperated from a bone marrow transplant. I spent about eight months in that role. (The picture at the right was taken when I had the privilege of blessing the new playground that had been installed at the parish for the school children.)
The parish truly celebrated this milestone. On Friday evening, June 21, there was a Mass of thanksgiving celebrated by our diocesan bishop at which I served as the deacon. On Saturday afternoon the entire area around the church was cordoned off and a block party was held with food, games for the children, and musical entertainment. The celebration concluded today with a "brunch" at a favorite local restaurant which saw many of the former and present parishioners and staff members attend to join in the festivities. It was truly an honor to be a part of this celebration and my prayers are that this parish may continue to flourish in the days and years ahead and bring the message of Jesus to this part of the community.
Three other events occurred during the weekend. Following the Mass on Friday evening, I had the privilege of having dinner with my dear friend of fifty-five years who is also my bishop - Bishop Howard Hubbard of the Diocese of Albany, New York. It is always a blessing for me to be with him and enjoy good times together.
On Saturday afternoon, I attended a Mass in a nearby city celebrated by our diocese's newly ordained priest, Father Scott VanDerveer. It has also been a privilege to come to know this bright and talented young man and wish him God's choicest blessings as he begins his ministerial priesthood.
Finally, on Saturday evening, the newly ordained deacon - Deacon Robert Sweeney - and his wife, Pat, treated my wife and me as well as the leader of our parish, Sister Katherine Arseneau and Sister Rita Duggan to a wonderful dinner at a well-known restaurant in downtown Albany. I had served as a mentor for Deacon Bob in his final year of preparation for ordination and he served a period of time working at our parish - St. Michael's in Troy, New York - and had the good fortune of being assigned there for his diaconal ministry.
As you can see, it was a very full weekend that I experienced. But what a great joy it was to be a part of these wonderful events. God has truly blessed me in my own ministry and I thank him for allowing me to be a part of the lives of the people of Sacred Heart Church, Bishop Hubbard, Father VanDerveer and Deacon Bob Sweeney. The memories of this weekend will last for a good long time.