Memory and Thanksgiving: To Set the Community on Fire!

Memorial Mass - Our Lady of Lourdes

Memorial Mass of Thanksgiving

Fr. Mark Gatto

Preached: November 20, 2022

Fr. Patras, our Associate Pastor, Deacon Tom, and myself welcome all of you for this Memorial Mass of Thanksgiving.  Special Welcome to the former priests of Our Lady of Lourdes who have returned for this celebration.  Three are now Bishops.  Bishop Lobsinger, Bishop Miehm and Bishop Bergie.  Also, some of the former priests who served at Lourdes are with us today.  Fr. Ron Cote, Fr. Peter Meyer, Fr. David Lewis, Fr. Ian Duffy, Fr. Mike King, Fr. Don Wilhelm.

Today we are doing two things which are so important.  We are remembering and we are giving thanks.  Actually, every time we come to celebrate the Eucharist we do both of those acts, we remember and we give thanks.  Both memory and gratitude are keys to a good Christian spirituality.

In the words of Consecration, we hear the invitation of Jesus at the Last Supper, “Do this in memory of me.”  Every Mass we are encountering and remembering Jesus.  We are remembering the great acts of God in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  But, we do not remember as people living in the past.  We do not remember just to go back to something God did in the past.  We remember in order that we will keep the action of God alive in our world today.  We remember the presence of Jesus not as something in the past, it is a living presence that we encounter today.  We remember in order that today, you and I will take up the mission of Christ within the Church, which is the body of Christ.  We do not live in the past, rather we build on the past as we move into the future.

Our Lady of Lourdes Parish was founded back in 1958 under Bishop Ryan.  Under the guidance of many pastors and Associate pastors, the people of this parish formed a vibrant and living community.  There is a certain grieving to let go of that parish and church.  But, as the Gospel says, only if the seed falls to the ground and dies may new life come.

Our Lady of Lourdes and Corpus Christi are not dying, they are now growing into something new.  Our new church that is being built at Sherman and Rymal will be the Catholic parish for Hamilton Mountain, south of the Lincoln Alexander Expressway.  It will serve a large area and community.  The priests and parishioners who lived and served in the parish through the years have provided the foundation for our future parish.  They planted seeds that we are required to nurture and grow today.

This is the first new Catholic Church being built in the city of Hamilton in the 21st Century.  We remember all those who went before us in order to inspire us to now take up our call into the future.  Our remembering those who served and lived in this parish in the past challenges us to embrace that same mission today.  The society and church we live in today is much different in various ways from the society and church that existed in 1958.  It has new challenges.  We need to take up that challenge of being the church today in this world.

Our remembering should lead to thanksgiving.  We have gratitude for the acts of God.  The mercy, the healing, the self-giving love of Christ revealed on the cross.  As we remember those who lived and served in this parish through the years, we come in a spirit of gratitude.  Imagine all of the prayers that have been said in this church these past 60 years.  Imagine all of the Masses celebrated.  Imagine how many people have been baptized here, including some of you here today.  Imagine how many couples began their Sacrament of Marriage here.

We give thanks for the priests who served this community through the years.  Founding Pastor was Fr. Clifford Day.  When I sent out the invite to former priests of this parish, most of them responded yes immediately.  They were happy to come back.  I once heard the definition of a parish priest as someone who lives among the people and becomes one with them.  These priests truly felt blessed in their ministry here and felt one with the people of this parish.

I think of all the parishioners who served in various ministries through the years.  Their dedication and service is what allowed this parish to grow and develop through the years.  We give thanks for all of them, often unrecognized and perhaps not even known by many of us.  But, in the eyes of God, all committed service is received and blessed.

Today we give thanks for all that history that now allows us today to have this new church and parish.  We build up the church in this local parish rooted in all those who lived the faith in this parish since its founding and we build up the church that is rooted in the Saints throughout the ages.

St. Catherine of Siena lived during very difficult times for the church and society.  The great Western Schism, the Pope in exile in France, the great black plaque leading to so many deaths and destruction in Europe.  St. Catherine was in love with Jesus and this led her to care for the sick and poor, to work for peace, to speak out strongly for the reform of the church, directly to Cardinals and Popes.

She used to say, “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”  What a mission for our parish today.  To care for the poor and sick in this community.  to work for peace within our world, especially between religions.  To work to renew the church in the challenges it faces today.  If our parish becomes what God means for it to be, then we will set this community on fire.

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