Memory and Thanksgiving: To Set the Community on Fire!


Memorial Mass of Thanksgiving

Fr. Mark Gatto

Preached: November 6, 2022

Fr. Patras, our Associate Pastor, Deacon Tom, and myself welcome all of you for this Memorial Mass of Thanksgiving.  Special Welcome to Bishop Crosby, the Bishop of the Diocese of Hamilton for coming to celebrate this Mass today.  Also, some of the former priests who served at Corpus Christi are with us today.  Fr. Ron Hodara, 91 years old.  Fr. Ed Hampson, Fr. Ed Mahony.

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.

Corpus Christi Parish was founded back in 1962.  Initially having Mass in the Barton Community Centre.  Eventually moving into this building.  Of course, the plan was to build a church to be the spiritual home of this parish.  Now about 60 years later, we are finally getting around to building that church.  Perhaps it was a blessing since now this 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 to continue and to support this parish into the future.  All prayer and sacraments are important to keep the memory of God alive in our hearts and world.  It is a dangerous memory because it calls us to embrace the same call and mission in our lives.  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 1962.  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. John Lawless.  Fr. Thomas Brennan, Fr. Michael Sullivan who was here for over 20 years as pastor.  Fr. Ron Hodara was Associate Pastor here.  Fr. Ed Hampson was Pastor here at time when plans for a new church were beginning again.  I know he is pleased to see this finally coming to fruition.

Other priests included Fr. Paul Boucher, Fr. Len Strohmeyer, Fr. Jeff Bergsma.  I replaced Fr. Ed Mahony, he is the person who recommended that Deacon Tom be the chair of our Building committee.

I once heard the definition of a parish priest as someone who lives among the people and becomes one with them.  When I sent out an invite to the former priests of this parish, they were glad to come back for they 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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