Dear Parish Family…
This summer certainly is one I’ll never forget. I was caught off guard in June when the Bishop asked me to move to a new assignment. Since then, I’ve gone through a roller coaster of emotions – as have many of you. I’m relieved to say that God is now giving me a peace that tells me this is all part of a larger plan. The sense in me is growing that I don’t need to understand the plan, or to know what comes next, in order to trust God and accept the path before me, even though it wasn’t at all what I expected.
Now that the plans are taking shape for my transition, I wanted to share with you a sense of how the next two months may look. Bishop Ed felt it was important for me to officially become the pastor of St. Mary’s in Glens Falls on September 1 so that the families with children in the school would have the assurance that they were beginning the school year in good hands. That makes perfect sense. At the same time, we at St. Patrick’s and St. Mary’s have been planning our annual joint parish picnic to be held on September 12th at the Lodge at Sleepy Hollow Lake. That date seems perfect to us: school will have just begun, families will be getting back into the rhythm of weekly Mass, Faith Formation will be starting soon at both parishes. It would be a wonderful time to give thanks to God for getting us through the worst of the pandemic and have a great big “welcome back to parish life” party. The timing of that now seems better than ever that it also marks the conclusion of my six years here and the arrival of Fr. Joe O’Brien.
So our plan remains the same… I have been given the Bishop’s blessing to use the month of September as a transitional month. Beginning on September 1, I’ll be getting to know the staff, the parishioners and the students and family of St. Mary’s in Glens Falls, while at the same time also assisting Fr. Joe and Fr. Jay Atherton (the pastoral leader of our region of the Diocese), who will be working with Fr. Joe to make sure that we are well taken care of, no matter how many or how few priests we have. (I’m not yet sure how those weeks will look for me, but something
like “part-time” at both communities.)
On September 11 and 12, we will mark the 20th Anniversary of the event we simply call “September 11,” a day of unforgettable shock and loss. Looking back, we see that, as a people, we were traumatized by that event, but not crushed. On that weekend, we will give thanks to God for giving us the resilience to endure through the most shocking national tragedy most of us can ever remember. Also on that weekend, we will return to our 4-Mass-per-weekend schedule that we had up until March 15, 2020, when the Pandemic shut us down. Masses will be Saturday at 4:30 in Ravena; Sunday at 7:30 and 11:30 in Coxsackie and the livestream at 9:30 in Ravena, which is viewed each week by hundreds and often thousands of people throughout the Diocese, our state and many other states as well.
On that weekend, Fr. Joe and I will concelebrate all the Masses together as we both mark milestones in our lives. Fr. Joe will celebrate his 30 years of priesthood since his ordination in 1991 and I will give thanks for my first pastorate as a priest and all of you who enriched my life and filled me with joy these past 6 years.
That afternoon we will gather for a huge parish celebration. (We will be moving it from its normal location since the Lodge at Sleepy Hollow cannot hold an event as big as this!) There we will celebrate our resilience as a people since 9/11/2001, my 6 years of ministry here, and Fr. Joe’s 30 years of service as a priest. That evening I will hand Fr. Joe the keys, pack up my car and make my way to a new chapter of life in Glens Falls.
Now, some may wonder why we are returning to the same Mass schedule we had since 2015, when this could possibly be a good time to change it. The truth is that all of us acknowledge that St. Patrick’s has two pretty ideal times for Mass (Saturday evening and smack-dab in the middle of Sunday morning) while St. Mary’s has a Sunday morning Mass that is “awfully early” and another that is “awfully late.” Why wouldn’t it be fairer to switch these up a little?
We looked at the attendance and collection data from over the course of many years in order to determine a Mass schedule that would allow us to share a priest and keep both churches strong. The data showed that St. Mary’s strongest Mass for attendance was the late morning Mass, while St. Mary’s greatest collection (by a lot) was the early morning Mass. The Saturday afternoon Mass at St. Mary’s was a distant third place in both attendance and in collection.
St. Patrick’s Saturday Mass was always well attended and also had a strong collection, so it was clear that the Saturday afternoon Mass needed to be in Ravena, for both attendance and for collection reasons. And for decades, the mid-morning Mass in Ravena has aired on TV in five counties and now has a viewership in the thousands on YouTube. We can’t change that time without shutting the door on our virtual parishioners, who have been faithful throughout the years, and never more than during the Pandemic. We have to keep an hour between the ending of a Mass and beginning of the next so the priest can greet parishioners and still have time to drive to the next Mass.
So for a complex set of reasons, we have to maintain the schedule that has worked for us since we began sharing a priest between us. We have stayed vibrant, well-attended and have remained “in the black” fiscally during those years. As Coca-Cola learned the hard way in the 80s when they tampered with Coke’s winning recipe: When it’s working, you gotta respect it.
No, it’s not perfect, and it definitely is more convenient for one parish than the other, but so much of life is doing the best you can with what you’ve got to work with. We welcome you to choose a Mass time that works for you and continue giving to your home parish. E-givers and envelope users alike can rest assured that we will direct your gift to your parish.
As I said when I announced my new assignment, let’s not make this a 3-month funeral. (Please!) Let’s instead celebrate God’s goodness and faithfulness through all the chapters of our lives.
Your grateful pastor,