As Vinnie and I entered the church for 4pm Mass, Fr. Bert was preparing his robes in the back corner of the church. With arms wide open, I said, “Surprise! I am here. It is your turn!” He hugged me and whispered….”Glad you made it. Tonight I announce my farewell!” We laughed! It was good timing. This was now the third time Vinnie had come with me where a priest had announced his Farewell! Kind of funny!!
Fr. Bert’s homily had to do with Jesus reassuring his disciple that he was prepared to travel the journey and carry on his message even after Jesus was gone. Fr. Bert looped that notion, humbly, into the fact that he would be leaving but the good work of the past 13 years had been laid as a foundation for all the good work that the parish will continue with as he moves 2.5 miles down the road!
During the homily I thought back to when Fr. Bert had left St. Philip to gain the leadership title of “Pastor”. It was a year before I left the classroom I was teaching in, to move to the office of a “Leader” in my school. In the Gospel reading, in Fr. Bert’s parish, and in my school, and quite honestly everywhere, there can be no leader if there are no followers!! This is what Jesus was trying to tell the disciple…….the groundwork and vision have been laid, but now it is time for the work to be completed by those who will step into new roles! It is a cool concept.
After Mass, Fr. Bert proudly talked to me and Vinnie about the accomplishments of the parish. The interior had been completely renovated and restored. Clearly, he is proud of the work, the beauty, and the desire of the people to have a beautifully restored place of worship. This is the legacy of his leadership, perhaps, while at this parish! Fr. Bert’s touch is evident in the woodwork, the floor tiles, the stencils, and the decorations. He will be leaving a place he has made more beautiful through his leadership.
Jesus, too, explained to his disciple, which was retold to us in the Gospel, that He would be leaving this place to prepare an even more beautiful place for each of us. It was up to His followers, then, and even now, to continue his legacy on the earth. Even Jesus can’t lead, if no one will follow! Good thing he has followers!
I can’t help but this about what this means for me in my leadership role. I have been a “school leader” for 15 years now. I am not sure what my “legacy” will be, but I sure hope, when I leave, people will see my touch in the day to day works in my school and they will believe I had something to do with leading others to a better place for all kids!
I am so glad I made it to St. Maurice before Fr. Bert leaves. It is a beautiful place….and I wish him all the best as he heads to St. Cecilia!