A Welcoming Heart

Dear friends in Christ:

Give thanks to the Lord for all of his marvelous blessings! What a joy and privilege we have to offer this work and these sacrifices to the Lord as a sign of our love and thanksgiving for fifty wonderful years as a parish. As we dedicate the altar and the remodeling, we remember and pray for all of those parishioners who have gone before us, both living and deceased, who so tirelessly worked and sacrificed to make our parish the wonderful community of faith that it is today. In a special way, we are so grateful to those who so generously and sacrificially gave to make this dream a reality. This weekend we welcome Fr. Patrice Antoine Chocholski, the Pastor of Ars Sur Formans, the very parish served by St. John Vianney. We are greatly honored by his presence. Father Patrice will speak to us this weekend and at a special presentation on Tuesday evening at 7:00.

This remodeling reminds me of an episode in the life of St. John Vianney. Shortly after he arrived in Ars, he surveyed the parish and the church. It was dedicated to St. Sixtus. The building and the altar were exceedingly plain and in disrepair. The vestments and linens were “in a deplorable state”. His biographer, Abbe Trochu writes “Out of reverence for the Holy Eucharist, he wished to secure as beautiful an altar as possible.” He had a new altar built and had angels placed on each side of the tabernacle. Happily, we have had three wonderful pastors who always took care of the people of the parish and the physical and temporal affairs of the Church in an excellent fashion. Msgr. Tinney, Fr. Joe and Fr. Morfin, are all priests who, in imitation of the Holy Cure of Ars, have loved and served this parish in such a manner that I believe St. John Vianney and our Lord would be most pleased. How truly blessed we are!

Our new altar is made of stone that was quarried in Jerusalem, just a few miles away from the Cenacle, the room of the Last Supper and the First Eucharist, and Calvary, Golgotha, the place of the skull, where our Lord was crucified and then buried in the Holy Sepulcher from which He triumphantly rose from the dead on Easter morn. Within the altar are the relics of the bodily remains of martyrs and confessors of the faith. We have the relics of St. Lawrence (martyr), St. Lucy (martyr), St. Francis of Assisi (confessor), St. Maria Goretti (martyr), St. Gerard Majella (confessor) and St. John Vianney (confessor). Throughout the Church we have images of some of our great and beloved saints and intercessors: The Blessed Mother, St. Joseph, St. John the Baptist, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Anne, St. Monica, St. Jude, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Peter and St. Paul. As we enter the plaza, we are greeted by the statue of Jesus who extends to us the love of his Sacred Heart and invites us to come to him. The new chairs in the sanctuary were made with wood from St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica in Galveston, my home parish. When Galveston was devastated by Hurricane Ike, eight weeks after I arrived here as pastor in 2008, the Cathedral was severely damaged. The original pine floors from when the Church was built in 1847 had to be removed. By God’s providence, some of the timbers were saved and we have fashioned these chairs from them.

While construction continues and we see more pieces fall into place, such as the bell tower, organ and narthex shrine, we realize that the greatest gift we have is not stone or wood, the statues or liturgical furnishings. We know that the greatest gift we have is our new life in Jesus Christ, the grace he bestows on us and the blessing to share his love with others!

Deo Optimo Maximo – To God, the Best and Greatest!
St. John Vianney, Pray for us!

In Pace Christi,

Fr. Troy Gately