Even though we did not have the chance to carry on our local tradition last year of having one of our members give a reflection on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, in years past one of the dimensions of that custom I have so enjoyed has been hearing the heartfelt gratitude of adult children for the “parent figures” in their lives. Not only has Mother’s and Father’s Day been about one person’s love for their own children, but more important, it has been the testimonials people have offered for those who taught them how to be parents. And moving beyond the world of parenting, I am certain that every one of us could identify a person or various persons whose role or example has been an inspiration in our own journey. Hopefully, all of us could identify those special people whose guidance, wisdom, and support helped us and formed us in our lives as workers, care-givers, servants, athletes, students, teachers, and the list goes on.
I am grateful to have one of those special mentors in my life. Truth be told, I am lucky to have a few really great priest-friends who have supported and taught me a great deal (through their example and wisdom) about what it means to be a good priest. But this week, as he marks a special milestone, I offer my deep appreciation once again for my predecessor and friend Father Jack Wall who turned 70 on Wednesday, January 18! I can only hope I look that good (excluding the hair line which is a lost cause!) and have as much energy and creativity as Jack when I hit that age. For me, Jack really embodies the best that church can be. While it can be so easy to become critical and bitter about all the things that go wrong with the church, Jack is one of the most optimistic and hopeful priests I have ever met. He has been called a visionary by many, and I believe that is so very true. Not only is he tremendously bright and gifted in so many ways, Jack has the wonderful ability to take the vision of the gospel and bring it alive in creative expressions today. With all of you, especially those who have been around Old St. Patrick’s Church these past three decades, and have witnessed such powerful transformation in this church and the people who find their way here, I offer my deepest thanks and my heartiest “Happy Birthday” to Fr. Jack Wall as he celebrates this special birthday. God’s many blessings upon you, Jack, now and for many years to come!