Sunday, September 9
This is that time of the year when so many of our Catholic schools are celebrating the opening of the new academic year with the traditional “Mass of the Holy Spirit.” Besides being so blessed and grateful for the opportunity to “open the new year” with our grammar school students at the Frances Xavier Warde School this past Friday with my good buddy Fr. Greg Sakowicz over at the other campus of Holy Name Cathedral, I was also thankful for the honor of celebrating with two of our high schools on the south side, Mother McAuley and my alma mater Marist High School. I was so appreciative of the incredible spirit I found in all of the schools! It seems like students and teachers are ready for a great year of wisdom, faith, and growth.
On Wednesday of this past week I went first to Mother McAuley, the largest all-girls Catholic high school in Illinois. Besides celebrating some new additions and updating to their facility on 99th street, Mother McAuley welcomed me for a great liturgy focusing on their theme: Faith to Move Mountains. Borrowing from the gospel text when Jesus tells his friends: if you only have faith the size of a mustard seed, you could move mountains! We celebrated the gift of spirit that besides moving mountains, we pray that God will move hearts, attitudes, and minds towards moving the world and the church in a more positive, life-giving direction.
The next day I traveled out to Marist for the honor of presiding once again at their opening mass. In addition to focusing on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, one of the “themes” I kept trying to hit home was borrowed from the all too familiar psalm: taste and see. Through the telling of some summer trip stories of going to the US/Mexico border with Catholic Extension and doing Worktour with some of our Foundations teens in Eastern Kentucky, I emphasized that the spirit is not just some entity out in the stratosphere, but rather the Holy Spirit is seen, tasted, and experienced through the gift of one another, as I saw it first hand with a grandmother living in poverty with her grandchildren and a deported dad who wrongfully got thrown out of this country and was determined to get back to his family in Houston.
The Marist liturgy had another great component to it. This year, one of the young men in formation made a profession of vows as a Marist Brother before the entire student body. It was a great moment to experience the life-witness and the dedication of a young person, Brother Sam, pursuing this vocational call to be a religious brother. At the beginning of the mass, as he normally does in a fitting and inspirational way, my friend and the principal Larry Tucker gave a great opening reflection by challenging the students to “show up.” Not just showing up physically to mass and to class, but he challenged them to “show up” and make a commitment to being present to each other, to God, and to the world that needs them. Being present in the moment and showing up to the call of God is essential if we’re going to grow as disciples and as a church.
I share this with you because I am particularly mindful today, as I celebrate 25 years as a priest, that I need to rededicate myself to YOU, the Church, by “showing up” and being present to you and to the Church I was ordained to serve. Borrowing from my friends at both Mother McAuley and Marist, I pledge to you that, with your help, I will do my best to keep working hard at “moving the mountain” and likewise keep moving this messy Church in some direction of wholeness, holiness, and healthiness. Fortunately, just like you, I get to taste, see, smell, and experience a church like Old St. Pat’s that absolutely manifests this truth of what the mission of the Gospel is all about. Thank you for allowing me the honor and privilege of being on this journey with all of you. Thank YOU for YOUR dedication, YOUR generosity, YOUR spirit, and for “showing up” and being present to each other on this grace-filled but often times painful ride of being church today. May we, the people in steerage class, keep moving this ship in a Holy, Easter-driven direction. Like every Sunday, I am honored that you are here today.
Thank you for everything.
Father Tom Hurley