Sunday, September 1, 2019
I know that everyone (including myself) is lamenting the fact that we are shockingly at Labor Day weekend, what many have called the last official weekend of summer. Ba Humbug! It pains me even to type those words: last weekend of the summer. May this not be true! Putting aside what the calendar might say, I hope everyone has been able to get outside and enjoy what I think has been one of the most delightful strings of August nights I can remember. With low humidity and gentle breezes, these past several evenings have been the kind you want to bottle up and bring out again in January and February.
Last Sunday evening I found myself enjoying the brilliance of both a soothing evening of weather and the magnificence of our Chicago skyline. After the 5:00 p.m. mass, I quickly made my way over to the Chicago Hilton & Towers (where we host the Emerald Ball…which by the way is scheduled for October 18 this year!) to join in the celebration of Sister Rosemary Connolly’s 50th anniversary as the leader of Misericordia and her 70th anniversary as a Sister of Mercy. She’s quite a lady! I was among 1,500 people who celebrated on a Sunday evening the unbelievable accomplishments of this saintly woman and her beloved mission of Misericordia, what I have called before as “heaven on earth.” The environment they have created for the most vulnerable is second-to-none.
After the party, when I came out on to Michigan Avenue, greeted by the pleasant temperatures and the loveliness of the city, I decided that instead of taking a cab, I would start walking back to Old St. Pat’s. As I began my relaxed stroll along Michigan Avenue heading north, I quickly realized that because of my clerical attire (black suit & Roman collar), I was going to be a magnet. It didn’t take long. I couldn’t have been one block north of the Hilton when I was automatically greeted by Larry. A gentleman who presently lives in Englewood, Larry told me he was just spending the evening downtown and taking in the sights, sounds, and the nice weather of this August night, just like me. Larry and I walked together for about a mile, talking about some of the Catholic people and places we know in common. Among the many people he mentioned, the one man he reverenced as saving his life was the late great Monsignor Ignatius McDermott, or “Father Mac” as we called by many. Larry told me about his years of sobriety and if it wasn’t for “Father Mac” who invited me into the Haymarket Center, he’s not sure where his life would be now. (For those not familiar with this, Father Ignatius Mc Dermott was a legendary Chicago priest who ministered to the addicted and those who found themselves at rock bottom because of drugs and alcohol living right here in this part of the west loop. He started what is called Haymarket, a treatment center which is still located in the West Loop at Washington & Loomis. Father Mac died several years ago, but his legacy of caring for the addicted lives on in the mission of Haymarket).
Before parting ways at Adams and Michigan, I was struck by Larry’s story and his gratitude for a significant part of our Catholic movement. Larry’s life was changed for the better because of an invitation into something holy, healing, and lifegiving. It’s what I love about this gospel text today: invite! Keep inviting others into the banquet. If there’s one thing I see as the future hope of the church (at least at the local level) is how we continue to be people of invitation. Keep inviting people into a movement that is caring, hopeful, inclusive, and compassionate. This, we believe, is our mission at Old St. Pat’s and I hope you will keep that sense of invitation alive and strong.
Enjoy this long weekend.
Fr. Tom Hurley