MOURNING IN HOPE OF THE GLORY OF GOD

Experiencing the full brunt of the untimely death of loved ones and the sorrow of loss, Job—the paradigmatic sufferer of Sacred Scripture— could only exclaim “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord!” (Job 1:21).

I have often found that life deals heavy blows in quick succession. When the loss of someone precious would be enough, there are often multiple losses. A personal friend, Dr. David Pence who was the founder and presenter for Men & Maps that has been meeting at St. Clement during the last year passed away suddenly this past week after suffering a major stroke. A beloved and prayerful River Village resident and retired dentist, Dr. David Gordy recently passed to his eternal reward and I was able to preach his funeral at a St. Paul parish. A dear friend from college sent me word that his father passed away after sustaining major injuries after falling down a flight of stairs. This is all on top of other parish families grieving the loss of loved ones and gathering for funeral Masses.

Just in the wake of all this news it became clear that Fr. Earl Simonson, longtime pastor of St. Clement Church was being prepared for eternal life as his health was failing. As we set out on the Eucharistic Procession last Sunday afternoon we asked the faithful gathered to pray for Fr. Simonson’s preparation for a holy death as he had been fortified by the Sacraments and surrounded by loving caregivers and longtime friends. I commend Fr. Troy Przybilla, Pastor of St. Charles Borromeo who had been so good to Fr. Simonson during many months of welcoming him to concelebrate Saturday evening Masses at St. Charles and visiting him in recent weeks. I was able to visit Fr. Earl’s bedside on Sunday evening to pray with him and some family caregivers. By early in the week it became evident that his time was near and word came along that he peacefully breathed his last just before 5 pm on Tuesday, June 11. This ‘Northeast institution’ and curmudgeonly character, this convert to Catholicism and priest of fifty years who had spent so much of his life preparing souls to meet God had just crossed the veil to meet Him! Shortly after he passed I was able to pray the Prayers for the Dead and sprinkle his body with Holy Water before it was taken to the mortuary. Serving a brother priest is a great privilege. I received his blessing each time I visited him. This last time, I could only offer mine and trace the sign of the cross on his forehead. The cross is our one hope. As we mourn, we mourn in great gratitude and in great hope!

We had some large poster-sized cards set up at St. Clement for parishioners to write greetings to Fr. Simonson in honor of his Golden Jubilee of priestly ordination which was marked on May 24. Indeed those greetings express a depth of gratitude and can continue to be added to express so much appreciation for a priest who loved his people greatly and in such an idiosyncratic way! Stay tuned for the vigil and funeral plans which will be listed on our parish website and social media when they are finalized. May he rest in the peace of Christ!

+ This coming week the priests of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis go to Rochester for our bi-annual Presbyteral Assembly for prayer, fraternity and some conferences on topics germane to our priestly life and mission. Please pray for your clergy while we are away. I am grateful that Fr. Stan is staying back to cover a number of additional Masses and offer support for pastoral care as needed. We owe our gratitude to him and other religious and retired priests during a week when Masses are quite hard to come by throughout the Archdiocese!

+ The Fifteenth Annual Northeast Procession was a great success. It was a beautiful thing that the heat broke to offer a more refreshing afternoon for a good long walk in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord. Indeed, it was a special joy to see so many strollers and wagons with countless little believers. Photos from the procession will be available at our Holy Cross website.

+ We are planning our summer Ice Cream Social at St. Hedwig on Wednesday evening, August 14 – the Feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe. This is a good reminder to make space in the business of life for refreshment and lingering with friends, new and old. I’ve heard Minnesotans consume more ice cream on average than the residents of any other state. I believe it! Stay tuned for more details.

+ I write to express appreciation for my classmate, Fr. Andy Jaspers who has served for this past year as our ‘Priest-in-Residence’— which is to say a regular presider at Masses around the campuses. While he will continue in his primary work as a Spiritual Director at St. John Vianney College Seminary at the University of St. Thomas, his weekend service will shift towards St. Stephen’s Catholic Church in South Minneapolis, a largely Spanish language parish. Fr. Jaspers will continue to reside at St. Boniface Rectory with us and form part of our priestly community. He will no doubt continue to be a familiar presence around Northeast Minneapolis, assisting periodically with Masses and other ministry. I am grateful for his generosity of spirit and I know I speak for all of our parishioners when I express gratitude for his reverence in offering the Holy Mass, his conscientiousness as a preacher and his wisdom as a confessor.

+ Beginning in July, Fr. Bryce Evans will begin to reside at St. Boniface Rectory with us as he takes up a role as Parochial Vicar at our neighboring parish, Our Lady of Lourdes. He has spent the last two years as Vicar at Holy Name of Jesus in the western suburb of Medina. Fr. Evans will be concentrating on young adult ministry and adult faith formation at Lourdes as well as serving as chaplain in a new seminary-based leadership program for Catholic educators. I am excited to announce that he will also be assisting in a supporting role with Masses at Holy Cross, St. Hedwig and St. Clement. I am grateful in advance for his service here and grateful to all of you for your warm welcome. Welcome, Fr. Evans, to Northeast Minneapolis!

Happy Father’s Day & a blessed Trinity Sunday to one and all!