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Peace is My Farewell to You

The gospel readings from John during these final weeks of the Easter Season are so powerful.  The beauty and goodness of Christ bidding farewell to his friends is in such stark contrast to the suffering that he would endure in his Passion. These words of goodbye are what I would like all my brothers and sisters here at Our Lady of the Lake keep in mind as I announce to you with this message that I have been asked by Bishop McKnight to leave Our Lady of the Lake and move to a different town to become pastor of a different parish in the Diocese of Jefferson City.

It is hard to believe that I have been here at the Lake just shy of seven years. I became pastor of Our Lady of the Lake on July 1, 2014. I will remain here to celebrate the Sunday and weekday masses through the weekend of June 26-27. We will have to see what transpires for  remaining days of the last week of June as I transition to a new home and parish beginning July 1, 2021. During the remaining weeks, I will be working with parish staff and commission leadership to ensure a smooth transition to a new pastor. At this time I am not able to announce where I will be going or who will be the new pastor of Our Lady of the Lake. The announcement of all the new assignments in the Diocese will take place on Friday, May 14.

Christ expressed his love and gratitude to his disciples in the powerful last discourse that the Gospel of John records for us. We treasure his words. But above all we treasure what he did for us. His sacrifice showed the depth of his love. I pray that my ministry  as pastor of our Lady of the Lake has reflected the sacrificial giving that is the heart of the Christian Mystery. God gives himself fully to us, without holding back, in Jesus Christ. We remember that, celebrate that, and imitate this mystery every time we celebrate the Holy Eucharist. By accepting a new assignment, I relinquish what I hold to be dear to my heart, so that I may give of myself in the vineyard the Holy Spirit has chosen for me.

Being pastor at Our Lady of the Lake has been one of the greatest gifts God has ever given me. I am so grateful for the love and support of the wonderful parishioners. You truly have welcomed me as a brother and friend. But you also gave me the opportunity to grow in faith, hope, and charity by your own examples. I appreciate that we have been able to work together for the good of the Church and for the spread of the Gospel. You have given of yourselves for the good of others and have shared so much in the burden of leadership and ministry.

Your hospitality has been a true occasion of healing and recuperation for me. At no time in the past seven years have I wanted for my physical and material needs. I can’t thank you enough for the wonderful home on Palmer Drive that allowed me to rest, pray, and enjoy life at the Lake with minimal distractions. Somehow you all managed to anticipate all my needs, whether in the office, at the liturgy, or among the people working on our parish mission. I am sure that I have taken you too much for granted and imagine that after I leave, I will come to an even greater appreciation of your kindness and generosity.

Our Lady of the Lake is a special gift. Obviously the Lake of the Ozarks is a special place and offers a unique opportunity to encounter God’s people through the many parishioners and visitors who come to us. Every time I begin Mass and look out at the congregation, I am so filled with joy to see so many who so publicly share their faith, even far from home. Our Lady of the Lake is a unique parish in that having parishioners and visitors from so far and wide, we have a better understanding of our Church throughout the World. Seven years I came here with the sorrow of the abuse crisis and burden of nine years as a pastor of four parishes weighing deeply in my heart. Our Lady of the Lake has helped me to find Joy in the Gospel once again. For this I will be forever grateful.

I’m not quite ready to say goodbye. We can accomplish a great deal in seven weeks. There are so many who lack the light of faith in our community. But there are so many eager disciples ready to share the light they have encountered in Christ with others. The members of the  commissions of the parish, Deacon Paul and Marilee  and Deacon Jim and Lusica, and the generous parish staff are eager to continue the work we have begun in bring the Gospel to others. I know that God will give success to the work of our hands, and I know that the future of His Church is strong in you, my brothers and sisters. Peace be with you.