Someone asked me what my vision for the parish is and I told them that I would have to get back to them on that one. I’m sorry to say it, but that was last year. At the time I legitimately was on my way to somewhere and didn’t feel I had the time to give the subject due diligence, but the more I thought about it the more I realized how far from a crystallized vision I had. Sacred Heart is both blessed and cursed with being a mid-size parish with fairly stable annual income. Blessed, because it allows for intimate liturgical celebration as well as a small community hospitality and feel; cursed, because it has the perfect makings of a first pastorship for priests that are recently ordained. This has led to a large priest turnover in the last decade and a half as pastors have been moved just when you had gotten them all trained. Thankfully, I expect that trend to end with me as I have a strong feeling I’ll be here for a while.
Still I did come to you recently minted and so you have had to bear with some of my “new priest” foibles, lack of a set vision being only one of them. After some prayer and thought I think I am ready to answer that question from last year. I have often told you in homilies that I want all of Bellingham to come to Sacred Heart and that I have plans to extend the Church across the street via a sky bridge, and that is no exaggeration, except for maybe the sky bridge part. As Christians we have been given a simple instruction by the Master Himself to “Go and baptize all nations,” and we have to take Him at His word. It is then our duty to take the gospel with us wherever we go, into the work place, at the gym and to the grocery store.
My vision is for Sacred Heart to be a place where the love of God is fostered, shared and lived. This is no small feat, considering that it demands total holiness on the part of every parishioner, but you’re up to the challenge. It would be my expectation then that every parishioner would be comfortable and competent enough to share the faith with those they come in contact with. I’m not talking beat people over the head with scripture verses or abrasive Catholicism, but like an exuberant mother showing baby pictures, like we have talked about before. If you can fill in the blank, “I like Jesus because…,” you are well on your way to being the perfect parishioner.
Here at Sacred Heart we don’t expect perfection, but we do expect exertion. I don’t want you to pray because I told you to, or come to Mass because it’s sinful to miss. No, I want you to pray and come to Mass because you can’t really know Jesus if you don’t talk to Him and like going to your friend’s house. I want all of you to be able to invite everyone you know to come be part of our community. We are only responsible for bringing them to the Master, He takes it from there. Let’s be a community where Christ isn’t just alluded to, but is encountered. Prayers Always, Fr. Joseph Altenhofen