Some of you may know by now that I will be leaving St. Eulalia’s for a new position in California at the end of June. My journey which has led me to this latest place is a cause for great reflection, and some considerable sadness in leaving all my friends and colleagues here.
I am immensely grateful to all who hired me two years ago and entrusted me with several of our Faith Formation programs. When I joined in my first full time ministry position in the Church here, it felt “right”. As I prayed before the interview here in the sanctuary where you now sit, an immense feeling of peace came over me. I believe this was affirmation of a call.
Now, I have another one. This time the move will cause great upheaval in my family, as a 3,000-mile distance is put between many of them and my new work location at a Passionist retreat center in Sierra Madre, CA. Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a Passionist Provincial meeting in Houston, where they announced two lay directors for their largest retreat centers in the USA. It is a sign of change in the Church, with vocations for priests continuing to decline in many major archdioceses. The Passionist order is addressing this issue by bringing priests from their overseas operations and increasing the hiring of laity in the retreat centers and missions.
We only have to look to our own parish here to also see the change. The wonderful aspect of this is the continued expansion of the laity into all Church activities; the decline in vocations less so.
This opportunity for us (the laity) to learn more has only been possible by the change instigated since Vatican II. The same time as the establishment of his parish. The ability to say the Mass in English, go to a college and study theology at the seminary, and the reestablishment of the deaconate all have had a profound effect on the Church. Obviously, there is much more to come, as the Church continues to try and respond to the needs of the modern world without doing damage to our traditions.
Saint Eulalia’s has a history of being on the cutting edge of where those wanting spiritual nourishment can find what they are looking for at the parish. The sacraments, bible study, music, twelve-step, bereavement, divorce, contemplative prayer and retreats and trips all form the rich tapestry which are offered here. We may not be the largest parish in the neighborhood, but as Fr. Savage outlined to me, we want to offer the richest programs.
I have been so pleased to have journeyed with you all a short way in your history, and while I am saddened to leave St. E’s, I will attempt to remain in contact with The Unbroken Word.
Thank you all for all you do, have done, and will continue to do in His Name.
Peace and Love,
Michael J. Cunningham OFS
Mater Dolorosa, Sierra Madre, CA