A Heartfelt Thank You from the Pastor's Desk
From the Pastor's Desk
Dear Parish Family,
After ten months straight without a break and over a year of quarantining in the rectory just as many of you have done in your own homes, a priest friend of mine of many years and I (both fully vaccinated) decided to meet up and take a few days away to rest and replenish.
After catching up with some much needed sleep I have been reflecting on this past year of living and serving in the midst of a pandemic, national protest against racial injustice, shocking political unrest - and how all of us have been impacted as a result. But as I have often said to you from the pulpit, when you assess a situation, never leave God out of the equation! I am certainly applying that axiom here.
First of all, I could write a book on this! No doubt many of you could too. For now a short letter will have to suffice. This was a year of many `firsts': the first pandemic, the first suspension of public Masses, the first time wondering how bills would be covered and employees paid without a Sunday collection. It was the first time trying to conduct school while all the children were at home; the first time being stopped in a hospital lobby and blocked from performing rites for the dying and maybe the first time you had to restrict your final moments with a loved one to a phone call or video conference. It was the first time seeing a spike in the number of funerals as a result of a contagion none of us had heard of 6 months prior and the first time having to restrict those funerals to ten persons only. It was also the first time in our lifetimes that our country failed to achieve a
transfer of power in a Presidential election and witnessed an insurrection. I was going to say it was the first time watching the horrific sight of a black man being suffocated to death by a law enforcement officer for eight minutes and 46 seconds but quickly realized that this was not true. On July 17, 2014 I saw that exact thing done to another black man named Eric Garner by an officer who would later be acquitted by a grand jury.
But this is not all I saw in the past year. I saw God working. With the benefit of hindsight, I saw how God began preparing our parish
to the shutdown by assuring that we launched both our Online Giving platform 6 months before in-person Masses ended and our Multimedia Media Ministry in January, three months prior. Suddenly, for the first time people around the globe could also see God working by participating in our Sunday liturgies. I also saw engaged lay leaders from our church and school staff and faculty, youth and adult catechists, our Pastoral and Finance Councils and our Heads of Ministry, become
engaged and those who were not actively involved step up without hesitation when I asked for their assistance. I saw many of you volunteer to reach out to our seniors who live alone to make sure they were safe and stayed connected. You helped us pull off and participated in three Virtual Town Hall Meetings to address the critical concerns facing us.
Besides these things, for the first time a Black American Bishop was named a Cardinal of the Catholic Church and a former parishioner of our parish, who celebrated his First Mass as a priest at Saint Augustine just a few years ago, was appointed the new Chaplain of Howard University. Yes, I saw God working in these ways and many more. Several of you have shared similar testimonies of God’s grace and presence at work in your own families and households. I still see God working...in and through you today.
So, I am writing you today not to ask you for anything but to
thank you for everything
.Thank you for everything you have done to look after and take care of each other and to generously share of yourselves to keep the mission Christ entrusted to us moving forward. I also thank you for the love, care and practical support you have shown me as your pastor and especially the prayerful support you offer each and every day. Whether it was the
Anniversary celebration of my priestly ordination last June
and the many cards and gifts that came along with it including the donation of a timeshare property for a week vacation last July; or the birthday cards and gifts in October, Thanksgiving cards in November, Christmas cards in December and Easter cards, gifts and notes of encouragement just this April – I am grateful for all of them and for all of you.
And as we continue to walk by faith, persevere in hope and share generously of God’s Love, I pray we do so with the confidence of knowing that Jesus the Good Shepherd stands with us to sustain us today and in the days ahead. Times are still difficult and remain challenging on any given day in any number of different ways. Nonetheless, I hope the words of this old hymn below encourages you, your family and loved ones as it did me when I stumbled across it this morning:
“Loving Shepherd of your sheep,
Watch over your lambs and in safety keep;
For there is nothing your power cannot withstand,
None can pluck me from your hand.
I would bless you every day and gladly all your will obey,
Like the blessed one’s above, happy in your precious love.
Loving Shepherd, ever near, teach your lambs your voice to hear;
Suffer not our steps to stray from the straight and narrow way.
Where you lead, I will go, walking in your steps below.
Till before my Father’s throne I shall know as I am known.”
Jane E. Leeson
Safe in my eternal home.
With love, gratitude and my ongoing prayers,
Fr. Patrick A. Smith, Pastor
Saint Augustine Catholic Church
Washington, DC 20009
St. Augustine Catholic Church
on Thursday, May 27 at 8:41AM