Today is my last Mass here at the parish. I don't know if I will be called upon to make a speech at the reception, and I don't feel the need to do so, but I prepared one in my head just in case. Here it is.
Thank you very much. Thank you for gracious welcome into the life of your parish, for the opportunity to pray, to work, and to open the Word of God with you. Thank you for the opportunity to give reverence to the presence of God within you as we prayed together at the baptisms and weddings in your families, as well as at the funerals of our friends and loved ones.
Most of all, though, I want to thank God. I believe that Providence arranged for me to be ordained priest in the course of my assignment here. As you know, I didn't grow up Catholic, and so when it came time to think about where to offer my first Mass, there was no traditional 'home parish' to go to. So it was a great gift to me to have already made a home here, and to have been graciously received into this parish by the weekend of my ordination. I was very grateful to you on that day of my first Mass, and remain so. Many of you were there. I'm happy to say that all of the altar servers from that day remain devout and active altar servers today.
So I'm very grateful. Because of all these particular contours of my first assignment, my religious life and certainly my priesthood will always belong to this place, to you, and to this church in a very special way. I believe that I have a good record of returning to places that were home to me, and so you can be sure that I will see you around.
I ask forgiveness of anyone whom I may have wronged or taken lightly during my time here, and for any moments in which I may have not fully returned the graciousness and kindness shown to me through my own failure to look after my spiritual life. Probably those folks for whose forgiveness I really need to ask aren't here right now, but--knowing how word gets around this place--I'm sure they will hear that I asked for it.
Thanks as always for your prayers and good example, and I ask for your prayers as I go forward to my next assignment, in which the interior challenges and trials may be more intense for me than those I have been through here. Be assured of my continued prayers for you, and may God bless Sacred Heart.
First Mass, September 9, 2007