Praised be Jesus Christ! Happy Mother’s Day to all who have given us life! One of the most poignant stories I’ve ever heard about motherhood appeared in the book, The Shadow of His Wings by Father Gereon Goldmann. Set during World War II, Goldmann was a soldier studying to become a priest (you may remember the story, as we gave this book out at Christmas a couple of years ago). At one point a young soldier got shot and Goldmann rushed to his side. The following is what happened next: “Must I die?” the young man asked, with a faltering and trembling voice. “Yes, there is no hope,” [I said]. I was about to ask him if he was a Catholic, for I had Holy Communion with me. But then a smile brightened his face, a truly radiant, good, and joyful smile, and he said with a weak voice, “Please write to my mother and tell her I am waiting for her at the gate of heaven. She must not cry. I am waiting for her.” With the happy credulous smile of a child, he passed into eternity. Rarely have I been so affected by a death, and I have seen so very many,” (pg. 119). As we remember our Moms this weekend, we too hope to meet our mothers at the gate of Heaven when our time in this world comes to an end. And speaking of end, as you now know these next weeks will be our last together as I prepare to follow the Lord to Holy Name parish in Wausau. And while some are wanting an explanation as to why priests have to move (more on that later), first a few practical details that will guide us during the transition. My last weekend at Saint John’s will be June 15th and 16th. I’ll then be gone for 11 days as we embark on our mission trip to Tanzania. When I return I’ll spend my last weekend at Christ the King on June 29th and 30th. As for farewell gatherings, as you know I’ll be celebrating my 20th anniversary as a priest on June 9th. That will double as my farewell. Christ the King will host a farewell on Saturday, June 29th after the 4:00 p.m. Mass. Please take advantage of these events to come and say good bye. I will be inordinately busy in these next few weeks, so visiting families on an individual basis will not be possible. My last Mass will be on Monday, July 1st at Saint John’s. I will be packed and all moved out so that your new pastor, Father Jim Weighner, can move in and get settled. Father Weighner has been serving as the pastor of Holy Family Parish in Prairie du Chien for the past 10 years. He was ordained in 2007 and is one of our best priests. He was born and raised on a dairy farm in Iowa and is no stranger to hard work. The first question we ask when we’re reassigned is, “Who will be my successor?” When I heard that Father Weighner would be taking my place I immediately felt at peace and knew all would be well. I know that you’ll open your hearts to Father Weighner and faithfully support him with your prayers. Now, as for why priests must move when they’re happy and all is going well... spiritually we grow best when we’re stretched and led outside our comfort zone. I’ve been so incredibly happy here that I knew that one day I must move on if I ever hoped to become a better priest. These have been the happiest and best years of my life – and I mean that in absolute sincerity. But I feel the Lord asking me to trust Him again, as I did years ago when I first came to Marshfield and Spencer. We move as priests as a preparation for the big move we all must make when our life comes to its end. Priests should lead by their example, and so I accept God’s invitation to put my hand to the plow and not look back. You will be in my heart for the rest of my days – I will always thank God that you were the ones who taught me how to be a pastor. As my years of active service wane and I someday retire, I’ll still be thinking of you and praying for you (and please, ALWAYS pray for me!), and maybe I’ll even remember the scene mentioned at the beginning of this article. Someday I hope that we can all meet again at the gate of Heaven!
May God bless our Moms, who taught us that love makes sacrifices and space for others!
Your friend in Christ, Father Martin