Saturday, April 23, 2016

Standing on shoulders

Bishop David E. Foley after Confirmation last week in Alabama,
with the newly-confirmed Pierce Bolding and his sponsor.

It is popular now to research one's ancestry, with services available online and more data available than ever before.  People can talk about which of their forebears came over to this country, and when, and from where.  Unfortunately, my family name, Smith, makes it impossible to trace the line back any further than the boat over. 
But when it comes to my lineage as pastor, that line is clear and strong: Stricker, Foley, Krastel, Martin, Thompson, Smith.  Since Saint Bernadette was erected a parish in 1948, with Father WIlliam Stricker named as Pastor, there has been no room for doubt as to my illustrious forebears.
Imagine my delight last week to find one of them, not on ancestry.com, but in the sanctuary with me!  I flew down to Birmingham for the Confirmation of my nephew, Pierce Bolding.  Most Rev. Robert Baker, Bishop of Birmingham in Alabama, presided, but the number of Confirmandi at Prince of Peace Church in Hoover was so large (118!) that he asked his predecessor, Most Rev. David E. Foley, to assist him.
A long, long time ago, when the founding pastor of this parish retired in 1975, the shoes to be filled were quite large, as was everything else of that outsize man.  Then-Archbishop William Baum took a different approach in the man he chose to succeed him.  Smaller in stature, but not in voice or any other way, Monsignor Foley pastored this parish wisely and well for the next eight years. 
There are still many parishioners who remember him fondly.  We still enjoy the maple trees planted out front in his time, and the pipe organ that was his valedictory project.  His influence on the parish is still felt in our devotion to the Sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist.  When he moved on from Saint Bernadette in 1983, Msgr. Foley was less than three years from being named a Bishop by Saint John Paul II.
By the providence of God, my nephew received the seal of the Holy Spirit from Bishop Foley, and a shout out by name from Bishop Baker at the start of the Mass.  He mentioned the link between the two of us there, the second and the sixth Pastors of Saint Bernadette in Silver Spring. 
It is good to know one's ancestry, but a true blessing to have good reason to be proud of it.
Monsignor Smith

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