We have been quite blessed over the years to have with us good and generous priests who share their lives and faith with us while they work toward degrees at Catholic University. There have been four such student priests during my time as pastor, and all have contributed greatly to your lives and to mine. But it is the time of year when new assignments take effect and life changes for priests, and so it will change here in the Holy House of Soubirous.
Father Markey is finishing the Philosophy degree he came to earn. He just now just came home from passing his comprehensive exam, much relieved at clearing that major hurdle. He still has exams to pass for his individual classes this week, but he is very close to that blessed land called Being Finished. By the time you see him this weekend, I think he will be there.
He has yet one more week here with us before he returns home to Connecticut. As always, he will be a big help with Masses during the week, then next weekend, Mother’s Day, he will celebrate his last Sunday Mass here at 11:00. I hope you get a chance to speak to him this weekend or next, to let him know how much we have all enjoyed having him here with us.
Our past priests continue to be important to us, too. This weekend, you’ll probably know that Fr. Nick is back on campus. He has the 11:00 Mass this Sunday. Those of you who are more recent arrivals may not know that Fr. Nick Zientarski was our student resident priest here for five years, the longest of any we have enjoyed. He started in 2006, shortly after I came as Pastor, and was here until 2011. He got all his academic credentials, and has been Dean of the seminary up in New York. Because that is a particular sort of life, he has enjoyed “parish vacations” here with us over that whole time. But that is about to change.
Fr. Nick will become a Pastor himself this summer, at a parish in his own Diocese of Rockville Centre: Saint Christopher in Baldwin, New York. If you ask, he’ll tell you what he knows about it; he is quite pleased. But it means the weekend visits we have enjoyed will probably not continue. He will have a parish of his own to claim his weekend attentions; holidays, too.
But you can join me in hoping he will continue to visit, even if not on the weekends. I have also begun making discreet inquiries about the guest accommodations at St. Christopher, since he has hosted me several times at the seminary. We really have a good time when we get together. Usually, there is dining involved – he does happily live up to his nickname of Father Food.
There certainly will be festive meals with Fr. Markey before we send him off to home. Maybe he will come back for visits, since seminary work does seem to be in his future, though not exclusively that. But we can’t count on it; these great priests who are with us while studying are an extra, a bonus, gratia gratis data we receive gratefully and remind ourselves we have no right to expect. So join me in thanking them for their presence, and thanking God. Don’t forget to pray for them, and while you’re at it, put in a word for their successors here, because we could always welcome another blessing.