Sunday, July 12, 2009

Farewell, Father Joel

{me with Father Joel-yay!}

The second Sunday of Easter, three months ago, Father Joel McNeil announced he would be leaving St. William's and moving closer to home - which is in Omaha, Nebraska. He hadn't gotten his appointment yet, but it wasn't long before we found out that he would be pastor over the Catholic Student Center {I'm guessing this is the official name like it is on the UT campus} at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

Seeing that his folks and other family live in Nebraska, it made perfect sense that he would want to be home, or much closer than Texas is to Nebraska. No one could reasonably argue that much, though we all wanted him to stay. He's been with St. William's for ten years, longer than most pastor's assignments. Most stay for one assignment and then move on. Father Joel stayed long enough to encourage growth in the old parish and then created the push to find adequate space for all the new parishioners. He is the reason why we have the most beautiful church. It is not a building, it is a wonderful place of worship. Everywhere you look, you see history, the history of our Faith, the history of other churches in Europe who's stained glass is now a permanent fixture in ours. We have Father Joel to thank for getting the ball rolling and reminding us in his last homily that now that we have the spectacular place for worship, room enough for CCD, perpetual adoration, and many more exciting things to come that now more than ever is the time for us to continue growing in our Faith.

This afternoon, there was a farewell reception. There were so many familiar faces. In a parish of 16,000 and 18,000 unofficially it can be daunting to get out and meet folks. I took on a project of asking, collecting, dividing and presenting letters to Father Joel. These letters were glowing letters affirming his wonderful work for the Church. Copies were sent to our diocese to be placed in his file. All too often we hear of good and faithful priests who are persecuted for voicing the truth. At the advice of a mother of a priest, I thought it was appropriate to send this good and faithful priest with our heartfelt letters as well as give his file the necessary and accurate reflection of who he really is. A good and faithful priest who isn't afraid to voice the truth.

While he leaves us in good hands with our two new incoming priests, he will be missed more than words can say. How do you say goodbye to a father figure, a mentor, a friend and most importantly, someone who was willing to tell us what we needed to hear, not what we wanted to hear? It won't be easy, and our new priests will have some pretty big shoes to fill, but our parish family will grow because of his hard work.

{parishioners look at photocopies of the scrapbooks that were given to Father Joel}{Neil and Paige enjoying the reception}
{various ministries presented Father Joel with gifts, plaques, and even a special dance!}


confused homemaker said...

aww, I know it was hard saying Good-bye. It looks like he will be really missed & have lots of prayers on his journey.

Mike Gaspers said...

In Iowa we plan to welcome Fr. Joel with open arms and support his priestly ministry.

Alice said...

You're looking great Tini. Sorry about Fr. Joel but as you know, where God closes a door.....He must have something great in store. See you soon. Love, AMD

Martina said...

Mike: Your comment was so well timed that it warmed my heart. I am glad to know Father Joel will be welcomed with open arms. :)