COL Sad goodbye to a shepherd who will truly be missed

If there were not any goodbyes, there would never be any hellos. It's a line we've used often in our lifetime. Said as we hugged an excited child as they left for summer camp or an extended trip; said as we helped stuff that last suitcase in an overflowing car that was headed for college; or said as we wiped away tears and waved goodbye to honeymooners. However, this past month we experienced a different kind of goodbye.

As members of a small church, our entire parish family said farewell to our good and faithful pastor of 10 years at a retirement party given in his honor. It was a bittersweet celebration for all concerned. For the honored guest, I think we had all become not only his flock, but his extended family as well.

Yet, as in everyone's life, it was time that he put aside the responsibilities required with a job such as this and begin living with less stress every day. As for the members of his flock, we wished only the best for his future. But this shepherd will truly be missed.

To live today is to live in a society of much worldliness and at a time when headlines seem to focus on corruption and the scandals around us. It is so easy to overlook the fact that everything isn't bad in the world and there are still a lot of good people in it.

This includes those who give of themselves, whether as priests, ministers, rabbis, or in other ways and have chosen to become spiritual heads and leaders of church congregations.


We in our little parish were most fortunate to have such a person in our midst.

When we think of religious leaders, words such as reverend, pious, happy, understanding, concerned come to mind. Our "Father" had it all. With two parishes to care for, he wasted no time at any service held; but he couldn't have been more devout, and his homilies always delivered a message for everyone.

And at the end of each Sunday's celebration he would have to hurry on his way to his next mission, yet there was still time to greet parishioners at the door. He knew every face; and should there be a new one in the crowd, he made it a point to learn their names -- something he wouldn't forget. Everyone felt special.

At a time when there is so much fear and hatred surrounding us, here was a man who had a smile for all and found humor in simple things. He could give or take jokes about himself, which were mainly about his Irish descent, of which he was so proud amidst our German community.

I think he even learned to like the meatballs or bratwurst we made and served at the annual harvest festivals we held.

Although our parish has been assured that another wonderful "man of the cloth" will be sent to care for our spiritual needs, we are left with great memories of the person we said farewell to.

We are thankful that we should be so lucky to live in a country where religious leaders can safely and openly take care of their flocks, where we can attend the church of our choice, and worship as we please.

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