Why do I share these photos with you? I am sharing these with you because St. Francis by the Sea Parish will soon be my new home. After completing 8 years and 8 months of service in the Diocese of Cheyenne, I will be taking on a new role as the Director of Religious Education at St. Francis by the Sea. The official announcement was released today by the Diocese of Cheyenne.
My time in Wyoming has been awesome. I never imagined all of the things I would get to do when I originally arrived. In less than a year after my arrival, I was made the Superintendent of Catholic Schools. That was certainly something that was never on my bucket list. However, it turned out to be quite the learning experience. I am grateful for the work of the principals and pastors in our Catholic schools. It has been a pleasure to work side-by-side with you during these eight academic years (even though my original appointment was as interim superintendent for one academic year). While I did not work as directly with the teachers and staff, advisory boards, parent/teacher organizations, etc., I am also appreciative of all that you do to make Catholic education the tremendous blessing that it is.
I was reviewing the many speaking engagements I have had since moving here. I have preached at the Eucharistic Liturgy in 25 churches in Wyoming. I came just a little short from preaching in all of them, but I hit a pretty high percentage.
It was my privilege and blessing to lead over 30 retreats during my time here to 25 different parishes and organizations.
Presenting catechetical workshops was always a pleasure. Equipping catechists and Catholic school teachers to better fulfill their mission of echoing the faith was a priority for me. I conducted nearly 30 workshops in 20 different parishes over the course of eight years.
Preaching parish missions is a favorite part of my ministry. Leading a parish mission consists of preaching at all of the weekend Masses and then giving presentations three nights in a row. I preached a total of 16 parish missions in 10 different parishes. Yes, people invited me back to lead more than one mission at their parish. That is always a good sign. What a joy it has been to meet so many wonderful people across the state during these parish missions! You blessed me immensely by your hospitality and kindness.
I was a speaker at seven different pro-life events across Wyoming and northern Colorado. It is always a privilege to be able to proclaim the sanctity of each human life from conception through natural death.
There were a number of different special events (that I can recall) in which I was invited to be a keynote or workshop speaker. Once again, I never imagined some of these opportunities. Here are just a few examples:
Wyoming Council of Catholic Women State Convention Speaker
Standing Together for Marriage Convention Workshop Speaker--Casper, Wyoming
Northern Colorado Men's Forum--Fort Collins, Colorado
"Ride for the Brand" Youth Retreat--Casper, Wyoming
Eagle Scout Recognition Banquet--Cheyenne, Wyoming
Theology on Tap--Cheyenne, Wyoming
All Souls Day Remembrance Service--Cheyenne, Wyoming
66th Annual Rocky Mountain Chapter Chorister's Guild Festival Worship Service Cheyenne, Wyoming (Presider and Homilist)
All of these things don't even begin to take into account the people I have met through a variety of other ways--hospital visits, teaching baptismal preparation classes, teaching in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), and so much more.
Serving at the Cathedral of St. Mary as a deacon has also been wonderful. It was good to renew my knowledge of liturgical practices when serving with a bishop. I had served with Bishop Tafoya at the cathedral in Pueblo, Colorado but it had been quite a few years. It didn't take too long to get back into the swing of things.
I have had the opportunity to preach at a number of Masses in which the bishop was presiding. This seemed a bit unusual to me at first, but I grew accustomed to it after a few times. The most daunting task of preaching was at the annual institutes in January and September. I was invited to preach on a number of occasions for these gatherings in which the bishop was presiding and all the priests of the diocese were concelebrating with the deacons assisting. In January it was predominantly just the clergy present. In September the lay leaders from the parishes were also in attendance. Bottom line-you know most of the clergy are sitting there evaluating your homily while you are giving it. No pressure there!
On January 22, 2013 I was invited to preach at the opening Mass of the January Institute. Bishop Etienne was presiding. Reverend Alfred McBride, who was the presenter for our institute, was concelebrating Mass with all the priests of the diocese and assisted by the deacons. Our distinguished presenter has quite the long list of accomplishments on his resume. I was humbled by his opening remarks at the first session of the institute following Mass. He evaluated my homily in front of everyone in regard to substance, tone, pacing, and overall delivery style. My years of hard work in developing effective public speaking skills had paid off. His assessment was very positive. That was quite a confidence-builder to hear such remarks from a prominent individual in the field. I will admit that I breathed a sigh of relief when he moved into his prepared talks. Even though his review was very complimentary, his comments made me work even harder to continue to improve and not grow stale. I always want to proclaim God's Word worthily and well.
I will continue to be in Cheyenne through most of June. I am sure there will be more reflecting back as I look forward. Speaking of looking ahead, did I mention that the beach is not far from St. Francis by the Sea. (The title of the church may have given you a clue.) I took a few pictures while I was in town. Enjoy!