Father Tirso

As you read this article, I will already be one week into my trip to the Philippines. If things go according to plan, I should be in my hometown of Lucban in the province of Quezon. For those unfamiliar with its location, Lucban is about 65 miles southeast of Metro Manila. Depending on the traffic (which can be horrendous in the greater Manila area), travel times can be anywhere from 2 ½ to 3 hours by car or much longer by bus. I will be in my hometown trying to take care of some family business regarding properties that we still have in the town. And, I will also be laying the groundwork for a grand reunion of family and relatives in June 2021 to mark my 25 th anniversary of ordination. As much as I love being in the parish, I need moments like this to reconnect with my relatives in the Philippines as well as rest and relax. So, I thank you all for understanding and allowing me the opportunity to spend some time in the Philippines.

I would like everyone in the parish to remember that we have the long-awaited announcement coming up in regard to Renew My Church. I am sure that everyone is anxious about what the final decision might be. Some have speculated what that decision will be and have been pretty direct in asking me, “This parish will be safe. Right, Father?” I have answered those questions by reiterating that no pastor wants to see the parish community that he has been called to serve to be the one to close and/or merge with another parish community. So, I have been telling those who ask me that question that none of us may want it but we must be ready for whatever the possible outcome might be. Like all of you, I myself will not know until around 4:00 p.m. this coming Tuesday (which will be about 5:00 a.m. on Wednesday in the Philippines). I am planning on using Skype, Facebook, or whatever media I can to join in the meeting with the staff members which will be on Tuesday prior to the general meeting with all parishioners from the four communities. Even up until now, I am preparing myself for whatever outcome there might be. Even though I may have my own speculations/ hopes as do all of you, I really do not know where God’s Spirit will guide our parish community.

If we will be called to bid farewell to our parish campus and be merged with another community, I hope that we will take the news with the confidence that no matter where we may be located, we are still Catholic and we are still sons and daughters of God. I know how much connection we all have to the physical site of this parish but, again, what we must not forget is that our identity is not found in a specific building. Rather, our identity as Catholic disciples of Jesus is found in the truth that Jesus is the one who unites us all.

If we are called to be the one to receive one or more parish communities into our own, I hope that we will take the news with a sense of gratitude, profound humility, and a spirit of generous welcome. I am sure that if the news comes that this site will become the home of the newly configured parish community, it will be a sigh of relief. Yet, at the same time, in humility we must realize that we will have the greater responsibility of making sure that our new members will find a home here with us. This is sometimes the greater and heavier task.

To this point, I use the analogy of two families coming together and becoming what is referred to as a “blended family.” As spouses who enter into a marriage with a family of their own and now have to manage the blending of the two, they would never think to make the others feel as if they had to “give up” their own identity or the things they loved in order to become a welcomed member of the new family. In other words, it is not a matter of letting one or the other feel forced into losing things they held dear. Rather, it is finding new and creative ways to make room for everyone. It is making sure that everyone ends up feeling as if they have a place in this new spiritual home. Again, this ultimately is a heavy task and, if we are to be the ones to welcome newcomers into the community, the burden is heavier on our shoulders than it is on theirs. We should not forget this.

Whatever the outcome might be on Tuesday, we must also realize that even the name of the parish may change. Just as a blended family must form a new identity as a united whole, we may end up having to do the same. We may keep elements of what made each of our parishes unique in our own right but, if we end up coming together as a blended community, we might need to establish a new identity and be known by a new parish name.

All of this will come in its own time. For the time being, I ask that we pray in the next couple of days that we will all be open to God’s Spirit. And I ask that as many SMM parishioners be at the meeting this coming Tuesday night, February 4th , 2020 at 7:00 p.m. in the church.

Fr. Tirso S. Villaverde, Jr.

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