When I opened my email last Friday morning, the last thing I expected to see was a letter from Father John describing his urgent need for a leave of absence for his health and well-being. The outpouring of love and concern for him has been tremendous. There are many of us that owe him tremendous thanks for encouraging and enlivening our faith with his homilies, his personal outreach, and his missionary spirit. Our hearts and prayers go out to him and his family. One of the things that stuck out to me from my years working so closely with him is his dedication to our Parish Family. I believe it is all of our responsibility to match his effort and truly live out our Mission Statement: To Know, To Love, and To Serve God in His Church and Our Community.
We should look forward to the near future where his vision can become a tangible reality. His desire to create a thriving Catholic Youth Organization, with activities that engage every child with interests from their lives: sports, arts, music, technology, science, games, and movies all in a safe, inspiring, and fun environment, was a core to the future of Catholic community here in Naples. The development of the first every Catholic Adult Organization, with the same types of activities as CYO, but for everyone aged 18 to 118, was a special desire of Father John’s. Not only will it consolidate and coordinate all the social activities currently occurring on campus, it would provide special foci for young adults as well as the most experienced members of our community to ensure they connect to each other and find purpose in their lives. All of these activities will find their home in the Pulte Family Life Center, the heart of his vision. Never again should our Parish Family feel like we need to rush off campus after Mass or when dropping a child off for Faith Formation. We should feel like we can enjoy our “Third Place” with each other. Grab a coffee. Take in a concert or read some poetry for Open Mic Night. Meet friends for bocce or Happy Hour. Join in a discussion with other business professionals or try to beat your best time on the exercise equipment.
Father John’s vision extended to our church building as well. We will be moving forward with his thoughts and plans for the liturgical environment that will invigorate our faith and serve us for years to come. More details on these efforts will be coming soon.
When thinking of his plans for our Parish Family, several opportunities come to mind:
#ToKnow: Education and Faith Enrichment
- Focus on the Mass: The Mass is the source and summit of our faith, and there is always something powerful to be learned about this mystery of the Catholic Church. Please stay tuned to new programs for adults and youth to engage our understanding of the Mass.
- Special Needs Support: Our Parish Family is made up of such a diverse population, and our programs will continue to develop with support for special needs individuals. From music therapy for Alzhiemer’s patients and Autistic youth to English as a Second Language classes, we will provide programs to assist our entire community.
#ToLove: Social and Spiritual
- Father Bob’s 25th Anniversary of Ordination: The one priest that would never want a party is going to get a big one! Father Bob will have one of the first parties of the Parish Family within the Life Center with a celebration of his dedication and devotion to the priesthood and all of us for 25 years coming at the end of October.
- Life Center Grand Opening: The new center of life and programs for our Parish Family and the larger community will be January 19, 2019, with Bishop Dewane coming to bless the Life Center.
#ToServe: Minister and Service
- Mission Team: Saint John has a significant amount of efforts and activities in which we support the communities internally, in the local area, and around the world. Father John’s vision was to coordinate and collaborate together so that we could enhance the resources of Ministries like JOP, the Knights, and the Ladies of Charity.
- Focus on Experienced Individuals: As part of CAO, Father wished to ensure we held the most experienced individuals (over 85 years old) of our Parish Family in special regard. With the special focus given to the needs of people who have less mobility (perhaps have even lost the ability to make it to church themselves) and yet still want the same connection to their faith community, we will have opportunities to support them.
Let us all commit to achieving Father John’s vision for our Parish Family together, with love and joy in our hearts. We Are Saint John!