Last Sunday, I began my homily around two points: the reality of gratitude and the sense of mission.
A deep spiritual and psychological emotion and faith consolation is filling my heart when I look back at my short years of pastorship at St. James-St. Leo parish. For five years you have welcomed me despite my shortcomings. Both communities have made room in their hearts to welcome a pastor born on the other side of the Atlantic. Divine grace flooded over me in every encounter with parishioners and staff. Since the beginning of St. James, before the construction of our church in Solana Beach, the first pastors and priests strove to be present and integrate the pickers of first fruit into our community life. This sense of inclusiveness of all into one community led our former leaders to make sure our immigrants would have a place of worship in Eden Garden, also called La Colonia, but also a land and an institution and a community where they could have leadership and a sense of ownership. Our local forefathers developed a vision that is still in accordance with the Catholic Church teaching today.
I came here to serve and swim in the incredible waves of dedicated parishioners. (Mission Circle, food for the poor, openness to the mission field, etc.)
I have gratitude also towards our clergy—deacons and priests with whom I have been working these past years. I want to mention Deacon Al, retired many years, but a generous benefactor to St. Leo children desiring to be part of our school. Deacon Al would regularly send me handwritten notes, reminding me of points of local history, commenting on articles from the bulletin or my homilies. We all are thankful for our clergy deacons and priests who have played such an important leadership role among us.
I am grateful for our dedicated lay parish and school staff, who show such seriousness and commitment with the desire to be constantly in search of a deeper spiritual life and of a professional updating. Congratulations to all of you keeping on with pastoral readings and university studies! I am grateful for your support and for your patience through sometimes inadequate or imperfect business.
The next point is more delicate and urgent—our Christian mission. Both our diocese and the CJM share the same vision of Christian life: we are missionaries of mercy, set aside to be “missionary disciples” by baptism. If there is a challenge that must be consistently nourished, it is the missionary aspect of our discipleship. We need to make everything possible with the crucial personal decision of having Jesus and his Mother a priority in a way we can announce the one we know through contemplation and prayer.
As a final word, let us all rejoice and be filled with thanksgiving for our school that increasingly identifies itself as Catholic, not in statements but in deeds. We are learning to be a parish school in all expressions of this phrase. Our principal Mrs. Lang and our whole school should be included in our daily prayer.
I will now be overseeing the House of Jesus and Mary in Vista. I will still need your support to develop this project of vocation “fishing” and retreat center. You are all welcome to visit me at 1616 ½ York Drive, Vista, with email: firstname.lastname@example.org, (760) 295-1048. The CJM and I need your prayerful support.
Let us all welcome our new pastor, Fr. Ricardo Chinchilla, CJM!
In Jesus and Mary, Father Gerard Lecomte, CJM