Joy and sadness at the same timeIn my audio post from this morning, I noted to regular readers that Nicole and I were joining a new parish with our move, and one which we are not entirely unfamiliar. Holy Ghost Parish has impressed both Nicole and myself because of that parish church's unwavering commitment to the undying truths and solid traditions of the Catholic faith. This is the place Nicole and I would worship whenever we had reason to visit Knoxville in the past. Holy Ghost is not a place for the lightweight Catholic. Its pastor, Father Xavier Mankel, OP, seems remarkably unafraid to preach on controversial issues, and today he discussed in detail the reason the Church employs a three-year cycle for reading the scripture, and how this initially had its roots in the catechesis (teaching) of unbaptized people and new Christians. I am fortunate that Father Mankel will also serve as Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus Council that it appears I am about to transfer into.
With the promise of a new spiritual adventure awaiting both Nicole and I in a new parish church and a new (for me, anyway) hometown comes a real tinge of sadness. One of the people who initially attracted us to Holy Ghost was Father John O'Neill, the Associate Pastor. From the day we first walked into the door at Holy Ghost as mere visitors and strangers, Father John treated us with warm hospitality and we felt as though we were his long lost friends. The man radiates Christ in his very being in a way that I wish I could imitate. A native of Ireland, he speaks in the soft, distinctive brogue of the Dublin pail, and I have never seen him without a smile on his face. The day we found the place where we would live was the day that we also learned that, on the orders of Bishop Kurtz, Father O' Neill would be leaving Holy Ghost. Today was our first Sunday in our new parish church home, and it was Father John's last. A farewell reception was held in the church basement, and Nicole and I went to say goodbye. I remember the first time we met Father John, he heard our confessions, and with conversation I'd say he spent nearly a half-hour with us. During the course of our talk, he told us that he thought we ought to move to Knoxville, and that God may have a plan for us here. His advice would prove prophetic.
I am told that his replacement is a very fine priest, and I am sure that this is very true. I do regret, however, that I never had the opportunity to know Father John O' Neill much better than I did, or to officially sit under his ministry. I have read many of his notes in the Holy Ghost bulletin, and I can say that he spares no expense in proclaiming the truth. The people of Nashville are very lucky to have such a holy priest coming to serve them. What spoke to me most about Father John was the fact that, even though we weren't there every Sunday,after the fist time he met us, he never again forgot us. Today, he gave us both his priestly blessing, and advised us to give Father Brent Shelton, the new Associate Pastor, the same warm reception and prayerful consideration as parish members that we had given him from so far away, and we assured him of our love in Christ and continued prayers for his ministry. May God give us 10,000 more priests like Father O'Neill