On October 14, Bishop McGrath, Bishop Cantú, along with pastors and the faithful gathered at Saint Christopher Parish for the inaugural Society of Saint Joseph Legacy Mass. The reason for coming together was an important one: to show gratitude to Catholic men and woman who have made a commitment to support our local Church beyond their lifetimes with a legacy gift. These founding members of the society are building the Church today by sharing their time, talent and treasure, and they are also going one step further by planning for what will one day become their last act of steward-ship. “I will not be able to see it with my eyes,” one founding member said, “but it feels great to know that my gift will continue building the Church and its ministries for future generations.” Isn’t the generosity that benefits those we will never meet especially powerful?
This reminded me of my first few months in the United States. When I was 24 years old, I moved from my home in Argentina to Michi-gan to pursue a Master’s degree. Full of excitement, I arrived a few months before my program started to get settled. Still a bit young and naive, I underestimated the culture shock that I was about to endure. A new language, a new city, a new academic setting, a new roommate, new foods, new laws and traffic rules and a new level of “cold” that I had never experienced before. I couldn’t understand anybody and nobody could understand me – this is the time I became really good at smiling at people! For the first few weeks, I lived with a permanent headache and the feeling that I was in a “zero gravity zone.” The truth is that I was homesick, almost 6,000 miles away from home and overcome with the feeling of in-adequacy.
But then, one Sunday morning I found the one place that was not new, the one place that was not different, the one place where I somehow understood everything that was done and said, the one place that felt like home: I found a Catholic Church.
I will never know the parishioners who, in 1951, built the beautiful Saint Francis of Assisi Church in Ann Arbor, or the sacrifices they made to make their dream of this Church a reality. I suspect it wasn’t easy. Father Kennedy, the first pastor of this parish, wrote:
“We had a completed church build-ing, one wing only, long and narrow… no school, no convent, no parking lot, no playground, wooden steps and muddy terraces but happy grateful hearts because the dream was taking shape and our first Holy Mass here was Easter, 1951.”
I will never get to say “thank you” to these people for their legacies that, one Sunday in 1998, helped a stranger find peace and begin to feel at home. But God granted me the opportunity to say “thank you” this past October to those who are doing just the same here in the Santa Clara Valley for our children, our children’s children, and perhaps one day, even a newly arrived student from another corner of the world.
It’s said that while gratefulness is a wonderful feeling, its real power is only released through expression. I’m grateful to all the members of the Society of Saint Joseph for letting us know of their plans for the Church and allowing me to experience the great joy of saying THANK YOU!