This would be one way to describe 2017 at St. Vincent. Through it all, our community has continued to thrive in our worship: We’ve had baptisms, weddings, and funerals. We’ve come together for cherished, traditional events, like Seder, Easter Vigil, First Communion, and the parish retreat. We have also started some new initiatives. To remind us, here’s a quick rundown of the events of 2017 in the life of this parish.
We began the year celebrating the Eucharist each week with guest presiders while our pastor, Fr. Dick Lawrence, recovered from a fall. These visiting priests, many of them Jesuits, gave us the opportunity to learn more about ourselves as Church through the new perspectives and insights they brought. In February, Fr. Dick officially retired. He joined us for one last Mass as pastor just before the start of Lent. (He returned to his home in Harbor East six weeks later.)
We spent much of 2016 in suspense about our future—even before Fr. Dick’s hospitalization. The Archdiocesan pastorate planning process was underway. St. Vincent and St. Leo in Little Italy were proposed to be joined. Feedback was invited and given; parishioners attended town meetings and wrote letters, which were shared with the Bishop.
In the spring, we learned that St. V would not be joined with another parish, and we were appointed a new pastor. On April 2, we welcomed Fr. Ray Chase in his first liturgy as the 14th pastor of St. Vincent! Thirty nine years in the priesthood, Fr. Ray was a Trinitarian before becoming a diocesan priest. He has worked for many years for Catholic Charities while also assisting at St. Charles Borromeo. He continues his work at Catholic Charities as well.
During Lent several of our parishioners reflected on the scriptures during our Voices of the Laity series, guiding us on our journey to the joyous season of Easter. In May, our newly minted Green Team met for the first time. This group formed in conjunction with St. V joining the One Water Partnership, an interfaith coalition of faith communities in the Jones Falls Watershed.
The sounds of children echoed throughout St. V as both we played host to both our annual Vacation Bible School and to the children at the summer camp of the neighboring McKim Community Center.
In another goodbye-hello moment, our Jesuit Volunteer Codie Perry returned to his hometown of Nantucket, MA in July. And in August, we welcomed to the staff our third JV, Patrick Fisher of Omaha, NE. Like Codie, Patrick works with our service ministries and with the people who come to St. V in need of assistance.
In August Archbishop Lori paid us a visit for the official installation of Fr. Ray. Even before that, Fr. Ray and the parish were busy getting to know one another. Fr. Ray’s special focus on our park has resulted in a movement to organize the donor groups that come to our campus.
Along with the falling leaves, this year brought falling plaster from St. V’s ceiling (left). This precipitated a flurry of contractors offering assessments and making bids on the repairs as well as a move to the undercroft and the Gathering Space for our liturgies. Parishioners have pulled together in many ways (including two volunteer days over Thanksgiving weekend) to ensure that our worship is joyful and warm, despite these logistical challenges. And so, we entered Advent with a renewed sense of community in our cozy worship spaces.
Of course, many other things happened this fall too. We repaired the roof, coating it with Elastomere paint to guard against future leaks. Our school Sts. James and John celebrated its 170th anniversary. And the Friends of St. Vincent Cemetery hosted its annual fall clean-up bringing ever more dignity to our parish cemetery.
While St. V faced some adversity this year, the world outside our community faced much more turmoil. In these times, we have been comforted by the love of Christ and by one another. As we end the calendar year and begin our liturgical year, let us pray that we may spread His love beyond the walls of our beloved spiritual home.