We do indeed need to show joy as Catholics.
My motto — “Be happily and uncomplicatedly Catholic.”
Michael J Sheehan
Archbishop of Santa Fe
What a Priest!
I noticed the difference as soon as I went in the church. For many decades, when in London I have attended Mass at St. Mary’s Cadogan Street Church, just a few blocks from Sloane Square. Instead of it being the dark and foreboding place I remembered (built in 1879), I found the church was bright and inviting. I was greeted at the door and made to feel welcome. The priest’s homily was brief and of value. He made a special point of inviting everyone to the annual picnic to be held after the service.
At the end of the Mass, he asked everyone to remain and get to know the persons sitting beside them. Five minutes later, my wife, the young woman next to us and I were strangers no longer. She was from Australia studying to be a nurse, and as she had relatives living in the States, she asked many questions about America.
Leaving the church, I congratulated the priest, who was Canon Stuart Wilson. Even though we could not stay, he insisted that he lead us to the picnic in the large courtyard behind the church. There I was shocked to see a happy event taking place, like a 4th of July celebration. Everyone was having a splendid time, laughing, talking and clapping hands to the music of the four-piece Dixieland band.
Having been awed by what I had seen, I called the next day to have an interview with Canon Wilson. He graciously agreed, and I met him Tuesday for morning coffee at the rectory.
He proudly showed me how he had converted the former dismal rectory into a bright and happy residence. “This,” he said, “is not just the residence of the priest—it should be the home of everyone in the parish.”
Later he showed me an attractive meeting hall which had been storage space for unwanted items.
In quizzing him about his involvement with St, Mary’s, he told me had been assigned to the church in 2006, when the church, rectory and community were in shambles. His first task was to get church members to join him in physically cleaning up the buildings. Then he began to renovate the buildings and developing a joyful sense of community. An indication of his success is the fact that contributions to the church increased from 1,500 pounds a week to 3,700.
When we realized we both were converts, I told him about my conversion and asked about his. I was surprised when he told me he had been an Episcopal minister with a large church in London. After years of prayerful concern, when he announced to his parishioners that he was to join the Roman Catholic Church, the entire congregation came with him. “Wow!” I said. “Don’t you need a bodyguard when you walk around the streets of London?” He laughed and shook his head.
(And what are your thoughts?
Other recommended Catholic Blogs
In the April 18 Sunday Opinion section of the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof has an excellent column “A Church Mary Can Love.” He ends with: “It’s high time for the Vatican to take inspiration from that sublime—even divine—side of the Catholic Church, from those church workers whose magnificence lies not in their vestments, but in their selflessness. They’re enough to make the Virgin Mary smile.” (comment: Amen!)