Dear Friends, Peace and all good!
One thought in our mind at this time of the year is the commemoration of the birth of our country with the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Since 1886, the Statue of Liberty has stood on Liberty Island in New York harbor as a symbol of our country. Within the pedestal of this great statue, we find the words of a powerful poem by Emma Lazarus. Here are some of the most famous words: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest‐tossed to me…”
How many million immigrants and refugees have passed by that great symbol of our country’s welcome, support, and care! It is a good thing I think for us as Americans and Catholics to reflect on whether we have continued to extend this invitation to those with whom we now share our country.
In our Gospel from Matthew today, Jesus tells us “He who seeks only oneself brings himself or herself to ruin.” Selfishness is the direct opposite of the true Christian spirit to which we pledged ourselves in our Baptism. Jesus calls again and again to crack open that hard shell of indifference which can take over our lives. The plea of Jesus continues to sound in our ears: “Welcome the lowly, the poor, the despised of this world.” Let us not be deaf to the call of Jesus!
Some Good News! The Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank has selected our Mission San Luis Rey Parish Social Outreach Ministry to become a COVID‐19 Super Pantry! Along with this honor comes $20,000 in grant funds to be used to fund the many needs and ways we reach out to the poor. I am so proud and inspired by the work and leadership of Mr. Angel Ibarra and the selfless volunteers who stock shelves and who welcome and provide for those in need. In particular, we are so blessed to have you, Angel, here among us. Your creative energies, humble manner, delightful personality, and most of all your dedication and love for the poor have made a difference in our commitment to the poor. You are helping us make “Matthew 25” a reality! God bless you!
And now, as I prepare to leave, I send out a heartfelt thank you to each of you for your welcome, love, and support over these short four and a half years as your pastor. There are so many qualities about this parish community that I could point out as gifts and strengths but three come to mind as outstanding qualities: Your love for the poor, your commitment to striving for multi‐cultural inclusion, and for your generosity to the next generation of parishioners as seen in the renovation of St. Francis Hall.
Your commitment to the poor has been demonstrated in many ways: For example: In contributions to special collections during the year; financial support of the work of missionaries throughout the world including our Franciscan missionary efforts; and the “time, talent and treasure” that you give to our parish outreach especially through the Loretto house Ministry! Those are just a few examples. And your dedication to intercultural understanding. I will sorely miss the richness of so many cultures coming together in one place to worship the One God and to be there for the One People! Indeed, one of the major goals of the Pastoral Council reads: “To ensure the inclusion and participation of different cultures in every aspect of parish life.” I will miss so much the traditions and gifts which each of you brings to the table of the Eucharist and to our community life! You are an amazing community of Faith! I also thank you for all the hard work and generosity to the major renovation project of “St. Francis Hall: A Space Renewed”. In just a little over a year, we raised almost $800,000! While the pandemic has slowed things down, we hope to finish the renovations in September. I know that Fr. Oscar will plan a grand Dedication Ceremony in the Fall and believe me, God willing, I will be there! “Well done good and faithful servants!”
I have been assigned to a new ministry as Guardian and Assistant Director of our Franciscan students studying at the Franciscan School of Theology on the campus of USD. I have been involved in this kind of work for a number of years in the past and its rewarding work to try to be a “wisdom figure” for the young friars in first vows. Please pray for me during this time of transition. Thank you. I will be in residence at the Mission during July packing up and getting ready for the move on August 1st. However, I will be available to help as needed until that time. In the meantime, please welcome Fr. Oscar Mendez as your new pastor. He mirrors diversity: he is Hispanic and totally at ease with the English‐speaking community and respects the intercultural nature of the people of this parish. I know you will enjoy him and your associate pastors, Fr. Sam Nasada and Fr. Alberto Villafan, very much! God bless you all and will see you again!
Love, Fr. Vince