By Father James E. Shea, C.Ss.R.
Dear Parishioners and Friends:
Below is my Christmas greeting to family and friends. It is not a card. It is a letter. A letter which tells of two significant events that took place at St. Gerard this past year. At the end of my letter I turn to God to remind us all that God is watching over us, even in the midst of tragedy. God has a bigger plan. We are part of that plan. It might seem to be bump in the road now, but wait, something greater is going to happen. So, let us prepare ourselves for God’s surprise. In the meantime, we believe that God is revealing Himself through our human experiences.
In 2017, we welcomed seminarians and fire ravished St. Gerard Church.
Early in August, fourteen Redemptorist seminarians came to San Antonio to study at the Oblate School of Theology. They have taken up residence in the former nuns’ convent at St. Gerard. “Welcome Redemptorist Seminarians.”
About 2:00 am Thanksgiving morning vandals entered St. Gerard Church. With burning candles lighting their way, they ransacked the church, smashed open and emptied the chalice cabinet. They happened to drop a burning candle amid church decorations on the second floor of the sacristy. It ignited.
About the same time a pregnant woman across the street had a craving for a cinnamon roll. She and her husband were heading to Whataburger when they saw flames in the window. They called 911-“The Church is on fire!”
The sirens woke up a Redemptorist student. He saw the fire trucks and quickly opened the church for the fire fighters. They extinguished the fire but not before the second floor was totally destroyed. The flames never reached the body of the church. Only smoke and soot. Apparently, when the vandals heard the sirens,, they fled, leaving behind the baskets of chalices.
St. Gerard is the patron of our church and also the patron of pregnant women. The student is a Redemptorist Brother following in the footsteps of St. Gerard who was a Redemptorist Brother. Some people say it was a coincidence. I say it was St. Gerard interceding before God who then touched the right people at the right time. They responded quickly to save our church.
Praise God! No one was hurt. Our church stands. A blessed Christmas to all.
Last Saturday evening we celebrated our parish Christmas party. Our parish threw this party to express our appreciation for all that our parishioners do at St. Gerard. My thanks goes our to the Social Events Committee. The cafeteria was attractively decorated. The d’oerves were delightful. The drinks were refreshing. The dinner was delicious. The desserts were tasty. The entertainment was rejuvenating. What a great evening! And thanks to generous benefactors who provided the food which was delectable. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
A little girl decided to make her own Christmas cards. When her father inspected the drawings, he pointed to the image of Mary. He asked his daughter why she had drawn Mary standing on one leg, while the other leg was bent at the knee. The little girl answered: “That’s Mary stomping her foot. She wanted a girl!”
We will be celebrating Christmas on a week from Monday. During this week the postal employees will be hustling to deliver all the Christmas cards, gifts and goodies. During my 12 years at Our Mother of Perpetual Help parish in Kansas City, Bishop Boland was our bishop. He has since gone home to heaven. He wrote a prayer for this season. He used the language of the postal department.
“God, Our Father, may everything we do be first-class. Imprint your own loving Zip Code upon our hearts so that we may never go astray.
Provide in your gracious Providence, special handling for those of us who are fragile and keep us in one piece. We have been signed, sealed, stamped and delivered in your image and likeness. We beg you to keep us in your care as we go about our appointed rounds.
And when our days draw to a close and we are marked ‘Return to Sender,’ may you be there to greet us at Heaven’s door so that nobody may ever say, ‘Unknown at this Address.'” Amen.
Christmas is a time when memories return. We remember the loved ones of Christmases past. We remember those who were with us last Christmas but will not be with us this Christmas. We remember the good times. With the loss of loved ones, in death, in separation or in divorce, a weight hangs from our hearts. Sadness has replaced that joy. The holidays stir up the sorrow within us.
But Christmas was made for such times as these. For a Child is born to us. God has come to live with us. Christ has become a human like us. He has taken on the pain and suffering of humanity. He has also filled our hearts with hope and happiness. Through Christ the blind see, the deaf hear, the crippled walk, dead people rise and the Good News is preached to them. Christ has reached deep into our hearts to lift us from the depths of sorrow to the heights of eternal joy.
As faith filled people, burdened with sorrows and pains, we rejoice with the shepherds and sing with the angels – “Glory to God in the Highest.”
Fr. Jim Shea, C.Ss.R.