Praised be Jesus Christ! This penultimate column will be dedicated to thanking people who have made serving here a source of great joy. There are so many reasons to be grateful, but let me start with an ordinary one: you fed me good and nutritious food and that’s one of the reasons my Mom sleeps better at night. My idea of a well-stocked kitchen is a microwave, a toaster, and most importantly, a coffee maker! Once I get to Wausau I’ll probably take the time to cook a bit more often (I can hear people giggling and guffawing – especially Father Burish). For all of you who brought in meals and delectable sweets and fresh produce and fantastic wild game, I’m going to miss you! They say the quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, and so my heart is now full. Another group to thank is my staff and all with whom I collaborated during these past eight years. Both of these parishes are blessed with fantastic people who serve selflessly and generously and Father Weighner will now benefit from having such a strong staff. I will truly miss Sister Rita, whose very life has been a living Gospel for me and whose friendship gave me courage and hope. I’d also like to thank Deacon Jeff Austin for his fidelity to Christ and constant support. These are active parishes and I think of all of the groups that animate the faith by teaching, service, and prayer. From Eucharistic Adoration to serving meals at Saint Vincent de Paul’s, there are amazing signs of faith, hope and love in these two communities. It was an honor to serve alongside so many good people. I also must thank those of you who pray ceaselessly for priests. Our prayer for vocations is indispensable in helping our young people find God’s will for their life. But once they do, we owe it to them to continue praying so that they persevere. Good priests are a combination of God’s grace, good formation, and the prayerful support of the faithful. If I ever do become truly holy, each of you will receive credit. So many of you prayed for me every day and I can never repay that or fully explain what a difference that made. I know you’ll pray for the new pastor with the same fervor and that will help him to adjust and heal from the hurt of leaving the people he’s loved and served for the past decade. And let me thank you now for the prayers you will continue to offer for me – I know I will sorely need them in the years ahead. And lest I forget, I probably owe the deepest gratitude to the folks who helped me to grow by challenging me in various ways. Saint Thomas Aquinas said we owe more to those who disagree with us than to our allies because the former demand so much more. So thank you to those who stretched my heart the most by trying me more than you know. Of course, now that my farewell party has come and gone, I owe so many of you gratitude for your kind words, cards, and generous gifts. It was a tremendous foretaste of the communion we will one day, please God, share in Heaven. I can honestly say is that you brought out the best in me and for that we can collectively thank God. As I take leave of Marshfield and Spencer, I’m reminded of the poetic words written in 1870 by a young priest leaving Rome for the last time. His sentiments are mine and they make clear how hard it is to say good bye: “This evening I bade a sad farewell to the friends I love best perhaps on earth, to the College most dear, to the years the happiest of my life, and to the City of my very soul, to the soil moistened by the life stream of martyrs. Farewell Rome, but not, I hope, forever,” (John Cardinal Foley).
May God bless each of you with the joy that comes to those who have served Him well!
Your friend in Christ, Father Martin