Father Bill’s last mass at St. Therese mirrored the man. Casual and unassuming, still pious and profound, the mass and the priest celebrated the joy of genuine faith and sweetly tended friendship.
“How do you treat a new pair of shoes?” he asked in his homily. “You break them in patiently. You treat them with care.”
Though our current pair of shoes remains beloved and has plenty of good miles left in his sole/soul, we at St. Therese will be getting a fresh pair this week. Fresh is good, except no one here wants to say good bye to the priest we’ve had for the past 14 years.
Father Bill has been reassigned to St. Phillip Parish in Green Bay, where he single-handedly will replace four priests assigned to the parish on a part-time basis, and a pastoral leader.
A Catholic Superman with a contagious guffaw and a freezer full of chicken soup collected from parishioners during a recent bout with the flu, Father Bill, no doubt, is up to the task. Bilingual and unfailingly kind, he gracefully negotiated the occasionally perilous waters of our newly bilingual parish with a sly tip of his optimistic Cubs hat, and an open invitation to his card table.
An Oz sense of life and color seeped into the church with Father Bill’s arrival. The church pews filled with families and those old walls hummed with song.
Our stoic, German parishioners welcomed immigrants from Mexico and Micronesia and, to their delicious casseroles and potato salad, added tamales and coconut curry. St. Therese may have become the tastiest parish in the diocese.
Our community feted Father over the weekend, with masses, celebrations, songs, dances and a going away party that lasted all afternoon.
But, Molly and I ducked in to say our good byes yesterday morning, during weekday mass, Father Bill’s last in Appleton.
We welcomed the privilege of praying with him and, though we intend to pop in to St. Philips from time to time, we also most sincerely wanted to thank him for the legacy he leaves behind.
The last lines of the Catholic mass seemed especially appropriate yesterday as we said them with the small congregation assembled there.
“Go in peace to serve the Lord.”
“Thanks be to God.”