Eulogy for a Church
We see Jesus in each other.
We see Jesus in the poor.
We see Jesus in the struggling addict.
We see Jesus in the one just released from prison.
When Fr. Steve Wetzel, OSFS, used these words in the homily of the last Mass at his inner-city Philadelphia parish, St. Joachim, he described a people. A community. The People of God.
Since 1845, these holy people faithfully prayed, served, taught, learned, fed, worshipped, healed, and gathered. The dynamics of urban life and shifts in Catholic communities prompted the leaders of the Archdiocese to close St. Joachim and ask its parishioners to join another community, Holy Innocents.
After communion, a sixth-generation parishioner rose to offer a reflection where he said he had never offered a eulogy for a church. He later corrected himself, reminding all of us that a church never dies. A holy people always lives. Through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Indeed, there is deep pain at the loss of a treasured, beautiful place in which we have invested time and resources. Where we have loved and prayed. Been forgiven and married. Baptized our children and buried our parents.
Yet, our Spirit is bigger than any one place. Perhaps that is why Jesus was able to appear to his disciples in a locked room. God cannot be limited to any one space. God is larger than that. So are we.
Fr. Steve held up an old stone, which was a piece of the original 1845 church that burned to the ground and was rebuilt through the generosity and labor of parishioners in the 1980s. He reminded parishioners that they were living stones.
He offered them one final parish announcement: Please pick up the listing of the mass times at nearby Holy Innocents.
Where they will continue to see Jesus in each other, the poor, the struggling addict, and the one just released from prison.
The Church is alive!