Dear Fellow Parishioners,
I had no idea how many people to expect for the Lenten Reconciliation Service. It had been three years since our last Lenten service, and the Advent Reconciliation Service a few months ago was decently, but not heavily, attended. (The masking mandate was still in place.)
This time, we had nine priests hearing confessions. This week’s Lenten Reconciliation Service was exceptionally well-attended. I was the last to leave the confessional at about 9:20 pm. Multiply that by nine, and that’s a lot of confessions.
Another highlight of the evening was the opportunity to socialize with the other priests of our area, which we have had little opportunity to do for two years. Our leader of Hispanic Ministry, Abraham Solar, prepared a terrific meal. (For 10 years, he was a chef at an Eastern European restaurant before joining our staff. When I asked him where he got the recipe for his exotic and superb artichoke-almond-lemon-mushroom soup, he said, “Out of my head!”)
I am looking forward to the Easter Vigil, not only because several people will be received, or fully initiated, into the Church, but because Fr. Stuart will be the celebrant. It is, by far, the most complex parish liturgy of the year. For the first time in nearly 30 years, I will be able to observe and pray, rather than be responsible for making it all happen. Fr. Stuart’s seminary and liturgical training was more recent, and somewhat different, from my own, and I expect I will learn a few things as well.
This year, we will miss one of our finest cantors, but for good reason. Alexandria Ortiz, the granddaughter of our Religious Ed director RoseMarie Woodruff, has sung in our Easter liturgies for several years. This year, she has been invited to bring her powerful talents to a larger audience: Carnegie Hall. By the time you read this, she will already be in New York. I hope you will join me in a quick prayer for her success.
In the spirit of Easter rebirth, I see signs of great hope arising in our parish, some of them as “silver linings” of the pandemic which is finally receding.
1) Our parish, older than the founding of Petaluma itself, has tremendous residual strength. Over the past couple of years, we’ve worked hard, and worked together. Our office never closed, and we opened the Church and its ministries as soon and as widely as the law would allow. When Mass was offered outdoors at our high school, those who were able adapted to that without missing a beat. On the whole, we have come through this trial amazingly well.
2) I see more and more families who formerly attended the noon Spanish Mass now attending other Masses. Because of distancing, the noon Spanish Mass could no longer accommodate all who wanted to attend. Instead of staying home, many families began attending earlier Masses. This is, to my mind, a most welcome development.
3) We have a number of young families who are now joining us. I frankly did not notice it until visitors mentioned it to me: “Father, I think it’s wonderful that you have many young families.” Indeed, we have.
4) Visitors notice the beauty of our church (who wouldn’t?), but they often tell me how welcoming and friendly our parish is. I am delighted to hear it, and that is your work far more than mine. It bodes well for our future. May it continue.
In closing, I wish you a happy and joyous Easter and Easter season. We celebrate not only life, but the promise of eternal life. Let us rejoice and be glad!
Fr. Bill Donahue
Dear Fellow Parishioners,