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It has been one year since Pope Francis celebrated his first Chrism Mass as Bishop of Rome. On that Holy Thursday, the shepherd of our Church addressed over 1,600 priests, reminding them that: "the power of grace ... comes alive and flourishes to the extent that we, in faith, go out and give ourselves and the Gospel to others."
For my wife Nancy and me, those words were most clearly fulfilled in January 1996. Our son, Craig, had just received his last treatment for leukemia. Four days later, my beloved mother passed away from cancer. Without question, it was the darkest moment in my life. Our family was overwhelmed with a deep sense of grief and sadness, and there was little that could console me.
It was then that Father Dick Messina, our pastor at St. Mary's in Winchester, came to our aide. He comforted us, prayed with us, and simply shared his love, concern, and compassion in ways that no one else could do. In those quiet moments, Father Dick was more than our parish priest -- he was my brother in Christ, a loyal friend, and a member of our family. Through his humble, gentle presence, I felt a wonderful sense of inner peace. As often happens at such times, my father and siblings also were experiencing a great deal of stress. Father Dick's prayerful insight reminded me that those who are closest to us can express their pain and hurt in challenging ways. The words he shared with me that day have been with me ever since.
Since that time, Father Dick has continued to serve as an unfailing source of grace and support in my life. We have been through almost all the sacraments together, and his friendship has become one of the most treasured gifts in our family. He lives and breathes his own creed that all are welcome in God's house and in his loving heart, and our family and parish community are so enriched by his generous embrace. I am deeply blessed by Father Dick's presence in my life, and continue to learn and grow from his humble example each day.
The parish collection throughout the Archdiocese of Boston this Easter directly supports the health and well-being of Boston's priests -- faithful men such as Father Dick whose selfless life of service has left an indelible impression on our Catholic community. We are blessed to have 645 active and senior priests serving tens of thousands of people in our archdiocese. They are tireless champions of the Gospel message, a message centered on God's love and God's mercy. Through the Easter collection, we are invited to be champions for our priests, supporting them in their time of need just as they have supported us when we needed them.
I ask you to reflect on the priest or priests who have been there for you and for the members of your family. As you reflect on how they have brought the light of Christ into your lives, I hope you will consider how you may be able to express your thanks and appreciation for those priests with a generous gift to the Easter collection. You also can make your gift in honor of a living priest or in memory of one who has passed away. Our contributions to Clergy Health and Retirement Trust help active and senior priests in the archdiocese continue their life-long ministry in service to God and his Church. I cannot think of a more appropriate way to say thank you to the men of faith who have served us and our archdiocese so well over the years.
On behalf of all our priests who will benefit from your support, thank you so much for your generosity. May we all continue to live out Pope Francis' words by giving ourselves to the Gospel and to others in everything we do.
Craig Gibson is a Trustee of the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust and a parishioner at St. Mary Parish in Winchester.