Nativity of St. John the Baptist (Fr. Cipolla’s Last Sunday)

I write this column as the last one before I retire as Pastor of St. Mary’s. As I said to Bishop Caggiano at Confirmation last Sunday, I have been privileged and blessed to be the Pastor of St. Mary’s for these past three years and two months. This is has been one of the most difficult tasks of my life. It has also been the source of great joy, a joy that is inexpressible. I became Pastor unexpectedly and under difficult circumstances. It took quite a while before the shadows that held me down were dissipated. For some, those shadows will always be there. Not for me. God has blessed me in so many ways in this parish. We have been able to strengthen and advance the special mission of this parish, which is to contribute mightily to the spiritual, doctrinal and liturgical renewal of the Catholic Church. We have opened up the doors of Saint Mary’s to the Diocese, to the city and to the world. No longer are we closed in on ourselves, doing our own thing, and relishing our outlier existence as if it were a leper colony. If we believe that the Traditional Roman Mass is one of the chief keys to the renewal of the Catholic Church, then we must open that door to other parishes and to other Catholics in the Diocese. What we did at St. Pius X parish in Fairfield a few weeks ago must be part of the future of this parish. We must bring the beauty and joy of the Mass to as many parishes and people as we can.

But it is just as important that this parish exude the joy of the Catholic faith. The Coffee Hour after the 9:30 Mass has become a true example of communal joy and fellowship. When outsiders come to the Coffee Hour they are always amazed at the energy and vitality of everyone there, from toddlers to septuagenarians. The Book Store has become a wonderful center for people just to drop in and talk. It has become in its own way a center of evangelization. The Rectory has become a place where all are welcome, where many have been fed, where all feel at home. Of course, the Rectory is the priests’ home and their privacy must be respected. But it should never be a fortress that is forbidding and exclusive.

Everyone must warmly welcome Father Ringley as Pastor of Saint Mary’s. He is a fine priest, he loves the Traditional Mass, he understands deeply the problems within the Church, and he takes being a Pastor ultimately seriously. Please invite him into your homes for dinner and get to know him and let him get to know you. Y habla español muy bien.

My last Sunday sermon as Pastor will center on Friendship and what that means for a Christian and for a priest. The self-sacrifice that is at the heart of the priesthood is at the center of Christian friendship. The friendships with which God has blessed me while I have been Pastor have taught me what Christian love is all about. It is that Love that I will carry with me and deepen for the rest of my life. To have celebrated the Traditional Mass almost every day at the high altar in this beautiful church has fulfilled my priesthood as nothing else could.

Remember that only pastors retire. Priests never retire. So continue to pray for me and my priesthood.

Father Richard Gennaro Cipolla

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