The normal term for a pastor according to the Roman Catholic Code of Canon Law is six years. I have completed my term at Saint Charles Borromeo and will commence a new charge in about five weeks. I have never served a six-year term as pastor before this one: twice for around ten years and once for about five when I was pulled away early to replace a guy who left the priesthood. Like some other regulations in Canon Law, kind of like the “Code of the Pirate Brethren” in Pirates of the Caribbean, the code is more like what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than rules. Though I did not originally want to come to Saint Charles six years ago, it has been one of the best experiences of my life, a blessed exchange of revitalization.
During this time, I worked with remarkable parishioners who labored to turn their faith-community in a more positive and impactful direction. We were graced by numerous non-parishioners who pitched in to help us overcome great spiritual challenges and massive material obstacles. Our community has been enlivened by children and toddlers who reignited our school and by adults who reinvigorated our entire parish. These years have been very enriching for me.
One example of growth and spirit is from this school year when teachers were able to conduct in-person classes from the start, despite ongoing threats from COVID-19. Our Early Childhood Center grew from twenty-two children six years ago to eighty-one as we conclude the academic year; and we have already reached capacity for next year. Our K-8 enrollment climbed from 117 to 173 during the same time-period; and we expect that number to increase by another twenty or so scholars before school reconvenes in mid-August. Through the help of EANS (Emergency Assistance for Nonpublic Schools) grants and Missouri State grants secured by our diocesan Bright Futures program, we reached a level of financial stability to better secure operations while freeing us to utilize church income for other upgrades throughout the parish. Thanks in huge part to principal Dr. Karen Hopson, the spirit within our academy is stronger than ever; it also helps that we have a phenomenal team of teachers who bring tremendous love and compassion to their classrooms.
As Phase Two of our Revitalization capital construction campaign gets underway this week, we are headed in a wonderfully positive direction for our new pastor to take the helm. Father Thomas Sunoj is the perfect cleric to lead Saint Charles Parish and Borromeo Academy along the next leg of our future journey. He brings tremendous enthusiasm, good will, and expertise to the tasks ahead. His energy, experience, and wide understanding of the world will take us to not-yet-imagined levels of worship, education, service, and relationships. As I will be discharged from Saint Charles at the end of June, I don’t know of a greater guy to guide the parish onward and upward to greater realms. He, too, is completing a six-year term at his current assignment, Saint Catherine of Siena in south Kansas City. He and I spent about six years together at Saint Thomas More Parish before that. As he will soon be Charged with Saint Charles, I can attest that we are getting one of the best that our diocese has to offer.