Many parental figures teach their children and others to always leave a place better than they found it. We were fortunate if we had those kind of parents or guides; they encourage us to spend our lives improving our surroundings and those we encounter along the way. In Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si, written to inspire our care for the earth, he challenges us to recognize opportunities for improvement all around us and to upgrade our environment as we are able.
As I depart from Saint Charles Borromeo (SCB), I want to particularly thank a few people who helped put the parish in a much better position than it was when I arrived. Among them are Eileen Hutchinson and Chris Ross. In May of 2016, when it was announced that the school would close due to financial burdens and low morale, as many complained about the situation or “abandoned ship,” they immediately stepped in to rally friends, family, and fellow parishioners. Assessing the overwhelming circumstances, they saw not only negative realities but also numerous possibilities for survival and growth, as well as many positive attributes held by the SCB community. From refocusing how we educate to reimagining fiscal management and planning, they remained central throughout the turn-around and will, I suspect, continue to encourage others quietly, prayerfully, and thoughtfully through their example.
In the first month of my arrival, July 2016, Mark Tomes contemplated retirement from his insurance agency and began to show up daily at the parish. In the midst of volunteer labor and conversation with his many friends, he spoke with me about how we are each called to do our part and pledged to do his. He assumed responsibility for the concept of “Rebuilt,” inspired by a Baltimore area parish that transformed itself from demise and near-death to new life by reawakening the faithful to realize how church matters in their lives. Throughout these years he has marshaled a growing group of parishioners to shift our paradigm from consumerism to discipleship. His example of servant-leadership is heartfelt.
Mark Trujillo, in honor of his young wife, Stephanie, who died in the late summer of 2016, pays tribute to their love by honoring her request for him to take an active role among our church family, especially helping people see God’s sacred heart and open arms that desire to embrace them. Since her passing, he has become synonymous with “welcome.” At each weekend Mass, he greets those who come to our church: regulars, visitors, and those who are troubled. When they enter the door, through his gracious greeting, they are instantly made to feel at home and loved. He also has assumed facilitation of men’s groups, faith formation groups, and youth groups, to talk about the love of family and God’s love within the family of faith.
Elaine Moore arrived in the parish soon after I did. She had a knack for seeing God’s grace in nature and volunteered to help our attempts at improving the grounds for curb appeal. Whether school children or passers-by, she touches the lives of many who take time to lend their hands to the earthy work. The resulting magnificence of our campus reflects her own beauty in caring for creation and other creatures, including humans. Dealing with cancer during these years, she has been informed that her remaining days on earth are few. She told me last week that we will both be leaving soon to embark upon a new venture. She, along with others I mentioned and so many more, leaves this place where we met much better than they found it. And when our time comes to depart this world, I pray that we will each do our part to leave it a better place, too.