Dear Community and Friends of the Church of St. Francis of Assisi, May the Lord give you peace.

We have just had a wonderful celebration of the Feast of St. Anthony. Scores of people have come to pray with us and to give thanks to God for St. Anthony of Padua. Thousands of loaves of St. Anthony’s bread have gone to homes and offices throughout the area. Thank you to all who came to join us for the Feast. Thank you also to the many who volunteered to assist for the day. It was a mammoth undertaking, and everything went well. This year we had the relic in the San Damiano Room. This provided a quiet space for people to gather and made restrooms available for those who traveled to be here for the day.

Thank you to all who contributed to the support of the day. Our many donors and benefactors, together with the participants of the day, graced us with generous support. The spaces were beautifully appointed and honored the celebration of the day.

We return to the scripture readings that we left when Lent started. We are attentive to the continuation of the text from the Book of Exodus, the Letter to the Romans, and the Gospel according to Matthew. It is hard to remember where we left off that Sunday before Ash Wednesday. Today’s Gospel notes Jesus’ distress as he looks at the people and realizes they are like sheep without a shepherd. He, the Good Shepherd, begins his ministry and appoints twelve disciples to share in that work. He sends them to announce the nearness of the Kingdom of Heaven and empowers them to heal and liberate. He likewise challenges them to share the gift as gift without charge.

Like those early disciples, we have a message to bear and are empowered to heal and liberate. He gave the disciples the freedom to do the good. We have that same freedom. As beginners, they were sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. When they are more secure in their mission, they will go beyond the boundaries of their nation. In sending them, he invites them to nurture the gifts of their hearers, to encourage them in the covenantal relationship, and to hear again words of hope. He does not send them to beat the “lost sheep” but to love them as he has modeled. This is the mission of the church. It is not to push out but to gather in. It is not exclusion but inclusion. We have some work to do.

Finally, I do not yet have a definite date for my departure. I will go to Florida this week to meet with the friars there, and I will also meet with Fr. Joe Juracek to work out a time for transition. I am sorry to leave you so soon. It has been a privilege to be here and to minister with you. We have developed many new ways of connection, including live streaming, Zoom, and social media. The Word of God continues to take root in our lives. I will keep you informed as the transition moves forward. I thank you for your support and your prayers.

Blessings and peace,

Fr. Tom, ofm