October 15 is a special date in my memory: It is always the first day of class -“opening day” of the academic year at the Gregorian University in Rome (where I studied Theology for four years). The lecture halls were post-medieval. The professors were utterly demanding scholars, and the work load became shoulder crunching from first class through last exam ten months later. But I do look back with fondness at the challenges, the mind opening and thought provoking lectures, the papers to be written and the growth in spirituality that was destined, in spite of my shortcomings, to take place.
Parish life itself has those moments: moments we treasure from years past. We recall with fondness the things we have accomplished. On Sunday past, we thanked Charlene for years of service and honored her as a living link to parish tradition and joy. But personally I love how she lives and loves and leads us today with the courage she always demonstrates.
But here is the challenge: never stay in that past. It is a question of how we use and learn from lived experience and grow from there. How can we use our memory to make us always a more loving and better serving community? I am so grateful for what I have lived through, but I am more grateful that Christ is leading me forward to face new experiences. As a parish, we need to constantly remind ourselves that Christ leads us forward – never backward.