Today – July 10 – marks a year since I arrived here in Austin, Texas to serve as (to luxuriate as? to occupy space as? to pontificate as?) Pastor of St. Austin’s Parish. It was 56 degrees as I boarded the plane in San Francisco a year ago, and 96 when I deplaned in Austin. It was a warm welcome in more ways than one!
Actually, I want to thank all of you for welcoming me so heartily and fully. I have always felt fully accepted and appreciated here. Thank you. A special thanks to the Parish Staff and the Paulists living here in Austin. They have all been most helpful in the transition. I am especially appreciative of the good work Fr. John Hurley accomplished before I came in order to present me with a balanced budget.
There have been some transitions in this year: notably Karen Ranus moving on from the Staff to a very responsible position at St. Louise House, the arrival of Pat Macy as our new Social Justice Coordinator, and especially the declining health of Fr. Bob Scott which precipitated his move to his home state of New Jersey. He is sorely missed.
We have had some accomplishments this year: a new liturgical environment committee that has already made quite an impact (e.g. the Easter decorations); a great beginning for a men’s spirituality group; a shift of focus on the Property Committee recognizing that our Master Plan is sometime off in the future and so we need to be more serious about the upkeep and maintenance of the building stock we currently have; shorter Staff and Parish Pastoral Council Meetings; and of course a change in parking on the blacktop on weekends.
It has taken me some time to figure out what my role is here other than to say Mass and hear Confessions. The parish was running so well when I arrived that it was not clear precisely what I could contribute.
However, with time I am becoming clearer about my role. I believe it will involve consistently and cogently articulating a vision of the proper role of the laity: to not necessarily become more active in St. Austin’s Parish (as much as we DO need your help to make this place function), but rather to be more proactive in living a Catholic Christian life in your family, neighborhood, school, marketplace, work, community and society in general. Your real Catholic life is not what you do in church, but what you do in the world. While this may not sound like a major shift of emphasis, I believe it is crucial. We will see.
For this coming year I hope to finally make it to Stubbs, Salt Lick and County Line, none of which I have yet had the opportunity to sample. As a new resident of Austin I believe it is incumbent upon me to do so!
I continue to count on your support, advice, cooperation and especially your prayers; and I look forward to working and worshipping with all of you for several years to come.