I love being a Holy Cross priest. I give thanks to God every day for calling me to the priesthood in Holy Cross. One of the things that I love best about my life as the pastor of La Luz Parish in México is Sunday mornings. After 17 years of being a priest, Sunday mornings still never get old for me.
I had my beginning in parish ministry as a deacon at St. John Vianney Parish in Goodyear, Arizona, with Fr. Joe Corpora, C.S.C., as my pastor and mentor. I learned many things from him during the four years we were together. One of the most valuable things that I learned from him was the importance of being present before and after the weekend Masses to greet and interact with parishioners. He taught me that it's the one time each week that we can be, even briefly, with most of the people of the parish.
Many people aren't a part of groups or ministries that meet during the week, but most will come to Mass on Sundays. Being present before and after Mass is the best possible way to get a sense of what's going on with our people, and one of the best possible ways for us to show the people that we care for them and are there for them. Practically, as well, it's also a way to take care of things face-to-face with parishioners that might otherwise require a phone call during the week. All of those reasons aside, I simply enjoy being with the people.
One of the challenges that I have faced in being present to the people of La Luz Parish is the size of our parish. We have our main church and four chapels and a population of 45,000 people within the parish boundaries – most of whom are Catholic.
Unfortunately, I'm not able to be in each place every Sunday. I only see many of the people once each month, which makes it more difficult to have continuity with the people and to learn their names. I've seen how much learning names means to people, so I have to work even harder here to learn their names, which means I'm embarrassed more frequently here to have to ask certain people their names over and over before their names finally "stick" with me.
The good thing is that I'm not here alone at La Luz and our four chapels. This is a ministry of our Holy Cross community, so there are four other Holy Cross priests who are here with me to care for the people at our Masses and Holy Cross sisters, as well.
It's a great privilege and blessing to be able to celebrate the Eucharist with and for the people of La Luz Parish. I don't feel worthy of this blessing in so many ways.
As Catholics, we believe, as the Second Vatican Council told us, that the Eucharist is "the source and summit of the Christian life." It's our opportunity to encounter Christ in a very profound way in the Eucharist and to be strengthened in our efforts to live our faith with joy and fidelity.
One of the things that helps me feel very grounded in celebrating the Eucharist here is the connection that I'm developing with the people after being here for a little more than a year. I see Imelda out there and know that she's suffering greatly from the tragic and violent death of her daughter. I see Pablo and Carla who are expectantly awaiting the birth of their first child. I see Arturo and know how he and his family are struggling to keep their family business going. I see Edgar who is discerning a possible vocation to religious life and priesthood in Holy Cross.
All of our people bring who they are and what's in their minds and hearts to our celebration of the Eucharist. I do as well. Somehow we are all drawn more closely together in the Body of Christ through what we celebrate together each Sunday in the Eucharist.
I love Sunday's, not because it's the day for NFL football. I love Sundays because we all get to come together for our celebration of the Eucharist. Does it get any better than this?
Fr. John Herman, C.S.C., is the Pastor of Nuestra Madre Santísima de la Luz Parish, in Guadalupe, Nuevo Leon, México. Fr. John is a regular contributor to the Spes Unica Blog, writing about his work at our parish there. Learn more about the missionary work of the United States Province in México and around the world. Also, find out more about the community that binds us and sustains us as Holy Cross religious in our life and our ministry.