Over 2000 years ago Jesus said: “Do this in memory of me.”
And, well, here we are at Saint Rita Church, Sierra Madre, on the SOLEMNITY OF THE MOST HOLY BODY AND BLOOD OF THE LORD celebrating Mass together and still carrying out that command that echoes over two millennia. One of the initiatives of our 2007 Parish Pastoral Plan is “to preserve the centrality of the full celebration of the Eucharist as vital to the identity of Roman Catholics.” Isn’t “centrality of the Eucharist” a “no brainer”? Why the concern? Well, for one thing, in the years ahead, more parishes in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles will be without a resident priest as pastor. Even here at St. Rita, for ten years now, we have had Wednesday and Thursday “communion services” in view of the fact that we had become a one-resident-priest parish. Many parishes in the world have no idea of having Mass every day of the week. We have reason not to take such a grace and blessing for granted!Just recently at our Town Hall Meeting, Mr. Tom McKernan, our Capital Campaign Chair, spoke of his own commitment to the Campaign out of real personal conviction that parishes these days need to be very concerned about our parish sustainability into the future. One reads very often about bishops in the United States having to combine parishes and schools and even to close parishes and schools. While, so far, not a frequent experience here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the reality is on the increase. Tom went on to point out that a vibrant and vital parish—a parish fully alive with a complete array of ministries and a healthy school—is least likely to be on “the block.” And I would add that this is precisely why our Campaign theme is Strengthening our Holy Communion—Growing in Faith, Hope, and Love. Our parish life and ministry here at St. Rita leads to Holy Eucharist (celebration of the Mass), and our parish life and ministry flows from it.
No doubt about it. Pastoral administration and the role of the ordained priest has been evolving. Here at St. Rita, I have been blessed with administrative assistance since our centennial year 2008; first Sheila Palazzolo; then, Tim Lopez; and now, our Director of Pastoral Administration, Mary Lou Butler. It makes sense when you think about it: why put all of the administration part of parish life in the job description of a priest, when he was probably not trained or educated to do that job anyway? Fewer priests though we are these days, we are better off focusing on the sacramental life—the “Eucharist at the Center Life”—of the parish and, thereby, allow the Baptismal call of the laity to come into its own.
“This is my Body, this is my Blood, given for you.”
No matter where the Spirit is leading the Church today, one thing is for sure: whoever makes this proclamation of Jesus his or her own, and keeps Eucharist at the center of daily life, will be a much more effective disciple—will be a more generous and caring person, and much more fit to serve as a member of His Body, the Church. The Church, at the same time, will continue, to DO THIS in memory of Him. After all, this is His plan and it cannot fail!