As we celebrate the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time this weekend, we reach the mid-point of the summer. All through this year we have been reading from the Gospel of St. Matthew in our Sunday Gospel readings. Week by week, we are seeing Matthew’s portrayal of Jesus’ ministry unfold before us. This week we begin a new section in this Gospel – Jesus discourse of parables. Over the next three weeks, we will hear some of Jesus’ most familiar parables. These stories were Jesus’ way of teaching the people who gathered around him.
With Father Matt’s departure from our parish last month to become pastor at St. Alexis parish in Bensenville, and Father Juan José’s arrival as our new Parochial Vicar, we have experienced another significant change in our parish staff. While Father Juan José has moved in and settled into his new position here, this is a time of significant adjustments for all of us.
I am sure that each of us has at some time experienced either a change of jobs or changes in our workplace. The tricky part is recognizing that physically arriving and moving in is only the first step in making a good transition. Learning a new routine, meeting key people, learning the history of the new situation, and emotionally leaving the previous position are all crucial and necessary steps that take time.
An image that I have found helpful in working through the changes that we all face is that of a transplanted evergreen. When the tree is to be transplanted from one place to another, it is first dug up. Even though we try to preserve as much of the root ball as possible, many roots are severed as the tree is removed from its previous location. We then prepare the new place, digging an adequate hole, and providing good and loose soil as well as plenty of water. In spite of all of our good efforts, the tree normally goes into shock. New growth buds often fall off as the tree directs all of its energy into establishing new roots in the new location. The tree just seems to sit there while all of the activity is taking place underground. Little growth is observed above the surface. All during that first season, new roots break out of the root ball and search for new sources of nutrition. The tree is trying desperately to survive the shock of being transplanted.
When my family moved to our new home in Winfield, dad transplanted several evergreen trees around the yard. While the trees were fairly symmetrical, I noticed several years later that each one had a gap in its growth pattern. Since the new branch buds fell off when they were transplanted, there was a noticeable gap in the symmetry of each tree from the year that it was transplanted. All of the growth energy during the transplant year went towards reestablishing the roots. Noticing this taught me to be patient with those times when I was “transplanted” from one location to the next. Even though I may not have seen growth above the surface, my roots were stretching out to connect with new sources of life and nourishment. Generally it took a whole year in a new place before I was able to “feel at home.” As much as I wanted to rush that process, it took time for the severed roots to reconnect before I could see growth take place above the surface.
I share this with you at this time in the hopes of inviting all of us to be patient with the changes that we experience not only here but in all areas of our lives. Adjustments take time. Growth may not be immediately apparent. Roots need to be reestablished. And as much as we would like to rush the process, we simply can’t. Maybe recognizing that we are all facing changes to one degree or another is the best way to patiently work through this time of change in our parish staff. Remember the transplanted evergreen!
The slower pace of July also provides a good time to attend to some projects around the parish. The major projects this summer are replacing the boiler in the Chapel (also heats the school) and the furnace and A/C unit in the Parish Office. Additional preventive maintenance and school projects are on the To Do list. This summer’s projects are not as visible as in past summers when we replaced the lights in the parking lot or resurfaced the lots. But these behind the scenes projects are just as important as the ones which draw a huge notice.
Now that the summer months have arrived, our parish staff normally shifts into our summer hours. We are continuing our practice of closing the parish offices on Fridays during July. One of our staff will be on duty for telephone calls and deliveries. This practice gives our staff some additional time for family activities.
The extra space around us at weekend Mass reminds us that many are away on vacation. We remember in our prayer all those who are traveling. And we thank God for the good weather we experienced this past week. May God continue to bless us with all that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy