As we gather in this beautiful church today, we have to acknowledge that there is a sadness hanging over our city, and over this place. We gather today for the final Mass in this beautiful church and we know that we are not alone – this weekend also marks the final Masses at three of our Catholic Churches here in Fall River – Holy Rosary, Holy Cross, and St. Anne’s. There is a sadness that hangs over us and it is heavy. It has to be acknowledged and honored – but I believe it also needs to be infused with a note of hope.
Our hope is based on the great legacy of this church and its people, and the effect this legacy has had in so many lives. This legacy began with the founders of this church - women and men of deep Catholic faith. They came to this spot in the city and they built a church that reflected the needs of the community. They were people for whom God was the center of their lives. And they, and the generations that came after them – right up until you and me here today – kept the doors of this church open to respond to the faith needs of not just this community, but really of the world.
And, they did incredible things in the name of faith. So many of you have shared the wonderful stories of faith with me over these last many weeks – stories that have spanned generations. This Church welcomed those came through her doors. Here countless many were baptized and confirmed so that they would know Christ, and bring Christ to all those around them. They were married here, buried from here, lived their lives with this Church as its center. Every moment from the day the doors of this church opened until today has honored the legacy of the good people of faith who have called themselves members of Holy Rosary and Holy Cross Church. And for this legacy, and the difference it has made, we are profoundly, deeply grateful. It is a legacy that has shaped and molded so many into the people they are today.
In the midst of the sadness of this day, as I have prayed about my words today, God has consistently been putting something else on my heart – a note of hope that has been with me so strongly that I have to share it with you today. My friends, what I keep hearing in my heart in prayer is simply this – God is not done with us yet.
I keep thinking of the story of Abraham in the book of Genesis. In chapter 12, we hear, “The Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.’”
Today may be the sad day that the doors of this church building close, but it is also a day in which God is renewing His call in each of our hearts – He still needs us to be His hands to the poor around us, He still needs us to be His voice to those who have not yet heard His word; He still needs us to be His presence to those in sorrow, His love that is the only antidote to the darkness of our world. He still needs us to go from this place and bring its legacy of faith to other parts of our city that need our holy presence.
In the story of Abraham, God gave him difficult news that was a challenge for him to hear – God told him to leave the place he knew, the place he’d always lived, the surroundings that were familiar, the faces that he knew and knew him. But, God didn’t just tell Abraham to leave. He told him that there was something new waiting for him – something full of blessings that Abraham could not imagine. Surely at this message, Abraham was scared. Surely, he was unsure. Perhaps he was angry, and just maybe he didn’t even really believe it. I’m sure that, like us, today, some part of him wanted to hold on to all he knew and stay there in that place forever.
But I also know something else – he went. And God accomplished in Abraham everything that He promised. God promised him a legacy of descendants who were greater in number than the stars of the sky, or grains of sand in the sea. You and I are those grains of sand, we are those shining bright stars. And although today we are being called to go from this place, God is not done with us yet. And what God did for Abraham and Sarah, God will do for those of us who are his legacy.
You and those who have come before you for more than a century in this church have done everything possible to honor the legacy of faith here. You’ve done it by loving your neighbor. You’ve done it by being good stewards of this place. You’ve done it by being men and women of forgiveness and compassion, kindness and joy. You’ve done it by trusting that God never forgets His children, and always leads them where they should go.
As we leave here today, one last time, may we renew our commitment to carry our legacy with us – wherever God is leading us. Carry that legacy as people who serve God and our neighbors. Carry that legacy as we join another community of faith. My deepest prayer is that you will continue to be a part of the Cathedral parish, one of the parishes of our new collaborative, or one of the many other beautiful churches in our city. We need you. God needs you. God is not done with us yet.
Next week as we celebrate the First Sunday of Advent, we will all begin anew. We will engage this journey as we do each year with the Holy Family – another family who were called by God to leave the home they knew to embark on a new adventure. I know that it is not easy to leave this place, but if we do it with God at our side, He will journey with us, and lead us to blessings we could have never before imagined.
God's words to Abram, I think, are also His words to us today, “I will make of you a great people, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing” to all who encounter you. My friends, God is not done with us yet. Let us step into this new chapter together.
May God bless the people of Holy Rosary and Holy Cross churches. And, may the Lord give you peace.