I Miss You All
It was on Wednesday morning, May 13. I was looking with delight at my beautiful, mowed rectory green lawn through my kitchen window, drinking my black Starbucks coffee, a good pike place roast while figuring out in my mind what to say in my homily later in the morning about readings from Acts 15 and John 15. Then I saw them. They were walking on South Cherry Alley, about to cross Park Road. Two close friends, I have not seen them together in weeks, though I see one of the two a couple of times a week. If she is not going into the St. Peter historical church to change altar linens or candles, she's helping with counting Sunday collections in the office on Monday. Sandy and Kay were taking a walk in the neighborhood since they could not go to the Masonic Village anymore for their routine exercises. My mind switched off my meditation for the day's bible passages, and my face lit up, I was filled with joy like that of my godson Dayo when he gets a car toy gift from me. I dashed out of the kitchen, out onto the rectory, and yelled, "Sandy." "Kay." It was Kay who eventually heard my loud screams of her name and turned around. I cared less what my neighbors were thinking about me screaming so loud across the street. I was just happy to see Kay Millhouse and Sandy Koser together, best of friends they are, those holy ladies. I miss seeing them.
Why am I writing about sighting two of my parishioners taking a walk and why I am so thrilled to see them? In place of my usual Sunday homily reflection, I felt moved this time around to express my deeply-felt feelings of sense of loss due to not seeing my loving and devoted parishioners since our last parish mass without a congregation on March 15. I miss all my parishioners during this time of the pandemic restrictions. I miss them coming to daily and Sunday masses. I miss seeing Sandy and Kay take care of the altar linens and flowers, respectively, after mass. I miss watching them say few words in hushed voices as they pass by each other in the sanctuary. I miss the happy-faced Joseph Barone, who has not been there to help with setting up for Monday evening Eucharistic adoration. I had to lit the charcoal and prepare the thurible by myself during the celebration of Easter vigil without a congregation. I miss seeing Jane Cavender and Anne Norment collaborating to read assigned bible passage and Gospel acclamation. I miss seeing Beth and Michael Vertucci coming through the aisle to receive communion religiously. I miss seeing Rich and Marty Esoldo as well, especially the glow on Rich's face when I distribute the Precious Blood. I miss seeing Rachel Clark on the front pew to the right of the altar, seeping water-I hope, as she pays attention during mass. I miss seeing the saintly Vince Bresch come in quietly into the church to pray about a half-hour before mass begins. I miss seeing Mike and Pat Minick walking elegantly to their car after mass. I miss Ronnie Acri telling me about his labor in the building of the historic church altar and his nickname in high school.
I miss seeing Tim and Lee Malcolm read together in-pew from their big missal book. I miss going out to breakfast with John and Joan Bridgen and all these people, including the amiable Amie Barone, of course. I miss way lot of people; I cannot name all names; please pardon me.
Each time I step into the new church, I miss seeing you all. I miss seeing the ushers, who would not miss the devoted service of John Gulya and his team. I miss seeing and praying with the extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion and the altar servers gathered in the narthex, waiting for me to lead them in prayers before mass. I miss processing into the sanctuary with my lector carrying the book of the Gospel. I miss the choir, I'm glad Corinne has been helping us every Sunday, but I miss the entire robed choir in the pew. I miss my devoted pianists and musicians, Linda Itzoe and Liz Pfautz, and the angelic voiced cantors. I miss all the fantastic parishioners who would look at me with faces beaming with smiles as I sing part of my homily (even if they don't understand part of what I am saying in my elegant Nigerian accent, lol). I miss seeing that church filled with joyful people during baptisms and weddings. I miss the energy and joy of the youth choir and their leaders. I miss the occasional visits to the RCIA and CCD classes. I miss post-8:30 am mass remarks from my friend, Ed Millhouse. When do I see you again? I miss seeing every one of you; honestly, I do
Above all, I miss seeing all the little, cute, and angelic children who run happily from all sides of the church to the altar to drop their collection. I cry tears of joy when I think of such witness of little ones. I love you all and miss you much. I am thankful for all the love many of you have shown me-bringing me food, sending me cards, calling to check on me and praying for me. You all mean the world to me and am glad to be with you during this strange time. We are in it together. We will overcome COVID-19 together. I pray for you every day at mass and offer my daily Rosaries for you. Please stay safe and remain joyful in this season of Easter and beyond. I can't wait to see you back in the church pews. I pray it happens sooner than later.
In Christ who loves us,
Fr. Bernard Oniwe, OP