The Month of December 2022

My Friends,

…an overflowing treasure of beauty

            Bishop Ronald Gilmore is the retired bishop of Dodge City, Kansas.  For many years I have appreciated his wisdom and insight expressed in beautifully and lyrically crafted prose. He does not disappoint in this reflection of the Season of Advent.

            “One of our penitential rites sets before us the Three Comings of Christ. He did come, it says. He does come, it says. He will come, it says. This is the time to warm to that sacred pattern, to allow it to shape your pre-Christmas days.

            “This is the time to accustom yourselves to remembering His Incarnation, for He did break into our world.  This is a time to accustom yourselves to looking for His sacramental and his providential comings, for He does break into our world each day.  This is a time to accustom yourselves to longing for His final coming at the end of days, for He will break into our world bringing it to conclusion. Somehow, they all run together, these comings, they are all connected. Each is a preparation for the other in our human time. Each builds on the other in our human time.

            “We can never have one of these without the other, because God’s own time has slipped into our human time. The mingling of your life with His is such a personal thing, for Him, and for you. There is no one-size-fits all in these matters. There are only individual ways, only particular cases.

            “We do not move on an assembly line, you and me. He guides each one through ‘pathless regions.’ ‘By paths unknown’ he guides them, Isaiah said. The overlapping of the human and the divine creates a ‘complexity’ that might, in our weaker moments, almost be taken for a ‘confusion.’

            “But it is not ‘confusion.’ Advent is an overflowing treasure of beauty: all the ancient prophecies, with their ever-new relevance; all the subtle harmony of the Old and the New Testaments; all the lasting appeal of the Antiphons, of the Hymns, and of the Carols. This is a season of Hope and of Wonder. It is so full, so filled, so flowing over that it seems too much for sober adults, even a ‘confusion,’ perhaps. But it is not so for a child, it is never so for one with eager, and sparkling eyes.

Our Demisemiseptcentennial

            After months of planning and anticipation, our demesemiseptcentennial – the 175th anniversary of our founding by Archbishop Peter Richard Kenrick – second Bishop/first Archbishop of St. Louis, was celebrated on the Feast of Christ the King, 19 November 2022.  Archbishop Rozanski, the tenth Archbishop of St. Louis, was celebrant and homilist.

            The Mass was spirited and festive, thanks to all who prepared and contributed to it.  The reception in the parish hall was simple but elegant, thanks to Cece and Phil Heslin who organized and coordinated every detail of it.

            Before the conclusion of the Mass I offered these remarks:

            “It is a lot to think about that – for 175 years – St. John’s has been here, in the center of center-city, to the praise of God and for the good of all who have gathered here, then and now!  We have been blessed.  Hopefully we have been – and are – a blessing!

            “Thank you, Archbishop Rozanski, for coming to celebrate the Holy Mass with us for this demisemiseptcentennial thanksgiving!

            “On more that one occasion I have told the Archbishop that his appointment as 10th Archbishop of St. Louis was noteworthy for me.  For the first time, the Archbishop of St. Louis is younger than me!  Nine years younger!

            “Members of this parish family have keen eyes.  A couple of you noted that there is one-more-than-usual candles burning at the Altar.  That gave me the chance to say that it is tradition that, when the diocesan bishop celebrates Mass, there is one additional candle – the bishop’s candle.  And that gave me the chance to say, then, about this Mass, with the Archbishop celebrating, what St. Ignatius of Antioch taught in the second century: ‘Where the bishop is, there is the Church.’ Here is the Bishop.  Here is the Church.  Thanks be to God!

            “Lastly, my thanks to parishioners and friends for your faithful support of our mission and ministry, all ways, and always!  Particular thanks to all who had part in organizing & enriching our celebration this evening: our parish staff; the ministers of this Mass; the coordinators of the reception in the parish hall; and a special thanks to Kenrick seminarian, Ben Wolf, master of ceremonies to the Archbishop this evening.  He is now, what I was a lot of years ago, in 1975, the seminarian master of ceremonies to our Cathedral Basilica.  His presence is a reminder – honestly – to pray sincerely for priestly vocations.

            “And, Archbishop, now you get the last word.”

            Then, the Archbishop did, have the last word, and with a blessing!

Truth be told…

            The All Things New pastoral planning process for the Archdiocese of St. Louis continues to move forward.  All in our parish family were invited to a presentation in the parish hall on Wednesday, November 9th, for our specific “planning area” which encompasses most of the south city area.  Our five key parish leaders and I had seen a version of this plan some weeks before, and had the opportunity to offer comments and feedback.  We did.  Next, at the parish meeting, two draft models were presented for our future.  In both models, it is envisioned that St. John’s will be closed.  Our territorial boundaries, encompassing a large part of Downtown West, will be attached to the Old Cathedral on the Riverfront.  The disposition of our physical plant has not yet been considered.

            There was, then, an opportunity for those present at the listening session to offer preliminary comments and observations.  The strong emphasis during this time centered around the liabilities of such a configuration, and the desirability of an alternate configuration in which St. John’s would be retained as a functioning parish, and the Old Cathedral preserved for its historic significance and utilized for other appropriate purposes.  This same perspective was synopsized for us, in writing, by Dr. Dan O’Brien, and submitted to the Archdiocesan leadership.

            Now, and until 31 December 2022, all in the Archdiocese have the opportunity to offer feedback and to suggest constructive alternatives to the draft models through an online survey.  These are the links for doing so:

for the detailed presentation of the plan;

for the feedback survey & your comments.

            Between 1 January 2023 and 28 May 2023 the Archdiocesan leadership will be reviewing and refining the comments and proposals gleaned from the feedback survey.  From these the final proposed configuration for all of the Archdiocese of St. Louis will be established.  Archbishop Rozanski will make this public on Pentecost Sunday, 28 May 2023.  The length of time for the implementation of the plan is, at this time, thought to be two-three years.  There is nothing, at this time, more specific than that.

            Truth be told, the preliminary draft models presented thus far are, for me and for us, not what we had hoped.  Disappointment and sadness are real.  Decisions, though, are not yet final.  All during the All Things New planning process we have been encouraged to pray.  Pray with me, now, please, for the Holy Spirit to inspire, with wisdom & insight & right-judgment, all involved in this historic and consequential reconfiguration of the Church of St. Louis.

A debt of great gratitude

            For my twenty years as pastor of St. John’s, and before that, Don Massey has served as Director of Sacred Music and Organist.  His years of music ministry at St. John's have made an incalculable difference for good here.  Don’s pastoral sensitivity and his gifted talent have enriched our worship.  More than once I have characterized the music at our Masses, in ordinary times and in festival times, as exhilarating.

            I have appreciated Don’s genius in organizing and directing choirs, and scholas, and cantors, and musicians.  I have appreciated the worship aids, both simple and elaborate, that facilitate our participation in our celebrations.  I have appreciated Don’s good nature and ready humor and his evident care and concern for the parish.

            That, and more, are his legacy here!  Ours is a debt of gratitude

            Now Don has determined that the time has come for him to embark on a transition.  He will retire after the conclusion of the Mass of Christmas Day. His preference is that we not mark this, other than with my acknowledgement at the Christmas Masses.  We will honor his wishes and pray for God’s best blessings as he begins a new beginning.

            For several months Aidan Donovan has assisted as associate organist at St. John’s.  He will succeed, now, as Director of Sacred Music and Organist.  I appreciate this seamless transition.

In Brief

            Wednesday, December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a Holyday of Obligation.  Mass will be celebrated at 7:10 in the morning.

            Sunday, December 18th, immediately after the 10:00 o’clock Mass, we will decorate the church for Christmas.  All are welcome to assist.  Please join us.  There is something for everyone to do.

            The schedule for our celebration of Christmas and New Year’s appears on page 3 of this bulletin.

            On Friday, 30 December 2022, Matthew DeWitt and Theresa Canning will celebrate the Sacrament of Marriage at St. John’s during a Nuptial Mass at 10 o’clock in the morning.

            We pray for Lubertha Bartee, who was born into glory on November 22nd after a long and valiant battle with cancer.  May she see God face to face.

            We keep in prayer Murry Velasco and all the sick, the terminally ill, the hospitalized and the homebound.  We pray, too, for their caregivers and loved ones.

                                                                                    Faithfully, Monsignor Delaney