In 1796, George Washington gave his Farewell Address. While it had marked the end of his second term as this nation’s first president and set a precedent that was observed by all succeeding presidents, with the lone exception of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, he was truly glad to unburden himself of the rigors of the job and pass on the mantle of leadership to another. It was in 1951, that Congress passed a law then signed by President Truman that officially limited a sitting U.S. president to two terms. This action took place to avoid the problem that possibly might make the head of this country into a dictator.
Washington’s speech was rooted in the specific challenges he saw facing the United States at the time, including increasing internal divisions. His eloquent message of unity and his warnings against regionalism and partisanship ensured that the address would become one of the most widely reprinted documents in American history, with powerful implications that still continues to resonate today.
This weekend, I offer something of a farewell message as I end my tenure here, and I would hope that it doesn’t fall short of its intended purpose of thanksgiving for all the blessings I have received in these past years.
First of all, I give thanks to Almighty God, and our bishop for allowing me to pastor the flock of St. Vincent Parish for nearly sixteen years. It was an interesting tenure, marked by some very interesting twists and turns, some of which were rather unexpected and unique (and some that I wouldn’t wish on anyone to have to undergo). Previous pastoring assignments that I had gave me some insight and experiences that I now realize would be tested to the limits here. That’s alright, because I felt the hand of God on my shoulder and the loving support of many of my parishioners and friends, among which I include Bishop Barbarito, Father Danis, and the priests who came to us on the weekends. Father Jay, Msgr. Bosso, Father Olds and Father Hawkins
stand out among them as wonderful collaborators and good examples of what it takes to be a conscientious priest in service to God’s people. These men are an inspiration to many and help offset the poor examples given by those self-serving priests who were called by Jesus in Sacred Scripture as “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
Next, I thank those faithful who have really helped me by participating in the life of our parish, exercising a most generous response to stewardship of time, talent and treasure in a manner befitting their baptismal call to serve the Lord God with heart, mind, body and soul. These faithful sons and daughters of Jesus have been a blessing since I arrived in the Autumn of 2005, assuming leadership of the parish just before the time of our most damaging hurricanes (both the natural and the human varieties). Every time there was a call to action, to help someone in distress or to support a project – whether it was in Guatemala, the Bahamas, the U.S. or elsewhere – they sprang into action, while continuing to maintain their leadership in roles of service throughout our parish. The generous spirit of our SVF parishioners knows no boundaries! May God continue to bless them and watch over their families.
Finally, I especially thank all of my staff members (including our school leadership) as well as our maintenance crew and office personnel, who daily put up with my shortcomings and foibles. Their ability to pick up the broken pieces of a seemingly impossible situation and arrange them into some semblance of order, their genial attitude, and their great spirit of service enabled me to carry out my duties with a sense of greater fervor and love for God’s people. These I cannot thank enough, so I will definitely include them high on my list in my daily prayer intentions.
As my successor, I welcome Father Dennis Gonzales, as the new Administrator of our parish. His first year will be one of learning how things are and have been. Then, God willing, in a year’s time, he will take over as Pastor of a well-maintained operation and put into action some of the ideas and plans he may have gathered over the years, including during this probationary period. He has served as a parochial administrator, and was a Registered Nurse before entering the seminary. A graduate of St. Vincent DePaul Regional Seminary in nearby Boynton Beach, he is a comparatively young priest, but with much experience. I hope that he will be well-received without any preconceived or prejudicial ideas like those that have met me in the past. Give him your love, respect and support, and he will ”lead you to green pastures.” Thank you, all, and may God bless you!