Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Some Free Associations About Nourishment...

When my Lithuanian grandmother, who attended Our Lady of Vilnius, first came to this country someone gave her a banana. She bit the skin and thought that it was a weird and not especially good fruit until someone showed her how to eat it.

When Grant Gallicho blogged the closure of Our Lady of Vilnius in dotCommonweal, I jumped into the on-line forum. One participant argued that the Real Presence was of supreme importance and would still be available at "St. Whitebread down the street."

After the recent loss of my two parishes, reading and reflection, I don't think that all parishes are created equal in how they prepare people to receive nourishment from the Eucharist. Also, people differ in culture, experience and temperament. What works best for one person may not work for another, so there needs to be some diversity among parishes. The history of the Church is old enough and rich enough to provide this within the scope of its doctrine.

At Our Lady of Vilnius and Saint Stanislaus Kostka we always had coffee social after Mass. This allowed the priest to move among the people. The priest and people became acquainted with each other in a context that is not restricted by an exclusively spiritual agenda. Likewise, the secular breaking of bread after receiving the Eucharist seemed to help forge distinct, even discordant, personalities into cohesive communities. Within these communities we supported each other, even inspired each other . It happened without thought or effort.

At St. Stanislaus Kostka the lineage of pastors and priests were responsible for contributing to this culture. The most recent Pastor exclusive to St. Stanislaus Kostka was Father Ed Fabisinski, who reluctantly retired in the late 1980's due to ill health. When I joined St. Stanislaus in 1993 Father Fabisinski was very much present in the parish despite his absence and remained so until the closure of the church this year, several years after his death. His name came up so often in stories and reminiscences that I felt like I knew him. Parishioners would often look to advice given by him in the past to help them with present issues.

Likewise, Our Lady of Vilnius. The founding priest worked as a longshoreman while engaged in his ministry. More recently, Father Sawicki perpetuated this ethos as a dispatcher for the FDNY, a Registered Nurse and a teacher. I think that his shared experience of the workplace has enriched his ability to present the gospel and has contributed to the unique and beneficial character of the parish.

While there is nourishment available at all parishes, some are better than others at preparing us to receive it. This does not appear to have been given due consideration by the Archdiocese of New York in choosing parishes to shutter.

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