By Fr. George Welzbacher
October 15, 2006
Towards the end of this past winter I suggested to Archbishop Flynn that, with my seventy-eighth birthday hovering low on the horizon, I no longer felt that I had the energy to meet the needs of a large city parish, in particular one that maintains a K-through 12 school. But I indicated as well that, given the shortage in the number of priests currently involved in full-time ministry, I would be willing to serve a smaller parish, were that his wish. Not long afterwards the Archbishop invited me to become the Pastor of the Parish of St. John of St. Paul, noting that I already had some familiarity with the Parish since I had briefly served as its interim Pastor back in 1995, during the months that elapsed between the resignation of Father Leo Dolan early in January of that year and the arrival of Father Joseph Fink as St. John's new pastor shortly after Easter. Indeed the reason I was asked to step in during that interval was that during the several years of Fr. Dolan's pastorate I had regularly moved into the rectory whenever he was away on vacation to provide the parish with basic pastoral care insofar as that was compatible with my teaching responsibilities at the University of St. Thomas and in consequence I had some idea how things were done at St. John's. When this past spring Archbishorp Flynn invited me to assume the pastorate at St. John's I replied in the blink of an eye with an enthusiastic "Yes!" hoping that when the appointment became public not too many of you would be running for cover!
As I look to the future it is my hope that I can devote an active three to five years serving this Parish, with perhaps an extra year or two besides if my health permits and I haven't worn out my welcome. Throughout my life God has blessed me with good health, and I pray that he will continue to do so. And as I undertake with humility and genuine awe the very serious responsibility of the care of souls of our parishioners here, I ask for your prayers that my all too meager efforts will be blessed by Christ our Lord. On undertaking this new assignment I am very much impressed by the quality of St. John's Parish staff and of the lay volunteers who contribute so importantly to the strength of this Parish. For their pledge of committed service and the warmth of their welcome may I offer my humble thanks to the following: our dedicated Business Manager, Deacon Terry Schneider, who brings to his charge the experience of many years of bearing major responsibilities in a large corporation; our ever gracious Parish Secretary and efficient Bookkeeper, Carol Plasch; our expert Campus Maintenance Chief Tom Broderick, conscientious in his day-to-day attention to the ordinary and unexpected challenges that a campus this size will present; Dr. Ron Smisek and his wife Mary who for many years have provided this Parish with a splendid program of sacred music and who assure me that they will be happy to continue doing so in the years ahead; and our new CCD Director, a former Teacher of English and debate with a distinguished career spanning many years who more recently has organized and directed the St. John's Children's Choir, Deb (Mrs. Duane) Kaczmarek, who has generously agreed to supervise our Sunday morning religious classes and who will be ably assisted by Steve Fischer. I know, too, that I can count on the ushers, the altar servers and the lectors here at St. John's to continue to enhance the solemnity of our worship of Almighty God. To all of the above my heart-felt thanks in advance!
To Father Tom Wilson I owe a special word of praise. He has worked very hard to discharge, and to discharge effectively, a double responsibility, that of service at one and the same time as Director of Vocations for the Archdiocese and as Pastor of this Parish. The Parish owes him a great debt of gratitude. And I too am grateful for his assuring me that he will always be available as a source of advice. May I ask each and every one of you to join with me in a campaign of zealous commitment and prayer, so that this Congregation of St. John of St. Paul will continue to be a beacon proclaiming Christ's truth and healing love on St. Paul's East Side!
In Christ our Lord,