By Eric Brooks
Two things struck me regarding Msgr. Cody and his tenure with us this weekend. The first was in his farewell letter when I suddenly realized our parish has been in flux for fourteen months regarding a permanent pastor. And, in reality, had been for somewhat more than fourteen months. Compounding that was the minor issue of a global pandemic, Ohio being locked down, the parish being closed and then incrementally reopened. Masks, social distancing, essential industries; lions, tigers, and bears, oh my. And let’s never forget toilet paper.
The second was Msgr. Cody’s closing remarks this morning at his final Sunday as our administer pro-tem. In that statement, Msgr. Cody mentioned, among many other things regarding our parish, the strong sense of community at Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Despite fourteen months of unprecedented changes and restrictions throughout our society, the parish has maintained that sense of community. Our community has adapted to and overcome every test we have been challenged with.
No in-person services… we’ll broadcast them online. No in-person small groups (i.e. bible study, Parish Women’s Association, Men’s Faith Formation, Saint Vincent DePaul Society, etc.) … we’ll Zoom those meetings. Incidentally, I have developed a deep hatred of Zoom over these past fourteen months. No Holy Water, no Precious Blood at Communion, folding metal chairs in the chapel, the church locked down outside services. No problem, we’ve got this.
It was our community that allowed us to survive through these challenges. Supportive comments on the OLPH Facebook page, participating in those broadcast Masses and Zoom meetings, doing whatever was required in order to return to Mass in-person as a community. I would certainly not equate the past fourteen months to forty years wandering the desert, but they were certainly dark times for our parish, our nation, and our world.
And we overcame them as a parish community.
I have the utmost respect for Msgr. Cody for being dragged out of retirement and shepherding OLPH through those dark times. (And it seems he will continue to be dragged out of retirement at St. Joan of Arc. They are fortunate to have him, and I already emailed my cousin where she and her family are members of that parish to look forward to him helping with weekend masses.) However, Our Lady has come to an ending with Msgr. Cody and now face a new beginning.
Sometime on Tuesday, July 13th Fr. Yokum arrived at our parish and became our new pastor. We will welcome him, the Parish Women’s Association will host a reception for him this Sunday afternoon, and then the real work begins as a community. A new beginning.
But what does community mean in these strange and evolving circumstances?
For me it was defined by dropping off cookies for Msgr. Cody’s reception last Saturday afternoon. It was a host of familiar faces, heartfelt greetings, and hugs… yes, hugs despite the waning pandemic. It was walking into a room and being recognized as a fellow brother in Christ and immediately welcomed. It was “Hey, have you ever met Eric? Let me introduce him.”
I do understand the cookies may have influenced these positive reactions. In my experience, no one bearing a few dozen cookies ever receives a poor reception.
It is these individual and very personal interactions that define us as a parish; define us as a community. Fours. We have not walked in the desert for forty years “For the sons of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness…” (Josh 5:6) nor we have been tempted in the desert for forty days. “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And he fasted forty days and forty nights…” (Mt 4:1) But we have made it through fourteen months as a community and a parish, united together in our love of Christ and each other.
I am very much looking forward to all of us showing Fr. Yokum that community.
For anyone who is a fan of Robin Williams, John Lithgow, or Glen Close, I will leave you with, “You only grow by coming to the end of something and by beginning something else.”