Reflections from a Pastor on 175 Years
October 8, 2017
As we bring our 175th anniversary parish celebration to a close, I wanted to offer a few reflections from my perspective as the 28th pastor of the parish. First, that number alone is astonishing. From the time the parish was founded in the horse and buggy days to our present modern age, 27 of us have come and gone. That is of course humbling. Most parishioners only remember a very small handful of pastors and the rest are mostly lost to history. That is as it should be, since the parish is not about us pastors but about Jesus Christ, who is and has been the source of life in this parish, both in time and eternity.
It was interesting to me that I am the third longest serving pastor of the parish, having served eleven years already. Only Fathers Francis Messmer (1887-1907) and Joseph Sund (1907-1952) have served longer.
Every one of those years has been a tremendous privilege, knowing that the Lord has entrusted such an important mission to me – the exact same mission as my 27 predecessors: to help lead souls to Heaven by the sanctifying power of the Holy Mass, Confession, Baptism, Matrimony, and the Anointing of the Sick. My mission also includes teaching the fullness of the faith that Jesus handed on to His first Apostles and continuing to keep the parish in order. That is only possible because of the goodness, holiness and hard work and dedication of the people of God.
It has always been a demanding job, but an extraordinarily rewarding one. Sometimes, we priests are tempted to think that our job is harder than it was for our predecessors, and in some ways, undoubtedly, it is. For instance, most of my priestly forebears didn’t have to deal with the expectations of 24-7 communication, emails, websites, increasingly intrusive government regulations, and a very secular culture that seems “too busy” for religion, or treats our faith as just one option among many activities, as the number of worldly distractions explodes exponentially.
But then, every age has its challenges. I sometimes pray about just how daunting those challenges would have been for Fr. Henni, our first pastor, starting the parish virtually from scratch and riding on horseback to bring the Sacraments to people. Or Fathers Bruening and Kuhr who had to shepherd the parish through the terrible scourge of the nation’s Civil War, dividing state against state and brother against brother, with Cincinnati near the epicenter of the slaves’ flight to freedom at the Underground Railroad. Or Fr. Sund, who had to deal with enormous social changes during his 45 years – the electrification of a church, countless parishioners and their relatives lost in two World Wars, with all the fear and anxiety that would have ensued; and society changing at breakneck speed from a rural one to an industrial one.
In all of these ages and eras, Jesus Christ Our Lord and Savior – present right here in the House of God on Neeb Road for 175 years and counting – has been the constant. Jesus Christ, the same, yesterday today and forever (Hb. 13:8). The light and beacon, beckoning generations of Victory families to fulfill what God created us for: eternal happiness and Communion with Him.
On this last official day of our anniversary, we offer to God a prayer of deep gratitude for that gift of our parish life, and commit ourselves to handing on this legacy to generations to come.
If you are interested in exploring more about the history of O.L.V. parish, please check out our website at www.olvdelhi.org/olv-history.