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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Finding the King in Memphis

After a short prayer to locate a Saturday vigil Mass and a random turn off I-40 St. Peter’s Parish (photos), immediately appeared as a beacon of hope in the inner city of downtown Memphis, Tennessee. Located at the corner of Third Street and Adams, it is the first Catholic Church in West Tennessee and was established in the year 1840. Reflecting historical architecture from Europe, the building was designed by Patrick Keeley and completed in 1854.

But not all is about history. In modern times, for about the past 30 years, the “King” (Elvis) ruled here; evidence of his reign is all around the city of Memphis. The visitor’s center displays photos and life-size statues of the King as if he were some type of local “god.” However, the Dominican order took over St. Peter’s, just steps away from the visitor’s center in 1842 and they have consistently proclaimed the Eternal King (Jesus) for about 160 years now.

Today, on this feast of Saints Peter and Paul, Associate Pastor, Fr. John (photo) preached an “Amen, Hallelujah!” homily that cut to the heart just about everyone present. The homily centered around Jesus’ question to Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” However, Fr. John’s question for us is this, “Who do people say St. Peter’s Parish is?” or Who do people say you are?” One person not long ago said St. Peter’s is that church with a lot of money! Is that how a church would like to be known? What do people say about you? Do they say that is a person with a lot of money or works a lot?

Fr. John preached that we should be known as the church or the person that forgives. We don’t want to be known as the church that proudly raises our noses and casts aside those who are unlovable, hurting and searching. Jesus is for everyone! We need to be a church that opens our doors to everyone. We need to be inclusive of everyone! We need people to say, that is a person who loves the unlovable, the abandoned and the crushed. We want to be known as St. Peter’s, the church that embraces all the outcast “Matthews” - the “tax collectors” of our day. The “Matthews” today are people who are marginalized and hated in society and we are not to judge them – the gay person, the divorcee with no annulment, the various individuals with race and color unlike ours, the homeless and the neglected.

St. Peter’s inner city outreaches include a Neighborhood Housing Opportunity program. It also includes, First Works; a program that betters the lives of the less fortunate by caring for their physical needs of water, food and clothing. Poverty grips one in three children in Memphis and St. Peter’s has a mission to renew families and children’s lives in the inner city of Memphis, Tennessee.

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Anonymous said...

It is with sadness in my heart that I report that my little sister Mary died early this morning, after a lifelong struggle with health problems.

Mary was born in Detroit with Down's Syndrome on Feb. 24, 1966, the youngest member of our family. She was the youngest of both eight children here on earth and 12 overall, including Catherine (third overall, who died shortly after birth), and three other siblings who died via miscarriage.

Oftentimes these days, too many people do not pray for the faithful departed, assuming that they are already in heaven. In Mary's case, she at most could have committed only venial sins, so we have great confidence she is with the Lord. Yet, we nevertheless commend her prayerfully to the Lord in prayerful thanksgiving for the witness she has been to so many.

Doctors told my parents not to expect Mary to leave the hospital after she was born in February 1966, given her heart and lung problems. But with God's grace, our family's love, and Mary's tenacity, she persevered. She was on oxygen overnight since a seizure in the fall of 1989 and 24-7 since 1995. And yet she continued to witness to us amidst her infirmities. She loved the Lord and exemplified his love to us. And I am profoundly grateful to God that we could talk one more time yesterday and exchange "I love you's." She was joyful in our interaction, despite her increased health problems of the last week.

I ask for your prayers for my extended family and friends during this time as we gather in Ann Arbor, Mich., that this may be a time that we all grow closer to the Lord. We mourn Mary's passing, while grateful that her suffering is over. And, most of all, we look forward to the Great Reunion in heaven.

Thank you and God bless you.

In Christ, Tom

Anonymous said...

Many thanks for praying for Chris' brother Jonathan who was the 17 year-old coma victim of a motorcycle accident in Seattle about 3-4 weeks ago. Today, Chris called to say that Jonathan is walking, talking and exceeding doctor expectations. He may go home soon, thanks be to God! The Lord's mercy and love is everlasting.