This past week I have been thinking a lot of Msgr. O’Connell, in particular the way he was able to truly be present to and with people. His quote about his proudest achievement, I keep pondering over and over again. “This is going to sound strange. My proudest achievement is having been able to be present to people. Whether I was operating on all eight cylinders or four or three cylinders it was a gift to be able to be present to people, to listen to them and to uphold their goodness in them. Even when they think there is no goodness in them, especially when they see no goodness in them.”
Msgr. O’Connell’s words have brought me new hope and an encouragement in the ministry of Stewardship and Vocations this past week. This new school the Lord has placed it on my heart to eat once a week with the middle school and high school students at St. Thomas More as a way to be more present to them. And most of you know that I am pretty extroverted, but going through the lunch line and finding a table to sit with the high schools students has not been as easy as I thought. As matter of fact, it has been intimidating and challenging for me.
My first week and eating with the high school students, I heard these words “that is my seat.” I simply said “sorry about that and simply moved down a few chairs.” I wonder how many times visitors to our parishes, here those same words “that is my seat” or “you’re sitting in my pew.” These words do not speak of a generous hospitality or being aware or a willingness to be present to one another.
My proudest achievement is having been able to be present to people. This week at the celebration of the Eucharist tried to be more present to those you are praying and worshiping with, especially those who you not know, the visitor and stranger in your midst. Have the courage and strength to introduce yourself to them and begin with a simple conversation. The more we can be present to one another the more our parishes will come alive in Christ.