I pray you are enjoying the beautiful fall weather. There's really no place I, as well as many of you I’m sure, would rather be than Idaho this time of year!
I write to you all in this beautiful time, to share my deep appreciation and love. Witnessing and sharing in the growth of faith over the last three years has been a dream come true for me. The growth our community is experiencing is especially meaningful in that it has come through commitment, and “pruning”. As our Lord says, 'I am the vine, you are the branches (Jn 15.5)' can a productive vine grow without pruning, fertilizing and watering? Our faith, like a vine, grows out into the community at large, to our neighbors and workplaces. We gather as community for Sunday Mass, we give praise to God, and bring the love we've received at Mass to the world. Throughout the week, we can nourish this faith with daily prayer and faith education. Some pursue this enrichment through bible study or by accessing the resources available through Formed. Some challenge themselves to grow by gathering as Small Faith Communities or engaging in ministry work. As we seek growth, we strive to model our lives after Christ.
I've recently been blown away by parishioners seeking and striving in exceptional ways. Our monthly Encounters have been awesome and it has been exciting to see a variety of faces, new and familiar alike, all attending and seeking. Our recent Evangelization Retreat was a remarkable display of the Faith alive!
Our school and particularly our school principal, Mrs. Gordon have been tackling our school accreditation with great vigor. The collaboration of our school teachers and parents to more fully engage the student disciples in following Christ is beautifully evidenced by the youth presence in our adoration chapel, their engagement in scripture study, and involvement in parish ministries. Last weekend’s school auction fundraiser was a wonderful occasion to celebrate, as Bishop Peter said to the attendees, there is no better education than Catholic education!
In our junior and high school ministry, we are experiencing some change as we say thank you to Sean Forrest who has served and developed our youth program for the last two years. Although he has stepped down as youth minister so he can dedicate more of his time to Haiti180, he continues to help with the youth here at St Mark's. We are blessed to have Mike Abbondandolo as our interim youth minister for our junior and senior high disciples. As a priest, it gives me great joy, and I can only imagine the pride that parents must feel, to see their youth wanting to celebrate Mass, attend Adoration, receive Reconciliation, and encourage our parish to be a welcoming community as they invite other youth to youth nights and work at the bench suppers.
Finally, as we near the end of our discernment process for our parish administrator, I want to express my gratitude for the hard work of our parish and finance councils, strategic plan team, parish staff and many of our parishioners who have been a part of the process.
In short, my heart swells with joy to see the vine, Christ himself, growing in so many of our lives. May we, the branches, continue to extend the vine in the world in which we live..
Thank you for allowing me to be your pastor. It is a great joy!
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Father Ben Uhlenkott, Pastor