Unfortunately I know of very few parishes that celebrate their patronal feast anymore. I remember when our neighboring church, St. Anthony, which was an ethnic Czechoslovakian parish, celebrated their feast day. We weren’t parishioners, but because our family lived in the neighborhood, we were always invited to participate. There was always a huge Mass, people came from all over. Buses would arrive from Ohio, Michigan, Toronto at the parish Saturday evening and early Sunday morning. And then, my favorite part of the Feast, a huge street procession, with bands and a statue of St. Anthony and later on a dinner at one of the local halls.
The fact that so few parishes mark their patronal feast is a sign that in some ways, we’ve lost a sense of who we are. Our culture has become so secularized; many people do not make a place for God in their lives, and for many Catholics, church is but an hour event on Saturday or Sunday. But I believe that it’s important to recover that meaning and identity of our parish. Why?
The history of the naming of our parish is an interesting story. The earliest immigrant communities in Fowler, were the Irish and the Germans. When it came to the naming of the parish, the Irish immigrants wanted the parish to be named “St. Patrick” and the Germans immigrants wanted the parish to be named “St. Boniface.” So the wise pastor said, “We’re going to name the parish Most Holy Trinity.” The story reminds us of the early competitive nature of many immigrant Catholic communities, the parochial identity that many Catholic parishes had, and sadly still do have today.
That’s why I love the story of how our parish got it’s sacred name. Because the life of the Trinity is a constant reminder that we are called to break barriers, not create them. We are called, like the Blessed Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to reach out and give ourselves away, following the model of God’s inner life – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit constantly pouring out their love for One another, continually inviting us to share in their Divine life of love.
Because the life of the Trinity is a constant reminder,
we are called to break barriers, not create them.
In the past few years it has struck me that we’ve been receiving many graces here – vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life (how many parishes do you know of where young women are entering the convent?), young families returning to the parish, Masses burgeoning with children, an effective model of evangelization, youth ministry and adult formation and our Encounter with the Holy Spirit evenings, adult retreats, all giving us an opportunity to allow our lives to be touched and strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit.
This is not to be taken lightly, or simply attributed to our hard work, or that we’re so smart and talented, but, most importantly, this is a grace, a gift from God. And as always, every grace is attached to a mission. Here at Most Holy Trinity, our mission, I believe is to see that our life and ministry as Christians in Fowler, is a reflection of the life of God. The Name of a parish patron, whether a saint, or in our case the very Name of the Trinity, is chosen to be the special intercessor in heaven for our families. We have no one less than the very Person of the Trinity who has been chosen to be our model and the ultimate source of grace.
Those days when immigrant parishes, like the St. Anthony’s in my own neighborhood might be a thing of the past, perhaps even nostalgic, but I believe that our parish must continue to develop a strong spiritual identity. The work of evangelization and passing on the faith to the next generation is crucial. I thank the Lord that He has graced us in so many ways – and now we continue to respond to His grace and give ourselves away in gratitude and service.
It is truly right to praise the divine Trinity, the Father
Without beginning and Maker of all, the coeternal Word,
born without change from the Father before the ages, and the Holy Spirit, proceeding timelessly from the Father.
Fr. Dennis Howard