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Fr. Gerald's Farewell

I believe in God – of course! – and I believe in love and there is plenty of that here in Flint! Unfortunately, I am saying ‘good-bye’ after a short stay here. I have come to appreciate Flint even in the midst of a difficult year for our world and our nation. My departure may come as a surprise to many of you due to the fact that we have all been locked down and communication and our personal contact with each other has been curtailed. I came to Flint after living in Iraq for three years and trying to help the persecuted Christians there. I volunteered to come here after that assignment. Upon my arrival, I spent my office hours at St. Mary on the North-East side of the city. Sister Christina of the Servants of God’s Love also has an office at St. Mary and I helped her serve people in that area. She, along with other members of her religious order, do a lot of great work helping the poor and needy in the city. They live out their religious life here and assist the Catholic Community of Flint. I hope you support them and invite them into your life. They really do bring God’s love to people. I lived at St. John Vianney with Fr. Jim, Fr. Paul and Fr. Tom Firestone. These are very good priests! They are cheerful, generous, earnest men who are devoted to the Church and to the Lord. Over the past few months I have come to have a more particular appreciation for Fr. Tom. The Flint area is blessed by his service here. Fr. Tom is a man of great compassion and he has a very strong, principled commitment to the priesthood of Jesus Christ. He is an intelligent and resourceful man who deploys these gifts for you, the people of God here in Flint. Although he seems to be in constant motion, he is also a man of prayer. I have come to admire him a great deal. Now, when I am starting to ‘get the feel’ of being here, I am leaving! This is because a friend who is pastor in Ann Arbor had been asking me to come to his parish since almost the moment I got off the plane from Iraq last summer. He has wanted me to come help him establish the Extraordinary Form of the liturgy. The Extraordinary Form(s) of the sacraments refers to the way the sacraments were offered prior to the Council of Vatican II but still valid in the Church. There seems to be a youth movement toward these liturgical expressions in many places. We see this here in Flint at St. Matthews’ 3pm Mass which is populated with so many young families. When I first came here from Iraq, it was a bit difficult to feel at home because the priests rotated around four Churches every week. Meanwhile my friend persistently asked me to come help him. When I told him I was open to help him at some point, he immediately presented a comprehensive plan to the bishop for implementing the Extraordinary Form at his parish. Thus, I was re-assigned. That was something like five or six months ago! The staff of parishes here in Flint, the deacons, the volunteers and the believers are people whom I have come to appreciate and for whom I thank God. The people you have on staff in the office here are very dedicated. There are so many wonderful souls here! It is edifying to see the determination and generosity of people striving to build a better world and clinging to the Lord’s heart day-after-day. I am glad to have come to Flint and sorry to be leaving so soon. Please – I literally plead with you – pray for me. I have prayed for you. Many of you, I have prayed for by name and with specificity of intention. I will try to continue to pray for you. Please pray for me and let us all pray for each other. I learned in Iraq how important it is for us to pray for the Church – everyone all around the world. Furthermore, prayer is a real expression of love; it is, in fact, a form of love. We can be tempted to think that prayer is less important than action, as if ‘I can’t do anything for you but I will pray for you’. On the contrary, prayer is the most important thing we do for each other because it is a source of grace and grace is what we need to grow in our life with God and on the path of salvation. Intercessory prayer also creates unity by breaking down the barriers within hearts. When my grandmother was 90 years old, she asked me why God was keeping her alive. I told her that it was so she could offer her sufferings and prayers for us – the rest of her family! In fact, the prayers of those who suffer are among the most powerful. The prayers of those who suffer keep grace flowing in the world because it is such a powerful manifestation of faith. Pray for me and I will pray for you. Thank you for all your love while I was here and to the end of time. – Fr. Gerald

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