“This is the day the Lord has made, let us be glad and rejoice in it”
My dear sisters and brothers of the St. Joseph Community. After receiving word by Bishop Gregory Parks to serve your parish community, I accept the invitation to walk with you in faith as your parish priest. As a Divine Word Missionary it is my hope to listen and learn from you. Your history, your hopes and dreams are of great importance to me as I seek to serve you and learn from you.
Over the past ten years I was blessed to serve nine years as the Assistant to the President for ministry at St. Leo University and a year as Associate pastor of St. Paul in Tampa. My religious superior has allowed me an assignment to a special ministry of caring for my parents and while doing so to serve in a pastoral setting that would also allow me to provide for them. I ask for your patience and support of caring for my parents as I serve as your priest and servant here at St. Joseph.
Prior to being asked by Bishop Parks to lead your community, I had previously made plans for rest and recuperation after a laborious year serving at St. Paul in Tampa without any vacation, rest or retreat. I would ask for your understanding and patience allowing me a few weeks off so that I might be well rested and rejuvenated to serve you and continue creating a ministry of welcome, inclusion and compassion. I am taking time to meet with parish leadership to seek their guidance in transitioning to serve in your parish. I need to learn the administrative needs of St. Joseph and find the best ways to be a good steward over the goods entrusted to us. I will also seek guidance in some improvements in the priest residence to care for my parents. It is in great condition however, a couple improvements to assist mother and father as seniors with special needs requires attention.
It is my hope to gather with you upon my taking up residence in the parish through town hall meetings and simple dinners that allow me to listen and learn from you as well as walking the neighborhood and greeting those who live around our Church. Getting to know you and being completely available to you is my priority and hope upon arrival. The Word’s of the Prophet Jeremiah ring out for me. ” I have plans for your welfare not your woe plans for a future full of hope.” “”We must leave no one behind,” Pope Francis says. The church must be a place for all, welcoming the marginalized and those on periphery. We are called be out amongst the poor and the needy. Step outside ourselves to the unchurched or those who have left and invite them home.
Please reflect on a few questions to prepare for the first of our listening session. Allowing me to understand, and know your joys, hopes and dreams. What are we doing well? What do you love about St Joseph? Why do you come?
What do we need to improve? What concerns? What ministry opportunities do we have to address needs?
Let us pray for each other as we come together and start a new journey together.
Sincerely Yours in the Divine Word,
Fr. Stephan Brown, SVD