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Sermons > Pentecost Sunday

Fr. Calvo's 25th anniversary; St. Joseph's 90th anniversary
24 May 2010

 5/23/10                                                  PENTECOST SUNDAY / 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF ORDINATION

      Fr. Randy Calvo   2010

“At this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered because each one heard them speaking in their native language.”  (Acts 2:6)                           In the name …

I’d like to thank those in the parish who helped to organize this morning’s commemoration of my 25th anniversary of Ordination.  It means a lot to me, and it means a lot that all of you have come to share in this day.  A quarter of a century.  More than half of my life has been spent in a collar, and it goes back even further.  I’ve wanted to be a priest since I was 8 years old.  That’s when I first went up to the serve as an altar boy at St. Joseph’s Parish in Westfield.  I stayed at that altar for the next ten years, leaving it behind to go away to college.  At Brandeis I double-majored in Philosophy and Political Science.  Philosophy for the priesthood – because what else are you going to do with a Philosophy degree, and political science in case I chickened out.  But I never had very serious doubts about entering the priesthood.  I remember attending my last religious retreat in my senior year of college and on the wall of the chapel there was hung a banner with a quote from the Book of Isaiah:  “I have called you by your name and you are mine.”  (43:1)  That sealed the deal.  It made sense to me.  It always felt like this is what I was supposed to do, that this is what Jesus called for me to do.

I entered the seminary in 1982 and spent the next two summers at our Cathedral in Manchester, NH.  As a deacon, I moved into the Scranton Cathedral rectory and helped out as much as I could at our first church.  When I was Ordained, my pastor was Fr. Robert Nemkovich, now Prime Bp. Nemko-vich.  He organized a bus trip from Westfield to Scranton for my Ordination, and for those of you who know our Prime Bishop, he is extremely thorough.  If Westfield was going to Scranton anyway, they may as well see the Straz Printery, the Spojnia Manor retirement home and Bp. Hodur’s mausoleum. If you get a chance downstairs, ask my sister about that bus ride. Oh, she’ll tell you some things. This bus tour was on top of a long Ordination Mass and an hour reception.  By the time they got to the printery, my uncles had had enough.  They decided to stay on the bus and pass on the tour.  Then Shirley Mietlicki’s dad popped onto the bus and mentioned that the tavern right there on the corner served boilermakers for almost nothing.  My uncles, including some who were large, rotund men who could not walk all that well rushed down the aisle of the bus so quickly that the charter bus was swaying from side to side.  I’ve always credited that miracle to my Ordination and not the boilermakers.

           I ended up spending six years in Scranton all told, and even though they now refer to me as “Fr. Who?”, I remember those days fondly.  They made a lasting impression upon me.  And it was through Scranton that I also met Sharon Wisniewski.  Sharon and I started dating when she was still at Rutgers University in NJ.  I was the chaplain of Convo 1986 and her roommate was the President.  One thing led to another, throw in a bunch of speeding tickets trying to get back to the Scranton rectory from NJ before Bp. Rysz locked the door for my 11PM curfew, and whalla here I am with two teenage daughters.  And I want to thank those three women in my life because I chose to be a priest, but Sharon had to start thinking about it when I proposed to her, and really who’s going to turn down this, so it really wasn’t fair, and the girls, well, they’ve just been stuck with it.  But without their cooperation I don’t know how this life would be possible.

I have enjoyed being able to serve here as priest and pastor for the past 22 years, and I’ve enjoyed being a part of these local communities. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some wonderful local clergy, including my friend Rev. Richard Killough here with us this morning.  I’ve been in all of your homes and many of you have been in mine.  We’ve shared baptisms and weddings together, and also hospitals and funerals.  I thank you for letting me be a part of your lives, and I hope you know that you’ve become a part of mine.  I think we’ve worked hard for the good of Holy Name, and we’ve had fun here too, although Fenway Park has sometimes brought out a little bit too much fun. 

            And it’s apropos that today’s celebration takes place on the Feast of Pentecost, the birthday of the Christian church, because the priesthood derives from the church, not the church from the priest-hood.  There is a dignity to the priesthood, but not a superiority.  It is a privilege to serve as priest, to be called by Christ and church to the priesthood, to serve at the altar and invoke Jesus’ presence, and to serve as pastor and hopefully share the words and examples that Jesus would have offered, but it is a privilege offered through, for and by the church, so there can be no sense of arrogance in the priest.  And that’s because all of us as people of faith are called to serve the church in our own special ways, whichever church we belong to.  We’re all called in the Bible “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people.” (1 Pt 2: 9)  We all have our own vocations, but to those who are called to this special vocation of the priesthood, whoever you may be, let me tell you after 25 years, that it is a good and blessed life, and I pray that will come to find this out for yourselves.

I don’t know how many of you remember or have even heard of the movie The Goodbye Girl.  In it Richard Dreyfuss plays an eccentric actor and Marsha Mason a struggling dancer.  At one point, Dreyfuss is in his room meditating, on the other side of a closed door Marsha Mason knocks and asks, “Are you decent?”  He replies “yes.”  She walks in and he’s meditating stark raving naked.  “I thought you said you were decent,” yells Marsha Mason.  “I am,” calmly replies Dreyfuss, “I’m just naked.”  A priest doesn’t look like a priest; a priest acts like a priest.  It’s what’s on the inside that’s important, not the outside.  I’ve wanted to be a priest for 42 years, I’ve been a priest for 25, and I thank all of you for letting me serve here as your priest for 22 years, and lastly I pray that Jesus help me to be a “decent” man for as long as He allows me to serve in the future.  In His name I pray.  Amen.  (+)

5/23/10                                                        PENTECOST SUNDAY / WESTFIELD’S 90TH ANNIVERSARY

      Fr. Randy Calvo   2010

“At this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered because each one heard them speaking in their native language.”  (Acts 2:6)                           In the name …

Prime Bishop Nemkovich, Bp. Gnat, Fr. Sen. Soltysiak, Very Rev. and Rev. Fathers, and parishioners of St. Joseph Parish, we have gathered today to celebrate your 90 years of bringing Christ more fully into the lives of your members and into the city of Westfield.  You must be doing some-thing right. You’ve long been an anchor parish in the diocese.  Two of your past pastors have ascended to the office of our church’s Prime Bishop.  Four of your parishioners have entered the Seminary.  I don’t think there are too many other parishes that can claim such a pedigree.  You have given countless parishioners over four generations a chance to help in a cause larger than themselves through your organizations and your charitable efforts.  You have always been a youth orientated parish as evidenced by your Polish dancers, Sunday School, youth group, acolytes and Children of Mary, not to mention all the kids you send to Retreats and Convos, or for that matter the age of your organist.  From my own experience, this was a wonderful place to grow-up in Christ, and I’m sure it still is.

And we gather today to celebrate your birthday on the birthday of the Christian church.  On that first Pentecost Sunday, the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus’ followers, and mayhem ensued.  We really don’t need to tidy-up the story and give it a false sense of order and organization.  People who study the human mind speak of something called motivated reasoning.  By this they mean that the mind has an amazing ability to protect the beliefs we already hold.  If we are presented, in other words, with facts that challenge our beliefs, then the brain can quietly and successfully dispose of the facts.  Our usual image of Pentecost is the reconstituted twelve apostles marching out onto the streets of Jerusalem to preach the gospel, and that miraculously they each can speak a separate language so that all of the pilgrims in that ancient, holy city can hear their preaching about Christ.

But that’s not exactly what the Bible says.  For one, the only story of Pentecost in the Bible is the one we read this morning at Mass from the Acts of the Apostles, and unfortunately, it’s filled with the undefined pronouns they and them.  If we try to define these pronouns by what has come earlier, then the words can refer to the eleven original disciples, or to them and certain women along with Mary and Jesus’ brothers, or to them and another 120 early believers, or we can add Matthias the apostle who replaced Judas. 

But there’s more.  We tend to assume that the Holy Spirit of Pentecost descended only upon the speakers.  Again, that’s not exactly what the Bible says. The Bible is clear when it says that the crowds “heard them speaking in the native language of each.” That means that there’s not one apostle speaking to the Greeks, another to the Romans, another to the Jews.  What the Bible is trying to say is that the ones who are willing to listen, who are open to the gifts of the Spirit, hear the Pentecost proclamation as their native tongue.  The Pentecost mystery is found both in the proclamation and in the reception, and we know this because those who are unwilling to open themselves to the Spirit only hear the babble of people they thought drunk.  The image Luke is drawing upon is the unity of human creation as symbolized by one shared language, a unity which the world enjoyed up to the Tower of Babel.

At Babel, so the story teaches, humans in their pride had threatened to become like God by building a tower up into the heavens so that God humbled and separated them by the babel of their different tongues.  Now with the completed earthly ministry of Jesus and the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, we again have the opportunity to be God-like, not by the false pride of trying to displace the one God, but through the mercy, love and humility of that one God who is now forever among us through the church.  The divisions among us as people that began at Babel has been reversed by the unity of church.  The separation of God in heaven and we on earth has been erased by the Spirit’s descent and God’s presence here now among us as church.  But Pentecost can only work if we do.

There was mayhem that first Pentecost Sunday.  Don’t clean up the story. Leave the excitement and confusion.  Don’t turn it into an institution because as those disparaging bumper stickers say:  Church is an institution, but who wants to go to an institution.  Let God stir up the waters of church.  Let Pentecost continue to renew and rebuild us as church.  When the Spirit of God comes among us, why in the world would we expect Him to ratify everything we’ve said and done?  That makes us God, that rigidity and certainty brings us back to the Tower of Babel.  When Peter addressed the Jerusalem crowds that first Pentecost, he quoted from the prophet Joel who spoke of the Spirit of God being shared upon all flesh, your sons and your daughters, even your male and female slaves.  The Spirit belongs to all of us as church.  It’s not only the job of your pastor, your bishop or your Prime Bishop to do the work of church, as good as they do it.  Again, Pentecost can’t work if we don’t.

For 90 years St. Joseph parish has been church to literally thousands of people.  You continue to be a Pentecost church because you look out beyond these walls.  You’ve used newspaper, television and radio, you feed the hungry, your pastors have long been active in city affairs, for all of this you should be proud.  You have represented the church and Christ well to all people of this community.  You have tirelessly served our denomination, and you have shared your own as bishops and priests of this church, and our past three Seniors have served not only you but all our local congregations.  Pentecost once surprised us, and my prayer for you as church is that the Spirit may continue to surprise, renew and reinvent you as you as St. Joseph’s continues to do the good work of the church in the decades ahead.  And for this may we pray in Jesus’ name.  Amen.  (+)   

Fr. Randolph Calvo


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