On Sunday, August 29, 2021, on behalf of Our Lady of the Angels Province Minister Provincial, the Very Reverend Fr. James McCurry, OFM Conv. who sent a message available via the parish website, our Vicar Provincial, Fr. Michael Heine, OFM Conv. joined Fr. Carl Zdancewicz, OFM Conv. (pastor), Fr. Joseph Angelini, OFM Conv. (pastor emeritus) and Fr. Daniel Pal, OFM Conv. (parochial vicar) to say “Farewell” to the parishioners of Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church & Our Lady of Fatima Chapel, in Winston-Salem, NC, after 34 years of pastoral ministry by our friars. Here are his remarks and photos he took throughout the day:
“On behalf of Father James McCurry our Minister Provincial and the entire Our Lady of the Angels Province, I want to say thank you for opening your hearts and lives to us Franciscans for these past 34 years. My name is Father Michael Heine, and I am the Vicar Provincial. I first heard about this wonderful parish when I was still a seminarian back in 1987. I can recall the excitement of the friars as this new opportunity came about in the south, here in the Diocese of Charlotte. There was a thrust in the Province to move south and to minister to the thriving Catholic Community and ever growing Catholic Hispanic community. Father Edger Holden and Father Canice Connors couldn’t wait to arrive, and you all opened your hearts to these sandal wearing friars, as you did for the 21 other friars who followed. You have all made an impression on the friars and we are so blessed to have been able to minister to and with you here on Link Road as well as West 3rd Street downtown.
Saying good-bye is never easy, especially when the love is so strong. Imagine how difficult it was for the apostles to say goodbye to Jesus as he ascended into heaven. The friars were broken hearted in the year 1226 as they said goodbye to Saint Francis as he welcomed sister death. Today is no less difficult. With heavy hearts and tears in our eyes, we Franciscans say that even though we depart, our love for you all has not diminished. It is not easy for anyone; for the friars or for you all.
On behalf of our Franciscan Friars, I want to thank in a special way Fathers Carl, Joe, and Daniel as they have journeyed with you, especially in these last few months since the announcement by Bishop Jugas was made. As you know the friars profess three vows – poverty, chastity, and obedience. These three vows are much more than the three knots on our cords. Leaving a ministry and people we love, is when the rubber really hits the road – we are called to let go of something and people very important to us, our love is for all people not just a select few and even though I am sure if they had a choice, our three friars would want to remain, but that vow of obedience calls them, calls us to go and be led by the Spirit.
Sad yes, disappointing I imagine, there may even be a bit of anger at the situation and that is ok. As Christians we know the Lord never leaves us. He is always calling us to a deeper relationship with Him. Those scared and confused apostles, once filled with the Holy Spirit preached throughout the world and it is on their shoulders we stand today. For over 800 years the friars, open to the working of the Holy Spirit, who Saint Francis called the real Minister General of the Order, have tried to share the merciful and gentle love of the Lord. What I am saying, the goodbye of the apostles and the early friars opened up new possibilities and empowered by the Holy Spirit enflamed them to continue to build God’s Kingdom on earth.
The same Holy Spirit is alive and well here at Our Lady of Mercy and Our Lady of Fatima. We always preach that the Church is not a building, although this one is beautiful and will always have the image of the San Damiano Cross on the front, but the Church is not the friars, not the sisters – the Church is all of us and as living stones the Lord continues to use us to build up His Body.
Next weekend, there will be two new, young faces here celebrating with you. Certainly not as handsome as these three! We are all different in our own way and we know you will open your hearts and lives to them as you did to us.
The practice of saying goodbye goes back centuries. It’s a contraction of the phrase “God be with ye.” In the distant past, people didn’t have the means of communication we do today, and they often didn’t know when or if they would see that person again when they parted. So, they issued a sincere send-off, asking God to be with them until they met again.
Sister and brothers, God be with you until we meet again, either here in the beautiful south or ultimately in our heavenly home. May our Blessed Mother under the titles of Our Lady of Mercy, Our Lady of Fatima, and Our Lady of the Angels, intercede for all of us as we listen the voice of the Lord and follow His holy and true command. Thank you and God bless!”
The bulletin message of thanksgiving, presented by Friar Carl, on behalf of Friar Joe and Friar Daniel:
Dear beloved parishioners of Our Lady of Mercy and Our Lady of Fatima Churches, I want to express my deepest thanks to all of you for your support over the many years that the Conventual Franciscans have ministers at both of our churches in Winston Salem, NC. It certainly has been a great privilege for me to come to know so many of you throughout the 7 years I have been your pastor. Your help in so many different areas of leadership has given me hope that the church is still valued by you. We have a very diverse population in our parish. We have tried to be authentic ministers to the great blend of cultures that make up our wonderful community. The spirit of our parish is alive and well and it will flourish in the coming years. I reflected this past weekend on one important idea. Due to the Covid pandemic which arrived in 2020, we need to focus our attention on reinvigorating our ministries. As September comes, all leadership positions in the parish community need to be filled with people who are currently attending church services. We have fewer people attending and many of the positions for leadership especially in the liturgical area are vacant. Since we less have Altar Servers, Lectors, Ushers, and Eucharistic Ministers, I invite you to volunteer to come active in one of these important rolls. Remember that the Lord Jesus calls us all to service among ourselves and others. Let us continue to be a vibrant community! The Friars of Our Lady of the Angels Province will continue to support the people here at Our Lady of Mercy and Our Lady of Fatima with our prayers and very good memories of what has been achieved over these many years. Please keep Fr. Joe, Fr. Dan and Fr. Carl in your prayers. Keep in touch with us via email or telephone. We will love to hear from you.