Praised be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!
Dear People of St. Mary’s Church,
On Thursday 28 June 2001, the Feast of St. Irenaeus, Bishop and Martyr, I will become the eighth pastor of St. Mary’s Church. Before God, I declare to our Bishop Robert that I will give myself entirely to the service of this noble parish, and I pledge to you my constant desire to be a faithful shepherd-a herald of the Gospel and a steward of the Sacred Mysteries of salvation.
I must begin my first letter to you by thanking Father D. Anthony Droze for his devoted leadership and exemplary priestly zeal. In the weeks since my appointment to succeed him, Father Droze has carefully explained to me the recent history and present situation of St. Mary’s, and it is clear to me that his service here has been an extraordinary blessing to the entire parish. I hope that all of you will take the time to express your gratitude to Father Droze for his service to St. Mary’s.
Our parish, the mother church of Catholicism in the Upstate, has a splendid history, it is my good fortune to become the pastor of this remarkable spiritual family just in time to celebrate our 150th anniversary. One of my first acts as pastor will be to establish a Jubilee Committee to help plan and coordinate several events in 2002 to mark the middle of our second century. During the Jubilee Year, I want us to study our history carefully and become more fully aware of the extraordinary sacrifices made by previous generations-the sacrifices which make our present circumstances possible. At the same time, we will also begin to look forward to our next 150 years and make the plans which can transform our parish into an even more vibrant family of Christian disciples.
A good start has already been made in assessing our present needs and looking to the future. All of us are indebted to the Strategic Planning Committee, and in the first months of my service as pastor, I will carefully examine the proposals made in the preliminary draft of the Strategic Plan. When the planning process began, it was hoped that a final Plan could be presented to the parish in September 2001, but because of the change of pastors, that timeline must now be revised. It will be late 2001 or early 2002 before the Plan can be presented to the parish, but I will make it a priority to present a plan for the future during our extended celebration of the past.
For over a month now, I have been reviewing the work done so far by the Planning Committee, and I have given particular attention to the comments reported from the parish survey conducted by our consultants. As one might expect from a diverse parish of nearly 2000 households, every conceivable point of view is reflected in those comments. On only one topic was there nearly universal agreement: dissatisfaction with the present arrangements for Mass on Sunday morning.
Until only very recently, St. Mary’s was always served by at least two priests, and the presence of several priests made it possible for multiple Masses to be offered even on weekdays. With the precipitous decline in the number of priests in our diocese, however, we can no longer count on having more than one priest at St. Mary’s, and such a change requires creative adaptation of almost every feature of parish life-including the Mass schedule. Canon Law, for example, permits each priests to celebrate only one Mass on weekdays and two Masses on Sunday-unless pastoral necessity demands otherwise, in which case he can celebrate three Masses on Sunday. In no event does the Church envision one priest celebrating four Masses on single Sunday, let alone five.
In the light of the law and the present paucity of priests, Father Droze made the correct decision several months ago to eliminate one Sunday Mass, and the elimination of one Mass required the transfer of another Mass to the gym to alleviate overcrowding in the church. Under the circumstances at the time, no other solution was possible, but the circumstances are changing.
For the past several months, St. Mary’s has enjoyed the able assistance on some weekends of Father Samuel Weber, O.S.B., a Benedictine monk and professor of theology at the Wake Forest University Divinity School. Father Samuel generously drives to Greenville most weeks to provide a priestly presence at St. Joseph’s High School and stays at our rectory; that is how St. Mary’s came to profit from his service. As it happens, Father Samuel and I are old friends and colleagues in the Society for Catholic Liturgy, an interdisciplinary society dedicated to the full implementation of the reform of the sacred liturgy begun by the II Vatican Council; it is a happy sign of God’s Providence that we now have the opportunity to work together here. Father Samuel will be joining us as often as his schedule permits, and I will be able to call on his assistance in many ways. Moreover, there is a very good possibility that in the coming weeks our parish will receive a second full-time priest (and one who speaks Spanish!) to be my parochial vicar. Given these new developments, it is now possible for me to respond to your many requests to restore the fourth morning Mass and thus eliminate the need for any Mass in the gym. These changes will occur on my first weekend as pastor.
Beginning Sunday 1 July 2001, all Masses will be in the church on the following schedule:
- 7:30am Quiet Mass (No Music)
- 9:00am Sung Mass (Youth Choir)
- 10:30 am Solemn Mass (Adult Choir)
- 12:30 pm Sung Mass (Organ And Cantor)
- 3:00 pm Spanish Mass
I hope that everyone will be pleased with this new schedule, and I ask you all to make this change widely known in our community so that on the weekend of the transition there will be no confusion. The new schedule will be posted in the bulletin beginning next week. For now, the weekday and Saturday Vigil Mass schedules remain unchanged, but those will be reviewed immediately after my arrival. Any changes made to those schedules will be discussed and announced well in advance.
No matter when or where Mass is offered or what arrangements are made for sacred music and the character of the liturgy, the purpose of every celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist is the same: communion with the Most Holy Trinity. In the Mass, the Lord Jesus Christ offers the perfect sacrifice of His Body and Blood for the forgiveness of sins-the one sacrifice of the Cross; by this sacrifice and through the power of the Holy Spirit, we who are in Christ through Baptism are able to approach God the Father and offer our lives as a sacrifice of praise. In a word, we are called to become holy-to share the very holiness of God Himself. For this reason, no celebration of the liturgy is an end in itself, and our common work in the Mass is not draw attention to ourselves-the worshiping congregation-but to direct our gaze towards Him Who Is, the Triune God Who created us from nothing, sustains us at every moment, redeemed us from our sins, and calls us to share His glory in a perfect communion of love. It is this communion with God in Christ which transforms us into instruments of His grace and enables us then to serve others by announcing the Gospel of salvation. In other words, the sacred liturgy is not what we do for God; it is what God does for us. This fundamental truth will guide my efforts to shape our celebration of the sacraments of the New and Everlasting Covenant, and in the months ahead you will begin to see visible manifestations of this truth-changes in the sacred liturgy and sacred music ordered to the end of making public worship at St. Mary’s a transforming encounter with the ineffable Mystery of God.
As we spend time together, we will come to know each other naturally and gradually, it is my desire to spend time with all of you. Please remember, though: there are over 5000 of you and only one of me! Towards the end of meeting as many of you as possible and listening to your concerns, I will attend a series of receptions on Monday evenings for small groups at the homes of parishioners scattered around the city. Details on these receptions will be forthcoming, but I know now that they will be informal after-dinner socials designed to encourage conversation.
Just as I have questions about you, I know that you have questions about me. I was born in 1962 in the mountain town of Elkin, North Carolina to a family of Baptists and Brethen. When I was two, my family moved to High Point, North Carolina, I lived and attended school there until 1980 when I matriculated at Princeton University in New Jersey. From the age of 13, I had been an atheist, but at Princeton my religious beliefs were to change forever. Through a series of complex and interrelated events, I came to a spiritual crisis on 15 October 1981, and on that night, the Lord Jesus Christ laid hold of my life. I was baptized shortly thereafter in the Episcopal Church, but my pilgrimage to Rome was already underway. After months of prayer, study, and endless conversations into the night, I was received into full communion with the Catholic Church on 5 November 1982, and I knew even before I became a Catholic that God was calling me to the priesthood.
In 1984 I tried my vocation in a monastery of Benedictine monks but found that my calling was elsewhere. I studied sacred theology and canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, while receiving priestly formation at the Pontifical North American College. At long last, I was ordained to the priesthood on 10 July 1993 by Bishop David B. Thompson at our Cathedral Church of St. John the Baptist in Charleston.
After completing my graduate degrees in theology and canon law, I was assigned to be Catholic chaplain to the Citadel, where I also taught philosophy as an adjunct professor. I then served as pastor of St. Mark’s, Newberry and St. Boniface, Joanna before being transferred to Divine Redeemer, Hanahan, where I served as pastor for four years. For the past year I have worked at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio-a seminary with both an undergraduate college (where I taught philosophy and served as Dean of Men) and a graduate school of theology (where I taught canon law). It is from the Josephinum that I come to be pastor of St. Mary’s.
As my biography suggests, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is to me the pearl of great price. The experience of my conversion to Christ remains the touchstone for everything I am and do, and that experience will shape my service as your pastor. For more than twenty years, Pope John Paul II has been calling the Church to a project he calls the New Evangelization. Here at the opening of the third millennium, most of the human race does not know that Jesus Christ is Lord. Even nations with an ancient Christian heritage have forgotten the Gospel and been seduced by a philosophy which regards the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as, if not non-existent, at least irrelevant. In such a world there is an urgent need to proclaim the Gospel with new ardor, new methods, and new conviction. But before we can announce the Gospel to others, we must first have received it ourselves. An not only received it: We must be changed by the Gospel; we must be converted from the way of sin and death and firmly placed on the Way of the Lord Jesus, the Way of the Cross, the Way of the Truth and Life.
I hope to serve St. Mary’s for a very long time to come, but whether I am here for only a few precious years or (like Monsignor Gwynn) for a lifetime, everything I do and say will be directed to one goal: the New Evangelization. In the weeks and months and years ahead, I ask you to join me in this never-ending project of submitting everything to the truth of the Gospel: every belief, every religious opinion, every political conviction, every habit, every relationship, every economic choice, every recreational and professional decision. Everything we do and say and think must be submitted in the obedience of faith to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe and our only true freedom. An absolutely indispensable means for accomplishing this task is Catholic education at every level, I will soon be writing to you again about St. Mary’s School and St. Joseph’s High School-two of the most important places in our community; I will also begin to explore ways to involve all adults in the parish in lifelong Catholic education.
I come to St. Mary’s with great gratitude for the opportunity to serve this parish, with great enthusiasm for the work which lies ahead, and with great hope for realizing the extraordinary possibilities which we have here for building a spiritual family of disciples on fire with love of God and filled with zeal for announcing to all the world that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Praised be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!
Father Jay Scott Newman, J.C.L.