09 July 2015

Receiving a beautiful name...


I remember that day in 1983 when I was summoned to the archbishop’s office. Now, getting a call from one's archbishop is not something priests especially look forward to – but this time was the exception. Word had been received from Rome; the Holy Father Pope John Paul II, after lengthy prayer, had made the decision to give his permission for my ordination, and the archbishop called me in to give me that wonderful news, and to set the date. I went to what was the old chancery office, where Archbishop Flores and I set the dates: August 7th was the day when I would be made Deacon; August 15th to be ordained as Priest. And then he said, “We’ll be formally erecting the parish on August 15th, too. Have you thought about what it will be named?"

Actually, I had thought about it, and I’d prayed about it, and I was a little hesitant about suggesting it, because there wasn’t another parish in the whole country dedicated under the name I was hoping for. The little group of us (eighteen people altogether, counting the children) who would comprise the founding families of this parish knew we wanted a title associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary – and there was only one name that would be suitable, as far as we were concerned. It’s a title of Mary which originated in Anglicanism – the same origin to which all of us who were founding the parish traced our spiritual roots.

The Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Atonement, who had formed the Society of the Atonement in the Episcopal Church, entered into full Catholic communion in 1909, and brought with them the title of the Blessed Virgin Mary which had become so dear to them. And now it was our turn – so with a tentative tone, I asked the archbishop, “Could we be dedicated to Our Lady of the Atonement?” The look on his face told me that he wasn’t familiar with the title, but his immediate answer was, “Yes.”

I just knew it would be – after all, I was there, making the request on July 8th, the eve of the Feast of that title. And that’s how we came to be dedicated to the Lady with the red mantle, who holds in her arms the Divine Infant, who in turn holds out to us His cross.  Our Lady of the Atonement was now, truly, our Mother.