I remember Ash Wednesday 2017, like it was yesterday.  Ever have a moment like that?  It starts out like any other day, then something happens that is imprinted in such a way that it never leaves you.  That day Fr. Gary was preaching at the morning Mass.  The crowd was made up of business workers from surrounding offices, parishioners and others looking to get their ashes to start the season.  I can’t speak for anyone else in the room, but I know his message has stayed with me like a mantra.  He said, “If you do nothing else to mark Lent this year, pray.  Pray more, add prayer to your daily routine, pray for someone new, maybe just sit in silence and let the spirit wash over you.”  He continued saying, “Begin today.  Make it a priority.  God wants to hear from you.”  Oh man!

With those words ringing in my head, I set out to find my action plan.  I know it seems simple to just pray, but I wanted to do it right. I needed to know that God was listening. I couldn’t just start talking.  Wasn’t there a formula to this?  I mean, I learned my prayers in catechism classes and knew them by rote.  Was that what Fr. Gary was talking about?  No.  He meant have a real conversation.  Hmmm.

As the weeks of Lent moved forward, I found myself trying different devotional prayers I found online. I settled on one that “spoke” to me.  I began to incorporate different times of the day when I would sit and listen in silence.  I began to feel the deeper connection Fr. Gary described of his own experience as he impressed upon us to give it a try. By the time I got to Holy Week and Easter, I had formed a new way of sharing my hopes, fears, desires, and feelings with God and reached a new level in my commitment to this community and I (officially) joined the parish.

On this, my 5th anniversary, I am so thankful to this community and to my co-workers and friends for all the hard work and dedication that is put into these liturgies and the parish community.  My heart is full with a prayer of gratitude!  Thank you, Fr. Gary, for your leadership and guidance in creating an environment of hope and celebration.  Thank you, Julie, for your boundless creativity in filling our hearts with feeling through song.  Thank you, Rebecca, for your commitment to a rigorous schedule and providing content all season long for our spiritual needs.  Thank you, Annie for fielding the calls, dealing with stressed co-workers, and managing to smile through it.  AND thank you fellow parishioners for being the reason I love this parish community.

— Lydia Maola