Who We Are

The State of the Parish & Cultivating Seeds of the Future

Dear Sisters and Brothers of St. Joseph, Peace of Christ!

The summer before I entered college, I was working for my father, when he called me into his office and asked me to take a seat. “John,” he said, “your mother and I have always tried to give you the best education we could afford, and to support every opportunity for you to have a good life. Before you leave for college, I want you to know that we don’t ever expect you to pay us back for this—it isn’t a debt you owe us. But, we do expect that you will do the same for your children. That’s how you pay us back: by making sure your children have all the opportunities you can give them.” Long before “paying it forward” became part of popular culture, my parents already knew that the good we’ve received in life—the blessings of love and community, of resources and talent—carry with them not a debt to the past, but a responsibility to the future. We have reaped what others have sown, and now we are called to feed those who are hungry, and sow the seeds of future feasts.

At St. Joseph, we feast on the harvest our ancestors planted: the towering church, where we gather to wed and worship, to bury our dead and baptize our children; the wonderful school, where our children grow in grace and knowledge; the faith formation programs, which nurture the young in the Sacraments, and feed the minds and hearts of our adults; the faith that does justice, which unites us to Chief Seattle Club and St. Francis House, to St. Martin de Porres and St. Vincent de Paul, to the women of Jubilee and the children of Westside Baby, and which sits us at the table of the world through our Sister Parish in El Salvador and our colleagues in Shirts Across America.

As I begin my seventh year at St. Joseph, I continue to marvel at the generosity of those who began these programs and built these relationships, who gave their hearts and hands, their prayer and treasure to sow the seeds of life in our community. In the last few years, many of these sisters and brothers have gone home to God; yet their gifts remain and flourish. I am moved, as well, by those who carry on their work: making programs better, adapting them to new populations and new technologies, ensuring that the graces planted at St. Joseph will bear fruit, so that a new generation might be fed.

Yet even as I marvel at the past and am moved by the present, I feel the responsibility to preserve this legacy of grace and pass it on, enriched by my own small gifts. And though I thought—as a person without children—I had outfoxed my father’s call to pay back by paying forward, I see now that my responsibility for the future cannot be avoided merely by celibacy. For, through the gift of His body and blood, Jesus has given us all an inheritance we cannot ignore, and has sent us “ignited by the Eucharist to love and serve,” i.e., to preserve and build, to harvest and plant for those who have yet to be born.

Today St. Joseph Parish and School is strong and growing stronger, as we meet our responsibility to the future by coordinating and integrating our various ministries, by developing flexible and responsive communication, and by doing what is needed to maintain and improve our physical plant for the service of our mission.

In the fourth year of our Strategic Plan, we have created Councils and Commissions that open the doors of leadership, calling all parishioners to help build our future. We have improved our welcome of new parishioners and grown in our support of those already here. Adult Faith Formation, so often episodic at St. Joseph, is being cultivated and pruned to make it more accessible and more broadly appealing, even as Children’s Faith Formation continues to flourish. Meanwhile, through our developing use of social media and the web—most noticeably in the Parish e-blast—we are spreading a living gospel and evangelizing in a way suited to busy parishioners and those beyond our Parish boundaries. Yet even as we reach far afield, greater coordination of common needs in our Parish and School helps us use our resources more effectively, while maintaining the necessary independence of these two parts of our historic mission.

Through many hands, and in many directions, the seeds of the future are being sown and cultivated, trusting that the Lord of the Harvest will bring us the workers we need—i.e., trusting that Christ will bring all parishioners into the mission and ministry of St. Joseph.

May God, who makes whatever is given enough for the whole Church, bless us all in the work we have yet to fulfill.

Yours in Christ,

John D. Whitney, S.J.