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Lent V – Passion Sunday

✠ The Bishop’s Corner ✠
Since last I wrote to you, we had the sudden death and very solemn Requiem of Richard VandeRyt. He was a faithful server since sixth or seventh grade, and went on to serve as our MC and the head of our altar boys until the day of his death. It is an incomparable loss for us, which still leaves me almost speechless. Words come, but never could I adequately express all that Richard gave to our church and generations of altar boys, nor what St. Gertrude the Great gave to him his whole life long: the source of strength and meaning, the rock of stability in a crazy ever-changing world. Rest in peace, my dear altar boy, rest in peace.

On the Annunciation Fr. Cekada had another stroke, seemingly more serious than the previous ones. We had no choice (given the necessity of testing and treatment) but to deliver him to the hands of the hospital as to the maws of death. It was a sad farewell. Communication is intermittent or indirect at best. All visits are forbidden. He is left alone in his confusion to deal with everything. But of course, he is not alone. He is in God’s loving hands with his angel (whom he has kept very busy these months) at his side. Our prayers surely solace and strengthen him.

With all of the pandemic panic Fr. Cekada piped up the other day (he’s been mostly silent) to announce that we must tell the priests that if anyone goes to the hospital, he must first receive Last Rites. I realized he was speaking of himself. So, when our very kind doctor, James Lang, gently explained why Fr. Cekada should go to the hospital, Father and I both knew what to do first. “Well fortified with the Sacraments of Holy Church,” we left him to the mercy of God at the Emergency Room entrance.

This crisis, have you noticed? tends to bring out the worst or the best in people, and some people it doesn’t bring out at all, at least not to church. But His Excellency the Governor has specifically exempted churches from last Sunday’s Health Diktat (per 12.e). Let us pray for Faith, for patience, and for vision. It is almost as though some have lost theirs.

But the Annunciation was a perfect day, the very respite we asked for in the “Prayer over the People” just the day before at Mass. We were heard. Magnificent Spring sunshine, a truly beautiful and fairly well-attended High Mass, and innocent children praying for our needs before the Blessed Sacrament Exposed. After Vespers everyone left. But one couple did come to adore with Fr. Lehtoranta and eventually myself. A few more came for Benediction and the closing Mass. Fr. Cekada in the confusion of his stroke walked down the hill from the rectory by himself that afternoon, using his new cane. But his angel did not abandon him, and Fr. Lehtoranta spotted him and led him safely the rest of the way to church.

Still and all, I will remember the dappled sunlight of Annunciation morning, Cardinals chirping and Robins nest building with the cats (there’s a new one appeared) quietly watching the deer who came to forage for breakfast. I will also remember the story Donna Patton told me of Sharon, may she rest in peace, who liked to buy groceries and drop them off to those in need from time to time, as she was able. Oh, and our faithful cooks with delicious meals! These things I will remember, and His mercies.

– Bishop Dolan