February 26, 2010

Parishioner appreciates priestly example and leadership of pastor

(Calissa Harvey is a member of St. Gabriel Parish in Connersville. She wrote to The Criterion to share her appreciation of Father Stanley Herber, her pastor.)

A few years ago, when Father Stan decided not to retire, the Holy Spirit breathed new life into him.

Opportunities for our entire parish community to be catechized have steadily increased these past few years. Liturgy of the Word for Children during the Sunday liturgy, “Living with Christ” Lenten retreats, Religious Education for Adults on the same evening the teenagers are receiving religious education are just a few of the programs he has established.

More than a year ago, Father Stan decided to dedicate a year to the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. His plans included teaching the history of the devotion, its scriptural foundations, its deeper spiritual meaning and relationship to the Eucharist, its application to us in the year 2009 and, ultimately, enthronement of the Sacred Heart into each household of our parish.

He decided to begin this study on June 19, 2009, the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Holy Spirit provided affirmation when several months later Pope Benedict XVI declared June 19, 2009, as the beginning of the “Year for Priests.”

Our parish is exceptionally blessed by Father Stan’s powerful homilies, his gentle strength, and his sincere wish to lead each of us directly into the arms and heart of Jesus Christ.

The following narrative was written by Father Stan and placed in our Sunday bulletin on Oct. 18, 2009. While most priests have likely had an experience similar to the one that Father Stan describes, his response to the incident is quite remarkable.

The Archdiocese of Indianapolis should be made aware of the treasure we hold in east central Indiana!

“Last Sunday, one of the smaller children on his way to the ‘Liturgy of the Word for Children’ passed me at the altar and said, ‘Hi God!’ I repeated his words for all in the church to hear.

“We all laughed.

“What did the parents of that child say to him when he returned at the end of Mass?

“Maybe, ‘He’s not God, silly! That’s just Father Stan—someone like all of us!’

“Might I suggest a response? Something like this: ‘That’s Father Stan, Billy. He’s not God. He’s just an ordinary person like you and me.

“ ‘But, he is special in one way—he takes the place of Jesus for us at Mass.

“ ‘He gathers us together, just like Jesus. He tells us of God’s love for us, just like Jesus. He takes the place of Jesus for us in the sacrifice by receiving our gifts and placing them on the altar, just like Jesus, by telling the story of the Last Supper, when the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus, by breaking the holy bread and pouring the consecrated wine, so all can receive, by giving us holy Communion, when Jesus comes into our hearts, and by sending us out as good Catholics to love everyone, just like Jesus.

“ ‘So you see, Billy, Father Stan is just like us, an ordinary person. But he has some pretty big shoes to fill—the sandals of Jesus, our Savior!’ ” †

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