My Final Sunday in Missoula

The “lasts” keep coming as I prepare to move out of Missoula and the final Sunday that I will ever spend in the Garden City provided me with a lot of them. I enjoyed a packed day driving around town and taking in experiences that are unique to this western Montana town. Let me share with you my Sunday adventure.

I woke up early and attended the 8 a.m. Palm Sunday mass at St. Francis Xavier. I have thoroughly enjoyed attending services in this absolutely beautiful and historic church. I have benefited from the excellent preaching and ministering by the priests and deacons that have presided over the St. Francis altar. I have taken great refuge in the peace and tranquility I have gained while attending mass during stressful and crazy times. This morning I tried to pay a little more attention to the stained glass masterpieces that enclose the church and cemented a mental picture in my mind. I walked out of St. Francis Xavier today hoping that I will find a great Catholic church in Myrtle Beach as well.

Driving out of the parking lot this morning I took one final picture of St. Francis Xavier. What a great church!

Driving out of the parking lot this morning I took one final picture of St. Francis Xavier. What a great church!

After mass I headed over to the Adams Center to watch University of Montana Cheer Squad tryouts. Even though I worked my last football event last night I still wanted to see who would be performing on the sidelines during the games this fall. Most importantly though I wanted to show up and support the returners on the squad who have enriched my life so much. I got to see the tumbling portion of the tryout, talk to a couple of the girls, and meet the mom of one of my favorites on the squad.

I made it a priority to catch some of the UM Cheer Squad tryouts today.

I made it a priority to catch some of the UM Cheer Squad tryouts today.

I stayed too long at the tryouts and had to dash from the University of Montana to the other side of town where I paid my last visit to the hospice family that I volunteer for. Over the past few months I have become very close to this strong couple. Last week when I served my volunteer hours with them I didn’t know if I would be making today’s final visit because of the woman’s deteriorating health. However she was still her kind and thoughtful self this afternoon. Leaving their house today was hard. The husband had a tough time keeping his composure when telling me thank you and I had to do all I could to keep mine when I went inside the room of the wife. Confined to a bed now she used all her strength to reach her arms out and give me the biggest hug while saying “Thank you and God Bless you, honey.”

Needing a little time to just take it easy for a little bit I went back to my apartment and packed a few things while watching the final round of the Masters. I am satisfied with Bubba Watson’s victory and find his achievement of winning two out of the last three green jackets pretty darn good. Once again I was very impressed with the broadcast.

Before I could even see Bubba put his green jacket on though I zipped back over to the University of Montana for a little bit of Sunday exercise. For the final time I hiked “The M.” On an absolutely gorgeous and sunny early evening I trekked up that mountain and sat up at the top for longer than usual, admiring the breathtaking view of the Missoula valley. As I started to go back down I saw everyone beneath me looking over to their right. I of course looked in that direction as well and spotted four elk grazing about 300 feet off the trail. Perhaps they showed up to say goodbye to me?

Myself at the top of The M and also a grainy photo of the elk I saw.

Myself at the top of The M and also a grainy photo of the elk I saw.

I drove down Stadium Way and into the Adams Center parking lot where I went to my office and continued that process of packing up. As I put things away I realized that even though I am 100% ready to leave the state of Montana I am still going to miss Missoula. Don’t Blink.

A Big Change at St. Francis Xavier

A couple times over the course of this blog I have mentioned that I attend mass at St. Francis Xavier in downtown Missoula. It is one of the all-star parishes in the Helena Diocese as the church itself is over 100 years old and breathtakingly beautiful. It is also one of the largest in the diocese. With the tradition, location, and demographics of the parish it definitely takes a special person to be in charge.

Ever since I started attending St. Francis Xavier over five years ago the pastor has not changed. Father Richard Perry, a man distinguished by his deep voice and impactful preaching style, has served as the top priest at the church. But where even five years is a long time for a priest to stay in one spot, Fr. Perry’s tenure goes back much longer. Currently in his 13th year at St. Francis you can definitely say that Father Rich has enjoyed an unusually long but very blessed stint at Missoula’s oldest parish.

Fr. Perry has served as the pastor at St. Francis Xavier for 13 years (photo courtesy of www.sfxmissoula.com)

Fr. Perry has served as the pastor at St. Francis Xavier for 13 years (photo courtesy of www.sfxmissoula.com)

So you can imagine the gasps of shock that escaped us parishioners in attendance at last night’s Saturday vigil mass when pastoral associate Fr. Kunkle announced that Fr. Perry would leave his current post as pastor of St. Francis in August. The vocal expressions of surprise quickly turned to joy and applause when Fr. Kunkle then announced the new pastor… (drumroll please)….Fr. Joseph Carver. Just very recently at St. Francis as associate pastor, Fr. Carver will make a very quick full circle and return from Seattle to take over as the head guy at the end of the summer.

 

Fr. Carver will take over as pastor at St. Francis Xavier.

Fr. Carver will take over as pastor at St. Francis Xavier.

To add just a bit of mystery to the reshuffling it was revealed that Fr. Perry would go on sabbatical at the conclusion of his pastoral assignment, a very normal thing for Catholic priests. But what caught me off guard was the announcement of where he would land after his sabbatical concluded. Ready for this? Fr. Perry will return to St. Francis Xavier as the assistant pastor! Never in my 27 years as a Catholic follower have I ever seen a priest leave a pastor post, go on sabbatical, and then return to that same parish in an assistant position (keep in mind all assignments are handed down by the diocese, priests have very little to no say in the matter).

I am thinking (although speculating) that this is something that Fr. Perry wants. Leading such a large parish for so long definitely has to take its toll on someone. The lesser role that an assistant pastor plays in day-to-day operations of a parish is probably exactly what he needs after serving so admirably over the past 13 years. The fact that he will be serving this assignment at St. Francis Xavier? Although I find it a little unusual I think it speaks to his love of the parish and the devotion he has from the parishioners here.

To say that Fr. Perry went through his 13 years as pastor at St. Francis without a hitch would not be entirely accurate. Last year he was put on leave for allegations that turned out to be completely untrue. When he returned to the church by way of a standing ovation my already top notch respect for the guy blossomed even more. To have his solid career of serving God and others almost ruined by lies and to see him return stronger than ever made me realize how amazing this man is.

I will make sure to take in every homily Fr. Perry gives for the next five months before he goes on his sabbatical. I will also look forward to the return of Fr. Carver. Change is something you can count on at any Catholic church in America, although very rarely does it take 13 years to happen. Good luck to both Fr. Perry and Fr. Carver. Don’t Blink.

Crying Babies in Church

With this post I am not trying to act sarcastic, condescending, or holier than thou so please don’t think I am writing this in that type of tone. I am basically just asking for insight and feedback.

I attend mass at historical St. Francis Xavier in the outskirts of downtown Missoula. It is the biggest Catholic parish in the city and offers a beautiful setting, solid preaching, and great singing. It also offers many options as the mass schedule includes four different times over the weekend (5 p.m. on Saturday and 8 a.m., 10 a.m., and 6 p.m. on Sunday). About 90% of the time I attend the 6 p.m. Sunday evening contemplative mass. For someone like me who works many weekends throughout the year, a later mass on Sunday is very welcome. It allows me to obviously make it to church and on many weeks it really gives me my first time to relax and reflect over the week in a quiet and peaceful atmosphere.

St. Francis Xavier in Missoula is a great parish and Fr. Rich Perry does a great job.

St. Francis Xavier in Missoula is a great parish and Fr. Rich Perry does a great job.

Notice how I said “quiet and peaceful”. The setting at the 6 p.m. mass is special. The lights are turned down low, there are fifteen minutes of singing leading up to the opening prayer, it is never crowded, you aren’t tempted by the smells of a pancake breakfast swirling through the church, and, like I said, it is quiet. On a personal faith level I wouldn’t hesitate to say that I feel like I get the most out of the Sunday evening mass. If possible, I would attend it every single weekend. However, that is not always possible.

Every now and then, like today, I attend a different mass. When choosing an alternative I mostly try to hit the 5 p.m. Saturday vigil (because it most resembles the 6 p.m. Sunday mass) but that doesn’t always work out. Next in line for me is the 8 a.m. one but sometimes after pretty much not sleeping the whole week, I do elect to cash in on a couple extra hours of shut eye, thus leaving me with the 10 a.m. mass. On days like today where I do attend the later morning session I do prepare myself before walking through the church doors and then say a little prayer for increased patience when I find my pew because I know I am going to need it.

St. Francis Xavier clearly identifies the 10 a.m. mass as the “Family Mass”. In order to make the other masses (such as the 6 p.m. Sunday one) so peaceful and reflective they advise people with babies and toddlers to attend the 10 a.m. session. Before I say as much as one negative thing about how I get distracted, let me say thank you to St. Francis for making this distinction and to the families for observing it.

So while I attend 10 a.m. mass knowing full well that it will most likely be noisy and understanding that all the parents in there are not only following the wishes of the parish but also acting as great moms and dads by raising their kids in the church, sometimes I think the noise level gets a little out of hand.

My basic question is this: At what point do you leave your spot in the pew and take a crying or misbehaving child to the back of the church, out to the lobby, or outside?

I understand quick crying fits and the occasional random outbursts but if a baby has cried for the past three minutes of the priest’s homily or if a four year old is yelling at his sister during the blessing of the Eucharist isn’t that the cue to remove the child? I understand it is a family mass and certain noises are expected and accepted but am I off base to say that when a child becomes a legitimate distraction to others it is time to take him/her to the back? Maybe I am totally off on this. Like I said, I do my best to avoid this type of situation entirely but sometimes I do find myself at the family mass and at the mercy of the parents’ decision to either take their child out or keep him/her in place.

I would love it if parents told me what their standards and rules are when it comes to making the call on keeping or removing their children from mass. What goes through your mind when your baby happens to just naturally act like a baby and begins to cry? Are there standards you have in place with how you are going to act in the situation? Have fellow church-goers ever given you an annoyed or hostile glance before because of your kids?

Again to all parents, do not take what I am saying too personally. I know I play a big role in how much I want to deal with this. I recognize the good parenting and baptism promise fulfilling work that you are doing. Please also take to heart that if you do keep your crying baby in mass for way longer than warranted I still don’t hold as much scorn for you as I do for the disrespectful mass attendees who let their cell phones go off in church. As long as you don’t get to that point, you and I will be just fine. Don’t Blink.

Church, Monte, Work, Gangsters, Typhoon

Good evening, everyone. Usually I end my posts by saying this but let me start one off with it for once: Thanks for reading my blog! I appreciate your loyal dedication to reading what I have to say and I always enjoy the feedback you give me via text messaging and in face-to-face passing. You guys are awesome.

Tonight I want to go through five topics to give you the typical rundown of what is going on in my mind and in my life.

Complete Transparency: I go to church at St. Francis Xavier, an absolutely gorgeous place of worship here in Missoula. Part of the reason why I choose to go here is because of the traditional, pre-Vatican II type feel I get when I walk inside. However, a very small part of what gives this church that feel will disappear this week. During the announcements during this past Sunday evening’s mass, Father notified us that windows would be installed inside the confessionals. Because of some terrible and vicious false allegations against members of the St. Francis clergy in the past year and with just the overall state of abuse allegations worldwide in the church, this move is being made to offer protection to both the parish staff and to parishioners. To me I find this very sad yet I understand why St. Francis is doing it.

Do-or-Die for Monte: The regular season of the 2013 Mascot Challenge is winding down and Monte is going to have to finish strong to make the playoffs. With two weeks left, he most likely will have to win out. Currently he is part of a group of three mascots who hold identical records of 6-4 and occupy the 6th-8th places of the standings. The competition takes eight mascots to the playoffs. However, there are three other mascots right under that 6-4 group who hold 5-5 records. If Monte loses, one of those mascots will surely take the playoff spot he now occupies. This week Monte is up against Wilbur T. Wildcat from Arizona. Next week he tangles with the Hokiebird from Virginia Tech. Monte should win this week. That would set up a battle for his playoff life against the 7-3 bird next week. Please vote for Monte at www.capitalonebowl.com .

Five Events in Five Days: This is the busiest time during the calendar year to work in intercollegiate athletics with the overlapping of fall and winter sports. Case in point this past week. Wednesday through Sunday I worked five straight Griz Athletics events. Our Griz basketball team played Wednesday evening, our women’s basketball team played on Thursday, our volleyball team played Friday and Saturday evenings, and our women’s basketball team concluded the madness with a matinee game on Sunday afternoon. Wednesday through Saturday were 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. days for me. By the time the Lady Griz disposed of MSU Northern at around 4 p.m. on Sunday I was ready for a break. Although fatigued I had a great time watching our teams go 4-1 during that span and I got to enjoy a nice day off on Monday.

Dang It Feels Good to be a Gangsta: I am on a bit of a gangster kick. Last Tuesday I watched “American Gangster” with Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe for the first time from start to finish. Great movie! Last night I picked up where I left off on Tuesday and I stayed up until 2 a.m. watching the “Gangsters: America’s Most Evil” series on A&E. Starting at 11 p.m. I watched three of the hour long episodes chronicling some of the baddest and most violent people to ever roam the streets of this country. Learning about how these people rose to the top and then how they came crashing down is fascinating. Even though it is a show on cable TV, you get exposed to some very grisly images and some ear covering descriptions so if you do end up watching based off of my recommendation, please know that you have been warned.

Typhoon Haiyan: Can we all pause for one second and say a prayer that we live in a part of this world where we are free from unfathomable natural disasters? I have a tough time comprehending the damage that these outbursts of rage inflicted by Mother Nature do. Besides the shots of pure destruction we see on television, how can anyone see past that 10,000 number? Yeah, as in 10,000 people wiped out. How does a region deal with that? How can you go about your day after seeing the streets littered with bodies? I complain about the snow we get in Montana but something like what happened in the Philippines always makes me feel like a little baby.
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That’s my rundown for this week. Can you believe it will already be Wednesday tomorrow? Thanks again for reading and love life. Don’t Blink.