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.