Sacred Heart

Catholic Church

Imlay City, Michigan  Tel: (810) 724-1135

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Fr. Paul Ward


Sat. & Sun., June 16 & 17, 2018
11th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Last Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Imlay City


Legacy, Councils and Blessings


   “Let us begin with Christ.” So I began my homily on July 4, 2010, paraphrasing a Stoic Greek philosopher named Aratos, whom St. Paul quoted in his famous speech in the Areopagus in the Acts of the Apostles.[1] I was still moving in and living out of boxes.

   So now I say, “Let us conclude with Christ,” and once again I’m moving and living out of boxes! In fact, if I count correctly, this is the 18th time I am moving since the time I was about 13 years old! Now it’s time for me to move on to another mission – for every priest is a missionary in some, way, shape or form: a beautiful mission with young scholars in Wyoming Catholic College. I depart in just a couple days. While I look ahead with great joy and apostolic zeal to the path before me, for now we all must endure the sorrowful parting of friends.

   I draw now to the conclusion of eight of the best years of my life, for which I am immeasurably grateful to both God and to you. I have no doubt that God will provide even more happiness in your future and my future, but that it will all be different. Yet could we not say the same thing every day of our lives? I think so.

   God calls, and we each must follow. Wherever you lead me, Lord, whenever you call me, to whichever mission in whichever place, no matter what the price, your will be done – I desire nothing else. No two paths of God’s call is ever the same; and whatever it was in the past for each of us, it will always be different in the future. I myself have fought hard to follow my priestly vocation, and I marvel at the opposition and hostility to my priestly calling which I have and still do continually feel from certain persons – may God forgive them, I truly do.

   Now, as I move on, I reflect upon the fact that I am highly forgettable. So I mused about how to remind you all to pray for me in the future. And I found a solution! When priests get ordained, sometimes they have “ordination cards” printed with one’s name, the date of his ordination, and a spiritual thought. I have ordination cards, and I will make them available in the social hall during our reception after Mass today. I invite you to insert that card into a favorite prayer book so that you may bump into it from time to time. And when you do, please say one Hail Mary for me, and I shall be the more in your debt.

   Now let us look back a little, and summarize some of what has been. Thereafter I wish to give you my exhortations as a final legacy so that you all may become saints in heaven. And I hope you’re not in too much of a hurry today, as this is my last chance to speak with you, and my heart burns with many words.

   When I arrived, again back in that July of 2010, I pointed out this obvious fact, that it is the priesthood that has brought us together. Since then I have striven only to bring you closer to Jesus Christ, to Mary his Virgin Mother, to St. Joseph, to the Angels and Saints and to the Catholic Church for the salvation of your souls. Important to this goal was the rehabilitating a parish ravished by embezzlement, liturgical laxity and general doctrinal ignorance; a reformation, so to speak, which sometimes brought hostility especially from the quarters most needing reform.

   Since then, I have stressed: the Eucharist, the Sacred Heart, the reading of Scriptures, the Blessed Virgin, the sacred liturgy, prayer, virtues, penance and good works: basic Catholic stuff. I’m so delighted at how well most of you have responded to all of that. My work was highly focused on the children: for example, the doctrine of catechism classes, the Areopagus, the Trailblazers, the little girls Latino choir, our superb altar boys, the teen Theology programs, and so on. How I love the children and young people of our parish! All the endless administrative labors of finances, buildings, properties and parochial activities have never been the end, but the means, to these higher things.

   As I mentioned, there are some who resisted, not only at the beginning, but to this very day. One puts forth the Gospel, and one is hated for it – that’s always been the way of Christianity, so I take it as a good sign. And as I’m still your pastor until June 30, I have the responsibility before God to straighten what is crooked [enderezar lo que es torcido], and I would sin should I stay silent about it.

   So: In some cases it was simply personality conflicts. In other cases, immaturity. There are some who were and are simply complainers – always complaining, always pulling out the microscope to find something wrong, always construing empty words to justify their pettiness, and all the while never lifting a finger to actually do any good. For some, it was a matter of resisting growth, for I was pushing them like a good coach, and they had grown too comfortable with their mediocrity and fruitless routine of life. In the hearts of a smaller number, however, there was a true contempt for the Catholic tradition of liturgy, doctrine, piety and discipline. I have even found people – sometimes people in Archdiocesan offices, even lay people who have never even met me face to face, who have positively sought to do me evil, destroy my good name and undermine my good works – who can understand such malice? I have procured to do good to my enemies while they have done me evil; and I am glad, for Jesus told me to love our enemies, and so these people help me grow in imitation of Christ. And God will judge each person for his deeds when he dies, so I’ll leave it to the Lord set things to justice, while I hope they repent and find his mercy before that terrible hour.

   But that’s a small, damaging few. That’s not all of you. The majority, almost all of you here today, remain the sheep of my fold, my spiritual children, brethren in the spiritual battle and good friends. God has blessed us with friendship, with good memories, invitations to your homes, presiding over your weddings and the baptisms of your children, preparing the youth for their confirmations, admitting some adults into the Catholic Church, volunteering and donating for so many different projects which have made our parish flourish. Even our holy funerals – by which our parish has done its part to fill up the dwelling places of heaven. And who can forget our beautiful consecrated sisters, who have become dear to us all!

   As a father sees his children grow, and is proud of them – healthy pride, not the pride of Satan – so I have seen you grow spiritually, and I am so incredibly proud of you. I have accompanied your battles and your perseverance in confession and sometimes spiritual direction. I have had the privilege to feed you with so many devout holy communions. We have shared so many enriching spiritual conversations. We have often prayed together. And as I have taught, so I have learned.

   In the style of the proverbial passages of the Scriptures, now I wish to leave you a final legacy in the form of exhortations.


·         Battles lie ahead; be not afraid, for I have trained you, or at least tried to.

·         As I say to my beloved Trailblazers: “Rule number one: No complaining!”

·         Center your life around the Eucharist, and visit the Eucharist often.

·         Love Mary, Joseph and the Angels, let them be friends, guides and intercessors for you.

·         Change yourself and stop being a busybody to change everybody else. [entremeterse]

·         Seek for happiness in love and selflessness, but never in money.

·         Stop gossiping; nothing good ever comes from it, and it is sinful.

·         Don’t follow your feelings, they are stupid and blind, and make bad guides.

·         When you come to a fork in the road, choose the harder path.

·         Say thank you often.

·         If you are young, and think God just might be calling you to the priesthood or consecrated life, be courageous and give it a try, and God will bless you.

·         Unmask [desenmascaren] wolves in sheep’s clothing, do not be lured by false doctrine or liturgical abuse.

·         Resist the culture of death – abortion, euthanasia, contraception, sodomy, promiscuity and adultery. (Have you noticed how the culture of death and the culture of impurity are two sides of one same coin?)

·         Forgive evil, but do not turn a blind eye to it.

·         Fight evil, but do not use the methods of the wicked. Do not fight evil with evil, fight evil with good.

·         Don’t be proud and resisting when you are challenged or corrected. Keep silence, be humble, accept the correction if it is accurate, and then improve yourself; in this way you will grow.

·         Imitate Jesus when the crosses of life come: catastrophes, disasters, wars, sickness, death, poverty, failure, humiliation and pain. There is no other way to follow the Lord except under his cross.

·         Fast and pray often.

·         Turn off your TV, internet and cable as often as you can.

·         Be sagacious and not naïve when false prophets tell you alien doctrines.

·         Avoid happy-clappy “feel good” liturgical celebrations. Better it is to weep and cry for love and contrition at the altar of Jesus’ sacrifice.

·         Do not be a closet Catholic – take your faith to the public square.

·         Cultivate relationships face to face, and not face to screen.

·         Try to bring one new person every year into the fold of the Catholic faith.

·         Never forget that one day you will die, that life is short, and that eternity is long.

·         Flee from evil, and pursue what is good. And if you fail, you can always start over again in the sacrament of reconciliation – always!

·         Second to last, I say, with St. John, “Love one another!” Spouses, serve each other and be respectful. Speak good and not ill of one another. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Give to the poor, and make sure no one knows about it. Forgive those who do you evil. Make sacrifices for those around you without counting the cost. Be helpful, and do so with cheer. I repeat, “Love one another.”

·         And last I say what summarizes all these things, an exhortation most of our teenagers know all too well: “Be good and say your prayers!”


   Such large helpings of good advice could go on all day; and as I give this advice to you, I give it also to myself. For, as St. Augustine once put it, “With you I am a Christian, but for you I am a priest.” Now I should wrap things up, so that my words may give way to that living Word who is Jesus, the Word of God, the Son of the Father, born of Mary the Virgin, and lord of the Angels. He will soon descend upon the altar to be present in his sacrifice, our manna in this our pilgrimage of life – truly present, in his entire Incarnation, yes even physically present under species of bread and wine. The Eucharist! It is this for which God created me, it is this for which he called me to the priesthood and it is this which binds us in charity both in this life and the next.

   I have done all I could to show you the path of God’s will in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Now it’s time for me to let go of your hand, and for you to trod down that path without me. I do not say “alone,” for you have all the invisible friends of the angels and saints; but also, God in his merciful Providence always provides us all with friend and mentors to accompany us on this life-long road of Emmaus. See your journey with the eyes of faith, and then your hearts will burn as you walk along the way, and that fire will be light for others when you least expect it.

   Part of my vocation in life is to teach and remind Catholics of who they are. Millions upon millions of Catholics suffer from spiritual amnesia, and they don’t know who they are. To remind you, I have used the Scriptures, the Magisterium, the history of Israel and of the Church and the lives and writings of the saints. Are you Catholic before all else? I hope so.

   [*Sp/E] My dearest friends in Jesus Christ our Lord, I will miss you greatly. But only for a time. For we all hope for heaven. There we shall drink together a wine more delicious than in Cana. The wedding banquet of the Lamb will never end. There we shall bask in the light of the sun who is God himself, listening to the ecstatic singing of the angels, swapping war stories of our past years on earth, and laughing at old grief, the sorrows of this world. We shall meet the saints, and never die. Enemies will be reconciled and best of friends. Death and sickness shall never afflict us, and all will be radiantly beautiful [resplandeceremos con hermosura] in body and soul. No one shall ever take such happiness from us. So let us make an appointment at such a banquet, and not say farewell, but say, “I’ll see you at the banquet.”

   For such a great boon we beg the intercession of Mary, Joseph and the Angels, to whom I offer praise and gratitude for all the blessings they have obtained for us especially in these last eight years, from the hands of God the Holy Trinity, to whom belongs all praise and love forever and ever. Amen.


[1] Aratos of Soloi, Phainomena, 1,1. “Ek Dios archomestha…


















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