45 > 2300

03-20-2021Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

Strange how it’s more of a heavy lift to move 45 miles west, from Tempe to somewhere north of Rt. 303 than it was to move 2300 miles west, from PA to AZ, at least emotionally and psychologically. But when I think about it, you all have done a good job of working your way into my heart. And considering that Mt. Carmel has had a very good track record with Pastors, basically only three since 1955 (Msgr. McCready for 37yrs, Fr. Tim Davern for 10yrs and me for 21yrs), I shouldn't be surprised at my reluctance to leave here.

I didn't mean to drop a bomb on you last Sunday but there was no easy way to ease into it. And I wanted you to hear it from me rather than through the grapevine. I want you to know that I did not ask for a new assignment, volunteer for it or suggest it. Each year the Bishop sends a letter to each priest asking if he is happy in his assignment or would like to transfer to a new assignment. Every year since I have been at Mt. Carmel, I checked the same box: “Happy in my current assignment and do not want to be considered for a transfer”.

Over all these years I have never had a reason that was sufficient enough to ask for a new assignment. I have never really thought that the grass was greener elsewhere. Sure, there were moments when I thought that maybe leading a Parish without a School would be less work but then I realized how much I value the children and delight in watching them grow and mature. Or maybe a Parish with scads of money in the bank would be less stressful but then I realized if that were the case, I probably would have little reason to trust God.

If it hadn’t been for the dream I had of my father, I would have seen no reason to accept a new assignment. What heightens the message of the dream is that I only once had a dream of my father and that was soon after his death. All these years later for him to show up in a dream really got my attention. Having done the Consecration to St. Joseph last year for the first time, I am sure the Saint arranged that dream. My father always watched over me and made sure I had what I needed. The advice he gave me never failed me and always worked for my benefit. So why not trust him now?

Of course, the bigger plan is to trust in Divine Providence. For all of us. I have little apprehension about taking this task on and mainly because of all that I have learned while being your Pastor. Which means I learned a lot from you and the faith that you live out day by day. And what I pray happens is that in a year or so, you’ll be able to say to the new Pastor, Fr. John was great but you are even better.

If you remember back in 2007 for our Diamond Jubilee our prayer was from the prophet Haggai: “Greater will be the future glory of this House than the former”. So, this is part of the future we prayed for and may it be so. One of the signs of a dynamic faith-filled parish is that it creates disciples who go on mission and build the Kingdom. Ours is not a selfish parish but one that looks outside ourselves to see what greater impact we can make. And our track record is excellent: we started in 1870, so for 150yrs this community of faith has been passing on the faith consistently.

What happens next? In the next few weeks the Bishop will appoint a new pastor and we will begin a transition period until the end of June. In the meantime, let’s just treasure every moment we still have together. I know I will.


Fr. John B.