Jubilarians count their blessings


It’s a legitimate question for those entering religious life.

"Lord, I’ve given up everything to join the friars," said Tom Richstatter. "What am I gonna get?"

In other words, "What’s in it for me?"

Facing dozens of brothers in brown, Tom directed the question to friars in the first few pews at St. Monica-St. George Church in Cincinnati on May 29. It was a milestone moment, the Jubilee Mass for their profession or ordination. What indeed did they have to show for 25, 50, 60, 65, 70 or 75 years of dedication?

For Jubilee homilist Tom, whose journey with the friars started at the seminary, the rationale was simple. "I didn’t have a lot to give up when I was 12," he admitted. But his fellow Jubilarians, reflecting upon their own journeys, were reminded of these words from the Book of Mark:

"Truly I tell you," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the Gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age…." As Tom told them, "In giving up everything, don’t we have all we need and even more? I think I can speak for everyone here, we have received a hundred-fold."

Fr. Tom Richstatter preaching the Mass on behalf of fellow Jubilarians.

"So be holy"

It was a happy occasion for Provincial Minister Mark Soehner, as Jubilarians marked the anniversary of promises that led them to this way of life.

"Man, it’s good to be here," Mark announced, welcoming the honorees.

They had asked Tom, 60 years a friar, to be homilist, speaking for and about them. Mike Dubec, 50 years professed, read from Peter: "But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’"

The Gospel from Mark – "But many who are first will be last, and the last first" – led Tom into a homily about how God touches and changes us – but only if we are willing.

By coincidence, "We hear St. Peter in both readings," Tom said. From him we learn "how to adapt." When the Spirit came upon Peter, "Everything changed. What a difference the Holy Spirit makes.

"In a few minutes Mark will call upon the Holy Spirit to change the gifts" and "pray that the Father will send the Holy Spirit among us" so that "we become the Body of Christ."

Tom offered this challenge: "Are we willing to actually be changed to receive the Holy Spirit, to become a new person as Peter did?"

Jubilarians Mike Dubec and Mike Chowning (left and second from right) with Ed Gura and Mark Gehret

Many gifts

Ultimately, "What did the Father send Jesus to do? To be the sacrament of God," so that "whoever sees me sees the Father."

And what are friars to do? "We are to make God visible through our lives. Those who see us see something of God," so that, in effect, "Whoever sees me sees the Father…..Today at this table, when we ask the Father to send the Spirit, the Father asks the Spirit to come upon us and change us into Christ."

Which leads to the question for those choosing religious life: "What am I gonna get?" for giving up everything.

With help from the Holy Spirit, "The gift of right judgment and courage, knowledge, wonder and awe," Tom said. "If we allow the Spirit to change us, to use those gifts," then any decisions we make, "we make with confidence and joy, for we are making them in the light of the Holy Spirit. We can have the confidence they are God’s decision."

As Tom has learned, "No one who is generous with the Lord will be short-changed."

Jubilarians Carl Hawver, Tom Speier, Frank Geers, and Tom Richstatter

Be a servant

Following the Universal Prayers, the song for the Preparation for the Gifts was an "Amen!" for the friars being honored.

Will you let me be your servant,
Let me be as Christ to you.
Pray that I might have the grace
To let you be my servant too.

–(Servant Song, by Gillard & Pulkingham)

After Communion, Mark added his own "Amen" for Jubilarians:

"Thank you to God for working among you," he said. "Thank you for allowing God to work among you."

Congratulations to Jubilarian Dan Anderson