Dear brothers and sisters, parishioners of Holy Innocents Parish,
We read in the book of Ecclesiastes, “There is an appointed time for everything, and time for every affair under the heavens” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Such time has arrived for me to take leave of my Holy Innocents faith family after eleven years!
My departure was first announced on the weekend of April 7 & 8 and since then I have been asked many questions and prominent among them were, “Why are you doing this to us?” and “What did we do to you?” The brief answers are, “You didn’t do anything to me” and “It is part of our mission and vocation as priests to move from one place to another.” This resonates with the words Jesus said to people in Capernaum when they didn’t want him to go away after having preached in their midst, driven out demons from those who had been possessed and cured many other diseases. He told his Apostles, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose I have come.” I don’t claim to have preached like Jesus, to have driven out any demons nor to have cured any people of any diseases. Nonetheless, I beg you to let me to go to the nearby village in Whiting to preach there also.
As I leave, I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you what you mean to me. Over the last eleven years, you have written an indelible chapter in the book of the history of my life. When I first came in your midst, I was an almost newly “minted” priest, with a two year experience in parish life and a two year experience in school as a graduate student. I leave, as some people say, as an experienced parish priest and hospital chaplain. During this time, I have prayed with and for all of you, laughed with many of you and cried with some of you.
If you have paid close attention during Mass, every time I start the Prayer of the Faithful after the profession of the Creed, I unfailingly start with, “Brothers and sisters in Christ…” Over time, even as those words have become habitual, I have reflected on them and have found them very meaningful in the context of the role you have played in my life in helping me to grow pastorally, spiritually, socially and intellectually. Besides, I have no words for your generosity in terms of prayers, morale and financial support for my family and the students I support for their education. My mother died on June 18, 2014 and you showed me much support after that great loss but even before her death, you had helped to strengthen me with prayers and financial support for medical bills in an economy with no health insurance arrangement and everything is out of pocket: you either have cash or you get no treatment. You have continued with that support for my father who on two occasions in 2015 and January this year was giving up on life. With that help, my dad continues to thrive and has regained the will to live with an incredible, positive attitude. Some of you have also supported students who would otherwise never have any professional success in life. One of these students is Fr. George, ordained in 2016 and another one is Mary Sylvia, who works with the United Nations Refugee Services Commission as a human rights advocate for the refugees in Northern Uganda, from South Sudan. All I can say for what you have done for me personally, for my family and for those needy students is, “Thank you and may God bless you!”
Since my ordination fifteen years ago, I have ceaselessly prayed from Psalm 69:7 which says, “Let not those who wait for you be put to shame through me, O Lord, God of hosts. Let not those who seek you blush for me, O Lord of Israel.” It is my hope that none of you was put to shame through me. However, if any of you was, it was inadvertent on my part and I owe you great apology. Either way, please pray for me that I continue to remain focused on the implication of that prayer where God is sending me as I leave Holy Innocents. On my part, I will keep all of you in my prayers.
Taking leave of the Ephesians to go to Jerusalem and finally to Rome where he would be decapitated, Saint Paul told them at Miletus, “I have gone about among all of you, preaching the Kingdom of God but now I know that none of you will ever see my face again” (Acts 20:25). Unlike Saint Paul and the Ephesians, you will see me again as long as life endures. I consider you family and the bonds we have forged cannot easily be severed. As long as I am still welcome in your midst, I will try my best to make myself available. Many of you have been asking where I am going. The address of the parish is: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church 30 Schoolhouse Road Manchester Township, NJ 08759 May God’s blessings continue to be with you as we keep each other in prayer!
Your brother in Christ,
Fr. Evarist Kabagambe