I have some bad news. Fr. Michael Vona just told me this week that he would like to step down from saying two masses per week at our parish. He feels that as he is getting older, he is becoming less patient and at peace while at Mass. He says he would be willing to come back for emergencies. But, we should not depend on him on a weekly basis. He will stay through the weekend of July 1st and then we will be seeing him less frequently.
Before I say anything else, I would to thank Fr. Vona for his four years post-retirement service at our parish. I am sure we can all agree that we have enjoyed his spiritual guidance, down to earth nature and practical wisdom. He was always dependable and willing to do almost anything I asked him to. He has been a great gift to this parish. After 87 years of life and 50 years service as a priest, he deserves a break if he feels he needs it. He really does not owe us anything. I do not want anyone to think he is being forced out or that he’s angry with us, or that I am angry with him. I would personally much rather prefer if he stayed on for much longer. But, after some reflection, he has come to this conclusion on his own. I invite anyone who enjoyed his presence in this parish to please let him know personally or, if you would prefer to let him know in letter, we can forward any message from the parish office.
However, I also have to point out that his departure means that we cannot keep the current Mass schedule. I am ending the 5:30 pm Saturday Mass after July 1st. When we initially started the current Mass schedule we are using (under Fr. John Jakub), we had three and sometimes four priests available to say Mass at this parish. I was willing to keep the Mass because we had enough clergy to cover it. With Fr. Vona leaving, we are down to just two and so I do not think it is right for us to keep two Saturday evening Masses when we just need one.
There are a number of other reasons why we should take this action. Keeping the Mass would either put undue strain on the clergy of the parish or would require us to depend on outside clergy for our normal schedule. (I would prefer to only depend on them in emergency circumstances or if a priest goes on vacation.) No other parish in the area has two Saturday evening Masses unless they are in two different languages or two different locations. Having one Mass after the other really limits the time we can dedicate to Saturday confession and may discourage people from coming to this sacrament. The attendance of the 5:30 pm Saturday Mass is less than half the average of all the Masses in the parish. Lastly, we still have a 5:30 pm mass available on Sunday if people prefer that hour.
I know that change can be hard and unwelcomed. I would never have picked now to be the time to make these changes. The summer should be a time where things become less stressful as we can settle into a routine. But, God often throws things at us to make us less complacent and more aware of the many gifts He gives us. Please keep our parish in prayer.