Watching the leaves turn such beautiful colors and seeing them eventually fall from their branches, causes me to acknowledge that we are in the midst of a season of change.  Some people look forward to this change and others wish it really didn’t need to happen.  There are many who are eager for winter and the many activities that it brings – skiing, sledding, ice-skating and drinking hot cocoa.  For others there is the dread of poor driving conditions and paying the horrendous heating bills.  My guess is that for the majority of us, we have a mixture of thoughts and feelings about this annual change – we look forward to seeing those first snowflakes and cozying up with a blanket and yet, at the same time, we do not want to experience the bitter cold that is a natural part of our Minnesota winters.

One thing that simplifies experiencing this change is that we generally know what to expect when we are moving from summer into fall and fall into winter.  We know what we need to do to help make that transition happen more smoothly and comfortably.  We get our sweaters and coats out of storage, we winterize our homes and our cars, and we pull our shovels and snow blowers from the back of the shed.  We prepare.  However, there are some changes that occur in our lives for which we do not know how to prepare.  Say, for example, the birth of your first child.  People may give you advice, you can read books and even take classes on what to expect when you first bring your new born home.  However, until you actually experience that major change in your life, you have no idea of what it really means to be transformed into a parent.  This is also one of those changes in life that cause a multitude of mixed feelings for those involved.  There is joy and fear, excitement and worry, contentment and doubt.  Hopefully, the positive aspects of this or any other change will far outweigh the discouraging or frightening aspects of a new experience.

 Change can and will cause us to feel a variety of things, but regardless of what we feel, change is inevitable.  Change is not only a reality of life but it is a necessity of life.  I recall as a teenager, complaining to my mom about some change in my life that I didn’t want to accept.  She told me that things have to change or they become stagnant; when things become stagnant, they die. Therefore to truly live we must experience change.  She encouraged me to look for the positive in change even when I was afraid of what differences this would cause in my life.  She tried to teach me that if I approached life and all the changes that occur within it with a heart that held faith, hope, and love, those changes and transitions would be easier to accept and could be wonderful.  If I were truly open to this new direction in my life, I may come to realize it was exactly the change I needed, but I hadn’t been aware of that need within me!

We, as a parish and as a staff at St. Peter’s, have been through many changes in the last 10 months. Some of those changes were difficult; we may have felt confused, frustrated, and even angry.  However, those same changes have hopefully taught us about our strengths, our ability to work together, and what it means to be a parish community.  I am praying that we have discovered that even in the light of a difficult or painful change, there are wonderful things to be discovered and experienced. I pray that during these last ten months we have all learned or experienced something positive which in turn has helped us to be stronger as individuals and as a community.

As I am sure most of you know by now, we are about to experience another exciting change.   Fr. Steven Hoffman has been assigned to this parish and he will be our new shepherd and spiritual leader.  This is one of those changes that can cause us to have a multitude of feelings – excited, nervous, relieved, and a whole host of other things.  One of things that I encourage you to do as we go through this coming change is to keep faith, hope and love in your heart.  It is important for us to have faith in our God who brings us to experience this and other changes in our lives.  Have faith that God wants what is best for us.  We may not always understand God’s ways, but we need to keep faith that God is always with us.  I ask that you keep hope alive in yourself, in this community and in the entirety of the Catholic Church.  Without the hope of God’s love and mercy for each and for all, we will not have the strength to continue the work of Christ and to share His message.   And finally, I pray that you keep love in your heart.  Love of God, neighbor and self helps us to rise to a new challenge and face change in a positive manner.   Love is what enables us to keep an open mind and heart to the days ahead.

I pray that God grants each of us with the gift of change throughout our lives so we may continue to grow and develop as followers of Christ.  We cannot let ourselves become stagnant if we wish to be a vibrant community.  I encourage and challenge all of us to approach change and new experiences in our personal lives and in our community with minds and hearts filled with faith, hope and love.  May God continue to bless us all!

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