Sunday, March 31, 2019

Bay Area Book Tour 2018: St. Monica Parish, Moraga, CA

Sunday, September 9 

I had these grandiose plans to do a series of blogs on my Bay Area Book Tour last Fall to promote From Mountains High but my busy life got in the way. I do want to do continuous blogging but I feel an obligation to complete my tour narrative before I move on from it. 

I had four appearances in early September. My first stop was at St. Monica Church in Moraga, California. This was my beloved parish community where I served as pastoral musician and youth minister from 1993 through 2000 – in many ways, the happiest years of my life. I started composing liturgical music in earnest there. In fact, the song “Fly Like a Bird” came from my experience at St. Monica. I also had a memorable tenure as youth minister and forged friendships with young people that continue to this day. 

Since I left Moraga in the year 2000, there has been a succession of three different pastors, each bringing their own unique charisms and pastoral style that was so different from the progressive outreach of the pastors I served with. It is not my intention to criticize the other priests, whom I don’t really know. They have a right to administer their parish as they feel called to do. But over the years I have been less inclined to visit Moraga as the friends and families I served moved on from St. Monica. My youth group teens grew up and started their own careers and families. Other friends sought communities elsewhere that they felt served their needs better. In the case of many parishioners I knew, they are no longer with us since the Lord called them home from this life. I had been away from St. Monica for 18 years. A lot can happen in the life of a parish in almost two decades. 

So it was with a bit of hesitation that I drove into the St. Monica parking lot on that sunny September morning. The new pastor welcomed me to sell my books and CDs after the morning Masses but not lead a concert event. That was fine. But would there be anyone left from the old days who would remember me? 

My fears were unfounded. As soon as I stepped out of my borrowed car, I was greeted warmly by Annmarie, whose son Jimmy was a 4-year-old in the day care center that shared a space with my youth ministry office. Annmarie told me that Jimmy was now all grown up and graduated from college and settled in a career working in the great outdoors. He still remembers fondly how I used to make him paper Bat-Planes in the day care center. 

And so it went. Before and after the two morning liturgies I had a blessed reunion with parish friends who are now senior citizens; parents of my youth group teens (some with grandchildren in tow – yes, children of my teens); and a handful of my old youth group, now all grown up. It was great to see everyone! 

I also popped into the choir rehearsal room to say hello. Brad is still directing them after all these years, and some friends from my time as their pianist are still singing, including Stephanie and Clara. But most of the singers are new to me. It was very nice of the choir to sing one of my songs, “God Calls Us Each by Name.” during the 11:00 Mass. And I emptied two boxes of my books as friends eagerly bought them up and had me sign them. 

Special thanks to Frank Hale, who organized my visit, and Father Paul Coleman, who welcomed me warmly. Yes, you CAN go home again! 

More to come . . .