Mass for the Feast of the Epiphany on Jan. 6, 2018, began with Reverend Robert Marshall welcoming The Most Reverend Martin D. Holley, D.D., Bishop of Memphis, and all present to the celebration of the 47th anniversary of the institution of the Catholic Diocese of Memphis in West Tennessee. It is not unusual for Bishop Holley to preside at Mass at the Cathedral. While every Catholic parish in the diocese is the bishop’s parish, the Cathedral is the bishop’s “home” parish, often referred to as the “Mother Church” of the Diocese. In all dioceses, the cathedral is where the cathedra (the bishop’s chair from which the word, “Cathedral” comes) resides.
On this Ephiphany, Bishop Holley was present to preside at the celebration of the Rite of Installing a Pastor. Father Marshall, appointed Parochial Administrator last June, was now being, as Bishop Holley proclaimed during Mass, “commended to Cathedral parishioners as their new Pastor.” Bishop Holley’s words were met with welcoming applause. He then addressed Father Marshall, reminding him to “always be a loving father, a gentle shepherd and a wise teacher,” traits which many Cathedral parishioners have already come to appreciate in Father Marshall’s short time with us.
As the liturgy continued, I couldn’t help reflecting on what Father Marshall told choir members when they gathered with him last August. I had asked him to introduce himself — to share something of his own journey with them. He talked about graduating from law school and practicing law while, at the same time, serving his parish as cantor, working with youth, helping with teen retreats, etc. At some point, he said, he realized that what he was doing in his parish was much more life-giving than the work he was doing as an attorney. It was then that he began to discern the possibility of a vocation to the priesthood. Watching him during Mass last Saturday and praying for him as he was installed as our pastor, I was grateful for his listening to that nudging by the Holy Spirit so many years ago.
After Bishop’s words of Installation and Father Marshall’s Profession of Faith and Oath, Mass continued as usual. During the Eucharistic Prayer, Father Marshall read from the Roman Missal: “Lord, we pray for your church on earth, that she may grow to fullness of charity.” The words caught my attention and have stayed with me. To grow to fullness of charity ... isn’t this what we are all about? Isn’t this why we are church? Isn’t growing to the fullness of charity the mission for not only newly-installed pastors, but for each one of us and for all of us together as the body of Christ growing to the fullness of charity in our homes, in our workplaces, schools and in all our relationships. The Cathedral is located in a beautiful midtown neighborhood which borders some of the poorest neighborhoods in our city. In our journey to the fullness of charity, we try to serve those in poverty through our St. Vincent de Paul Society, through supporting the Dorothy Day House and Manna House and through our efforts to provide for the needs of our sister parish in Haiti, ministries for which Father Marshall has already shown much support.
The installation of a pastor brings closure to one season and opens us to the grace of the next. In this next season, with Reverend Robert Marshall as pastor, may we grow in charity as we pray together, listen to each other and rejoice in the gift of Christ among us.