People attending the Mass of Thanksgiving honoring Archbishop Robert J. Carlson Aug. 23 thanked him several times with extended applause.
Archbishop Carlson turned the tables, detailing ways he had been blessed by the people of the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
The Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis was celebrated two days before a Mass of Installation for Archbishop Mitchell T. Rozanski as Archbishop of St. Louis.
Extended applause followed Archbishop Carlson’s homily and near the end of Mass, when he thanked people for their friendship, his brother priests for support and everyone for being an example by living their faith boldly. They applauded again as he processed to the back of the cathedral basilica. Priests who concelebrated the Mass and led the procession then showed their thanks with applause.
In an interview before the Mass, Msgr. Joseph Simon, a former parish pastor who is a retired priest in residence at St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish in St. Louis, expressed gratitude for Archbishop Carlson’s service, calling him “a wonderful, pastoral leader” and “a strong support for the priests of the archdiocese.”
Sister Laura Brown, a Daughter of St. Paul, called Archbishop Carlson a wonderful shepherd with “a heart for the people. He’s done wonderful things and was supportive of our mission. We’ll pray for him as he moves along to some relaxing days hopefully.”
Dave Schnelt, a St. Francis Xavier (College Church) parishioner, said he’s impressed by Archbishop Carlson’s friendliness, noting that he knows Schnelt by name. Schnelt said an example was several weeks ago when he tried to relay a message to the archbishop’s staff about how much he enjoyed his Easter Vigil and Easter homilies. Instead, he ran into the archbishop and they chatted about it.
Archbishop Carlson began his Aug. 23 homily with his signature humor, noting that just before Mass the head of the choir told him that they would sing an arrangement reserved for the pope. After a pause, Archbishop Carlson quipped, “I guess I’m not retiring.”
He reflected on the blessings and graces he has received in 11 years as archbishop in St. Louis and 50 years as a priest. He said he is “filled with awe and wonder and gratitude for our Lord’s goodness to me.”
He shared ways he has been blessed during his time in St. Louis:
• The availability of priests and the opportunity for frequent reception of sacraments, especially the Sacrament of Penance
• The prayers of everyone and the remembrance at Mass for the last 11 years by the priests of the archdiocese
• The faith of the people of the archdiocese and their great generosity, both financially and spiritually
• The commitment of Catholic schools — whether in parishes or diocesan high schools or those run by religious communities — to work to be alive in Christ, and the efforts of so many to provide an opportunity for a quality education for those in poverty that they might reach their full potential
• The support of men and women religious and dedicated laity to work for justice and standing for the dignity of every human being created in God’s image by protecting the gift of life, speaking for the immigrant and fighting against the evil of racism.
• The desire to share our faith by calling men to the vocation of priesthood and providing a great seminary for them in this archdiocese
• The prayers and hard work of religious communities in providing opportunities for discernment and also for preparation for religious life in communities across the archdiocese
He asked people to reflect on their personal relationship to Christ, to open their hearts and lives to moments of conversion and to spread the Good News.
Citing the day’s Gospel, he said, “Each of us, really, are invited to enter deeper into a relationship with Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. For Christian life consists of opening ourselves to Christ first loving us so we can love in return, imitating and serving the Lord.”
With his voice cracking with sadness, looking back upon his priesthood and time as archbishop, he said that he has responded to Jesus’ question of “Who do you say I am?” with a life of a disciple backed by the support and prayer of those he has been able to serve, a result of God’s bountiful grace.
Kristina Cyr of St. Raphael Parish in St. Louis attended the Mass with her husband and six of their eight children. She said she was emotional because she was sad he is leaving yet pleased to show him support. She cited the coronavirus pandemic, with Archbishop Carlson showing how much he cared for people during what is a hard time to be a leader. “I’m grateful to be here to thank him,” Cyr said. “He did a fantastic job.”
To view the Mass onlne, visit https://bit.ly/2CSpiNY.